Almost Human continues to be one of my favorite new shows. The episode Simon Says touched on issues of car jacking, duress, bank robbery of bitcoin, online dating, computer and cyber forensics, plus some interesting legal twists for anyone who thinks about eDiscovery.
The plot of Simon Says involved a villain who targeted those who had wronged him by placing a bomb in a collar device on them. The victims had to perform specific tasks or else the bomb would detonate.
The villain broadcast the suffering of those with the bomb collars on the “dark net.” The torture of a ticking bomb was streamed to a chat room where viewers could viciously comment on the victim’s plight.
A District Attorney would not have a shortage of video and computer evidence to convict the villain of first degree murder for first victim, a banker. Cal Pen Code § 189 states:
All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, or any act punishable under Section 206, 286, 288, 288a, or 289, or any murder which is perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to inflict death, is murder of the first degree. All other kinds of murders are of the second degree.
Cal Pen Code § 189.
The first victim was sprayed with a chemical to be knocked out, followed by a bomb collar being placed around his neck. A bomb collar is without question a destructive device. Moreover, the villain was “lying in wait” for the victim in order to spray him with the knock-out chemical. A DA could unquestioningly prove this was a premeditated killing with a bomb.
The next two victims were not killed, thus giving two additional charges of attempted murder that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now for the interesting question: What about the 3000+ viewers on the “dark net”?
The comments ranged from “Is this real?” to encouraging the villain to detonate the bomb.
If a DA wanted to send a powerful message that online mobs will not be tolerated, the state could charge everyone in the chat room as inciting a riot under California Penal Code § 404. The code states:
Any use of force or violence, disturbing the public peace, or any threat to use force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution, by two or more persons acting together, and without authority of law, is a riot.
Cal Pen Code § 404(a).
The identities of the viewers could be determined from IP addresses. Charges could be filled on the basis that the chat room enabled several thousand people to act together to encourage the villain to unlawfully kill others with the explosive devices. The immediate execution of power to detonate the bomb was solely in the hands of the villain by remote, but so was the encouragement to kill. The chat and immediate actions of the villain should be enough to show “two or more persons acting together.” While it is untested to have a virtual riot, a DA would test the code on the simple truth that 3,000 people encouraging the murder of another human being cannot be tolerated.