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  #1  
Old 02-28-2007, 02:07 PM
Fish Fish is offline
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Baleful Polymorph: assault or not?

In re: Frog versus W. Witch, we find insufficient evidence that the criminal charge of assault and battery, i.e., the intent to commit grievous bodily harm to the plaintiff [viz, Frog] is applicable to the events heretofore related in open court.

Though unquestionably our client, the defendant [viz, W. Witch] deprived the plaintiff of access to his wealth, title, and property, the plaintiff suffered no bodily harm in the process of being transmogrified into a healthy specimen of frog. Our client's spell was painless and, indeed, cured the plaintiff of his incidental human diseases, with a net health benefit.

We beg the court to consider this when pronouncing its verdict.
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Old 02-28-2007, 02:36 PM
Miller Miller is online now
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Hmm. I figure enchanting someone against their will would be roughly analogous to drugging them against their will. What's the specific charge for slipping someone a roofie? If it's considered a form of assault, then so should froggifying someone without their prior consent.
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Old 02-28-2007, 02:42 PM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fish
In re: Frog versus W. Witch, we find insufficient evidence that the criminal charge of assault and battery, i.e., the intent to commit grievous bodily harm to the plaintiff [viz, Frog] is applicable to the events heretofore related in open court.

Though unquestionably our client, the defendant [viz, W. Witch] deprived the plaintiff of access to his wealth, title, and property, the plaintiff suffered no bodily harm in the process of being transmogrified into a healthy specimen of frog. Our client's spell was painless and, indeed, cured the plaintiff of his incidental human diseases, with a net health benefit.

We beg the court to consider this when pronouncing its verdict.
If this is a bench trial, and I'm the judge, you're not going to be happy with my decision.

In general (although greatly dependant on the jurisdiction involved), assault is the attempt to commit or the threat of a battery. A battery is the infliction of an injury on a person or bodily contact likely to cause injury or bodily harm.

Defense counsel contends that the transformation of the victim into a frog is not an example of bodily harm within the meaning of the crimes of assault and battery. Since I can find no cases that directly address magical transformation, this is an issue of first impression in this jurisdiction.

I find as a matter of fact that W. Witch did transform the victim into the form of a frog, and did so knowingly, deliberately, and with malice. I find that as a matter of law, this conduct constitutes bodily harm and is therefore a battery within the meaning of the law.

Harm is "an act that damages or hurts," (www.m-w.com); and it cannot be contested that, contrary to defense's characterization, the human form once held by the victim is not only damaged but completely destroyed by the transformation. It is true that the damage is reversible, either by later action of the accused or, as some commentators suggest, by the kiss of a human female, but this fact does not vitiate the harm caused. Indeed, more conventional harms heal of their own accord: black eyes heal, bloody noses mend, and bruises vanish, but no one would argue that these injuries would NOT be indicia of a battery.

Because the prosecution chose to charge this as an assault and battery rather than a more severe assault charge, I do not consider whether these facts could also sustain a conviction for a more aggravated battery charge.

The verdict of this court is GUILTY.

Last edited by Bricker; 02-28-2007 at 02:46 PM..
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  #4  
Old 02-28-2007, 03:00 PM
Fish Fish is offline
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If the victim's human body was entirely destroyed by the spell and replaced by another, how can be sure that this court has jurisdiction over the case at all? The veracity of the plaintiff's claim, that he is in fact a human who has been froggified, allegedly by W. Witch, has not been verified. For all we know, this is an ordinary talking frog and not a former human as the plaintiff claims. We request this frog's suit be moved to a courtroom with jurisdiction over lawsuits filed by frogs.

Furthermore, if a magical transformation is defined as destroying one body and replacing it with another, then should we not consider the counterspell, the kiss of a human female, is itself an act of assault?
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Old 02-28-2007, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Fish
Furthermore, if a magical transformation is defined as destroying one body and replacing it with another, then should we not consider the counterspell, the kiss of a human female, is itself an act of assault?
Only if you can convince the frog to press charges.
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Old 02-28-2007, 03:13 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
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On appeal, largely because this would let me outrank Bricker and I find that amusing, since he can probably buy and sell me several times over, I would uphold my learned bretheren's well reasoned opinion. The case is remanded to Judge Bricker for sentencing.
So mote it be.

