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The Speluncean Explorers

In: English and Literature

Submitted By cmchamberlain
Words 1836
Pages 8
DISC 1312
11/09/2012
Logic and Consistency I would like to begin with a reminder of the purpose and importance of the job with which the people of this land have entrusted us. As justices of the Commonwealth, we are responsible for interpreting and applying the written law as accurately and fairly as possible. The citizens that have entrusted us with these positions expect us to have a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of law and how consistency and continuity of verdicts will be ensured over time. This being said, I believe that the case involving the unfortunate explorers is one of greater importance than most. The verdict we reach will decide if this court is truly one of fairness and law. The facts of the case are such: the four indicted men murdered one of their co-explorers, they did so knowing that there may be legal consequences, and they were not unstable enough to rule that they were acting completely out of a civil state of mind. While there were unique and extreme extenuating circumstances that undoubtedly had an effect on their decisions, we cannot allow emotional reaction and sympathy to cloud our legal judgment. Based on the facts and my understanding of my role as a justice of this court, the only decision we should reach would be to charge the men with murder.
I believe that we must first establish that, considering the extreme circumstances of entrapment and isolation that the four men were subject to, it would be logical to assume that they could have begun to lose their mental grasp of reality and judgment at some point during the ordeal. However, after they were rescued, they were treated solely for malnourishment and shock, and it was never brought to the attention of the court that the men were at all unstable. For this reason, we cannot accept arguments to the contrary. Based on lack of testimony from a medical professional that one or any of the men were not sane, we must interpret the case as if they were completely mentally capable of making rational decisions, and as a result we have a responsibility to treat the facts and circumstances of this case the same as we would any other. Consistent with the law with which I am sworn to administer, the men who we have established as the coworkers of Mr. Whetmore have committed murder. They knowingly took another man’s life, and as Chief Justice Truepenny summarized, Whetmore did not wish to participate in the casting of the dice after further consideration but was killed notwithstanding when they fell in his favor. While the defendants testified that they confirmed the fairness of the throw of the dice with Whetmore and that he “had no such objections,” that does not mean he gave consent to play the game (3). From my interpretation, he simply agreed that the toss was administered with no intention to force the choice of any particular member, but he gave no definitive consent to participate. This confirms that the circumstances of his death fit the exact definition of murder as the statute section 12-A defines it. While Whetmore may have been the first to suggest the game as a way to provide nourishment for the group until they could be rescued, that proposal was never lawful and cannot be used as a defense for his murder because there is no statute that would permit giving “consent” when it comes to taking another human’s life. Consequently, my opinion and ruling would be the same even if he agreed to participate. The only time that the taking of human life can be considered consensual is in the case of voluntary euthanasia, which is obviously not applicable in this case. In response to Justice Foster’s assertion that the laws of the Commonwealth would no longer apply to these men because they have reverted to a “state of nature,” I must ask the question, is it still possible to truly revert to that state of nature when we consider social contract theory? Humans have a desire for stability and consistency, and this is one of the reasons why our Commonwealth exists- it is a naturally accepted source of order. Mr. Whetmore and the rest of the men, even when trapped in terrible conditions for such an extended period of time, still attempted to fight the primitive forces of nature as long as possible. While it was not legal, the men came to a conscious and rational decision to sustain their lives by organizing to select and kill one of the men to use as nourishment. Their choice was made primarily on the natural desire to eat and survive, yet it was done in a civilized manner and was not a primal reaction to lack of sustenance. Justice Foster’s argument implies that the influence of these forces was so strong that they completely took over how the group made decisions, yet it is evident that the men tried to maintain a form of order regardless of the circumstances of their situation. Furthermore, as justice Tatting inquired,
“If these men passed from the jurisdiction of our law to that of ‘the law of nature,’ at what moment did this occur? Was it when the entrance to the cave was blocked, or when the threat of starvation reached a certain undefined degree of intensity, or when the agreement for the throwing of the dice was made? These uncertainties in the doctrine proposed by my brother are capable of producing real difficulties.” (11)
