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Interesting story and moral dilemma
Host of Golden Games
Group: Official Member
Member No.: 74
Joined: 26-February 06
A fascinating story. Ignore the page numbers.
|Dudley and Stephens were among four crew members of a yacht who "were cast away in a storm on the high seas 1600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope, and were compelled to put into an open boat [*pg 1020] belonging to the said yacht."223 The men had only two eleven-pound tins of turnips with them and were only able to supplement this meager store with a small turtle caught on the fourth day.224 Their only source of fresh water was rainwater that they caught in their oilskin capes.225 On the eighteenth day, when the men had been without food for seven days and without water for five and when their boat was probably still 1,000 miles from land, the two defendants spoke to a third man, Brooks, about the possibility of killing and eating the weakest of the survivors, a seventeen-year-old boy.226 Brooks "dissented."227 On the next day Dudley suggested to Stephens and Brooks the drawing of lots to determine who should be killed to save the rest but Brooks again refused to consent.228 Later in the day Dudley proposed that, if a ship did not appear the next morning, the boy should be killed.229 When no ship appeared on the next day, which was the twentieth day since they were cast adrift, Dudley, after offering a prayer for forgiveness, killed the boy with Stephens' consent.230 At the time of his death the boy was helpless, "extremely weakened by famine and by drinking sea water."231 Dudley, Stephens and Brooks fed upon the body and blood of the boy for four days.232 On the fourth day their "boat was picked up by a passing vessel, and the prisoners were rescued, still alive, but in the lowest state of prostration."233|
In addition to the facts mentioned above, the jury specifically found that, if the men had not fed upon the body of the boy, they would probably not have survived to be rescued and that the boy, "being in a much weaker condition, was likely to have died before them."234 The jury also found that "there was no appreciable chance of saving life except by killing some one for the others to eat."235 The jurors professed ignorance as to whether the killing of the boy was "felony and murder" and requested the opinion of the court, but concluded that, if in the opinion of the court the killing of the boy was [*pg 1021] "felony and murder," then "the jurors say that Dudley and Stephens were each guilty of felony and murder."236 The court concluded that the "conviction must be affirmed,"237 and Dudley and Stephens were sentenced to death, a sentence that was afterwards commuted by the Crown to six months' imprisonment.238
Personally, I believe that the sailors' action of eating the boy was completely justified, and I'll debate that to anyone who disagrees.
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