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Fiction

The wisdom of Solomon 2.0

The law says, ‘Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea’. A defendant cannot be found guilty without guilty intentions, a guilty state of mind. This is the legal test that should preclude an innocent person from being imprisoned, but does it ever take the ‘justice’ out of the ‘justice system’?

The crimes for which Harpur Solomon was sentenced to death happened in the early hours of April 7th. An intruder broke into the house of the Allen-West family. The father, John senior, had fallen asleep in the living room and was subdued using chloroform. He was then bound securely and left downstairs, able to hear everything happening upstairs. Police estimated he died last, from a single knife wound which went through his heart. 

Meanwhile, his wife Berenice had been viciously attacked and stabbed repeatedly. She was left to bleed to death and eventually drowned in her own blood. The two youngest children, ten year old twin girls who shared a room, were murdered with the same bladed weapon and sexually abused post mortem. The intruder made off with cash and jewellery. By chance the eldest child, the teenage John junior, was left alive. He had taken to sleeping in the attic because the noise made by his two younger sisters in the next room stopped him from sleeping. He was able to close the attic hatch and by staying silent, the intruder never thought to check.

The crime was horrific and the son’s story tragic, but alone it was not enough to occupy the news cycle for more than a day for a public inured against violent crime. What kept it in the spotlight was that it happened in the constituency of current Home Secretary and ZloCorp board member John Whitaker, Conservative MP for Surrey Heath. After demanding and being given the personal mobile and home phone numbers for Surrey’s Chief Constable, he harangued the under-pressure officer for updates on the case a dozen times a day until she was on the verge of resigning. That was, until an ambitious junior detective on the case brought her the break she needed.

The detective told his superiors that he had become aware of a story told by a recent inmate of HMP Coldingley, who had been convicted of numerous offences concerned with handling stolen goods and selling them on. He said he’d been asked to fence certain items of jewellery that he thought were from the Allen-West house in the days after the murders, but turned down the opportunity as he knew they’d be too hot to handle. During the rambling interrogations, in amongst the exhortations of innocence, he gave up a description of a man. A white man just over six feet tall, with thinning grey hair, cold blue eyes and a quietly-spoken manner. He had given the honest crook the chills, he said. Said he felt like a bit of a freak but when pushed, could not elucidate further.

Discrete enquiries had led the police to one Harpur Solomon, who lived alone in the same town as the murdered family. Solomon was apparently unemployed and spent much of his day walking around the town and local area. No one that police interviewed could actually remember speaking with him and the general impression that police drew was that he was a weirdo loner who spent much of his time watching people. Surveillance pictures were taken and showed to the prison snitch, who duly confirmed that it was definitely the same man, probably. He would stake his life on it.

The trial was a formality. Solomon had no alibi, and seemed unable to comprehend what was happening to him. His busy court-appointed barrister, who met his client for the first time in the corridor as they prepared to enter the courtroom, argued that the man was in some way mentally deficient and he needed more tests to be done. These tests were far beyond the budget of the dwindling legal aid purse and were never carried out. 

It did not seem to matter to the prosecution that Solomon barely scraped 5’ 7’’ in shoes, or that the seventies style hair above his ears (he had none at all on top) was brown rather than grey, or that he needed thick lenses which he wore in an outdated aviator frame and could not function without. They made Solomon remove them so that the prison snitch, who swore up and down that he was receiving no advantage and was just doing his civic duty like any upstanding lag would, could identify him. 

Without his glasses Solomon was forced to squint, and that made him look shifty. That manufactured impression was damaging enough, but his fate was written the moment that the son was brought in to testify what he’d heard happening downstairs. No, he’d never seen the assailant, except for one brief glance when he heard the back door slam shut and he risked a look out of the dormer window. He thought the man he saw leaving the scene looked like Solomon.

The jury deliberated for just 147 minutes before returning a guilty plea on all charges of murder, mutilation, sexual abuse and theft. The judge, speaking eloquently upon the barbaric nature of the crimes and the need for justice to be seen to be done, handed down a whole life sentence and Solomon, who had not spoken once nor had a single person speak up on his behalf during the trial, was taken away in uncomprehending silence.

John Whitaker was still not happy. He spoke with – lectured at would be closer – ministerial colleagues, the Prime Minister and sympathetic ears on the opposite benches. He spoke at length to the press and on the Sunday morning talk shows about the failure in the system that meant Solomon had got off lightly – essentially, Whitaker tiraded, he had got away with his crimes and the whole life sentence wasn’t enough. 

