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Eminent Domain Powers

On July 5, 1884, four sailors were cast away from their ship in a storm 1,600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. Their lifeboat contained neither water nor much food. On the 20th day of their ordeal, Dudley and Stevens, without the assistance or agreement of Brooks, cut the throat of the fourth sailor, a 17- or 18-year-old boy. They had not eaten since day 12. Water had been available only occasionally. At the time of the death, the men were probably about 1,000 miles from land. Prior to his death, the boy was lying helplessly in the bottom of the boat. The three surviving sailors ate the boyâ??s remains for four days, at which point they were rescued by a passing boat. They were in a seriously weakened condition.

a. Were Dudley and Stevens guilty of murder? Explain.
b. Should Brooks have been charged with a crime for eating the boyâ??s flesh? Explain. See The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens, 14 Queenâ??s Bench Division 273 (1884).

Lancaster, California, located about 45 miles from Los Angeles, was trying to build its local economy but was tripped up by the United States Constitution. Costco, a big-box retailer, wanted to expand into next-door space leased to 99 Cents Only Stores. Costco told the city it would move to Palmdale if it could not expand. Lancaster tried to buy 99 Centsâ?? lease, but the company refused. Lancaster then used its power of eminent domain to condemn the 99 Cents property for the purpose of making it available to Costco. The city noted that blight might follow if Costco left, and the city contrasted 99 Centsâ?? under $40,000 per year in sales taxes generated with Costcoâ??s more than $400,000. 99 Cents then sued the city seeking an order blocking the effort to take the 99 Cents property.

a. How would you have ruled on the case when it was tried in 2001? Explain.
b. Would the result be any different today after the Supreme Courtâ??s 2005 decision in the New London, Connecticut, case? Explain. See 99 Cents Only Stores v. Lancaster Redevelopment Agency, 237 F. Supp. 2d 1123 (C.D. Cal. 2001). Appeal dismissed, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 4197.

Solution Preview

Legally, Dudley and Stephens were indeed guilty of murder, due to the fact that murder constitutes the unlawful taking of an individual's life. The stipulations that make the act committed by Dudley and Stephens murder, is the fact that there was indeed an intent to kill the boy, the killing was definitely illegal and unlawful, the boy was indeed a human being, and the killing seemed to be premeditated by these two individuals working together to end the boy's life. Legal definition aside, the mitigating circumstances that these individuals found themselves in would probably result in the charges being reduced to manslaughter, etc. The fact that these ...