Unconditional love can ask a lot of a human being, like killing the android you love in order to prevent universal genocide. In Avengers Infinity War, the Vision asked the Scarlet Witch to destroy the Mind Stone embedded in his forehead, in order to prevent Thanos from acquiring the final Infinity Stone in order to kill half of all life in the universe.
Did Scarlet Witch commit the act of murder when she “killed” Vision? Would there be any legal justification for the act of “murder”?
Can a Robot be Murdered?
In order for Scarlet Witch to be prosecuted for murder, the Vision first would have to be legally recognized as a person. Murder is defined as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” CA Pen. Code, § 187(a). There is no question Scarlet Witch purposely killed Vision with her Hex Powers in order to destroy the Mind Stone. However, there is the issue whether Vision, who is an artificial being, would qualify as a “human being” under the plane meaning of the law.
Scarlet Witch and all of the Avengers treated Vision as a person, not a weapons system. However, the law is a bit trickier. The Vision was not “born” but built. Our definition of biological life does not include building artificial life. The only legal principle that might find the Vision is a “person,” is the California law on the control of dangerous weapons, which defines a “person” as “individual, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, association, or any other group or entity, regardless of how it was created.” CA Pen. Code, § 16970. The “regardless of how it was created” would push its application to the Vision.
If the Vision is legally a person, then it is possible for him to be murdered. If he is not a person, then it is destruction of property.
Was Vision’s Murder Legally Justified?
Assuming in arguendo that Vision is legally a person, was Scarlet Witch legally justified to destroy the Mind Stone (and Vision) to keep Thanos from acquiring the final Infinity Stone?
Scarlet Witch could argue the “necessity defense” in that it was necessary to kill the Vision in order to prevent trillions of life forms across the universe from being killed. In order for Scarlet Witch to be able to argue the necessity defense, there had to be no reasonable legal alternatives to violating the law. People v. Galambos 104 Cal.App.4th 1147 (2002). Scarlet Witch would need to show that she had to destroy the Mind Stone 1) to prevent a significant and imminent evil; 2) with no reasonable legal alternative; 3) without creating a greater danger than the one avoided; 4) with a good faith belief that the criminal act was necessary to prevent the greater harm; 5) with such belief being objectively reasonable, and 6) under circumstances in which she did not substantially contribute to the emergency. People v. Kearns 55 Cal.App.4th 1128, 1135 (1997).
The prospect of half of all life in the universe being destroyed would be a “significant and imminent evil” to prevent. Moreover, Scarlet Witch did not have any reasonable alternatives, as Thanos was easily dispensing every hero who faced him. As to the issue of creating a danger greater than the one to be avoid, destroying the Mind Stone and Vision easily tip in favor of saving trillions of lives. Scarlet Witch could have had a good faith belief in her actions, because Thanos had five Infinity Stones and a large army had invaded the Earth. Scarlet Witch objectively could have believed she was doing the right thing and was not contributing to the emergency.
There would be a significant challenge with bringing the necessity defense to destroy the Mind Stone: Necessity is not recognized as a defense to murder. A defendant cannot argue that he killed innocent people to avoid getting himself killed. Delgadillo v. McEwen 2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 142003, at *13 (C.D.Cal. Aug. 24, 2015).
If Vision is a person, there really is no valid legal defense for Scarlet Witch killing him. This would require a defense attorney to argue the Vision was not a person, thus Scarlet Witch was merely destroying property in order to prevent a weapon of mass destruction from falling into the hands of an environmental terrorist who wanted to kill trillions.
The concept of trading a life for a life is never a good one, which is why the law rejects the necessity defense as a reason for murder. Scarlet Witch was the only Avenger who was able to hold off Thanos ONE HANDED while destroying the Mind Stone. If Scarlet Witch had directed all of her energy and focus on Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet, she had the best odds out of all of the Avengers to either destroy the gauntlet or stop Thanos. Alternatively, if Scarlet Witch and Thor had fought Thanos together, both could have landed the kill shot necessary to stop Thanos.
The Avengers should have focused on stopping Thanos, not destroying the Mind Stone. While the team did not know Thor had survived, if they had directed their energies to repairing Vision so he could have been on the battlefield, the conflict could have turned out differently. Instead, they went with a sacrifice play that cost them everything.