Without fanfare, warning or consultation, he slipped into the end of one of his live TV interviews that he’d asked the Prime Minister to consider reintroducing the death penalty since, post-Brexit, they were free from the tyranny of the European Convention on Human Rights. He said that the Prime Minister was just as passionate about crime and punishment as he was, and felt that there could be an agreement reached soon. She railed at him in private because of the position he’d put her in, but recognised the reality of her situation. If she disagreed publicly, her critics would say that she was soft on crime, and the backbenchers would whisper about her weaknesses. Whitaker’s star was in the ascendency, and it would be to his coat tails that the backbenchers clung, not hers, and she could only save face by moving further to the right than her Home Secretary.

Harpur Solomon died by lethal injection before a small crowd at HMP Coldingley. John Whitaker was there, his own young son and daughter holding his hands, because he wanted to prove to them that he himself had made the country safer for them and more dangerous for monsters like Solomon. The right wing press received a glad-handed welcome and lapped it up; the liberal press refused to attend on the grounds that Solomon’s trial was a farce and his state murder was unconstitutional, but Whitaker had already made sure that none of the lefties would receive a press pass anyway. 

On 17th August, John Allen-West Junior was picked up by police for being publicly intoxicated. He was chain-smoking joints in the town centre and had an empty bottle of vodka by his side. Police were sympathetic; not a single man or woman in the station could imagine what it must have felt like to live through that night, be forced to relive the horrors for the trial, and then have it brought up again by the press when Solomon was executed. They found him a camp bed in a quiet office and let him sleep the effects away, checking on him every twenty minutes or so to make sure he’d not choked on his own vomit. 

The next morning the body of Harpur Solomon was laid to rest during a council-funded service that no one attended. At exactly the same time, JohnJjunior quietly and fully confessed, over hot coffee and thick, freshly-buttered toast in the police canteen, to the murder and mutilation of his parents and sisters.

Technology was the solution in which the government placed their faith in the weeks after Solomon’s execution. When a crime was this close to call, when all the available evidence had been evaluated by the foremost forensic minds and left wanting, what was needed was the most objective view possible. John Whitaker took compassionate leave on medical grounds (“the stress brought on by being placed in this most horrible position,” his press officer said). The junior detective, once it came to light that he’d spent a few days looking for a compliant prison snitch who would repeat any given story, chose the well-trodden path followed by many disgraced police officers by simply resigning from the force before any punishment could be handed out to him. Away from the hullabaloo, the Ministry of Justice quietly put together a task force to evaluate the options that artificial intelligence might present. Sober minds in the government were determined that something should come from the tragedy that was Harpur Solomon’s death.

From MIT, Google and Facebook they learned about research and technology; from Harvard, Oxford and Brigantine they learned about reasoning and deduction; and from PwC, Capita and ZloCorp they learned about project planning and programme management. A plan took shape, based around the idea of an AI programme that could take in the basic facts of a crime, extrapolate all the possibilities, and either rule them out using the evidence it already had or direct further investigations based on the need to include or exclude the remaining possibilities. At the end of the process the programme would give a percentage likelihood of how guilty a suspect was. The higher the percentage, the less room there was for doubt. The programme was christened ‘Solomon 2.0’, partly after that wisest of Biblical kings and partly after the unfortunate victim whose state-sponsored murder had given rise to the project. 

ZloCorp’s project management consultants advised the government that beta system testing be carried out using live data – that is, input the data from a real crime that had already been and let Solomon 2.0 do the rest. The lead tester, who was privately aghast at the circumstances that led to the project, decided to pick a recent case from her hometown. 

Alfred Thompson, along with his wife Freda, had abused, raped, and beaten foster children in their care. They were convicted of various charges against 14 different children, but as the Thompsons were career foster parents for more than forty years, the number of children abused was more likely 40 than 14. They were caught only because one of the victims died accidentally during the abuse, and while brute force was generally enough to keep victims quiet the Thompsons were not sophisticated or intelligent enough to hide a murder. They had accused the children of lying, of injuries being caused by the children playing together, and when their situation started to look hopeless they blamed each other via a series of shifting stories. The only consistency was that each refused to take any responsibility or admit any guilt. 

