Warning: Contains spoilers for Season 4 of Stranger Things.
There was no way out.
He would never be able to elude a bleak future.
Even if Eddie Munson had survived Vecna’s Demobats, he would still have lost.
After analyzing the case against the lovable character and the murder charges against him, lawyers determined that Munson would have had a slim chance of escaping a court conviction.
But they did say he has a chance. And they would defend the unsung hero to the best of their abilities.
The Evolution of Eddie Munson
When we first met Eddie, it was lunchtime. Dustin Henderson (played by Gaten Matarazzo) and Mike Wheeler (played by Finn Wolfhard) sat at the same table, indicating they were in the same group of rejects.
Viewers only saw a derelict with long, greasy hair, who spends most of his time selling pills rather than doing “normal” high school activities (like basketball or partying). They see the loser who should have graduated from high school at least a year ago, but he is such a failure he would rather repeat his senior year, listen to inappropriate, metal music, and sell pills.
People see Eddie as a disappointment. He’s someone who doesn’t care about his future.
Therefore, when police find Chrissy’s dead body in Munson’s trailer with Eddie nowhere to defend himself, the easy conclusion is that Munson killed the cheerleader. As the bodies continue to pile up, the witch hunt for Munson becomes more frantic.
However, as the show progresses, we are privy to what the Hawkins police and citizens can’t see. Viewers learn Munson has a heart of gold. When Dustin, Mike, and even Luke Sinclair (played by Caleb McLaughlin) felt like outcasts, he welcomed them into the Hellfire Club and watched out for them. He felt guilty for leaving Chrissy’s lifeless body in the trailer, even if he didn’t kill her.
In the end, Munson gave his life to save the town – even though everyone in the city, except for the gang, wanted his head on a silver platter. He did not want innocent people to die.
It’s also essential to note Munson is not the only one on trial. His standing in society is facing judgment too.
From when he was born, sometime between 1965 and 1966, Munson never had a good shot at becoming successful in other people’s eyes. His paternal uncle, Mr. Wayne Munson, became his custodial parent when Eddie was young. The two lived in Hawkins’ Forest Hills Trailer Park, across the street from Max. Mr. Wayne Munson didn’t make much but tried his best to care for Eddie.
It is difficult for someone in Eddie’s position to become successful. He is an outcast, disenfranchised from society. Most people will look at Eddie and judge him instead of seeing him as a person with a story. Therefore, many like Eddie do what they can to survive – even if it means selling drugs to help cover expenses or to live.
Duffer Brothers Speak — What If… Munson Lived
Now, imagine if Eddie, had, by some miracle, survived the Demobats’ wrath. His outlook would have been just as tragic.
Matt and Ross Duffer, known as the “Duffer brothers,” are the writers, directors, and executive producers of the Netflix series. They planned from the beginning that Eddie would be the flawed hero – the brave soul condemned to a heartbreaking future.
“In a way, we saw Eddie as a bit of a doomed character,” Matt Duffer had told the audience of the Happy Sad Confused podcast, hosted by Josh Horowitz. In his weekly episodes, Horowitz interviews Hollywood’s top celebrities.
“Even imagining the flip side of that where he does survive the battle is not a great life awaiting Eddie back in the right side up either. He was always really designed from the get-go as a doomed character?”
Ross Duffer adds, “At the very end, you see people still drawing devil horns on his head – no one in Hawkins is going to accept a supernatural explanation for this. He would have wound up in jail and this fantasy that he would have been able to walk and graduate, sadly was not ever a realistic outcome for him.”
Obstacles Lawyers Must Overcome
However, Munson became such a beloved character with fans, many wanted him to survive.
“He is a magnificent individual. I would stand hip and shoulder and jowl next to Eddie Munson and fight for him,” said Jack Rice, a Minnesota-based attorney. His background includes being a former prosecutor and a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Officer. He has worked worldwide, in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Central Russia.
Rice and other attorneys discuss some courtroom strategies that can be used. The strategies depend on various factors, including the witnesses, the evidence presented (from both the prosecution and the defense), and Eddie's charges.
Perception Is Everything
Rice, holder of the Professional Excellence Award from the Minnesota State Bar Association in 2020, said one of the main obstacles for Eddie is how the town views him.
Viewers can observe this negative outlook from the show’s fourth season’s scene when Eddie reads from the local newspaper. The article described the so-called devilish horror of Dungeons & Dragons. Many thought the game advocated devil worship.
