This is just a hypothetical question (or is it;)?). But if a humanoid extraterrestrial came to earth, and someone maliciously killed him (i.e., not in self-defense, not out of fear), would this person be legally liable for anything?
The 14th Amendment says no state shall deny any “person” the equal protection of the laws. But it is vague on what exactly is a “person”. Certainly, the definition has broadened over the years, to include women, African Americans, and so forth.
What rules would apply? And how would the US Supreme Court treat this case, likely, if it came to them?
There was this very old movie about some living pre-humans found. They were basically ape men, and bad costumes at that. They were quickly being used as slave labor, so Burt Reynolds, kidnapped one, and through negligence, it died. He allowed himself to be tried for murder, stating that if he avoided punishment, he vowed to kill again. Essentially, he was forcing the court to convict him, and declare person-hood for these proto-humans.
This, more or less, has to happen in your case. Unless the alien is obviously a rock, or a plant, or a non-sapient animal, it has to be found sapient and the human found guilty. Otherwise, even though it is conventionally illegal to kill humans for no reason, once we’re on that slippery slope of killing alien lifeforms for no reason, we can’t stop it.
“Person” is not synonymous with “human”. The courts would have to determine whether ET was a person, since this is not a possibility which is contemplated by existing law, but it’s hard to see them coming to any other conclusion than that it is. This would be heightened by the political pressure to make amends to the extent possible with a foreign power capable of wiping out the entire US (as any extraterrestrial would necessarily be) if offended.
Actually, the most likely response would be that we’d extradite the killer to whatever form of justice system the aliens have.
Fish and Wildlife could get involved … besides a hunting license you may have needed a specific tag to take an alien … and then it matters how you take the alien … if you used a long rifle during muzzleloader season you could get in BIG trouble … any alien who shows up during hunting season would need the same protections as any other big stupid animal …
Robert J. Sawyer wrote a novel called Illegal Alien where an alien seems to have gruesomely murdered and dismembered a human (the victim is a famous and beloved science popularizer, sort of a Southern version of Carl Sagan), and is put on trial for the murder.
It’s not exactly the precise scenario the OP posited, but it’s pretty similar, especially since one of the first things the court has to determine is whether the law should consider sapient but non-human aliens to be “persons” who can be held legally responsible for their actions.
Humans don’t have much trouble holding non-human creatures responsible for killing humans, at least to the extent of punishing them for it. For example, a bear that kills a hiker is usually eliminated.
This is, of course, not the same thing as saying the bear is held ‘legally’ responsible.
It’s a quote for Bad Taste, Peter Jackson’s first movie. Aliens slaughter a whole town in New Zealand to be used as the new galactic taste sensation. A few aliens get killed by “The Boys”, a group of commandos trying to defend Earth. The quote upthread is from the Alien CEO of Crum’s Crunchy Delights during a speech to his minions. It’s a must-see movie for any Peter Jackson fan (though not nearly as good as Dead Alive).
This would qualify as an example of the difference between “letter” of the law and “intent” of the law. Although the alien, being “humanoid,” wouldn’t fit the definition of “human,” he should still be granted personhood, based on the conceptual level of his consciousness. He’s after all, a member of a species intelligent enough to devise interstellar travel, so should have the same rights as we have. He should be treated as a visiting alien lacking paperwork (or an illegal alien, if you will), and his killer should be tried for murder.
Not that I necessarily agree or disagree with your statement, but there is this scenario, which the OP as written, does not rule out:
If the alien’s body was found naked alone and there was no evidence of technology on or near its body, no spaceship nearby, and no prior documented or witnessed interaction with humans, how can we prove it was a person by that definition? We wouldn’t then be able to test its intelligence after it was killed. I’m not sure examining its body and brain could be conclusive. Then the killer would at most be guilty of killing an animal without a proper license, no?
I understand what you’re saying, and it had occurred to me that it may be an animal that was sent here by an intelligent species, like we used to send dogs and chimps into space. But the OP’s hypothetical was “if a humanoid extraterrestrial came to earth.” That seems to imply that it didn’t just appear here out of the blue, but came here deliberately. But I guess all this would come out in the trial.
But is being humanoid enough to qualify something as a person? Just because it came here from another world does not necessarily mean it’s intelligent enough to be a person. If we dropped an ape or gorilla off on another world, and an alien killed it under the circumstances I described, would there be enough evidence to find that alien guilty of murder, using our laws and definition of person?
Re-reading your post, I get what your driving at now, that the alien came of its own volition, thereby showing it is intelligent. Regardless, how would we prove it came by its own choice and devices (as opposed to being dropped off by intelligent masters) if it’s dead and there was no other evidence around besides the naked body? Just based on the fact that it’s humanoid?