Law in Popular Culture

Are zombies legally dead? Docs and lawyers address critical 'Walking Dead' culpability issue


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Spoiler alert: A Wired article about the legal culpability of zombies in AMC’s The Walking Dead reveals some of the pending plot twists in the television show’s 2013 season.

But the psychiatrists of Broadcast Thought and the lawyers of Law and the Multiverse also make a compelling case for what a recent WonderCon Anaheim program in which they participated describes as a “zombification” defense.

In an unusual approach to the zombie genre, those converted to the walking dead state in this program have an infection that only takes hold when they die, reactivating their brain stems and perhaps other minimal brain functions, the article explains. But, because their heart and lung function ceases, they are, in fact, legally dead under the the Uniform Determination of Death Act.

That immunizes the walking dead from legal liability, should the zombie apocalypse end, allowing a return to a functioning legal system, the authors conclude.

What about those who are still human? As they struggle to maintain moral standards and a social order while dealing with dire situations created by the apocalypse, the living characters in the show often act with the best intentions, the authors note. However, “the law would still judge many of their actions harshly. Whether this points to a fault in the characters or the law is the subject of another discussion, but one worth having.”

See also:

ABA Journal: “Zombies-at-Law: NY Lawyer Fascinated by the Law’s Fascination with Zombies” “Lawyer Pitches Zombie Law Casebook, Following Others Who Have Linked Lawyers to the Undead” “‘Vampire’ Law Prof Takes Academic Look at Zombie Litigation”

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