Oakie, CJ.

Last edited by Oakminster; 02-28-2007 at 03:13 PM..
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Old 02-28-2007, 03:41 PM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fish
If the victim's human body was entirely destroyed by the spell and replaced by another, how can be sure that this court has jurisdiction over the case at all? The veracity of the plaintiff's claim, that he is in fact a human who has been froggified, allegedly by W. Witch, has not been verified. For all we know, this is an ordinary talking frog and not a former human as the plaintiff claims. We request this frog's suit be moved to a courtroom with jurisdiction over lawsuits filed by frogs.
It's not a lawsuit. It's a criminal prosecution. From the OP:
Quote:
...we find insufficient evidence that the criminal charge of assault and battery...
(emphasis mine)

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Furthermore, if a magical transformation is defined as destroying one body and replacing it with another, then should we not consider the counterspell, the kiss of a human female, is itself an act of assault?
No - because consent is a defense to the crime of assault. Presumably the victim, in his frog form, consents to the kiss that will transform him back. If, for some bizarre reason, he does not consent, then yes, it would be a crime.

Last edited by Bricker; 02-28-2007 at 03:42 PM..
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  #8  
Old 02-28-2007, 04:36 PM
Fish Fish is offline
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Okay — that's just my scant knowledge of legal proceedings speaking. Still, wouldn't you have to begin by proving that the frog was enmagicked first? Before you try somebody for murder, do you not have to first have a corpse?
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Old 02-28-2007, 04:39 PM
Miller Miller is online now
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Originally Posted by Fish
Still, wouldn't you have to begin by proving that the frog was enmagicked first?
Sure, but that would be easy enough to do with a Detect Magic spell, or a Spellcraft skill check of a DC 20 or so.
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  #10  
Old 02-28-2007, 04:53 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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Originally Posted by Miller
Sure, but that would be easy enough to do with a Detect Magic spell, or a Spellcraft skill check of a DC 20 or so.
DC 25, if the, um, judge is generous; otherwise it can't be done.

Bricker, at what time does the consent have to occur? As we all know, sometimes a victim's mind survives the transformation into a frog--but other times, the victim is convinced (until the cure occurs) that he really is a frog. In the latter case, can kissin' consent be applied retroactively? That is, if the frog hops away from the princess, does that negate the consent defense?

I'm wondering also whether kidnapping charges might apply, inasmuch as a frog is far less mobile than a person, and the witch has greatly reduced the victim's mobility. Given that the spell could also have turned the victim into a fish (which would kill the victim under most circumstances), can we get this upgraded to assault with a deadly weapon?

Daniel
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Old 02-28-2007, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fish
Okay — that's just my scant knowledge of legal proceedings speaking. Still, wouldn't you have to begin by proving that the frog was enmagicked first? Before you try somebody for murder, do you not have to first have a corpse?
Yes. No.

That is, it's absolutely required in this case to prove that the frog was the result of the magic spell that transformed a human body. But no, you don't need a corpse to try someone for murder.

In this case, I based my factual finding on the accused's own admission:
Quote:
Our client's spell was painless and, indeed, cured the plaintiff of his incidental human diseases, with a net health benefit.
The defendant admitted casting the spell and admitted that the result was the frog's body replacing that of the human body of her victim. If the accused had denied it, then of course there would need to be something else in the record upon which I could base that finding.
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Old 02-28-2007, 04:59 PM
Miller Miller is online now
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness
Bricker, at what time does the consent have to occur? As we all know, sometimes a victim's mind survives the transformation into a frog--but other times, the victim is convinced (until the cure occurs) that he really is a frog. In the latter case, can kissin' consent be applied retroactively? That is, if the frog hops away from the princess, does that negate the consent defense?
Ah, but if the victim has the mind of a frog, then he is unable to press charges for attempted assault against any member of the nobility with a kink for amphibians. While the situation you describe is an interesting hypothetical, clearly it has no application to real world litigation over misuse of transmutation spells.
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Old 02-28-2007, 05:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness
DC 25, if the, um, judge is generous; otherwise it can't be done.

