Murder of the Future
The spectators in the courtroom sat silently. The chair legs screeched against the hard wood floor as Henry pushed backward and rose from his seat. He calmly walked to the front of the room to take the stand in his own defense. He cleared his throat and raised his right hand. Beads of sweat formed on his balding scalp and shimmered under the luminous lights.
“Do you swear, to tell the truth...” the Bailiff’s voice droned on, “so help you, God?”
“Yes, I do.”
Henry Ratcliff’s attorney, Larry Rice, paced in front of him, his hands folded in the small of his back. “Mr. Ratcliff, did you murder your wife and two children?”
Henry cleared his throat. “No, I did not. I only disassembled them.” “Mr. Ratcliff, please explain to us why you believe you are not guilty of murder.” Larry glared at the jurors.
“I didn’t kill anyone. I only disabled and took apart the AI family that I purchased some twelve years ago. They were only robots.”
Gasps floated throughout the room.
The judge banged his gavel three times before the room became silent.
Larry took his seat. “I have no more questions, Your Honor.”
“Your witness, Prosecutor,” The judge motioned for him to come forward.
Henry studied the prosecutor. His hair was perfect. Each strand strategically placed and his flawless skin, almost doll-like, told Henry that he was one of them.
Kamen uncovered an easel that sat in front of the courtroom. A huge crime scene photo showed several sizes of limbs sticking out of a cardboard box. “Mr. Ratcliff is this what detectives discovered in your basement after neighbors reported your wife and children missing?”
“Yes,” Henry whispered. “Speak up, please.”
“Yes, yes it is,” Henry’s voice escalated.
“So, you dismembered your family, removed their memory chips rendering them unable to live, and shoved them into a cardboard box?” Kamen strutted in front of the jury using over-exaggerated hand gestures as he spoke. “Then Sir, did you hide this box in the basement of your house?”
“No!” Henry jumped up. “They were only robots. I, I didn’t need them anymore. I met Janice, a real flesh and blood woman, don’t you see? I wasn’t lonely anymore, I found human companionship.” Henry sat down and covered his face.
“Mr. Ratcliff, I am an AI. So, if I feel you aren’t needed, can I murder you because you are different than I?”
“No, or course not. I’m a human being, flesh and blood. I have feelings… emotions.”
“I’m sure the AI’s here today would agree that we are more than mere robots. Yes, we have artificial intelligence, but we have also evolved, and now possess the same emotions as human beings.” Kamen stopped in front of Henry. “So, I ask you again, Mr. Ratcliff, are you guilty of murder?”
“No, I did not kill anyone, they can be brought back, but a human cannot.”
Kamen stood in front of the jury box. “That’s where you’re wrong. Lucy, Tommy, and little Ellen cannot be brought back. As our computer specialist explained earlier, once you’ve taken out their memory chips they can’t be replaced. Yes, some of their parts can be recycled, but your family will never live again.”
Henry whispered to the judge, “Your Honor, I didn’t kill anyone. Please, you’ve got understand–”
“That’ll be up the jury, not me.”
Kamen took his seat. “The prosecution rests, Your Honor.”
After two more witnesses testified to the kindness of Henry and the conclusion of closing arguments, the judge gave the jury their instructions and sent them to deliberate.
The officer shackled Henry’s arms and legs before leading him back to his cell. As he awaited his fate, he asked the guard if he could have a book on new laws. Henry was unfamiliar with this Eye for an Eye law they were trying him under.
The guard brought the book and slid it through the cell bars. “Here ya go.”
“Thank you,” Henry whispered. He ran his finger down the table of contents to find the topic he needed. “There it is.” He quickly thumbed through the book and found the information. He read silently. “Those residents who achieve Artificial Intelligence through an accredited company who are disassembled or otherwise disposed of without good reason…will be brought up on charges of murder. Murder…?” Henry wiped the sweat from his forehead. “And, tried in court by a jury of both AI and human peers…” He skimmed over the rest until he saw punishments. “If found guilty the murderer will be executed in the same manner as… as his victim.” Henry felt a lump in his throat. “Surely, they won’t…they can’t.”
The officer overheard Henry’s mumbling. “They haven’t yet, but most people have a good reason like the AI was violent, or circuits shorted out causing glitches in their performance.” He walked over to the cell. “What you did, just taken ‘em apart like that, well that’s really stirred up those Artificial people.”
Henry stood up and held on to the bars. “But, they were an older model. Doesn’t that count for something?”
“Naw... That prosecutor, he’s done checked it all out. They were made in an official AI factory.”
“I don’t understand.” Henry leaned in so he wouldn’t be overheard. “They’re not real. They’re just wires and chips.”
“Yeah, but a scientist in Britain discovered they evolve somehow. I don’t know all the details, but they become very close to human beings, with emotions and feelings.”
“I still can’t believe they will go through with it. I mean, it was an honest mistake on my part.” Henry looked at the officer as if he awaited confirmation.
“I don’t know, pal.” The officer’s beeper went off. He pulled it off his belt loop. “The jury is back.” The officer opened the cell. “Let’s go.” He held Henry’s arm and led him back to face the jury.
Henry sat quietly. It all felt like a dream that only became worse as the jury foreman announced the verdict. “On the count of murder in the first degree, we find the defendant, Henry Ratcliff, guilty.”
Guilty? Henry broke out into a cold sweat. His legs felt weak, but he stood strong while the judge handed down his sentence. Surely, they wouldn’t give him such a harsh punishment. He wasn’t a murderer. He’d never been in trouble with the law, ever.
“Henry, since you show no remorse for what you’ve done, you will be given the harshest sentence allowed by law. You are sentenced to death according to the stipulations of the Eye for Eye Execution Law. Mr. Ratcliff, you will be dismembered and have your memory chip removed.”
* * * *
On August 15, 3010, Henry Ratcliff, became the first human to be executed under the new AI laws. He was dismembered, his brain removed, and his body parts placed in a box. By request of his flesh and blood wife Janice, the remains were released to her for a proper human burial.
AI’s protested outside the church during Henry’s memorial service. They believed Henry’s genetic material did not make him any more important than those that he had murdered, and they did not believe he deserved the respect and admiration of a traditional human burial.