This is a famous hypothetical case by Lon Fuller.Â The case involved four defendants who were members of an amateur’s organization whose interest was exploration of caves.
Facts of the Case
In May 4299 the four members accompanied by Roger Whetmore, who was also a member, penetrated a limestone cavern. When they were far from the entrance of the cave a landside occurred and the entrance was blocked. It was difficult to rescue the explorers due to the terrain f the area; however on the thirty second day they were rescued. The explorers had a communication device with which they communicated with the rescue team personnel.
Whetmore enquired whether they would survive another ten day if they feed on one of their members. The chair of the physicians answered to the affirmative, however no other physician or government official was willing to answer the question. After this there was no further communication between the trapped explorers and the rescue team. This fact was established the explorers were rescued. On the twenty third day of being in the cave the other members of the group killed and feed on Whetmore. As part of their testimony Whetmore came up with the idea of eating one of the group members and the agreement was reached through a game of dice. Whetmore had withdrawn from the arrangement however, the other members charged him with lack of faith. After the throwing of the dice it when against him and the members killed and ate him.
After the rescue the members were taken to hospital, they were later indicted for the murder of Whetmore. A five judge bench gave different opinions on the case. The jury to the case looked for the facts of the case.
The judgment was that; based on the facts, the members were found guilty as charged. The members were sentenced to be hanged as the commonwealth law gave that penalty for persons found guilty for murder. According to the statute whoever through his own will takes the life of another person shall be punishable by death. There is no other exception in law.
Why They Should Not Have Been Executed
The decision to execute the four members can be described as very harsh to them. The members of this group had found themselves in tragic situation, of which one would sympathize with them. Although these four members ended Whetmore life, they applied a law that was not enacted in the commonwealth statutes but a law that was relevant and applicable to their situation hence can be termed as not guilty from the principle of the applicable to them in such conditions. Moreover there was an agreement acceptable to all of them. Extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures and as a wise man said necessity is the mother of invention, they were necessity for survival.
An agreement or a contract is a basic component of law. The commonwealth was founded on an agreement. As a result laws and governments are bound to change through acceptable compacts of agreements between people; this is possible through ethical and morally acceptance of the situations.
The government had used a lot of resources in the rescue efforts of the five speluncean members, geologists, engineers, and other experts had been gathered for this purpose. The risks that were involved in the rescue efforts were very high. Ten men were killed when clearing the entrance of the cave; the treasury had also used a lot of resources until it exhausted its funds. In this case therefore ten lives were lost in the process of saving five lives. If one then is a rational thinker one live would be lost to save four, given the condition that they faced. However according to the commonwealth law the four of the survivors were executed because of one live, it would then mean that the whole process was a waste of time and resources for the government.
If we would consider the fact that the agreement was irrevocable, imaging a situation where by Whetmore Would resist to be killed and in the act of self defense he would have killed one of the four members, in a court of law Whetmore would be a murderer because the act of self-defense would not be an excuse for his action and would be prosecuted. Considering this inverse approach through self defense the four should not have been hanged.
Why the Law Could Not Use This Preference
Whether a person was right or wrongs not the purpose of the law. The law of the land should be followed to the letter. This should be the case whether the law is good or bad. The problem of the above case would therefore be that of combining law and morals. The decisions made after separation of law and morals are much easier. Moreover a harsh decision from a given statute would in effect lead to legislature revisiting such a statute and instituting changes to that. As such this assist in the correction of statutes through the legislature and not the judiciary
According to the statute whoever willfully takes the life of another shall be punishable by death, this is the major question so as a decision can be made in this case.Â Hence did the defendants willingly kill Whetmore? The natural conclusion from this case is that they willingly killed him and therefore are guilty of the crime.
This case was a murder case in a supreme court, a decision that would not have followed the statute to the letter would have created a wrong precedent.