Bricker, at what time does the consent have to occur? As we all know, sometimes a victim's mind survives the transformation into a frog--but other times, the victim is convinced (until the cure occurs) that he really is a frog. In the latter case, can kissin' consent be applied retroactively? That is, if the frog hops away from the princess, does that negate the consent defense?
From a practical standpoint, the consent can be retroactive -- because, after all, at trial the former frog/current human could testify that he consented.

From a strictly legal standpoint, the consent must be given ahead of time. So what happens if the frog really wanted to remain a frog, and is bitterly disappointed at his retransformation, and insists on pressing assault charges against the princess? I think her best defense is mistake of fact - she can argue that she mistakenly, under the circumstances, believed she had constructive if not actual consent, and it would be up to the fact-finder to decide if her mistake was reasonable.

Quote:
I'm wondering also whether kidnapping charges might apply, inasmuch as a frog is far less mobile than a person, and the witch has greatly reduced the victim's mobility.
Too many unknowns. I think the battery charge is a safe one. Kidnapping often (though not always) requires an asportation element -- that is, the victim must be carried away. Even if the crime doesn't have that element, it usually requires the unlawful detention or seizure of another. Injuring someone so that they can't move is not sufficient to trigger this condition, since the intent of the actor was not to seize or detain, but merely to injure.

Now, if the record adduced that the spell was cast in order to seize or detain, and if the kidnapping statutes in the jurisdiction don't have an asportation element, then... maybe.

Quote:
Given that the spell could also have turned the victim into a fish (which would kill the victim under most circumstances), can we get this upgraded to assault with a deadly weapon?
Again, it depends on the factual record that might be developed on the precise nature of the spell in question. This is the first I've heard that the spell could result in a fish and that this could permanantly kill -- but if the record reflected credible evidence for that, then I'd say yes.
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Old 02-28-2007, 05:42 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Yeah, "permanently kill". If the witch killed the victim, then cast a raise dead spell, can the prosecutor charge her with muder or only aggravated assault?
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  #15  
Old 02-28-2007, 05:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Again, it depends on the factual record that might be developed on the precise nature of the spell in question. This is the first I've heard that the spell could result in a fish and that this could permanantly kill -- but if the record reflected credible evidence for that, then I'd say yes.
But the spell itself is the weapon, and it is fashioned in such a way to transform its subject however the spellcaster wants. So, by the nature of the spell, it is a deadly weapon, in that the caster can use it to transform the recipient into a fish despite the fact that they did not. Furthermore, a polymorph spell is a deadly weapon regardless of intent, if the victim fails their System Shock roll.
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Old 02-28-2007, 05:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludovic
But the spell itself is the weapon, and it is fashioned in such a way to transform its subject however the spellcaster wants. So, by the nature of the spell, it is a deadly weapon, in that the caster can use it to transform the recipient into a fish despite the fact that they did not. Furthermore, a polymorph spell is a deadly weapon regardless of intent, if the victim fails their System Shock roll.
Not under third edition rules which, given the title of the thread, are clearly the operative ruleset for the case.
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Old 02-28-2007, 05:58 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludovic
But the spell itself is the weapon, and it is fashioned in such a way to transform its subject however the spellcaster wants. So, by the nature of the spell, it is a deadly weapon, in that the caster can use it to transform the recipient into a fish despite the fact that they did not. Furthermore, a polymorph spell is a deadly weapon regardless of intent, if the victim fails their System Shock roll.
Only in those realms following the magical system detailed in the treatise by E. Gary Gygax. In Norrath, by contrast, Druidic polymorph magic is rarely fatal*, and virtually never permanently so. Of course, it is also not able to be cast upon someone that has not joined one's group.