The show is set in the 1980s, corresponding with the rise in the game’s popularity. At the time, many Americans attributed the game’s popularity to the rising violence in the country.
“Satanic worshipping – it was really intense in the 80s and 90s,” Rice said.
The game’s negative publicity started in 1982 when Patricia Pulling, a Virginia mother, tried to sue her son’s high school principal for encouraging him to play Dungeon & Dragons, which she believed caused her son to commit suicide. In 1980, her son died from a self-inflicted gunshot injury. She thought players were a part of a cult.
According to the BBC, she described Dungeon & Dragons as a “fantasy role-playing game which uses demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, satanic, type rituals, gambling, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, divination and other teachings.”
Eddie is standing on the lunch table, laughing, making fun of the article in front of the other members of his Dungeon & Dragons club — The Hellfire Club. Eddie is the leader; the “Dungeon Master.” Playing the game, while an innocent hobby, works against Eddie in the 1986 courtroom.
Caught up in the so-called satanic panic, Hawkins residents refused to believe that any decent person would play the game, let alone all the time.
The Budding Career of a Drug Dealer
If Munson’s alleged satanic worship is not enough, there is also his drug dealing. People knew Eddie was the school drug dealer. If someone needed a pill, they went to Eddie.
Chrissy Cunningham, the pretty cheerleader, dating the basketball star, was hallucinating. Vecna had gotten hold of her, but no one knew. She needed someone or something to take away her visions.
Her solution? Drugs. So, like any other Hawkins High School student, she went to Eddie. She met up with him, and he took her to his place to get the drugs.
He never thought he would witness Vecna murder her.
First Vecna put her in a trance. “Chrissy wake up,” he said, terrified. “I don’t like this. Chrissy wake up. Hey, hello. Can you hear me?”
No response. Suddenly, Vecna controlled Chrissy like a puppet, raising her limbs, twisting them, and cracking her bones. Then, Vecna dropped her. Eddie ran. When the Hawkins City Police arrived and found the body, the officers blamed Eddie. Besides, and perhaps rightfully so, no Hawkins Police Officer would believe what he saw.
Although circumstantial, the clues pointed to him. He’s into Dungeons & Dragons. He’s a drug dealer. He's a no account loser. No one likes him.
Out for Blood
After all of the other deaths, including those of Freddy (the high school student who works on the school newspaper with Natalie), and Patrick (Lucas’ basketball teammate), there was no reasoning with anyone. Like villagers chasing Frankenstein's monster with pitchforks and torches, the townspeople of Hawkins wanted Munson’s blood.
“You get this interesting combination of paranoia and sort of ‘group think’ that drives law enforcement to act inappropriately,” Rice said.
“You get this group hysteria – where we decided we know what the answer is where we really don’t,” he said. “That is why Eddie Munson must die.”
So, the police immediately blamed Munson without a proper investigation.
Taking the Case to Court
The viewers know who to blame. Of course, it’s Vecna.
But the townspeople don’t know. And the attorneys can’t put Vecna on the stand. They don’t know where he is. Even if someone tries telling the truth – saying a young boy named Henry Creel grew up to become the monster that is Vecna and is the leader of another evil world called the “Upside Down.” No one will believe them, Rice said.
And, if the jurors see pictures of Creel as a child, they would be even less likely to believe this young, “innocent” boy was behind all of the deaths. While the defense could try to get Creel’s medical records – it’s almost impossible to lay hands on documents from the government’s National Security branch.
“They protect those things like the crowned jewels,” Rice said.
So, if the town refuses to believe the wild stories that a monster is behind the deaths, they will place blame on the next best suspect: Eddie Munson.
There is a good chance court officials would move the trial to another jurisdiction. The defense would certainly want that.
“First thing would be a change of venue,” Rice said. “I would move for a change of venue. Then…we could move forward based upon that.”
A Los Angeles lawyer, Arash Hashemi, with the Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, agreed. Moving the trial to a larger county, such as Marion County, which houses Indianapolis, can make for a larger jury pool.
But filing an order for a change of venue is never a slam dunk.
“The problem would be, with such a high-profile, alleged crime spree …finding a venue within the state that wouldn’t be tainted by the media circus,” explained Josh Lepchitz in an E-mail. Lepchitz is a Virginia-based attorney.
