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Journal Chacham's Journal: Puzzle: Who was the murderer 3

This story concerns a caravan going through the Sahara desert. One night they pitched tents. Our three principle characters are A, B, and C. A hated C and decided to murder him by putting poison in the water of his canteen (this would be C's only water supply). Quite independently of this, B also decided to murder C, so (without realizing that C's water was already poisoned) he drilled a tiny hole in C's canteen so that the water would slowly leak out. As a result, several days later C died of thirst. The question is, who was the murder, A or B? According to one argument, B was the murderer, since C never did drink the poison put in by A, hence he would have died even if A hadn't poisoned the water. According to the opposite argument, A was the real murderer, since Bs actions had absolutely no effect on the outcome; once A poisoned the water, C was doomed, hence C would have died even if if B had not drilled the hole.
    Which arguement is correct?

He then goes on to tell a related joke. And so far i've realized that Raymond can't spell, write, or think. And he probably votes Democrat too.

Well, after digging himself into a hole there, he decides to jump in and fill it up again in the answers section.

I doubt either answer can be called precisely "correct" or "incorrect". I'm afraid that in a problem of this type, one man's opinion is as good as another's. My personal belief is that if anybody should be regarded as the cause of C's death, it was A. Indeed, if I were the defense attorney of B, I would point out to the court two things. (1) Removing poisoned water from a man is in no sense killing him; (2) if anything, B's actions probably only served to prolong A's life (even though this was not his intention), since death by poisoning is likely to be quicker than death by thirst.

But then A's attorney could counter, "How can anyone in his right mind convict A of murder by poisoning when in fact C never drank any of the poison?" So, this problem is a real puzzler! It is complicated by the fact that it can be looked at from a moral angle, a legal angle, and a purely scientific angle involving the notion of causation. From a moral angle, obviously, both men were guilty of intent to murder, but the sentence for actual murder is far more drastic. Regarding the legal angle, I do not know how the law would decide--perhaps different juries would decide differently. As for the scientific aspects of the problem, the whole notion of causation presents many problems. I think a whole book could be written on this problem.

Nope. Just a JE.

And, if Bs actions only prolongs *A's* life, it must be that A was convicted of murder, and sentenced to death, but B's actions complicated it and prolonged the trial. However, the end of that sentence shows that it was an error of someone who obvioulsy didn't think long enough about this problem. His editor was possibly CmdrTaco or J. Klensin.

Then there's the, "I do not know how the law would decide--perhaps different juries would decide differently." Law is not decided by the jury. The case is decided by the jury, possibly regardless of the law. Either there is a law about this, or there isn't. But, hopefully, a judge that can think would decide the law.

And death by poisoning is quicker the death by thirst. Well, i guess that depends which person, his constitution, the weather, and the like. It's amazing that he selectively uses technicalities.


Obviously, B is the murderer. A had intent to murder, but did nothing. Two cases to prove this point.

2) Remove A from the picture.
3) A, instead of putting in poison, puts in sugar (thinking it is poison).

In both cases, as far as C is concerned, the story does not change, and B kills C.

To further illustrate 3, imagine A thinks that touching Cs nose will kill him after five minutes. So he touches his nose and waits. In the meanwhile B kills C. Who is guilty of murder? Obviously B. No matter what As intent.


4) Remove B from the picture.

The case changes for C, and he dies of poisoning, not thirst.

The case can further be illustrated in a more crude manner.

5) A shoots at C from a distance where it takes a few seconds to reach him. In the meantime, B shoots C at much closer range, and hits him (and kills him) before As bullet hits him. Who is guilty?

Obviously B is, since he killed him. In fact, the only case where there might be what to talk about would be when:

6) A throws C off a helicoptor miles in the sky, onto a hard floor so far below. C will surely die from the fall. On his way down, B uses C for target practice, and kills him.

At least then, one may be able to say that A already killed B.

Just thinking, in might be interesting if

7) B didn't drill a hole. Instead he poured the water into a cup. The next day he felt bad, had remorse, and put the water back in to the canteen. C drinks it and dies of poisoning.

Who killed him then?

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Puzzle: Who was the murderer

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  • A is guilty of attmepted murder, B is guilty of murder. Since acting independently they would both have murdered C then hang them both.
    • I watch a lot of "Law & Order". That's exactly what would happen.

      Of course, I also watch a lot of "Twilight Zone", so C would have come back and turned A and B into little dolls stuck in the toybox of a giant boy.

      • After further analysis by the cast of C.S.I., it turns out that C actually licked the inside of the canteen to get the last drops of water. Those drops contained just enough poison to throw C into a delirious self-mutilating rage. C repeatedly stabbed himself until he was dead dead dead.

        The judge ruled C committed suicide and fined C's family $250.

Waste not, get your budget cut next year.