The judge’s opinion that I agree with most strongly in the fictitious Case of the Speluncean Explorers, is that of Justice Foster. Foster is able to see beyond the “letter of the law” to encompass the human effects of this decision. The laws of our Constitution and our Commonwealth were written by fallible men, for fallible men; which automatically leaves it open for error and interpretation.
I do not feel that the law should compel that these explorers be convicted as murderers. Whether or not they are pardoned is not as significant an issue as whether or not they should be convicted in the first place. While theoretically, laws are to be “set in stone”, realistically, the limitations of human insight dictate that there must be exceptions to every rule. For this reason, I feel that Judge Keen’s argument that the explorers should be convicted because he feels it is the sole task of a judge to determine whether or not a statute was violated, is far too simplistic for such a complex case.
Furthermore, the purpose of any criminal statute is not merely to punish a particular crime but to implement justice, which is an objective, not an absolute concept. While the statute in question must offer potential murder victims the protective power of the state, this does not intrinsically translate into meaning that Whetmore's death must be avenged. Technically, the statute N.C.S.A. (N.S.) § 12-A, which declares "whoever shall willfully take the life of another shall be punished by death," was violated. However Keen and those who agree with him are treating this case as though they were calling a penalty on a football field. In such a game, the rules are strictly defined and the breaking of those rules automatically dictates a particular penalty, or punishment. However what these judges are failing to take into consideration is that life and justice are not games in that outcomes are far more weighty than a trophy or another notch on one's belt.
If life is to be treated like a game, and human beings are the pawns, then we are being controlled by the hands of the few who have the power to do so. Such a system is not based on justice but on domination. Those who make the laws and those who enforce them are provided supreme powers in our legal system, but they are not afforded the power of God. I do not mean this in a religious or moral sense, but in a realistic one. No law is absolute because no lawmaker is infallible. Moreover, it is impossible for lawmakers to anticipate every possible situation that could come under question. Only a perfect being would be able to achieve such tasks, and as we all know, humans are far from perfect.
The fact is, if laws were absolute; not open to interpretation and not considered capable of inaccuracy or miscalculation, then there would be no need for lawyers, jurors or any legal system whatsoever. Computers could decide if a statute had been violated simply by examining the facts. In the Case of the Speluncean Explorers, a computer would undeniably equate the facts with a guilty sentence, and an automatic execution. However to think that our justice system has been reduced to such cold and clerical decision making, as Judge Keen suggests, then the legal profession, and perhaps the entire human race is bound for an inevitable and rapid demise.