“The standard will vary from state to state, but generally, a defendant is going to have to show how it is they cannot receive a fair trial in the proper venue,” he continued. “It took over 10 days to select a jury pool for Ahmad Arbery to give you a modern example of a high-profile case.”
The List of Charges
One of the defense attorney’s early steps would be to look at the charges, which would be severe in this case.
Rice said early on, prosecutors would charge Munson with dealing drugs, which is considered a felony. Often law enforcement and prosecutors will stack as many potential charges as possible, in hopes of gaining some leverage in pre-trial negotiations.
According to Rice and Lepchitz, Eddie would at least face first-degree murder due to Chrissy’s death.
“Mr. Munson would potentially be facing a litany of charges,” Lepchitz said in an E-mail. “Three counts of murder would certainly be on the table if law enforcement and prosecution make some strong leaps in their evidence on some of the deaths.”
Rice added Indiana law bases the first-degree charge based on premeditation. The prosecution would argue Eddie purposely lured Chrissy to his trailer to kill her.
Officers can pile kidnapping onto the charges too.
Adding to the Arraignment
According to Lepchitz, “If law enforcement can produce probable cause that Chrissy was held against her will at the trailer, (it’s) not a difficult leap to make given the assumptions that would be made, he could also face a kidnapping charge, and if there is any evidence on her person of any sexual conduct/contact, a sexual assault or rape charge would not necessarily be unforeseeable.”
While the Duffer brothers never gave Eddie’s actual age, he’s thought to be around 19 or 20, because he is repeating his senior year. At that age, prosecutors would try him as an adult. Even if he was a minor, the prosecutors might still charge him as an adult due to the crimes’ severity.
Also, with Hawkins set in Indiana, Eddie can face the death penalty. The death penalty has been in the lawbooks even before Indiana became a state. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, public hangings became frequent in the 1800s as an early form of the death penalty. The introduction of the electric chair changed things, becoming the primary method of execution in 1913. Since 1972, executions have become rarer, but they still occur.
According to Lepchitz, “Death penalty cases require proof of prior intent or some form of premeditation. An outcast seeking revenge implies premeditation. It’s the home run swing, but it would certainly be on the table.”
And the prosecutors may not stop at charging only Eddie, Rice warned. They could charge the rest of the gang too – Dustin, Mike, Lucas, Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), Natalie Wheeler (Natalie Dyer), Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson), and Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) – all of those who were in Hawkins during the crime spree. They may also include Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) if she’s awoken from her coma. They would view them as hindering the investigation and hiding Munson and may even charge them as coconspirators in the murder.
Witnesses for The Defense
Hashemi said Eleven/Jane would be a valuable defense witness. “She is the focal point of fighting this evil that is out there. Who better to talk about the existence of it than Eleven? She has had personal fights and experiences, and she has saved the world,” he said.
Now – her testimony may be a double-edged sword. The prosecution, during cross-examination, will most likely bring up her prior acts and history – such as being a patient of the Hawkins National Laboratory. They would question why she was there. Their questions would indicate she was there due to mental instability and try to poke holes in her reputation.
They’ll also ask her about her previous violence toward others. Most recently, she hit her bully, Angela, with the bottom of a roller skate while they were at the skating rink. And the prosecution can blame her for the deaths of all the children at the research lab. While Vecna is the real murderer, he’s not there. Therefore, the next best thing is to blame Eleven.
“She caused harm to people,” Hashimi said. “She caused harm to the blond girl in the skating rink. That is something the defense needs to be prepared for. Her history will be used.”
Rice said his star witness would be Dustin Henderson. “Dustin knows Eddie Munson like nobody else,” said Rice. Dustin would be the best witness to testify to Munson’s character.
Even during the final scenes of Season 4, Dustin described to Munson’s uncle the hero he saw in his nephew. “Even in the end, he never stopped being Eddie,” Dustin said. “Despite everything. I never even saw him get mad. He could have run. He could have saved himself. But he fought. He fought, and he died to protect the town.
Some attorneys may choose to put Uncle Munson on the stand, but his testimony would not be as powerful as Dustin’s. He, like Eddie Munson, lived in a trailer, in near-poverty conditions. The prosecutors would try to show Uncle Munson can’t be trusted due to his disenfranchised poverty. Like Eddie, he does not fit the stereotype of a successful American.