*Bards do sing of one young Druid who unwisely chose to avail himself of his recently learned ability to polymorph himself into a wolf while in melee range of a high level Barbarian NPC. It probably was not the legendary Oakbrow. He was never foolish.
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Old 02-28-2007, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludovic
But the spell itself is the weapon, and it is fashioned in such a way to transform its subject however the spellcaster wants. So, by the nature of the spell, it is a deadly weapon, in that the caster can use it to transform the recipient into a fish despite the fact that they did not. Furthermore, a polymorph spell is a deadly weapon regardless of intent, if the victim fails their System Shock roll.
None of those facts are part of the record. If evidence for them were adduced at trial, then an aggravated assault charge might be possible. If a spell is a weapon within the meaning of the law, then we might reach the deadly weapon issue.
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Old 02-28-2007, 08:36 PM
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Your honor, you appear to have found that any transmutation, regardless of duration, intent of caster, or actual effect, can be taken as a form of assault. Have you considered the possible chilling effect this could have on spellcasters? For instance, a wandering wizard who would ordinarily provide magical aid to any folk in peril they encountered may now refrain, for fear of potential criminal charge. I would strongly request that you emphasize that it is the specific use of the well-named Baleful Polymorph spell that is on trial here, and not the larger, broader category of transmutation magic in general.
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Old 02-28-2007, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by robertliguori
Your honor, you appear to have found that any transmutation, regardless of duration, intent of caster, or actual effect, can be taken as a form of assault. Have you considered the possible chilling effect this could have on spellcasters? For instance, a wandering wizard who would ordinarily provide magical aid to any folk in peril they encountered may now refrain, for fear of potential criminal charge. I would strongly request that you emphasize that it is the specific use of the well-named Baleful Polymorph spell that is on trial here, and not the larger, broader category of transmutation magic in general.
On the contrary, I noted above that the maiden's kiss would not be an assault because the frog consents. A wizard that casts a spell to render aid would certainly have the consent of the person being aided.

Even if the consent can't be explictly determined ahead of time, there's not likely to be a problem. As an analogy, if I press myself on you and press my lips to yours when you don't want me to, that's assault. But if I come upon you when - er, that is, if I encounter you when you're unconscious and not breathing, and begin to administer artificial respiration, it's not assault.
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  #21  
Old 02-28-2007, 10:22 PM
Mr. Excellent Mr. Excellent is offline
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Judge Bricker, is it relevant for the finding of assault that a frog has a significantly shorter life-span than a human being? Counsel for the defense argued that the transformation from a human body with normal ills to a perfectly healthy frog was a net health benefit. However, even the healthiest frog would suffer decrepitude and death long before a human of average health. If the record revealed that, in fact, the victim had been transformed into a healthy frog of normal frog lifespan, would the reduction in life expectancy further cement the finding of assault, or do you feel that this isn't even something you need to consider in this case?

Thank you, your honor. Also, do you have any summer clerkships available?
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  #22  
Old 02-28-2007, 10:45 PM
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Quote:
From a strictly legal standpoint, the consent must be given ahead of time. So what happens if the frog really wanted to remain a frog, and is bitterly disappointed at his retransformation, and insists on pressing assault charges against the princess? I think her best defense is mistake of fact - she can argue that she mistakenly, under the circumstances, believed she had constructive if not actual consent, and it would be up to the fact-finder to decide if her mistake was reasonable.
But wouldn't an involuntary kiss be a form of sexual assault? I was under the impression that, in most jurisdictions, a mistake of fact as to the victim's state of consent was not a valid defense against sexual assault.
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This is the first I've heard that the spell could result in a fish
But of course. How else does one explain the condition of the OP?
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Old 03-01-2007, 02:16 AM
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We would like to point out that there is another case before the Supreme Court at this time involving a gentleman who was turned to stone by a single glance at Medusa. The en-stoned plaintiff is claiming assault charges on these very grounds, despite how he had to peer through Medusa's drapes to catch a glimpse of her as she was inside her house. Medusa, the defendant, took no voluntary action, and has filed a civil countersuit for trespassing.
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Old 03-01-2007, 09:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Excellent
Judge Bricker, is it relevant for the finding of assault that a frog has a significantly shorter life-span than a human being? Counsel for the defense argued that the transformation from a human body with normal ills to a perfectly healthy frog was a net health benefit. However, even the healthiest frog would suffer decrepitude and death long before a human of average health. If the record revealed that, in fact, the victim had been transformed into a healthy frog of normal frog lifespan, would the reduction in life expectancy further cement the finding of assault, or do you feel that this isn't even something you need to consider in this case?

