Street Law/Mr

Introduction to Law/Mr. Calella
Case Study Activity: The Case of Shipwrecked Sailors
The Assignment
Read the following facts of the famous English common law case of Regina v.
Dudley and Stephens. The case involves shipwrecked sailors who were tried for
murder and cannibalism. After reading the facts, use the guidelines below to
write a two-page, double-spaced (MLA format) Case Study on this matter.
Facts You Are to Work with
On 5 May 1884, the English yacht Mignonette started its voyage to Sydney, Australia
from the village of Tollesbury in Essex. There was a crew of four on board: Tom
Dudley, the captain; Edwin Stephens, the mate; Edmund Brooks, a crewman; and
Richard Parker, the ship's boy. The voyage was uneventful until 5 July when, having
deviated from the main trade route in search of fair weather, 1,600 miles off the
Cape of Good Hope, the yacht was hit by a massive wave and sank within minutes,
forcing the crew to put to sea in their lifeboat, a 13-foot open dinghy. For the first
ten days, the crew survived on two tins of turnips, whatever rainwater they
succeeded in collecting, and the innards and skin of a turtle, hauled aboard on the
fourth day. The boat was drifting on the ocean, probably more than a thousand miles
away from land.
On the eighteenth day, after seven days without food and five without water, Dudley
proposed that lots should be drawn so that one of them could be sacrificed to feed
the others. Brooks rejected the proposal and Richard Parker, to whom they were
understood to refer, was not consulted. Stephens, although sceptical at first, was
eventually persuaded that their only hope of survival lay in killing and eating the
boy, by then drifting in and out of consciousness and by far the weakest of the four.
On the day of the act in question, Dudley and Stephens spoke of their having
families, and suggested that it would be better to kill the boy in order to save their
lives, and Dudley proposed, that if there was no vessel in sight by the following
morning the boy should be killed. The next day, no vessel appearing, Dudley
suggested to Stephen and Brooks that the boy had better be killed. Stephens agreed
to the act, Brooks dissented. The boy was lying at the bottom of the boat helpless
and extremely weakened by famine and drinking seawater, unable to make any
resistance. Dudley then approached the boy with the words, “Richard, your hour has
come” and, receiving faint reply, “What? Me, sir?” answered “Yes, my boy” and
stabbed him in the neck.
For the next four days all three men, including Brooks, fed on the boy’s body and
drank his blood. On the fourth day after the act was committed, the three men were
sighted by a German bark, the Montezuma and picked up by it, in the lowest state of
prostration. They were carried to the port of Falmouth, where they faithfully
recounted the details of the shipwreck and Richard Parker's death to the authorities.
They were then charged with murder and tried at Exeter.
Excerpt taken from-
How to Write Your Case Study (80 total points)
Separate your Case Study into the following sections:
 Facts: In your own words, summarize what you read above. What
happened in this case? Who were the parties in this matter? What did
they do that caused a conflict with the law? (10 points)
 Issue: In your own words, write what you believe are the issues before
the court. What legal, public policy, values, and/or practical questions
must the court decide in order to resolve this dispute? (10 points)
 Arguments: Explain what both sides are arguing. What are the primary
arguments advanced by each side? (50 points)
 Decision: If you were the judge on this case, how would you decide this
case? Explain the reasoning behind your decision? Exactly what
precedent would be established by your decision? What important
questions related to this case have NOT been decided and why? (10
*Your grade for the Case Study will be based upon writing quality, argument
quality, following directions, and general mechanics.
Class Discussion/Debate (20 total points)
Prepare notes that respond to the following questions because we use them for a
1. Should the sailors even be tried for murder? What issues are presented
to the court?
2. Should the shipwrecked sailors be punished for their acts? If so, how
should they be punished?
3. Discuss legal, moral, public policy, and practical arguments for and
against punishment and the extent of punishment.
4. What is the relationship between law and morality in this case? Was it
morally wrong for the sailors to kill their comrade and consume his body?
5. Can an act be legal but immoral? Can an act be morally right but
unlawful? Explain and justify all responses.
*Your “Class Discussion/Debate” grade will be based upon your participation and
contribution to the class discussion. I will be keeping track using a class roster
so you MUST speak your mind and be ready to defend your position!