star trek – Did Data murder Lore? – Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange

In TNG “Measure of a Man”, it is established that Data is a sentient being who enjoys all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Federation, and this presumably includes the right to a fair trial.
But in “Descent” (Part 2), Data immobilizes Lore and then says:
DATA: Lore, I must deactivate you now.
LORE: Without me, you will never feel emotion again.
DATA: I know, but you leave me no other choice.
DATA: Lore is no longer functioning, sir. He must be disassembled so that he is no longer a threat.
PICARD: Welcome back, Data.
Picard does not question Data’s actions. But once Lore was immobilized, was there a need to deactivate and disassemble him? I do not believe that Data can make an argument self defence in this case.
Lore, like Data, was manufactured on the planet Omicron Theta, a Federation colony. If Data enjoys full access to Federation rights by virtue of being a sentient citizen, then presumably Lore does as well, by the same arguments.
Why wouldn’t Lore be made to stand trial and then be incarcerated for his crimes?
In other words:
Did Data execute Lore without trial, and was this a crime in and of itself?
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@Kevin : Not so sure about that. He had used his phaser to immobilize Lore. Lore was no longer in a position to pose an immediate threat. – Praxis Oct 8 at 4:21
Data’s rights don’t necessarily transfer to other androids: – Xantec Oct 8 at 4:23
Given this question, one might ask if Data is inclined to eventually murder every Soongian android he encounters… – Praxis Oct 8 at 4:39
@Praxis He even murders himself in the end. Maybe Lore was the sane one. – Xantec Oct 8 at 4:43
What a very layered question. In a way, all this hard data and fact-checking and Googling that is available to us now is at least partly to blame for the huge store of orally transmitted lore that we have lost over the past couple of generations. +1 just for being meta. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 8 at 7:43

5 Answers


Let’s first review the ruling from the script from TNG: ‘The Measure of a Man’:
PHILLIPA: It sits there looking at me, and I don’t know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I’m neither competent nor qualified to answer those. I’ve got to make a ruling, to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We have all been dancing around the basic issue. Does Data have a soul? I don’t know that he has. I don’t know that I have. But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose.
The emphasised part above is really important. This is the subject of a length dissertation onMemory Alpha about Data’s rights:
The ruling from Louvois and the Starfleet Judge Advocate General was relatively ambiguous. The ruling was only that Data was not the property of Starfleet and accorded him “the right to choose” at least under Starfleet rules and regulations, if not also under wider Federation law. Those two holdings together, though, could be interpreted as tantamount to a favorable ruling as to Data’s sentience under Federation law. Louvois did declare at the outset of the hearing depicted in TNG: “The Measure Of A Man” that the purpose of the hearing was to determine Data’s “legal status” – and both Louvois and Picard noted the significance of the enduring legal consequence and implication of a lawful determination as to Data’s sentience. The legal question thus remained open whether Data was “a sentient being” under Federation law. Starfleet regulations, including the Federation Uniform Code of Justice, are a subset of Federation law, and only apply to members of Starfleet; whereas Federation law applies to anyone within the jurisdiction of the Federation, including members of Starfleet. Data’s legal status subsequent to the events in TNG: “The Measure Of A Man” may be inferred from Picard’s comments to Data in TNG: “Clues”. There, Picard states that Data’s fate subsequent to a contemplated court-martial could involve him “being stripped down to [his] wires to find out what has gone wrong” – a punishment disparate with what an organic Starfleet officer might suffer in consequence of a court-martial. No further information regarding Data’s legal status as a sentient being is presented in the episodes or movies. However, in many ways, the intrigue of this plot element was carried over with The Doctor’s fight for equality.
In this section, the bolded part again is of tantamount importance. We must recognise that although this trial in The Measure of a Man had importance in Data’s right to refuse to be stripped down in a matter of choice, it seems to me that Data could very well have been stripped down had something gone wrong.
The exact quote is below:
PICARD: Do you know what a court martial would mean? Your career in Starfleet would be finished.
DATA: I realise that, sir.
PICARD: Do you also realise that you would most likely be stripped down to your wires to find out what the hell has gone wrong?
DATA: Yes, sir. I do.
The argument that Data and Lore are alike is very accurate; Soong himself says in ‘Brothers’:
SOONG: The last thing you should think of yourself as, Data, is less perfect. The two of you are virtually identical, except for a bit of programming.
So, the ruling should apply to Lore as equally as to Data. Consequently, because of that crucial line in ‘Clues’; I would argue that No: Data did not commit murder. Remember that Lore had been essentially malfunctioning, planning to establish another Borg incursion. That is surely as bad an action as if Data had been served a court martial. Consequently, the deactivation and disassembling of Lore by Data should not be considered as murder!
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If Lore’s actions were the result of a malfunction then his actions were cause by a mental defect. It seems unlikely that Starfleet would condone disassembling a mentally ill human that went on a killing spree. Some form of incarceration combined with therapy and rehabilitation would probably be prescribed. Shouldn’t Lore be afforded that same care and respect? Although disassembly suggests the possibility of reassembly at point, the situation suggests a more permanent state. – Xantec Oct 8 at 4:41
@Xantec by the time of Star Trek a lot is known about human brains, yet not much is known about Soong-type androids. Knowing that it would be possible to reassemble an android (using Data as a model if need be), they’d really only have the option of disassembling Lore to find out what went wrong! – N_Soong Oct 8 at 4:43
According to the logic built up in your question, i think that when it became apparent that Lore was effectively planning treason, he should have been court-martialled, imprisoned and THEN perhaps “stripped down to his wires” and subsequently perhaps destroyed. For Data to take it upon himself to do it feels like cold-blooded murder, like Riker strangling a junior officer to death after discovering that officer was plotting treason: something which all would agree was wrong. – Max Williams 2 days ago
Court rulings are exact, not inclusive. The fact that they specifically give Data the right to choose is relevant here – while there is precedent for Lore to also have the right to choose, he has not legally been granted that right. – Zibbobz 2 days ago
@MaxWilliams Riker strangling a junior officer conjures a humorous image. – Xantec 2 days ago

