Cutscene: The Trial of Two Centuries

June 04, 2017:

The trial of Bucky Barnes begins.

United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

A historic courthouse in downtown Brooklyn.


NPCs: U.S. District Attorney David Archer


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…


The Trial of Two Centuries
By Ben Urich
June 4, 2017

NEW YORK – Looking haggard and grim but younger than his hundred-year age, Sergeant James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes was arraigned in federal court today, and pleaded not guilty to charges of multiple counts of high treason, murder, desertion, kidnapping, and assault.

From War Hero to International Assassin

The long-haired, metal-armed man standing in chains at the Brooklyn federal courthouse little resembled the dashing army officer whom history records as having died for his country in the snows of World War II’s European theater on Jan. 27, 1945. Barnes kept his head bowed and his mouth shut throughout the hearing, only murmuring the words “not guilty” at the prompting of the judge.

News that Barnes, a member of the storied Howling Commandos combat unit and close compatriot of Captain Steven Rogers, was still alive and may have been working against U.S. interests for decades sent shock waves throughout the world.

The arraignment followed a press conference by U.S. Attorney David Lee Archer, who confirmed that police had arrested Barnes after a tense standoff in midtown Manhattan on Friday. Mr. Archer said Barnes had operated for decades as the “Winter Soldier,” a shadowy Soviet assassin long regarded as an urban legend by the intelligence community.

Archer called Barnes’ alleged collusion with the Soviet Union and the terrorist organization Hydra “the most heinous act of treason in U.S. history” and vowed to seek the death penalty.

The murder charges include Shane Delloway, vice-chairman of the board of Belle Corp. in Dec. 2016 and a John Doe in Jan. 2017. However, the treason charges run the length of the Cold War and beyond, and include allegations that Barnes was responsible for assassinating dozens of individuals across the globe in the service of foreign powers.

Time-line of the Winter Soldier Slayings

1955: Murdered all members of a U.N. diplomatic negotiations team in Cairo. Murdered NATO General James Keller in West Berlin.
1956: Murdered U.K. Ambassador Dalton Gaines and four witnesses to the crime in Madripoor. Murdered French Defense Minister Jacques Dupuy in Algeria. Murdered all members of an Algerian Peace Conference Envoy in Paris.
1957: Murdered U.S. Colonel Jefferson Hart.
1973: Murdered U.S. Senator Harry Baxtor.
1975: Murdered Sergei Ivanovich, a KGB defector.

In Bail Debate, Shadows of a Defense Strategy

The arraignment included a contentious debate over bail, with the prosecution demanding the court deny bail altogether and the defense arguing Barnes should be released on his own recognizance. Archer noted Barnes’ long history of disappearing from view for decades a time and called him “the very definition of a flight risk.” U.S. District Court Judge Dana Leong split the difference, setting bail for Barnes at $1 million while forbidding him from traveling beyond 100 miles of the federal courthouse.

The shape of the defense’s legal strategy may have come into view during the bail debate. Barnes’ lawyer, Matthew M. Murdock, made no attempt to counter the substance of the allegations against his client, casting him instead as a long-suffering victim of foreign captors.

“Sergeant Barnes is the longest-held prisoner of war in United States history, and only recently escaped his captors after decades of torture, coercion, bodily mutilation and other horrific abuse,” Murdock said. “He wishes only to live peacefully in his hometown of Brooklyn and rebuild the life that was taken from him seventy-two years ago.”

Murdock’s statement suggests that the defense will argue Barnes’ was brainwashed by Soviet and Hydra forces and lacked the intent required for the alleged offenses under federal law. It’s a risky strategy, say legal experts, but may be the only one available to the defense team.

“Historically judges and juries don’t want to absolve defendants of responsibility for their actions without some proof of a direct and immediate threat of retaliation,” said professor Andrew Jamieson, a professor of criminal law at Columbia University. “Brainwashing is a concept well-cemented in our popular consciousness, but it’s not a tested defense strategy.”

Jamieson added: “At the same time — this case is clearly unprecedented. All bets are off.”

A Foreign and Domestic Spectacle

The trial of Bucky Barnes, who has been popularized in American culture as Captain America’s childhood friend and closest ally, is sure to be a riveting legal spectacle that captures the public imagination. The Winter Soldier, the Howling Commandos, and Captain America have been trending topics on Twitter since Mr. Archer’s mid-afternoon press conference.

Captain Rogers, himself a well-preserved man out of time, was seated directly behind the defense bench at the hearing and wore a navy suit instead of his iconic red, white and blue uniform. “I have faith in the American Justice system to ensure that one of its citizens receives a fair trial,” Rogers said when asked for a comment. “I won’t be able to answer further questions at this time to protect the sanctity of this basic right.”

The scope of the allegations are sure to make the trial a point of international interest as well. Barnes is charged with the assassination of foreign dignitaries from multiple countries, each with a stake in the trial’s outcome. Initial reaction to the arrest from foreign governments was cautious but positive.

“We are glad that after decades of eluding capture, the man responsible for uncounted atrocities against our country and dozens of others will finally face his day in court,” said the Eka Wahid, the Madripoor ambassador to the United States. “We are confident that justice will be served.”

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