By Beth Accomando
When the zombie apocalypse hits, forget about fortifying your house or getting more weapons. Instead, think about who you can sue. Perhaps the government if it improperly quarantines people or confiscates property during the apocalypse. Or insurance companies if you need leverage to force them to cover damages caused by the undead foraging for food. That’s assuming the government and the rest of our social infrastructure still exist. You might also consider the legal consequences of eating someone’s brains if you find yourself re-animated from the dead.
All those questions and more will be answered at Comic-Con this month when a group of lawyers and doctors join forces for a panel and mock trial about zombies, psychiatry, and the law. The groups are Law and the Multiverse, and Broadcast Thought. They ran a similar panel at WonderCon (Comic-Con’s sister convention) earlier this year. At that mock trial a zombie accused of murder got off scot-free.
“A zombie was found not guilty by reason of insanity,” says Dr. Praveen Kambam of Braodcast Thought, “We went through several legal hypothetical scenarios that could arise in and after a zombie apocalypse, and then we concluded with a mock trial where the lawyers were the defense and prosecution, and the doctors were the expert witnesses.”
The hypothetical scenarios they present have used vampires, werewolves, and superheroes. “What we do is explain legal principles using examples from comic books and related popular media,” says Law and the Multiverse’s James Daily.
As for choosing zombies as their topic this year, Dr. Vasilis K. Pozios says it’s simple: “Zombies are obviously everywhere and are supremely popular. But also what’s interesting about zombies is that they do have impaired cognition and using a zombie is the ideal fictional character to conduct a mock trial when you are dealing with the issue of not guilty by reason of insanity. That’s because a zombie essentially isn’t conscious of what they are doing when they are out eating brains. We want to be very careful not to equate zombies with those with mental illnesses but as a vehicle to discuss the issue of not guilty by reason of insanity, which is misunderstood in the general public, it was a perfect situation.”
To educate in an entertaining manner is really the goal. “It’s great to have an opportunity to teach people something but doing it in a way that’s really fun, and interesting, and unique. So I think that’s the thing I enjoy the most,” Daily says.
The panel, “Not Guilty Due to Zombification?” happens at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 18th in Room 7AB. Comic-Con has been sold out since February and has had to cap attendance at 130,000 for the past few years because of maxed out space at its site, the San Diego Convention Center, and surrounding hotels. But if you can’t get into Comic-Con, you can find the good doctors at www.broadcastthought.com and get superhero legal advice from the attorneys at www.lawandthemultiverse.com.
Beth is the author of Cinema Junkie, a blog on KPBS.org