The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens
Queen's Bench - 1884
- Dudley, Stephens, Brooks, and Parker, crew members on a yacht, were cast adrift 1600 miles from land in an open lifeboat.
- After 12 days, they were out of food. Dudley and Stephens suggested to Brooks that one person might have to be sacrificed to save the others. Brooks dissented.
- Without consulting him, Dudley and Stephens killed Parker on day 20.
- They were rescued 4 days after the murder; they would have all died if they had not fed off of Parker's remains.
- Lower court found Ds guilty of murder.
- Queens Bench affirmed, Ds guilty of murder.
- May an innocent person be killed in order to save the life of another?
- Homicide may not be excused when the person killed is an innocent and unoffending victim.
- The victim did not assault or endanger the killer. He had no control over the circumstances leading to starvation.
- The extreme necessity of hunger cannot justify larceny, let alone murder.
- The preservation of one's own life is a duty, but sometimes one must sacrifice it.
- Law and morality are not the same, and many things may be immoral which are not necessarily illegal. If these men were to be found innocent, it would signal the divorce of law from morality.
- Death sentences commuted to six months' imprisonment.