Saturday, 30 July 2016

Intergalactic Law Episode 11: Preparation

“Robots! I need you. We’ve got a case. A big one,” said Bing, tossing his coat onto the waiting room seats.
“Morning Mr Mulholland, would you like me to get you a coffee?” said Alpha. Bing noticed that the lens on her CCTV camera head was cracked. He didn’t ask. Nor did he ask why Honda had been unplugged and was currently slumped across his desk. Bing reached under the desk and plugged in the giant robotic arm.
“Get away from that plug you bitch, I’ll cut you, I swear! Oh, Bing, you’re in early.”
Bing raised an eyebrow at Honda, who looked about as sheepish as a former assmebly-line robot with no face could possibly look.
“Alpha, coffee please. The shop might not be open yet. Go over there and bang on the door until someone answers.” Alpha nodded and jogged out the door. “Honda, rearrange all of my appointments, and print out anything related to murder in the ship’s code of conduct, the jurisdiction plan that Symington and I drafted, and check the ship’s databanks for the definitions of murder, and manslaughter, from the UK, USA, South Africa, India, and China.
“Right away boss,” said Honda. The arm shot forward to the desk-tidy and knocked it onto the floor. Honda tutted. Bing watched as the lumbering robot reached over the desk and tried to pick up a pen, pencil, battery, or screw from the floor with his great three-‘fingered’ claw. Everything was just out of reach and the robot began to whimper. 
Bing sighed, and tossed a pen onto the desk as he passed by on the way to his office. As he shut the door he heard Honda exclaim ‘a-ha!’, and begin to tap furiously at the keyboard, one key at a time.
Bing kept the light off and slumped into his chair. He contemplated taking a swig of vodka, but resisted. Alpha couldn’t come quickly enough with the coffee. At one time, back on Earth, Bing had had a successful practice, which included a criminal department. He had acted for some very bad people, including murderers before. Part of what joining the crew of the Isaac Newton had meant to Bing was leaving that type of client behind. Laura had thought so too. He had been tempted to burst into tears, as she had, on hearing the news that someone aboard the ship had committed murder, but had held himself together, at least while he was in front of Laura. Now that he was alone, and in the dark, he found his heart rate quicken, his breath shorten, and his cheeks burn. For a few minutes he allowed the confused and conflicting feelings which he had been stifling to bubble to the surface. When he felt his watch vibrate as the first email from Honda came through, he pushed everything back down inside and got to work.
The first thing Honda sent him was an email to confirm that there was nothing in the ship’s code about murder. Clearly it wasn’t just he and his wife that had had high hopes that the crew would refrain from murdering one another.
The second thing was another short email from Honda. One of the first orders of business for himself and William Symington, the other lawyer on the ship, had been to decide things like how private disputes would be settled, how disputes against the ship’s administration would be handled, and how criminal trials would be dealt with. There was nothing about murder specifically, but Honda had helpfully sent him the guidelines about what Symington and Bing had agreed they’d do when there was a contentious legal point. Bing’s initial thoughts for a defence was that he could argue manslaughter, instead of murder. Bing and Symington were the only two legally trained people on the ship, so whoever judged any legal cases had to have the law explained to them in an understandable way; as much as possible, the science crew liked having everything explained to them in formulas. The two lawyers would have to debate it between themselves how it would be explained to the judge what the difference between the two killing crimes was so a judgement could be made. They key difference between the two, in every jurisdiction, seemed to be intention. Bing didn’t expect it to come to much, but he was open to the idea of trying to persuade a judge that Dr Rutherford had simply meant to cut the victim’s tie off, as sort of a practical joke, and accidentally almost cut his head off instead. 
        He would come up with something better later.

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