Thank you, your honor. Also, do you have any summer clerkships available?
As long as we're merely discussing assault and battery, as the OP specified, we don't need to reach the issue of life-spans, greater vulnerability to predators, or whatever other of the myriad differences between a frog and a person might be divined. The mere fact of the transformation constitutes a battery.

If the court had been called upon to consider aggravated battery, which requires greater harm, we might well have needed to develop a record that showed something about lifespans. On the record presented in the OP, I don't know that would have been able to find guilt on an aggravated battery charge. Unfortunately for defendant Witch, the charge as presented in the OP, together with her own counsel's admission, made a complete record with respect to the lesser charge.

For information about clerkships, please see the clerk of the court, Madame Morrible, for an application. Nice lady, 'though there's something about her...
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Old 03-01-2007, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos
But wouldn't an involuntary kiss be a form of sexual assault? I was under the impression that, in most jurisdictions, a mistake of fact as to the victim's state of consent was not a valid defense against sexual assault.
You might be thinking of statutory rape, which stands virtually alone amongst criminal laws that impose strict liability -- that is, they do not have a scienter, or mental state, requirement. But for general sexual assault, a mistake of fact is absolutely relevant as a defense -- it shows that the accused lacked the requisite mens rea, or guilty mind.

The mistake must be reasonable... but if you meet up with your wife after work at the local bar and give her a friendly grope hello... only to find that it's some other woman dressed exactly like your wife was and built similarly... you've not committed a crime. Of course, if it develops that you've "mistaken" six women just this month for your wife, then your defense starts to unravel. That's why one exception to the general prohibition against the admission of prior bad acts in a criminal trial is to show absence of mistake. So if you were tried for that assault, and claimed you were honestly mistaken, the prosecution could introduce your previous groping against you, when they might not be able to introduce that evidence otherwise...

Quote:
But of course. How else does one explain the condition of the OP?
Point well taken.

Last edited by Bricker; 03-01-2007 at 09:23 AM..
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  #26  
Old 03-01-2007, 02:48 PM
mlees mlees is offline
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Isn't the intent (motive) of using the Polymorph Other spell also part of the equation?

Could it not be concluded through evidence brought at trial that the witch believed/believes that being a frog instead of a human is a "bad thing", fraught with potential mental anquish or increased potential for physical harm (due to unfamiliarity with living in the new body), something we can reasonably conclude most humans wish to avoid?

And if she knew or believed this, the act of then inflicting this unwanted condition upon the victim, and without prior consent, is what qualifies as "Battery"?

The Op hasnt stated exactly what defense was used at the trial. ("W.Witch: Prince Not-so-Charming fell into his own moat. I changed him into a frog so that he wouldn't drown, and would gain the natural ability to swim...")
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Old 03-01-2007, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by mlees
Isn't the intent (motive) of using the Polymorph Other spell also part of the equation?

