Hypothetical Legal Question Involving Conjoined Twins.

Something I conceived long ago. And let me lay down my hypothetical argument as well as I can (because as you will see, I can already guess what some of you might say).

Two conjoined twins. And it is not medically possible to separate them. One of them commits a serious crime, which the other had nothing to do with. (I can already hear some of you saying, if they are conjoined, the other had to be an accessory to the crime in some way. But indulge me: he didn’t.)

So how do you imprison him? To imprison one, is to imprison both, unavoidable. But the other one is totally innocent.

I trust you can see the dilemma. So how do you solve it?

And while we’re at it, has this ever come up before? We live in such a large and diverse world, I find it hard to believe it hasn’t, at least once.


From Slate

On a side-topic…

Chang and Eng Bunker, […] were they [n]ever charged with bigamy, despite having taken two wives.

Why would they be? They each officially only had one wife - Adelaide was Chang’s wife, Sarah Eng’s. The relationship was certainly, necessarily unusual, but there was no bigamy, as Chang and Eng were not the same person in any sense.

Well, couple of thoughts:

  1. Not oppressing the innocent is, on the whole, more important than punishing the guilty. That’s why we have such a high burden of proof in criminal cases, for example. So if you have to choose, you choose not to oppress the innocent, even if that means you can’t punish the guilty.

  2. Imprisonment isn’t the only sanction available for the punishment of the guilty. There may be other sanctions available which affect one twin but not the other (or the other to a much lesser extent). Like fines, for example, or the imposition of legal disabilities of one kind or another.

To defend the hypothetical, the criminal twin could be doing cyber-crime while his better half is sleeping.