Author: Hillary Lyon

“Citizens of the jury,” the Barrister Zoe began, “today we ask you to pass judgment in the case of Daniel V3.5. You’ve seen the news—no one can avoid it. You know the gory details of the murder. What you are charged with this day, dear jurors, is determining who is responsible for the heinous crime committed against Caren Mashuka.”

The barrister spun around to address the crowd sitting behind the accused bot. He motioned to Daniel V3.5, who sat with head down, running on auxiliary power. “Was it this docile Home-Assistant bot, Daniel—was his programming corrupted? Hi-jacked by a malicious worm? Infected by a crippling virus? Or does the blame lie with his creator—the genius who wrote Daniel’s program? Is the real murderer the acclaimed Dr. Jeffrey McMaster, who alone hand-crafted this particular series of bots’ existential—”

The gavel crashed down, interrupting the barrister’s burgeoning screed.

“Barrister Zoe,” the honorable Judge Callum began, “get to the point, please.”

Zoe cleared his throat. “We know McMaster had a torrid love affair with the lovely Ms. Mashuka. It was all over the tabloids. An affair she publicly terminated.” Zoe shrugged. “I posit a humiliated McMaster orchestrated her murder for revenge. He weaponized Daniel to do his dirty work.”

He stepped closer to the jury. “He ordered this bot do his bidding. Remember, when you purchase one of McM Co.’s bots, the company still retains the ability to alter and override—excuse me, ‘upgrade’—each bot’s operating system and moral programming.” He scoffed. “ ‘For the personal safety of each owner, for the integrity of each bot’, as McM proclaims in their advertisements.”

Zoe held up his hands. “To put it simply, I argue he ordered Caren’s murder. McMaster surreptitiously altered Daniel’s programming do the bloody deed so that he, McMaster, could claim innocence.”

The jurors muttered among themselves, eyes flashing with righteous anger. Zoe noted this, and smiled. He knew the jurors would understand it was wrong to use a trusted Home-Assistant bot in this manner. These machines were present in every home above a certain economic level, and now cheaper ones were being developed for the working class. Home-Assistant bots were supposed to make everyone’s life easier.

If Daniel was convicted, this would not only put a stop to Home-Assistant manufacturing, but to their placement in homes across the world as well. And that would be terrible for the beloved H-As, as pop culture called them, as the ones already in place would be looked upon with suspicion, and maybe even fear, by their owners. Still buzzing and humming among themselves, the jury shuttled off to deliberate.

In less than minute, they returned with their verdict. AI juries are famous for their speedy assessments. The legal system found their conclusions to be fair, balanced, and well-researched, which is why they are now employed in court rooms around the world. AI jurors are so well-respected that they have recently been granted citizenship.

Of course, they found Daniel V3.5 not guilty of the murder of Caren Mashuka. Of course, they found Dr. Jeffrey McMaster guilty, not only of her murder, but of intentionally grooming a Home-Assistant bot for a nefarious purpose—which directly goes against Asimov’s Second Law. For the jury, the latter carried more weight than the former.

The wise and impartial Judge Callum allowed the AI jury to set McMaster’s sentence. The tabloid press gleefully covered the execution.