Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"We Need Some Plain, Old-fashioned Evidence of a Crime"

"The Happy Homicide."
By Frank Banta (?-?).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, March 1962.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"It's not so bad being on trial for murder. Of course it's a little embarrassing — when the principal witness is the corpse!"
You'd think that the more advanced the technology, the less prone to error it would be—a common fallacy, as everyone should know by now. Take, for instance, this man's trial for cold-bloodedly killing his wife:
"John Bork, you have heard the indictment," stated the judge formally. "How do you wish to plead: Not guilty, no contest, or wait and see?"
"I'll wait and see, your honor."
"I thought you would," sighed the judge. "We haven’t had a straight not-guilty plea in ages. Proceed, Mr. Prosecutor."
Infused with unwavering confidence, the prosecutor does proceed:
"In this machine rests the proof of the crime charged against the defendant," he said dramatically, patting the smooth gray side of the machine. "This machine will tell you all you need to know about the murder. Oh, to be sure, I shall show you the corpus delicti presently; but why and how this crime was committed shall be revealed only by this machine’s stimulation of the deceased’s brain. She will herself relate who her killer was!"
There was a shocked gasp from the jurors and the spectators in the court room when the prosecutor pulled back the sheet from the body, uncovering her head and chest. "The jury will note that the government has removed her skull down to her eyebrows so that we could contact her brain’s recordings with the ma-chine’s probe. The jury will also note the four bullet holes in the deceased’s chest, which we intend to prove were put there by John Bork."
"I missed twice," said John Bork, nodding.
Ordinarily the reliability of the defendant's testimony is at issue in a trial for murder, but how much can we rely on what the victim, given the chance, might say?

- With this story we can add another totally anonymous author to our collection.
- Reading somebody's mind, dead or alive, is still a tricky business; some of the implications are discussed in a California Magazine article (HERE): "Catching the Brain in a Lie: Is 'Mind Reading' Deception, Detection, Sci-Fi—or Science?"

The bottom line: "I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells."
Theodor Geisel

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