GAME OF THRONES Obsessed Lawyer Demands Trial By Combat
George RR Martin stories are epic tales of betrayal, power, and revenge. Too often, we forget, that Martin shaped his medieval realm from laws and social mores present in our own history. When fans watch the epic showdown between the Mountain that Rides and the Red Viper, they are swept away by the Viper’s twirling stick and the Mountain’s unnerving hand strength.
Richard Luthmann, a New York lawyer, remembered. Even more entertaining, he had enough legal knowledge to realize that the United States constitution had never gotten around to outlawing the practice of trial by combat. You might be wondering: It’s the United States in the 21st century – How could it still be legal?
Easily. The United States law–federal and state—still have a number of archaic laws that have never been removed from the legal code. For example, it’s still illegal to eat fried chicken with utensils in Georgia. Most of time these laws are ignored, but occasionally a lawyer, a cop, or a judge unearths them from their resting place to haunt us. And like the cop who nearly arrested a woman in Georgia for eating chicken with a fork, United States citizens can still technically demand trial by combat.
Richard Luthmann, aware of the tiny loophole, demanded trial by combat to resolve the civil suit filed against him last year. Luthmann was taken to court for allegedly advising a former client to liquidate his assets and transfer the funds out of the United States. Recently, unimpressed by the longevity of the trial, the reason behind the suit, and the amount in damages that they seek (more than $550,000), Luthmann sought to answer lunacy with lunacy by demanding a trial by combat. “They want to be absurd about what they’re trying to do,” Luthmann said, “then I’ll give them back ridiculousness in kind.”
Luthmann’s demand for the, admittedly slightly barbaric custom of trial by combat, will demand that the United States courts rule on whether trial by combat is still legal. For the rest of this article, we’ll explore the legality of trial by combat in Westeros and United States.
Trial By Combat – In Westeros
For those who aren’t fans of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or HBO’s The Game of Thrones, we’ll delve briefly into how trial by combat fits into the legal code of Westeros. Trial by combat is tied to one of the core religions of Westeros – the Faith of the Seven.
The Seven gods of Westeros were thought to intercede on behalf of the just party. Before Tyrion’s first trial by combat, he demonstrates that belief when he says, “I will have their [the gods] verdict, not the judgment of men.”
Due to the religious importance of the trial by combat, there are a few laws that govern the right:
- Can be requested before or during the trial.
- Either party can appoint a proxy to fight before them if they desire.
- Either party can ask that the trial by combat become a trial by seven (seven people are chosen to defend each party before the gods).
- The combat ends when one party yields or is killed, or when either the accused pleads guilty or the accuser takes back his accusation.
- Can be advised against, but cannot be denied without severe consequences.
Could we transfer Westeros style trial by combat into American society? No. The fact that the trial is judgement by a godlike divinity means that the legal precedent could not be transferred over to the modern world without already existing laws to support it or a slightly different framework. Without the belief that godlike divinities will sway the battle to demonstrate an individual’s innocence, the trial transforms from a pillar of unbiased justice into a contest of brute force.
Trial By Combat – Medieval European Society…And Modern Day USA??
The legality of trial by combat, also known as judicial duel, arises from the United States connection with British law. English common law was the original legal system in the Northern hemisphere of the America’s. After the American Revolution (1776), the English common law was modified and expanded to form a new state and federal legal system. All tenants of British law not modified or clarified since the founding of the United States are still technically legal in the United States.
William the Conqueror introduced the Norman tradition of trial by combat in 1066 to English law. In 1770 (six years before the founding of the United States), British parliament considered abolishing the practice of trial by combat, but the decision was postponed. In England on May of 1817, Abraham Thornton, a man accused of murder was granted his request for a trial by combat. He was deemed innocent when his accuser do not show up for the duel. In fact, it wasn’t until 2002, when a man demanded trial by combat over a minor car offense that the British courts outlawed the ancient law.
The fact that the trial by combat was abolished in England after the United States legal code split from English common law means that technically Luthmann can still legally demand a trial by combat. Will trial by combat become common practice in the United States? Probably not. The US courts, like the British courts, will probably deem that judicial duels illegal due to violations to current laws (including laws that govern cruel and unusual punishment and due process).
Richard Luthmann’s appeal for a trial by combat will never restore the ability to seek judicial judgement, but it’s granted the Game of Thrones obsessed a great story to share as they eat fried chicken with forks. If some cop decides to arrest you for eating a fried chicken in Georgia with a fork, you might as well follow in Richard Luthmann’s footsteps and demand trial by combat.