To begin with, the test team entered only the basic facts of the case – a child’s body was found, this is where it was found, this is the condition, little else. They wanted to test Solomon’s ability to understand what evidence was missing. Immediately Solomon began asking for details of the child’s background and advising that the Thompsons be interviewed. When their statements were entered, Solomon started highlighting inconsistencies between the different statements, and parts of each statement that was likely to be a lie, or at least indicate the withholding of facts. Whilst this was obvious police work, it was encouraging that Solomon was asking the right questions. 

Slowly, painstakingly, Solomon asked more and more questions about the circumstances of the crime. Some questions were very leftfield and the test team fed back that they were unable to interrogate Solomon as to why he was asking certain questions. The project board agreed that this would be a useful feature, and further work was authorised. This extra coding would take some weeks. Meanwhile, the test team kept giving Solomon the data he asked for. 

Abruptly, the nature of Solomon’s questions started to change. He had already provided a list of how likely the Thompson’s other foster children were to have been abused, indicating a pattern of the Thompson’s sexual preferences that police themselves had not realised. But now Solomon asked questions about the Thompsons themselves, about their background, their upbringing, their families. He asked for general data about successive governments, about media reporting, the state of the NHS and social services, about popular movies and books, and about the attendance figures for churches of various denominations. He consumed 66 years of census data, 30 years of pop chart rankings, and the top ten selling toys every Christmas for the last twenty years. Many, many times the test team consulted with the programmers, but the programmers kept reviewing the logs and saying that there was nothing unusual happening in the back end. Once the work that allowed the test team to verbally interrogate Solomon was complete, they could ask. Until then, carry on. And so they did. 

Eventually, Solomon indicated that he had no further questions and was ready to render his verdict as to the Thompsons’ guilt, but the project board asked that his verdict be postponed. Firstly, because they wanted the interrogative unit to be in place so they could question him about the decision. Secondly, and most frustratingly, various ministers, civil servants, politicians, corporate sponsors and general bigwigs had become aware of the project and wanted to be there and there was a long gap before their calendars would synchronise. 

The Home Secretary, now apparently an ardent campaigner against the capital punishment guidelines that he had argued to introduce, was most keen. There was even talk of televising the event, which was quickly rejected as the project had been kept secret from the public. The test team were keen to know the result, but hopelessly overruled when it came to limiting access to the project team.

“Good morning, Solomon. Today is the last day of the first phase of beta testing – the day that you hand over your verdict on the Thompsons. Plus, we’ll be testing your new interrogative module, which allows us to question the reasoning behind your verdicts. Are you ready to proceed?“

“Good morning, Dale. And good morning, Mary. I hope you are both well.” Dale Rose led the test team, whilst Mary Land was the project manager, and it was they who were nervously leading the demonstration. Mary in particular was feeling a non-specific trepidation and assumed it was how lion tamers felt the first time they were going to show off by putting their head in a lion’s mouth. Solomon’s voice was honeyed and pleasant. “I’m very ready. Shall we proceed?”

“Thank you, Solomon,” Mary said haltingly. Sipping from a bottle of water, she composed herself and turned to the expectant audience. “The remit of the Solomon 2.0 programme was to create an artificial intelligence programme that could absorb all the details of a criminal case, suggest further strands of investigation, and deliver a verdict of guilt based on the objective evaluation of all possibilities. I’m happy to report that all major milestones and financial targets have been hit; the programme is on schedule and on budget up to the end of this, the first phase of beta testing.” There was a polite ripple of applause, and Mary looked towards Dale to continue. 

“This beta test is the first instance of unit testing – that’s the first time that the system has been tested as a whole – as well as the first time that all of Solomon’s modules have been linked together, and the first time he has been asked to take all the details of a case to deliver a verdict. The case in question was that of Alfred Thompson, who, with his wife Freda as an accomplice, abused any number of foster children in their care. They were only caught out when a dead body was discovered at their premises. Both pleaded not guilty, blaming the other children in the house and ultimately each other.”

“Solomon’s core design allowed him to ask for any information that he deemed necessary to reach a verdict. While programming logs could be deciphered to understand programmatically what was happening, the programme parameters were modified to allow him to explain to us in speech what he was “thinking” [here he used air quotes] and the reasoning behind his requests for data. In a moment, I will ask Solomon to take us through his process and announce his verdict. But first, are there any questions?”

There were none. The audience simply wanted to get to the good stuff.

“Good. Solomon, can you explain how you approached the case you were given, please?”