Could it not be concluded through evidence brought at trial that the witch believed/believes that being a frog instead of a human is a "bad thing", fraught with potential mental anquish or increased potential for physical harm (due to unfamiliarity with living in the new body), something we can reasonably conclude most humans wish to avoid?
As per the thread title, the spell used was Baleful Polymorph, which is a version of the Polymorph spell specifically crafted for offensive use. Under 3.5 edition rules, there is no "Polymorph Other" spell. There's Polymorph, which can only target a willing creature, Baleful Polymorph, which can target any creature, but allows a saving throw, and Polymorph Any Object, which is essentially a Baleful Polymorph that also works on inanimate objects.
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Old 03-01-2007, 03:10 PM
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But that doesn't necessarily mean it must always be used offensively, does it? If W. Witch were trying to save P. Charming from drowning in the moat, and didn't happen to have the ordinary consent-version of Polymorph prepared, or had used Polymorph earlier that day, the right Baleful Polymorph could achieve a beneficial effect in certain rare circumstances. Furthermore, if P. Charming was drowning, unconscious, or similarly unaware of W. Witch's intent, Baleful Polymorph may be the only way to save him, precisely because it doesn't require him to consent.

In the absence of a DNPR order (Do Not Polyresuscitate) or a Poly Alert bracelet, in limited circumstances the Baleful Polymorph may be considered justifiable, might it not?

An additional complication is the optional Wild Mage rules, in which an ordinary spell can, at random times, affect a random target with a bizarre polymorph-like effect (depending on the roll on the Wild Surge table). We will not discuss legal ramifications of the 2nd-edition druid spell Reincarnate.
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Old 03-01-2007, 05:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fish
But that doesn't necessarily mean it must always be used offensively, does it? If W. Witch were trying to save P. Charming from drowning in the moat, and didn't happen to have the ordinary consent-version of Polymorph prepared, or had used Polymorph earlier that day, the right Baleful Polymorph could achieve a beneficial effect in certain rare circumstances. Furthermore, if P. Charming was drowning, unconscious, or similarly unaware of W. Witch's intent, Baleful Polymorph may be the only way to save him, precisely because it doesn't require him to consent.
Sure. In this sort of situation, we might say that the use of Baleful Polymorph creates a rebuttable presumption of malice. While there are potentially innocent explanations for its use, the burden of proof would shift to the caster to show it wasn't intended to harm.
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Old 03-01-2007, 06:15 PM
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With reference to the issue of "harm" in relation to a fictive personage such as Plaintiff, I respectfully submit that the findings in Coyote v. Acme (US SW Dist Ct., docket #B191294, not yet reported formally) have relevance.
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Old 03-05-2007, 11:09 AM
Scuba_Ben Scuba_Ben is offline
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I'm trying real hard to find some way that Frog v. W. Witch could be adjudicated under last week's ruleset of Agora Nomic, without triggering an automatic dismissal due to irrelevancy.
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  #32  
Old 03-05-2007, 11:57 AM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is online now
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Is this the case that gave the world the term Froggie Went A-Courtin'?

I'm just asking.
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  #33  
Old 03-05-2007, 12:35 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Well, the frog's attorney is going to have some trouble. Like, in private the frog is singing and dancing and explaining in great detail the assault. Then they go to court and put the frog on the stand and it's just, "Ribbit".
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Old 03-05-2007, 02:09 PM
Corner Case Corner Case is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemur866
Well, the frog's attorney is going to have some trouble. Like, in private the frog is singing and dancing and explaining in great detail the assault. Then they go to court and put the frog on the stand and it's just, "Ribbit".
Indeed, as evidenced here in this closed circuit security cam video, I contend that this is proof that the plaintiff was indeed attempting to woo a princess to undue said assault spell. He therefore viewed his situation as undesireable. His reticence in public is further proof that he wished not to pursue a life of fame and fortune as an amphibian.
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Old 03-05-2007, 04:58 PM
merrily merrily is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Sure. In this sort of situation, we might say that the use of Baleful Polymorph creates a rebuttable presumption of malice. While there are potentially innocent explanations for its use, the burden of proof would shift to the caster to show it wasn't intended to harm.
Blackstone, for one, would disagree.

Blackstone recognizes “witchcraft, conjuration, inchantment (sic) or sorcery” as a crime at common law punishable by death. The crime is “a truth to which every nation in the world in its turn [has] borne testimony.” Commentaries, Book IV, Chap.4, V.I.

He doesn't make a distinction for 'the good kind,' either.
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