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Señor Mattolio:

Some questions people ask you are pretty weird. I have one that you'll probably think is weird, but I think it could happen, because people from other planets or from somewhere in space do visit Earth. So what if they land somewhere like in a cornfield and they get out and go up to a farmhouse and the farmer comes out with a shotgun and blows one of them away? Could the farmer be arrested for murder? I'm serious about this. It could happen, I think.

-- No Name, San Diego

I was wondering where all the buggy letters had gone. I had some definite fears that Aliceland was going straight, had turned in its Strange Thinkers of America card and joined Mensa. No Name, you've restored my faith. Except for the usual round of queries about farts, we haven't seen one bona fide screw-loose question in a while. Of course, there's always the possibility that this is a fake screw-loose question designed to throw me off the track. You're all out reading the Encyclopedia Britanica behind my back and have elected a committee to fire off a crank question or two so I won't get suspicious. Well, I guess I'll have to take my chances. It's unlikely Aliceland could ever get that organized.

California Penal Code Section 187 covers the definition we need to handle this inquiry. Murder in the Golden State is the unlawful killing of a "human being" with malice aforethought. Guess the legislature didn't see you coming, No Name, because there's no definition of "human being" in the statutes. They figured we'd know what they meant.

So let's try Webster's tenth Collegiate. "Human being: HUMAN." Uh, okay. "Human: a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens); MAN." I'm not sure we can get around that one unless Neptunians have some surprises up their double helix.

But there's something hidden away in PC 188 that maybe we can work with. While they're blabbing on about express and implied malice, they casually mention something about the intention to take away the life of a "fellow creature." Per W10C, "creature": We'll bypass all the usual definitions and go straight to "a being of anomalous or uncertain nature." Now we're cooking. Everybody knows somebody who fits that definition. "Fellow": "Comrade, associate, peer, mate." So if we can prove the visiting galactoids were in business with the farmer or that the farmer is originally from Pluto or that the farmer is an anomalous kind of guy, we could make a case. It'll take some fancy talking, but that's what the law is all about. Hey, Clinton may have some free time soon. He has a way with words. The farmer would be blackened catfish in no time. I've taken your question as seriously as possible with the hope of encouraging more like it.

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