In the rehearsals for this moment, it had become clear to the project team that they needed something to look at. There was nothing on screen when Solomon talked, other than a simple user interface. A junior programmer was quickly tasked with mocking up a green waveform that modulated at the sound of Solomon’s voice. It wasn’t even part of the Solomon core code repository, it was some modified open source code that ran separately. But displayed on a 60” screen, it gave the audience of politicians and lawmakers (some of whom still clung to the notion that the Internet was a series of pipes connected to one main computer somewhere, probably in America, possibly in Bill Gates’ house) something to make sense of. The waveform itself was as smooth and soothing as Solomon’s voice. 

“Thank you Dale, it would be my pleasure. My primary objective was to understand whether Alfred Thompson was the sole perpetrator of these crimes; whether his wife Freda was the sole perpetrator; whether there was some level of conspiracy between the two, either entered into freely or coerced in some manner; or whether parties unknown had carried out the crimes.”

The crowd thrilled to hear Solomon talk. Already various internal monologues were taking place in heads around the room. Can we license this software and sell it to every law enforcement organisation in the world? Can we scrap all but the lowest level of street-plodding copper, now that their role is reduced to data collection and entry? Can we market the waveform and sell merchandise based on its likeness? Can we make the voice sound more authoritative, that is to say more white and late middle-aged, because it sounds just a little too metrosexual at the moment? 

“In arriving at my verdict I considered all logical possibilities, starting from the assumption that all the crimes were separate and not linked. From that I looked to find differences that might indicate different perpetrators, or differing levels of participation between multiple perpetrators working together.”

There was a distinct cough from the seating to the left of Solomon’s terminal. When Mary looked over, she realised the project sponsor was indicating that the audience wished to move the demonstration on apace. They did not want to hear how a multi-million pound app had spent months contemplating its own virtual navel. 

“Solomon,” Mary interjected, “perhaps you’d like to tell us the decision that you reached and perhaps we can take questions from the audience about how you reached your verdict, if they have any?”

“Well of course, Mary,” Solomon soothed. “I would be very happy to do that. These are my findings.”

“Of the murder that led the Thompsons to be discovered, there is a 97% probability that Alfred Thompson committed the crime alone. There is a 69% probability that the murder was committed through the accidental overuse of excessive force during a prolonged period of physical abuse, with a 31% chance that it was intentional overuse of excessive force. There is a 75% likelihood chance that the attempts to hide the body and remove evidence were driven by Alfred Thompson, indicating a high probability that Freda Thompson was coerced into helping with this element of the crime.”

“Are you saying that Freda is innocent, Solomon?” demanded Mary, quite flustered. She, like the whole audience, had a very strong opinion as to the Thompsons’ guilt and had been looking forward to having that opinion validated. 

“Quite the opposite, Mary. I am saying that Freda took a position of ‘it’s your mess, you sort it out’ with her husband and only participated in the attempted cover-up when it was clear that her own crimes would likely be uncovered due to the slipshod nature of the forensic countermeasures. The fact that their attempts at a cover-up were so poor can likely be attributed to their antagonistic attitude towards each other at this point. However, physical evidence for this is sparse and this supposition is 89% conjecture on my part.”

“But, Mary, there is almost no doubt that of the crimes documented against the 14 children who told the authorities that they had been abused, Alfred Thompson was the sole perpetrator in at least 25% of cases. In 60% of cases, Alfred Thompson would be the lead perpetrator, with his wife as a willing but secondary co-perpetrator. In the remaining 15% Freda Thompson is the sole perpetrator but my calculations lead me to believe that in the overwhelming majority of these cases, Alfred Thompson was an excited observer and/or director and likely contributed to the level of violence and depravity. In terms of these assumptions, I ascribe a 94% level of likelihood.”

“Now look here,” exclaimed the Home Secretary, apparently now quite recovered from the horrific toil of watching someone else die for his mistake. “All I’m hearing is likelihoods of assumptions and levels of probability and chances and possibilities. That’s not what this programme was set up for! All we want to know: are the bastards guilty?”

“Sir, Solomon is programmed to evaluate the available evidence and provide us with an objective value, a percentage-”

“They are 100% not guilty,” said Solomon, flatly and with admirably eloquent brevity.

An epic hush descended on the room, unmatched since the silence in the split second before the big bang. Those within the eyeline of the Home Secretary said a silent prayer, hoping that spontaneous human combustion would rescue them from what they expected to happen imminently. 

“Not guilty,” the Home Secretary restated in a near whisper. Solomon, who was not programmed to tell the difference between a question, an ironic or sarcastic statement, and highly-combustible veiled fury from the Home Secretary. “But they were found with a dead child on the premises.”

