The case of Hamelin v. Piper

WHEREAS the plaintiff, hereafter known as the Mayor of Hamelin, declares that the defendant, one P. Piper, has absconded with one or more non-adult inhabitants of said town of Hamelin;

AND, whereas the defendant declares that as he was continuously playing his PIPE with both hands, he cannot have coerced or assaulted children in the alleged way;

AND, as the defendant declares that the children followed him of their own free will;

AND, where the Court has determined that the Mayor of Hamelin is guilty of a separate unrelated offense of Breach of Contract for with regard to the elimination of several Rats;

THIS COURT sends the jury to deliberate on the case at hand: is the defendant, having allegedly evacuated Hamelin with six hundred children in his thrall AND having allegedly evacuated Hamelin in the company of unnumbered thousands of unlicensed vermin, guilty of Assault and Rattery? What, if any charges, should apply?

I see a flaw, I think:

I don’t believe it can be simultaneously acknowledged that he is capable of removing the rats without touching them, and claimed that he could not have removed the children by similar means.

Is playing the pipe against the law?

If not, the kids all ran away on their own and we have only their negligent parents to blame.

Boring answer but the Piper would lose. He had perfect right to complain to the court about non-payment for services rendered, but instead elected to kidnap children (which, like Mangetout said, can be demonstrated to be essentially what it is.)

And then turned them into… TRANSYLVANIANS!!!

IIRC, neither the Piper nor the children were ever seen or heard from again. So the court case, either civil or criminal, would default to judgement against the Piper in absentia; but other than that the court could not actually do much.

Assuming there was a proper trial in the modern sense (as opposed to a simple mob lynching, a trial by ordeal, or a default judgement against an absent defendant) it would hinge on expert testimony as to the efficacy of the pipe music at hypnotizing animals and humans of diminished capacity. It would also rely on eyewitness testimony about the state of mind of the children before they heard the piping and after, with particular attention to sudden changes in affect and the inexplicable abandonment of previous tasks. (I know finding an eyewitness might be difficult, but the prosecution only needs one.)

The punishment would likely be death for kidnapping on such a massive scale. If he’s in the only Medieval jurisdiction without the death penalty, his pipe would be confiscated and he would be confined to a prison for the remainder of his natural life. After a trial in absentia, he may well be declared outlaw and subject to being tracked down and killed. (Being an outlaw meant you were outside the protection of the law. It was an open invitation for someone to kill you without repercussion.)

In reality, though, Middle Ages law was absolutely bizarre by modern standards and allowed horrible killers to roam free as long as they generally stayed out of the wealthier settlements and only preyed on poor serfs and the few travellers. It was a big reason trade died for so long after the Western Empire collapsed and feudalism seemed like a good idea: A time of roving gangs calls for alignments with viciously territorial local gangs that will protect at least some of the non-warriors. The [del]Blackstone Nation[/del] Franks and the [del]Manic Latin Kings[/del] Normans at least offered stability.

But isn’t all modern law and justice based on the presumption that people have free wills and are legally and morally responsible for their actions? Haven’t the courts consistantly rejected all defenses based on “hypnosis” or “brainwashing” e.g. the Patty Hearst case, or cases involving cult members and “deprogramming”?

Not really: The law accepts the idea that someone else’s actions can be so severe as to put another person in a state where they are not fully culpable for their own actions. The “fighting words” doctrine is a great example: The law recognizes that some words are so inflammatory that others can be provoked to violence by hearing them used in certain contexts. (In short, if you scream “Nigger! You filthy nigger!” at a black man, the law may well give him a reduced sentence after he fractures your skull and jaw.) I’m assuming for the purposes of this thread that the Piper’s pipe does have the hypnotic powers, which would be testified to by the expert witnesses, and it did have an effect on the children, which would be testified to by the eyewitnesses to the hypnotizing.

If you change the physical world, you have to expect the legal world to change in corresponding ways. A judge in a world where mind control works reliably would be comfortable with the idea that someone might have no culpability for his actions due to being in the thrall of the perpetrator. The closest we have is a form of the diminished capacity defense, which includes temporary insanity and therefore (if I understand things right) the “fighting words” doctrine.

The Piper could argue that if his pipe had mind control powers, he would have got paid.

(Edit timed out somehow.)

Plus, he kidnapped children, who are universally known to have a reduced ability to make good judgements. That’s why swimming pools are considered “attractive nuisances” and must be surrounded by effective fencing with locking doors, lest the owner be held responsible for the injury of a child that climbed substandard fencing and got hurt in the pool: Pools are so enticing they short-circuit a child’s already shaky grasp on responsible behavior, so effective methods must be taken to prevent them from hurting themselves.

So the Piper’s pipes are (at the very least) a very attractive nuisance, and the Piper had the intent to kidnap the children as revenge for being stiffed for the rat job. Means, motive, and opportunity, all right there. All the prosecuting attorney needs now is an expert witness (to testify as to the supremely attractive nature of the pipes) and an eyewitness (to testify as to what they did to Hamelin’s children).

Did anybody see the Piper leading the children out of town? It could just be circumstantial evidence.

Also, didn’t he leave behind the one lame child? So, he’s subject to anti-discrimination laws as well.

Then a cottage made of gingerbread would definitely be an “attractive nuisance”.

He was playing with his pipe? In front of the children?

Take him out and hang him.

Taking this as precedent, the Court has already found that Mr. Piper’s music has the capability of controlling creatures, and that he is able to maintain this control while keeping both hands on his instrument. This negates Mr. Piper’s defense that he could not have kidnapped the children due to his playing.

I prefer the Homer Price version of the story. The illustrations (by Robert McClusky - of Make way For Ducklings fame) of the pipe organ, mounted on the rickety old truck are priceless!

Ah, but did a court determine that the Mayor of Hamelin had committed Breach of Contract? The whole dispute centered over the question of whether the Pied Piper was responsible for the rats’ disappearence. The Mayor, acting on behalf of the city government, agreed to pay the Piper if he could remove all the rats from the town; presumably by some mundane and recognizable method. But given that if magic or hypnosis are not recognized as real, then the town of Hamelin could not give credence to the Piper’s claim that his piping was responsible for their disappearence. The Mayor claimed that it could only be a fantastic coincidence and thusly refused to recognize the Piper’s claim.

Gawd, this could be a fantasy episode of Law & Order

Yes, that was one of the whereases in the OP.