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12 Angry Women and the Bomb’s plane case

Life and human safety always will have to be considered as the highest and supreme value in any Legal System


Back in February 9, 1971, there was a singular case, Katko v. Briney, ruled by the Iowa Supreme Court, full case name “Marvin Katko v. Edward Briney and Bertha L. Briney”, which changed the conception of the right of a Landowner to use deadly force on intruders, and as a result the subsequent impossibility to set potentially deadly traps for trespassers (full document available here)

The scenario for the case was clear, Katko broke into an old farmhouse property of Mr. Briney, all boarded up with “No treaspassing” signs around, and a clear intention to keep non desired visits out of the property. In order to secure the limitations of his property, Briney decided to set up a “defense mechanism” consisting in mounting an spring-loaded shotgun system, which would fire the gun, whenever the bedroom door was opened. When Katko entered the bedroom, the set up mechanism got activated and the shotgun fired with the result of hurting both of his legs, and as a result Katko sued Briney after being released from the hospital.

This happens to be one of the cases that opened a big debate in the U.S, putting in the balance the value of live vs. role individual responsibility. The court, and it’s popular jury composed exclusively by 12 woman (this is a figure contemplated only by North- American Law) thus ruled for Katko, entering judgment for $20,000 in actual damages and $10,000 in punitive damages.

But the Court’s decision, ruling that the use of deadly force on intruders in private property could not be justified, using the argument that Briney would have acted inside of the legal limits for “self defense” if he had been inside of the property during the intrusion, could not still be the end of the saga. Mr. Briney sued Mr. Katko for the damages that he allegedly cause during the trespass, resulting awarded with $150 and $1,000 in punitive damages.

In Europe there’s a similar debate, initially brought to legal discussion by the German Federal Constitutional Court, not related to the individual right to defend private property as in the North-American doctrine, but in connection with the limits and requirements for self defense concept to be invoked. Back in the days in Law School, there was a similar debate, relating to a situation presented to the students, bringing up the discussion of killing innocent people to save others from a human dignity/value, perspective analysis.

The specific question to raise and debate put us on a hypothetical situation where an airplane full of innocent people results abducted by a terrorist group, with the intentions of carrying out an attack like 9/11. So the problem comes with the question ¿Is it justified to use these innocent lives ,shooting down the airplane, in order to save other lives? let’s just say an even bigger number of lives?

The debate is clear and raises the question ¿Is it legitimated to kill one to save all? or on the contrary, To kill everybody and avoid to look at the elephant on the room?

The chosen theory to answer this question was the rule “of the one who has the most salvation chances” (considering the one who actually has the biggest possibility to be rescued or to live). With this principle, it would be impossible to avoid the demolition of the airplane if, for example the group A (which is inside of the plane) has less chances to survive than group B. It means that following this doctrine, it would be justified to take down our plane, if with doing so, the possibility of saving more lives is on the table.

This is an interesting point of view, but on the contrary the legal opinion in Europe seems to tend to go in the direction where is impossible to consider one life more valuable than other, so the higher value in Law, and the one that has to be protected at all cost is human life, and as a conclusion, in any case would be justified to sacrifice one life to save an even bigger number. Not a single human life can be considered as more necessary to protect than other; with this conclusion, the demolishment of our airplane could not find any justification or excuse endowing more value to the lives on the plane than to the others.

Clearly there’s one supreme rule that surpasses everything in the conception that life, and human safety in Katko v. Briney is placed as a higher value, than upon mere rights in property or in the consideration that life can never be detracted, in any case, in our kamikaze bombing attack.

chamatabogados • 25 abril, 2018

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