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Queen vs.

Dudley [Make a Deep Issue and Decide]



Deep Issue:
Murder is the unlawful killing of a man or a woman with malicious intent. Such act, however, can be
justified on the ground of self-defense and/or defense of a family, friend or a stranger against the
person whose life is taken. Is the taking of an innocent mans life for the purpose of saving oneself
under exceptional circumstances a justifying ground to exonerate someone from committing Murder?

Decision:
NO. Taking another mans life merely for the purpose of saving oneself is not considered an excuse
nor is it a reasonable necessity to justify the atrocious act of Murder. Lord Coleridge upheld the
indictment of the two prisoners Thomas Dudley and Edwin Stephens for taking an innocent boys life
and thereafter feed upon his flesh to save the rest of the bunch aboard in an open boat.

The two prisoners, Thomas Dudley and Edwin Stephens, mercilessly killed Richard Parker, a boy
between seventeen and eighteen, while they were all aboard on an open boat and starving for about 18
days. The two prisoners agreed that they would have to choose someone and thereafter kill him in order
to save the rest from starvation. The alleged standard for choosing the person to be killed and be fed
upon is said to be the person in a much weaker condition, who happens to be the weak and
unoffending Parker. Lord Coleridge considered this an unnecessary and profitless act.

According to Viada, for the right of self defense to exist, it is necessary that a person be assaulted or that
he/she assaulted or that he/she be attacked, or at least that he/she be threatened with an attack in an
immediate and imminent manner, as, for example, brandishing a knife with which to stab him/her or
pointing a gun to discharge against him/her. (1 Viada, 5 edicion, 173, p. 3275)

However, in the instant case, the verdict found Richard Parker to be incapable of resistance, dominated
by several men who were much older than him, and that his death was not due to any violence on his
part attempted against, or even so much as feared by, those who killed him. In short, Richard Parker was
not the aggressor. He was the victim of the crime.

Lord Coleridge further stressed the gravity of the prisoners offense by saying that a man has no right to
declare temptation to be an excuse, though he might himself have yielded to it, nor allow compassion
for the criminal to change or weaken in any manner the legal definition of the crime That is to say, one
is not excused to take an INNOCENT mans life even when faced with imminent danger. The prisoners
did not have the right to take advantage of the frailty of the young boy to justify their need to save
themselves, especially so when the means theyve employed to further their necessity, is morally
repulsive.

The case was clinched by Coleridges parting words: to preserve ones life generally speaking is a duty,
but it may be the plainest and highest duty to sacrifice it.