William C. Heffernan Dilemma

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Nora Monval Professor Palencik Humanities: Philosophy William C. Heffernan Dilemma William C. Heffernan is a prosecutor presented with the case of an alleged murderer. There are two witnesses who claim that the defendant killed the victim, but the defendant claimed that he was simply defending himself and it just so happened to end in the victim’s death. The trial judge denied the defendant an instruction to the jury concerning the use of deadly force. At the end of the trial, the jury’s verdict was that the defendant was guilty of first-degree manslaughter. Heffernan agreed strongly with the jury’s decision. Heffernan’s dilemma was whether or not to agree to a retrial. If he did not agree then the defendant would most likely remain in prison and he would be denied a legal right, that legal right being having a jury pass on his claim of self-defense. However, if Heffernan did agree to a retrial, the defendant could be granted release from jail. All of the prosecution’s witnesses would have been difficult, if not impossible to track down for the new trial. To allow a retrial, while granting the defendant a legal right, would presumably let a guilty man walk free. Heffernan was struggling between the moral issues he was presented, and maximizing the legal advantages he held. After all a prosecutor’s decision to challenge a defendant’s appeal is usually enough to guarantee that a conviction is upheld. Whether or not this man was punished and remained in jail was up to the prosecution. Heffernan’s critical decision would be whether or not to remove his thoughts on morality from his professional decision. The defendant had a legal right to a jury trial and a moral right to have it vindicated. Since the judge had refused to instruct the jury concerning the justifiable use of deadly force, the defendant had been denied that right. Heffernan was faced with whether
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