: I've started watching (on DVD) a PBS series called Justice
in which Professor Michael Sandel discusses a number of moral/legal dilemmas and stimulates debate among his audience.
In one of the episodes, he discussed the old English case of The Queen vs. Dudley and Stevens. If you want to know all the facts of the case, you can go here
, but if you want a quick version, assume these facts:
1. The English yacht Mignonette sets sail with four passengers: Dudley (the captain), Stevens (the first mate), Brooks and Parker (the cabin boy.)
2. The yacht sinks in a storm and the four are adrift for days in a life raft.
3. The crew runs out of food and after being at sea for about 18 days, the subject of cannibalism to stay alive is discussed. Dudley and Stevenson consider a lottery to select who the first to be eaten will be, but Brooks wants no part of it.
4. Parker is in a coma, and so Dudley and Stevens agree to kill Parker in order to eat him to survive. While Stevens holds Parker, Dudley kills him with a penknife.
5. Five days later the survivors are rescued. Brooks reports what has happened and Dudley and Stevens are charged with the murder of Parker.
6. Assume that murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another human being with intent to cause that person's death.
7. In their defence, Dudley and Stevens argue the defence of necessity, i.e. that killing Parker was necessary to preserve their own lives.
On those facts, if you are on the jury, do you find Dudley and Stevens guilty of murder?