These unknowns that Justice Foster highlights are dangerous if they are taken into account when we make our decision, and they put at risk the viability of our legal proceedings to determine the most lawful ruling. On a similar note, the four men requested the advice of multiple party officials, judges, and priests or ministers, albeit they received none, but they were sufficiently aware enough to inquire that the murder that they were considering could hold serious legal consequences. While Justice Foster may have been correct in that, “Had the tragic events of this case taken place a mile beyond the territorial limits of our Commonwealth, no one would pretend that our law was applicable to them,” it is irrelevant because the events did take place in our Commonwealth, so we have a responsibility to enforce the applicable law (6). While some may say that I have no sympathy for the men in question, I must clarify that I understand the difficulty and stress of the situation that they were in, but the law and legal consistency must take precedence over our emotional reactions to the case. The people of our Commonwealth trust us with the power to interpret the law, and while a majority of these same people support the idea of setting the four accused men free, we must maintain rulings that are consistent with past cases in order to maintain the respectability and purpose of the court upon which we sit. The entire purpose of the judicial system is based on the principal of keeping our commonwealth in check, in effect separating the people from their own desires. The system was designed to create long term stability and order in society, and as a result we are sometimes required to make unpopular decisions in order to preserve order. In the short term, the decisions that the common people would want us to make are often based on emotion, and as my fellow Justices cite, public opinion is not a reliable influence when it comes time to make our decision. However, when I bring up consistency I do not mean that we simply rule that the men are murderers because similar situations have arisen in the past, because each case is unique and has different background circumstances. Rather, I believe that we must take the unique facts of this case into account and make the same logical, lawful, and impersonal decisions as we have for previous cases. This allows for the most intelligent interpretation of the law. We cannot allow emotion to change the facts of the case or the definition of murder as the statute provides it, so we must come to the conclusion that the men are guilty of murder or risk a loss of faith in the letter of the law. However, when it comes time to make the decision for how the men will be punished, the extreme extenuating circumstances and emotional peril to which the men were subjected become much more important and should indeed take precedence over the simple understanding that the men committed murder. With the assumption that the ruling falls in my favor and the four men are convicted, I believe it is appropriate to discuss my thoughts regarding the sentence that they will receive. As the Chief Justice already clarified, there is no applicable exception to the pertaining statute in this case that would prevent the administration of the death penalty. Considering the severity of the extenuating circumstances, this punishment not only seems inappropriate but also quite unnecessarily rash. As I already explained, we must come to an understanding that the indicted men are guilty of the crime with which they have been charged. This is necessary to preserve the future purpose and influence of our judicial system and my opinion has not changed given what the inevitable result of this ruling would be. We do not have power to change how the legislature works, therefore we must accept that our legal decision will not have the moral outcome that many desire. A guilty verdict would regrettably lead to the death of the four men, but it seems that this is the only option we have in order to preserve the consistency of the law. I also find myself in agreement with Justice Handy in regards to the Chief Justice’s comments on executive clemency, and I do not believe that he should have “flap[ed] his judicial robes in front of him [the Executive] and threaten[ed] him with excommunication if he failed to commute the sentence.” (11 or 26) It was not in the Chief Justice’s place to assert his opinion to try and force the Executive to pardon the men, however I do believe that clemency for the men would be the most sensible outcome to this case based on the arguments heard so far and my moral conscience. After much deliberation I have come to my decision, and as many times as my conscience attempted to bring in the emotional appeal of the horrific experience that the four men had to undergo, my rational and logical concerns could not allow me to come to any conclusion other than a guilty verdict. Regardless of the verdict we reach, I wish the best for the families of all the men involved with this terrible case.

Works Cited
Fuller, Lon L. The Case of the Speluncean Explorers. Cambridge: Harvard Law Review Association, 1949.…...

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