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A logician in hell (the prequel) July 23, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Logic.
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I was arrested for breaking the laws of logic — accused of poisoning a well (while also intending to drink from it). The trial was held in an old circus tent, before a random jury. The prosecutor delivered the following speech:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: let me begin by pointing out that the defendant is extremely ugly.

“You should also know that I have been chief prosecutor for over 100 years, and am well-respected as a leading authority on all criminal matters.

“Believe me, therefore, when I tell you that the defendant’s guilt in this case is quite certain: not only does he have no alibi for the time of the crime, he has offered no alternative suspect whatsoever — claiming that he ‘doesn’t know’ who did it! Surely, such a shameless admission of abject ignorance speaks for itself.

“As if that weren’t enough, there is solid statistical evidence against the defendant as well: meticulous studies performed over many years have consistently shown that a majority of those indicted for similar crimes were, in fact, guilty. Moreover, the last five suspects we arrested turned out to be innocent, so for this defendant to be innocent as well would be unlikely in the extreme.

“Finally, I ask you to consider the consequences of finding the defendant not guilty. First of all, such an outcome would imply that those responsible for upholding the law around these parts are incompetent — and who among you would want to live in such a society? Additionally: be assured that if this case does not end in conviction, very soon we will be unable to convict any criminals at all, so that murderers and rapists will walk our streets with impunity.

“In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: let me remind you that the defendant is really very ugly, and smells bad, too. Thank you for your attention.”

The jury applauded and the prosecutor took a bow. Just as I stood up to speak in my own defense, the jury left for lunch. Upon their return, it was announced that the jury had reached a decision: my guilt would be determined by the outcome of three sporting contests to be held between the prosecutor and myself.

In the first contest, each of us had to fight our way through an army of dummy soldiers. But while my dummies were made of iron, the prosecutor’s were made of straw. He finished first.

Next was an archery contest. I aimed carefully, and my arrow lodged only slightly below the center of the target. But when I looked over at my opponent’s attempt, I saw that he had shot at a blank wall — where a young boy was now quickly painting a target around his arrow.

For the final contest, we had to hit a ball between designated goalposts. The prosecutor succeeded with no trouble; but whenever I swung, the goalposts (which were actually flamingos) moved out of the ball’s way.

Back in court, I was asked if I had anything to say for myself; but all I could do was beg the question. Shortly thereafter, I was informed that I had been found guilty. I was sentenced to be hanged unexpectedly within the week

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