Thursday, May 20, 2010
The LOST Art of Citizen's Arrests
"I saw what you did! I'm making a citizen's arrest!" -- Benjamin Linus
I was hoping I would be able to write about LOST before the series finale (!) on Sunday. Thanks to Mr. (err...Dr.) Benjamin Linus, I have an excuse! For fans of the show, you know there are many important questions central to the mysteries of the show that still need answering and, likewise, there are many, many, many resources with which to analyze those questions and theorize the outcome. I, however, will attempt to answer a question that is utterly banal and insignificant (I mean, I am a lawyer) . . . could Ben have made a citizen's arrest of Desmond?
Previously on LOST, time-traveling heartthrob Desmond Hume drives his car into wheelchair-ridden John Locke for various complicated (but well-meaning!) LOST mythology reasons. In this penultimate episode "What They Died For," Desmond returns to the scene of the crime, the parking lot of the high school where Ben and Locke (their off-island versions, anyway) both teach. Ben, who witnessed Locke getting run over, immediately recognizes Desmond, yells for someone to call the police, and states that he is making a citizen's arrest.
I was surprised the first time I learned that citizen's arrests were actually allowed. It just seems like something that sounds cool on tv and movies, but couldn't possibly be real. As it turns out, the practice of citizen's arrests is alive and well in every state except for North Carolina (as per Wikipedia). A private citizen has the privilege to arrest someone for a felony if (1) the felony was actually committed and (2) the citizen reasonably believes that the person he arrests was the one who committed it. (Basically, the citizen doesn't have much room for error and could face a lawsuit for the tort of false imprisonment if he is wrong.) The degree of force allowed is that which is reasonably necessary to make the arrest, and deadly force is only allowed when the suspect poses a threat of serious harm.
While Ben's valiant threat to make a citizen's arrest was great in theory, in reality it did not work out quite so well. Desmond ends up beating Ben to a bloody pulp...enough to justify the use of deadly force when arresting him, but it ultimately proves too much for the sweater-vest wearing teacher of European History. Ironic when you realize this is the same man whose on-island persona killed his own father in cold blood.
Did Desmond succeed in shocking Ben into awareness of the island? Ben's insistence that the school nurse call him "Dr." Linus felt like a return of the evil, calculating Ben we've come to know. Overall, I thought this episode did a great job setting up what is sure to be an unforgettable finale. I can't wait!