It’s clear from recent posts and comments that we’ve all been thinking much too hard. So in the spirit of holiday good cheer, I hereby present my own effort at the Ultimate Hard Case in Ethics (UHCE). Suggestions for making it still harder are of course welcome.
Steve Cowan is a defense attorney representing Lawrence Valentine, a death row inmate whose execution is scheduled for one month from today. Valentine has been convicted of murder: While employed at a local hospital, he allegedly shot a terminally ill Christian Scientist with an illegally modified semi-automatic rifle. Though Valentine claimed at his trial that he killed the Christian Scientist as an act of euthanasia, he now proclaims his innocence, asserting both that he was convicted by a racially biased jury and that he has been mistaken for his clone. Cowan believes his client is telling the truth, and hatches a daring plan to prove Valentine’s innocence: He breaks into the local courthouse late at night and places illegal taps on the phones. Early the next morning, Cowan’s microphone picks up the voice of a police office named LeClair boasting "we nailed that stooge Valentine for offing that dying religious freak." After LeClair’s evening shift, Cowan jumps him, stuffs him in the trunk of a car, and takes him to a local Superfund site where high-level nuclear waste is stored. There Cowan threatens to go public about the conspiracy to convict Valentine, but LeClair counters he will only provide Cowan the hard evidence that would exonerate Valentine on three conditions: that Cowan help him acquire a kilo of genetically modified marijuana so as to treat his grandfather’s glaucoma; that Cowan help his 14-year-old niece travel to Mexico to get an abortion without her parent’s consent; and that Cowan engage in sodomy with LeClair (which is illegal in this state). Meanwhile, a right to life group is seeking to make Valentine’s case a cause celebre, and the group’s president announces she will instruct the group’s most obese members to consume ungodly amounts of paté made from the livers of force-fed geese and then insert themselves into the mouths of the various caves inhabited by the last remaining specimens of the endangered crimson ptarmigan, thereby trapping and killing the birds.
QUESTION: Should Cowan agree to LeClair’s three conditions in order to free Valentine?