Thursday, 3 November 2011

A distant but relevant memory

Strange how seemingly unrelated events can remind you of things you hadn't thought of for years, isn't it.

Back in the mid-90s, there was a computer game called Frontier: First Encounters, an approximate sequel to the old Elite. It was set in 3250, with humanity spread across over hundreds of light years of space and 3 major political alliances.

Anyway, one of the side plots related to a legal dispute. An influential person had arranged the assassination of an opponent, whose family tries to have him brought to trial. He hires a bunch of lawyers who advance the following argument:

  1. Our client is "innocent until proven guilty"
  2. He hasn't been proven guilty, so therefore he is innocent
  3. Since he's innocent, the accusation of murder is libellous, and so we're suing you.

(The dispute is only resolved when the lawyers are bombed from orbit.)

There's a bit of text explaining why their legal strategy works - the influential person had spent years lobbying for the law in the relevant star system to be rewritten in his favour. There seem to be a lot of people who think that's how "innocent until proven guilty" already works, which just shows the difficulty of developing sufficiently implausible satire.