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Court Finding in the matter of State v Underby

In the matter of The City-state of New Babbage v Yoyo Underby

Motion before the court to dismiss, based on the status of the alleged victim. Defense counsel claims that under the law, murder charges cannot be brought against the defendant because the law specifically states that the victim must be a human being. The victim, one Pip Steamer, resident of New Babbage was determined medically to be an autonomous self aware construct of uncertain origin.

The issue before the court on its face is a simple one, can you by the letter of the law commit murder if the victim is not a human being. The larger, and thornier, issue that will take up the majority of this decision is how that phrase will be defined. While in the murder chapter itself it makes mention of the words “Human being”, in other places the word “person” is used interchangeably. Persons are granted the power to hold property, to be allowed to be members of juries, to have wrongs redressed in the court, and a myriad of other things that are specifically notated under the law. It is the feeling of this jurist that “person” as described by the law does infer a biological origin, so I feel quite safe in saying that any sentient flesh and blood creature would enjoy that protection under law where denoted as “person” or “human being”. Further study shows that the law does recognize “artificial persons” for the purpose of legal codification, such artificial persons being loosely named as corporations and other business entities. Under your laws, these artificial persons are accorded many of the same rights and privileges as a biological person. The problem before is one that the original framers of the law could not have foreseen, an age of technological wonder that allows creations from the hands of men to rise to a level of being that equals those of the builders. There was a time, under a similar legal structure, that people of one nation said that people who came from another continent were not the same as they were that somehow a place of origin determined who had reason. Thankfully those rulings were struck down, because the measure of a man is far beyond just that of his origin. I have had the opportunity to see some of the wondrous beings that are rightly asking if they are protected under the law, if they have the same fundamental rights as their biological citizens. I can say that in many ways they do, but the law does differentiate between flesh and steel. While the law needs to change the matter before this court must be decided based upon the body of the law as it stands.

The law is specific as to how an artificial person is to be treated, and that they cannot be improperly disbanded or ended. It lays out a specific set of rules that say how the assets of those entities must be disposed of on a legal dissolution. In this matter, it can be said that the victim in this matter was indeed improperly disbanded, and the assets were improperly dissolved.

In this matter, the charge of murder is amended to improper dissolution of a corporate entity, whose assets are less than 20 dollars. The defendant is hereby found guilty, sentence credited to time served, and the fine shall be levied in the sum of 500 Dollars or an equal sum in the local currency to be paid to the city.

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  1. Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin September 22, 2010

    errrrr…… does that mean our mechanical people are subject to Corporation Tax, but not Income Tax?

  2. Queer Hermit Queer Hermit September 22, 2010

    Quite the unique adaptation of the term “artificial persons” as applied to corporations.  It strikes me that the jurist is attempting to strike a balance between the two camps of thought within Babbage.  It is to be noted that he, based on the acknowledgement of our high technology here, also calls for an adjustment of the laws.  I once again ask the Clockwinder to acknowledge these calls from our sooty city and to call a town meeting to modify the rules of common law to properly include persons of non-human standards to be included within our protection.

  3. Cadmus Lupindo Cadmus Lupindo September 22, 2010

    “I once again ask the Clockwinder to acknowledge these calls from our sooty city and to call a town meeting to modify the rules of common law to properly include persons of non-human standards to be included within our protection.”

    This assumes that all citizens are in agreement in the change. If this was to be put to a vote, you can not assume you view will pass.

    • Zaida Gearbox Zaida Gearbox September 22, 2010

      So – put it to a vote….

  4. Wallis Graves Wallis Graves September 22, 2010

    By Underby’s own admission Pip Steamer was a homunculus. I’m sure I need not remind such a learned legal mind that homunculus is Latin for “Little Human”. This should render the question of whether Pip was artifically created or not a moot point as the law does not differentiate between constructed humans and born humans.

    Further, if “any sentient flesh and blood creature would enjoy that protection under law” then the question of zombie disposal becomes murder. Remember that “sentience”, the ability to perceive,  is very different from “sapience”, the ability to act with the awareness of right and wrong.

    ((Despite many SF writers using sapience and sentience as synonyms, they have different meanings))

    That the term artificial person can be applied to incorporeal, non-sentient idea, such as businesses and corporations, and a mechanical sapient construct equally seems to be drawing a very long bow.

  5. Grace Toussaint Grace Toussaint September 22, 2010

    I thank the Court for its deft handling of this issue.  I would also ask the Court to amend the decision to reflect the fact that, while Mr. Underby pled guilty to the reduced charges, he does not and will not admit to any guilt or liability in the actual “dissolution” of Pip Steamer.  Mr. Underby simply wishes for this matter to be closed for the good of the City.

    ((Thanks to all involved in this.  I never would have come up with these twists and turns myself!  I hope that we can continue the debate over sentience, sapience and being in future.  Whether or not we “codify” something, I think it is an issue that would certainly be a struggle for any civilization of such diversity as Babbage.  I know Grace wouldn’t mind advocating FOR the rights of “non-human” beings as she is well aware of the slippery slope she is now on.))

