Regina v. Dudley and Stephens
There have been many criminal cases in the history, which brought controversy, whether murder could be justified under different circumstances. One of the famous cases tells a story of four shipwrecked men, which were lost in the high seas. The story was named "The Lifeboat Case", regarding the tragic and life-changing decision that was made in extreme circumstance. Four seamen, Thomas Dudley, Edward Stephens, Brooks and seventeen year old Richard Parker were in high seas and due to the storm that hit them very bad, they had to put themselves into an open boat. They did not have any supply of water and food, except 1 lb. tin of turnips. On the fourth day of this journey, they caught a small turtle and it lasted them for few days. After the turtle was completely consumed, they spent eight more days in hunger. On twentieth day of being in the state of prostration, Dudley and Stephens spoke to Brooks as to what should be done if there will be no help. Dudley suggested that one of them should sacrifice his life to save the rest and offered to draw lots in order to pick one. Since Brooks refused to consent and as three seamen, except the boy spoke about their families, Dudley proposed to kill the Parker, since he had no family and the fact that he would die soon anyway, because he was the weakest and he was drinking sea water. Although, Brooks dissented from the crime, with the agreement of Stephens and Dudley, the act was done on July 25th. With the prayer to forgive them, Dudley came up to helpless Richard Parker and telling him that his time has come, put the knife on his throat and killed him. After eating Richard’s body and drinking his blood for four days, the seamen were picked up by a passing ship. The rescuers carried them to the port of Falmouth and they were committed for trial at Exeter. They spent all the time from that day till the court in prison. Since it was very rare case, involving the law of the sea and extreme necessity, it was hard to pronounce judgment. Nobody knows if they would survive till the rescuers, hadn’t they not eaten the boy. They could have died from starvation. And Parker in his weak condition would most likely die also. Jurors at the trial were ignorant and they would agree with whatever the court’s decision will be. However, due to the complication of the case, the court was rescheduled to December 4th to be argued before a Court consisting of 5 judges. Regardless of an attorney A. Collins’ objections, saying that it was not a homicide, but a self-preserving act upon the great necessity, prisoner Dudley and Stephens were sentenced to death because, the facts that were presented to the jury, including Parker’s left body parts were horrifying and there is no such necessity that allows one to take another person’s life. However, the death sentence was commuted by Crown to six moth imprisonment. Unfavorable and at the same time tragic story of “Dudley and Stephens” begs some questions and requires details, which will be clarified below with the help of some research and articles. While reading the case story, a lot of details seem to be missing and Andreas Teuber, The Professor of Philosophy of Law at Brandeis University proposed a very thorough research with a lot of necessary information, called “The Mignonette, 1884 Queen v. Dudley”. According to Teuber, the name of the ship was “The Mignonette” and the owner was a wealthy Australian barrister, who decided to hire a crew to sail his yacht, instead of sending it as a deck cargo since the condition of the ship was not the sturdiest. ”He hired Thomas Dudley as a captain, and Dudley recruited Edwin Stephens as mate, Edmund Brooks as able seamen, and seventeen year old boy, Richard Parker, as ordinary seamen” (people.brandeis.edu). Teuber states in his work. The initial reason for the men being on the high seas was the fact that they were hired as a crew to sail the ship to Sydney, Australia. Even though,...
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