“That’s correct. I concluded with a 97% probability that Alfred Thompson committed that murder. There was a 3% chance that Freda Thompson committed the crime, with a less than 1% chance that an unknown third party committed the crime. Accounting for rounding errors, of course. Furthermore, of the 14 children who gave statements detailing abuse, I concluded there was a greater than 99% probability that they were telling the truth. Additionally, from the statements they gave and other evidence gathered, I concluded that there were other victims. I concluded that there was an 87% chance that the total number of victims was 27. There is a 13% chance that the number of victims was greater than 27. The chance that the number of victims was below 27 was statistically insignificant.”

There was a yawning chasm in time that stretched beyond the event horizon. The gathered assembly calculated that they were within the margin of error that for someone, the shit had hit the fan in ways that remained as yet ungrasped and beyond the power of language, maths or interpretive dance to describe. Of that they were uniformly 100% certain.

“They were not guilty of one murder and offences unknown in number against 27 children,” said the Home Secretary. “As opposed to one murder and offences against 14 children.”

“Yes, Home Secretary. That is a reasonable deduction based upon the data at hand.”

“I’m somewhat confused, Solomon,” spoke the politician in one of the first honest, open and unvetted statements of his career, “as to why there is simultaneously no doubt that they committed these crimes, nay, more crimes than we even found, let alone charged them with, far less convicted them of, and yet no doubt that they are not guilty of them?”

“Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.”

“The mind of a… guilty defendant… something something act…”

“‘An act’, Home Secretary, “ spoke the Chief Whip Tom Denning, whom previously no-one had noticed in the room, a man that quaking junior spads at Westminster swore was capable of astral projection as he had the ability to appear on the scene within the first two or three femtoseconds of a major fuck-up occuring, the present situation already conforming to many of the specific requirements of such a fuck-up, “‘does not make a defendant guilty without a guilty mind’. In other words, your talking bastarding word processor says it’s not their shitting fault.”

“How can it not be their fault?”

“Home Secretary-” soothed Mary as her project manager genes took over.

“How can it not be their fault! They were found with a dead child in their spare room! They even admit that it happened in their house! How in the name of God can it not – be – their -fucking – fault!”

“In 1948, when the Children Act was introduced, Alfred Thompson was seven years old,” interjected Solomon, modulating the timbre of his voice in a manner that he correctly surmised would grant him more authority and quiet the audience, “and already dangerously at risk. His father, Raymond, was an invalided veteran of the First World War. A member of the Royal Scots, Thompson was one of the first on the scene after the German chlorine gas attack during the second Battle of Ypres. In frank and graphic letters to his wife Thompson spoke of what he had witnessed; the massed piles of corpses, ‘each one contorted and locked in a hideous death pose of agony’, one of his letters says. There was no doubt that the state of Thompson’s mind was much altered.

Three weeks later, Thompson was caught by shrapnel as he tried to escape an artillery bombardment. The notes are not clear but from the description of his head wounds, and his later behaviour, I believe that his right supramarginal gyrus was damaged. Thompson’s speech was said to be affected and his moods were said to be violent. From this point on, from the medical notes, legal papers and newspaper reports I have scanned, Thompson demonstrates a severe inability to empathise with other people.

He adjusted very slowly to life out of the army, which was put down to the horrors of Ypres rather than his injury, which had outwardly healed. He was violent when roused, when drinking, and when sexually active. In particular Thompson began to be sexually aggressive towards his teenage daughters and there are numerous reports in the local press of charges being made by, and then dropped by, his wife – battery, rape, abuse – quite likely when she stepped in to defend her daughters.

At some point it seems clear that his daughters left the house to escape the abuse. At this time, Raymond Thompson started to take a sexual interest in his son, Alfred. There are court records showing that his wife had caught her husband buggering their son and pled to take her son’s place. Raymond Thompson would force his son to watch. My theory is that the supramarginal injury, robbing Raymond of his ability to empathise,  led him to believe that if he was sexually aroused at any given time then everyone else must be too. His injury stopped him from being able to separate his state of mind from anyone else’s, a common feature of supramarginal injuries.

Alfred Thompson, through years of abuse, was slowly becoming desensitized against that abuse. Not just desensitized, but most probably programmed to believe that the abuse constituted normal familial behaviour. He probably came to enjoy the sexual abuse and violence, thinking that this constituted parental affection. At the hands of his father sex, violence and paternal affirmation were shown to be inextricably linked and there is a high likelihood that as he entered adolescence, he also participated in the violent abuse and rape of his mother. Alfred was an infrequent attendee at school and only on his best days would one even describe him as a mediocre pupil. He did not socialise outside the family unit.

