A group of 5 including the 4 defendants and Roger Whetmore had entered into a limestone cavern. A landslide occurred and the boulders blocked the only entrance of the cave.
When they discovered the problem, the 5 settled themselves on the obstructed entry until a rescue part could rescue them. Employers had left indicators at the headquarters of the society about where the cavern was. On the failure of their return, a rescue party was dispatched.
The rescue task was really difficult. More men and machinery had to be conveyed to the remote area. A group of engineers, workmen, geologists and other experts were appointed.
The work of removing the obstructions was frustrated by fresh landslides. Ten workmen were killed while clearing the entrance. All the treasury of the Speculean community was exhausted. Eight hundred thousand frevlars raised by legislative grants were all exhausted before the men were rescued.
Success was finally achieved on the 32nd day of the rescue mission.
It was known that the workers had carried very little provisions with them and that there were no animal or food matter in the cavern. On the 20th day of the rescue, it was discovered that the workers had carried with them a radio transmitter through which communication could be established. The workers asked the physicians and the experts how long it would take for them to be rescued, the physicians told them that it would take atleast 10 days and there was a little possibility for them to survive.
Then they asked the physicians whether they could survive if they consumed one their coworkers. The physician’s chairman replied reluctantly in affirmative.
Roger Whetmore asked the physicians if they could do that by casting lots. There was no answer from their side. Then he asked if any party or a judge was willing to answer this question, there was no answer. He then asked if a priest could answer the question, unfortunately, even they could not.
Thereafter, no more messages were received as the battery of the radio receiver had been exhausted.
On the 23rd day of the rescue, Whetmore was killed and was eaten by his companions. Then it was known from the defendants that Whetmore had proposed this idea about who’d be eaten by the throw of a dice. When it was Whetmore’s turn, the dice was thrown by a defendant and it turned out to be against Whetmore. He then was killed and eaten by his companions.
VERDICT OF THE JUDGES
CHIEF JUSTICE TRUEPENNY:
He believed that the four defendants should be sentenced to death as he stated “Whoever shall wilfully take the life of another shall be punished by death.”
He mentions that the above statute is not open to more than one interpretation ie it is unambiguous.
He also suggested the idea of executive clemency adding that granting mercy would be in the hands of the executive.
He disagreed with the verdict of the Chief Justice. He thought that the defendants were innocent.
He believed that the statute put forward by CJ Truepenny was not applicable in this case as the “law of nature” was applied (defendants were in a state of nature at the time of the killing).
He also said that if 10 workmen’s lives were sacrificed to save 5, why not kill 1 to save 4 lives.
He felt sorry for the defendants but at the same time, also had a feeling of disgust at the act they committed.
He strongly disagreed with Justice Foster’s “state of nature.” He also thinks that self defence can’t be applied to the case as it would raise difficulties.
Ultimately, he is not able to decide the case.
He took on the case from a morality point of view. He was in favour of the defendants not being given a death sentence. He criticized the other judges for failing to differentiate between the moral and legal aspects of the case.
He also criticizes the court’s self defence excuse.
He uses a common-sense approach instead of using legal principles to solve the case.
He had a philosophical point of view and was in favour of public’s opinion on the case.
MY VERDICT ON THE CASE
This case has two sides ie the legal side and the moral side.
If this case is seen from the legal side, then a death sentence is justified for the four defendants as the statute itself states that “whoever shall wilfully take the life of another shall be punished by death”.
But I personally think that this case is special and it should be seen from the moral point of view. I don’t believe that the defendants should be given a death sentence. I strongly disagree with CJ Truepenny’s verdict, with all due respect.
The four defendants were in extremely unfavourable conditions and they had no choice but to kill one the companions and consume them, so that they could survive.
The facts suggest that when Roger Whetmore asked the chairman of the physicians if they consume any one of the four companions, they would survive or not, the chairman also replied in affirmative even though he was reluctant. And the decision to kill Roger Whetmore was also justified as per the throw of dice.
I agree with Justice Foster’s views as well. First of all, the “law of nature” should be applied to this case as the defendants were in a state of nature at the time of killing. And as per the facts suggest, 10 workmen were killed to save the life of 5 people, then why not kill 1 person and save the life of 4 others?
As far as granting executive clemency is concerned, I think that it should completely be in the hands of the executive, but I would be in favour of granting them with it.