On the other hand, Dustin follows the rules – he is a good student, a funny and lovable character, and, more importantly, comes from a well-to-do family. Never mind that he got Suzie Bingham, his girlfriend, to change his grade from a “C” to an “A.” The writers never make a big deal of Dustin’s cheating. However, if Eddie had done that, police officials would have used that action against him.
Witnesses for The Prosecution
The Prosecutors have many witnesses from which they could choose.
They can call up the high school basketball players whose team captain and friend they lost. Vecna’s gruesome vines take JasonCarver’s life, but the team blames Eddie. Hashemi said they would be more than willing to put Eddie behind bars. They would also want someone to go down for Chrissy’s murder since she was dating Jason.
An important witness would be “Reefer Rick” Lipton, who supplied Eddie with the drugs he sold. When Eddie was hiding, he took shelter in Lipton’s boathouse and residence at 2121 Holland Road, near Lover’s Lake. While Lipton was in jail then, he could testify to Eddie buying illegal substances from him and Eddie breaking into his home.
The Prosecutors will bring forward Hawkins officers Calvin Powell and Phil Callahan; both had responded to Chrissy’s death at the Munson trailer. Officer Powell is the one who formally names Eddie as Chrissy’s murderer, since he was the last one to see her alive.
The Evidence For and Against
A good defense team will also evaluate the prosecution’s evidence and which evidence can help Eddie.
The corpses are critical pieces of evidence for the prosecution. “Bodies always serve as strong evidence in a murder trial, but they will undergo the scrutiny of a forensic medical examination. One would like to think that a medical examiner, holding a valid medical degree for their field, would be able to analyze the remains of Vecna’s victims and reach the conclusion that the acts that led to the deaths were potentially not human,” Lepchitz said.
But, as Rice mentioned, the residents want someone to blame. They will ignore the scientific evidence and focus on the circumstantial evidence instead.
A Preponderance of Evidence
Hashemi gave a list of other evidence the prosecutors will request to use. They can use any drugs they find while searching Eddie’s trailer. They can bring in all of Eddie’s Dungeons & Dragon items. Even his guitar can be used against him. School records will show he’s a failure at school.
Eddie’s a metalhead, and a metalhead fits into the prosecuting team’s description of a criminal. “Music is one of the reasons he is evil,” Hashemi noted.
Police can also search the boathouse, where Eddie was hiding, and look for any DNA to show he was there. He said they could bring in photos of any proof they find there. This evidence could prove Eddie was hiding from the police because he didn’t want the police to arrest him for his alleged crime of killing Chrissy.
While there is no evidence of a weapon — we, as the viewers, know Eddie didn’t do it — the police may still try to find an item from Eddie’s home they say could be the weapon. The prosecutors will say, “You heard the expert say the only way to gouge someone’s eye is to use such and such – maybe a sickle… (they’ll) try to find a similar weapon in the house and say this is the murder weapon,” Hashemi said. The prosecutors will say there is no blood, DNS, or hair on the weapon because Eddie had wiped it clean.
Who To Put on The Jury
Another essential part of the trial is the jury selection, Rice said.
He said the defense would not want anyone from Hawkins to be on the jury. Instead, they want misfits like Eddie or people who are familiar with misfits like Eddie. They need to “simply understand Eddie was trying to survive in a world that he didn’t fit in,” Rice said.
Meanwhile, the Prosecutors would want to have jurors who value law and order, he said. They need to be the kind who plays by the rules – they see everything in black and white.
“Eddie Munson can go to trial and be found guilty of three murders,” Rice said.
Rice said many people like Eddie are struggling in the legal system. They are rejects because they don’t fit the mold of the prosperous individual. Instead, they may be poor, enjoying hobbies most Americans don’t see as proper, or using means to make money that the average person views as unlawful.
They face discrimination every day, just like Eddie.
The character, Eddie, may have died, but many people confront the same issues as the Dungeon & Dragons players shown in the show.
“Eddie Munson is alive,” Rice said. “He lives in every city of America.”
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Rasha is a die-hard bookaholic, but when she's not reading, she watches TV shows with her husband. He's in charge of the remote because he certainly doesn't trust her with one. If he did, they would be watching “Law and Order” reruns all day. She is a former reporter who now works in the social work industry, connecting people with essential resources and agencies. Other than that, Rasha is currently using her superpower, writing, to deliver the news.