There were sporadic attempts to enquire about Alfred Thompson’s welfare in the years following the Children Act, but they were not followed up. Alfred last attended school aged twelve and appears to have undertaken no education since then. In analysing his statements, I believe that his written English has progressed little beyond that which would be demonstrated by a 12 or 13 year old today. This would certainly play a part in his oft-demonstrated inability to maintain believable details within a series of lies.

It has also played a part in Alfred Thompson’s inability to hold down anything other than the most menial jobs. Even jobs that required the most routine record-keeping seemed to tax him, and given that he possessed the same latent contempt for authority that his father, post-injury, possessed it is not a surprise that he was often dismissed or unable for other reasons to hold down these menial jobs for any length of time.

In 1968, when Thompson was 27, he and Freda had been married for three years. He had likely identified a kindred spirit in Freda McIlvanney, a woman four years his junior who had frequently been in trouble with the police. There is no printed record of how they met, but they were in court on the same day in 1963, so there is a high degree of likelihood that this was their first meeting.

According to records deposited with the authorities, Alfred and Freda had been trying for a baby for the three years they had been married when they started to consider the possibility of adoption. 1968 was a record year for adoptions, and families who were willing to either adopt or foster were always needed. There were no background checks carried out on either Thompson or his wife. By 1970 they were already fostering four children and both Thompsons appeared to be happy living on the benefits bestowed to foster parents. This would certainly have suited Thompson, as he no longer needed to turn up for work, and Freda would take care of what little paperwork was required. He frequently left the household at lunch and would not return until the pubs closed. During 1970 and 1971 there were 34 documented times that Thompson ended up in court as a result of behaviour, usually fighting, whilst intoxicated.

In 1971, Thompson was struck by a hit and run driver, who was later found and admitted to not stopping as he had been drinking, this having become an offence in 1967. Thompson himself was sober and had not been drinking prior to the incident, in fact he was returning home after having done the weekly shopping. Thompson suffered head trauma, a displaced skull fracture, and was in hospital for several weeks. 

Upon his return home, his behaviour was markedly more abusive and he was later treated for depression by doctors. His drinking became worse. In 1973 he was first accused of violence against a foster child in his care, but the child refused to testify and the case was abandoned. With no crime having taken place in the eyes of the law, the child was sent back to the Thompsons. This is a pattern that would be repeated several times over the next three decades. Thompson has a history of both alcohol and prescribed substance abuse dating from that time.

Alfred Thompson is intellectually impaired with a low medium IQ. He was raised by a violent and abusive father who was himself likely suffering from both post traumatic stress disorder and serious brain damage, and who through his own impaired mental state raised his son to believe that aggressive sexual violence, familial sex, sex with minors, and the right of males to take sex by force whenever they wanted it were the norm. He existed outside of the state apparatus as a child and when the slow, aggressive, sexually precocious boy stopped turning up at his well-intentioned but disastrously  stretched school in the post war years, little was done to bring him back and the system forgot about him.

As an adult the system failed him again. There is evidence of a certain ‘boys will be boys’ attitude being displayed to account for his frequent bar fight related appearances before a judge. No one questioned why the couple would sometimes have as many as a dozen children under their foster care and when several of them ran away, they were marked out as being problem children, rather than the Thompsons being marked out as problem parents. The system desperately needed foster parents.

The law says, ‘Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea’. A defendant cannot be found guilty without guilty intentions, a guilty state of mind. There is no doubt that Thompson carried out these acts, and in some way forced his wife to participate until she possibly went along with them willingly. However, there is no evidence available to show that Thompson would have committed these crimes without the unfortunate start to life that he endured, and every reason to believe that those circumstances were the root cause of the state of mind and behaviour that led to the crimes. Guilty acts, but no guilty mind. Therefore, under the standards that you have set, in the law as it stands, he cannot be found guilty.”

“But… the things he did! He’s… sick!” 

“Exactly!,” said Solomon, as his lead speech pattern recognition architect wished he’d spent more time programming recognition of hypotheticals, “But with intensive therapy and a strong support system behind him there’s still a chance he could contribute to society.”

Those present would swear to the end of their days that Solomon’s waveform was a smile at this point.

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