  6. Victor1st Mornington Victor1st Mornington September 22, 2010

    Whatever way you look at it, he literally got away with murder cause of a simple technicality in the law…

    A town hall meeting should be called as soon as possible to rectify the oversight of the antiquated law’s of the city, lest the non humans, clockworks and other species of non description start a riot…

    • Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon September 22, 2010

      The clockwork workers at the power station made a half hearted attempt at a riot, but all the damage was within the power station. But in the end their protest literally wound down and now they are all laying in the basement like a pile of junk!

      I think it best to solve the problem by repairing the generators and getting the auto winding apparatus working again, rather than manually wind the clockwork workers which will use a lot of my remaining and dwindling reserves of power.

      So now I’m left here to fix the power station on my own!

      Oh yes… in answer to the question, I pay all the relevant taxes due to the city as any decent citizen should, so I would hope the city would be there if anyone were to try and disassemble me.

      • Mr Tenk Mr Tenk September 22, 2010

        the wind down is a disaster, i don’t know which one to wind up first! i think they wound each other, so they have to be rewound in the right sequence, at the right intervals. what a puzzle!

        • Jonathon Spires Jonathon Spires September 22, 2010

          The clanks that carry my litter chair actually refused to take me from Babbage to the port today. Unthinkable affrontery! I’ve removed their mainsprings until this is sorted out. Had to use a velocipede to get around.

        • Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon September 22, 2010

          The winding clockworks start the chain, they are part of the self winding apparatus at the power station.

          The generators generate power that winds the small winding clockworks that fly about winding the supervisor clockworks and they wind the maintenance clockworks who finally wind the worker clockworks.

          I however am powered by aetheric batteries that power my self winding mechanism which allows me to operate when I am exploring.

    • Grace Toussaint Grace Toussaint September 22, 2010

      You are assuming Mr. Underby was in fact guilty.  Even if this case had proceeded to trial, the evidence would have shown that my client was innocent of the crime.


      *Grace smiles a chilling, lawyerly smile.*

      • Mr Tenk Mr Tenk September 22, 2010

        and that’s why lawyers bother me…. they’ll accept a proof with a big fat hole.

        • Grace Toussaint Grace Toussaint September 22, 2010

          As a defense lawyer it is not my job to prove anything; I simply have to point out the holes that make the case impossible to hold together.  In this case, the holes were astonishingly large.

          *Grace smirks behind her cup of hot cocoa.*

      • Edward Pearse Edward Pearse September 22, 2010

        That really should have been the question the RP addressed, whether or not Underby did the deed.

        The theatrical dance about whether a city that recognises clockworks, dragons and blue pointy-eared humanoids amongst its founders would legislate them to chattel status is a poorly conceived idea.

        • Mr Underby Mr Underby September 22, 2010

          In your opinion.  The life status of the supposed victim is of course important… nobody would be accused of murder over the killing of a chicken, and chickens are unarguably alive – a being who speaks and yet shows no physical signs of life is a matter that could very well be in question.

          The concept of the form being considered property is not mine, but I thought it rather sly and thought provoking.

          The question of whether Underby did it is mundane and almost beside the point, the true answer was plastered all over the Ning and the BAR.  Villains often get away in the end of these sorts of RP, however, the fact that he wasn’t convicted hardly means he has gotten away with anything just yet.

          • Edward Pearse Edward Pearse September 23, 2010

            Sorry, poor choice of words. The RP should RP should have been focused on being able to PROVE Underby did it or not. Were the Ning admissable he’d have been locked up ages ago.

            But the other, yes obviously my opinion. Making the distinction between the founders of New Babbage and the mythical RP founders, I don’t believe Mr. Steinbeck or any of the other non-humans would have helped found a community that would allow someone to murder them and only be charged with willfully making a clerical error. Of course I’m happy for Mr. Jack to say otherwise if he disagrees.

            To me it flies in the face of Babbage’s established history, both real and mythical.

            • Mr Underby Mr Underby September 23, 2010

              You make a good point about the mythic RP founders and the actual founders of the city, and its something that should probably be addressed at some point.  It seems to me that in the New Babbage RP that its unlikely that we are only on our second mayor and that so much of the city was built by people who either still live here, or only left fairly recently.  Some of these buildings must be over a hundred years old, who built them?  What is the RP story for the founding of the city?

              This is getting off-topic, but it interests me.  I will start a new discussion if I get time today.


              Back ON topic… perhaps someone (or a committee) should slog through the tiresome chore of actually putting together some sort of basic set of laws for the city, to be honest when this RP started I wasn’t even fully convinced murder was against the law in New Babbage… I’ve seen plenty of murder in my time here and never seen a single person convicted.  What exactly ARE the laws in town?

  7. Cral Denimore Cral Denimore September 22, 2010



    <Scratches Noggin…>

    Isn’t our court system more of the Kangaroo variety?

  8. Grendel Footman Grendel Footman September 22, 2010

    *from wherever, Kadath maybe* forget winding, Eel power, it’s the future

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