All we can do is speculate and reason based on what we’ve seen.
But my opinion is that the choice of the term ‘disassemble’ is meant to imply he could be reassembled. So execution is not the right term.
Still, there are good questions of basic civil rights issues you raise, which as far as I know, were never addressed.
We seem to be led to believe that Data, as the only other (knowing) member of their species and/or as Lore’s brother, has some special responsibility, right, or perspective that entitles him to pass judgment or to take action.
Presumably the extreme grievous nature of Lore’s crime justifies either indefinite deactivation or possibly ‘execution’. Furthermore, I think there’s the suggestion that Lore is not just evil, but possibly defective so not deserving of being bestowed the rights Data was granted.
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+1. Although in “Measure of a Man”, it was argued that Data is sentient precisely so that he could not be disassembled by Starfleet. – Praxis Oct 8 at 4:24 
One is Starfleet acting against Data. I’m suggesting Data has a special position w.r.t. Lore – ThePopMachine Oct 8 at 4:25
That’s interesting: that somehow this is an internal legal matter between two androids, as a kind of member race of the Federation. – Praxis Oct 8 at 4:27
I think it was when Data started dreaming that Picard says he is a culture of one, presumably ignoring Lore so not too confuse the viewers. But if we consider Data and Lore their own culture, then their internal customs should be respected by the Federation. Although as we learn on DS9 with Worf’s brother, that doesn’t extend to assisted suicide. – Xantec Oct 8 at 4:29
@Praxis, added a little more. Not sure if it adds or detracts. – ThePopMachine Oct 8 at 4:34

First of all, as mentioned in the script excerpt here, Lore was already damaged, and there is no indication of whether Data could actually have fixed him, so you might consider him shutting Lore down an act of compassion to spare a lengthy “death”.
But even if that were not the case – it is clear that an activated Lore poses a serious threat to the entire Quadrant, and no one would have considered it murder had Lore simply been deactivated in battle/self-defence. Data knew best how powerful he (and thus also Lore) could be even when partially damaged+, so from his point of view Lore still had to be defended against and shutting him down seemed a rather merciful way to do so.

+ including a very likely escape from a Federation incarceration – just remember how Data took over the Enterprise
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I’d say Data’s demonstration of hijacking the Enterprise-D was a good demonstration of his full potential to escape if he wanted to! – N_Soong Oct 8 at 7:45
@N_Soong Good point, edited in – Zommuter 2 days ago
To the point of fixing Lore after being shot, we see Data’s body take significant damage in Disasterbut he is fine in the next episode. Also, towards the end of Descent, II Data states that the emotion chip was damaged, but later in Generations Data installs it, it apparently having been fixed. – Xantec 2 days ago
It’s pretty clear that Lore was damaged in more ways than just physically. After all, Dr. Soong himself deactivated Lore (murderer!) since he was malfunctioning, and decided to build a slightly different version (Data) to avoid the issues he was having with Lore’s programming. Repairing Lore’s physical damage isn’t really in anyone’s best interest unless you can also fix the bugs in his programming. – Ellesedil 2 days ago
Lore’s damage is irrelevant. A private individual killing another private individual without consent, even their brother, if they’re criminally insane, out of compassion or public safety is still murder. If my brother was criminally insane and I decided there was no hope for him and I decided to kill him for the greater good, that would be murder. Even the criminally insane get due process. In order for it not to be murder Lore would have to consent, a court would decide they were fit to consent (remember: Lore is insane), and euthanasia would have to be legal in the jurisdiction. – Schwern 2 days ago 

(For the purposes of this answer I am assuming Data and Lore are sentient Federation citizens. This is not meant to contradict @N_Soong’s answer; I agree with that answer. I’m exploring some of the more subtle legal and moral issues of Lore’s detainment.)
Would it be murder? No. It’s not even analogous to murder because Lore can be reassembled and reactivated. It is extreme detainment. What is in question is whether Lore’s right to due process has been violated.
Lore is detained… but disassembly is more than detainment. It would be like keeping a prisoner in a perfect coma. Yes, as a Starfleet officer Data in the line of duty could subdue and detain Lore. Data could recommend to Captain Picard that Lore is an extreme security threat and that he be disassembled. Same as they could keep a flesh and blood prisoner knocked out for the voyage. That part is fine.
Once safely back at Starbase, Picard would have to turn over Lore to the proper Federation legal authorities to decide what to do with him. If they failed to do this, then Picard and Data would beguilty of holding Lore indefinitely without trial.
If the Federation did not ever revive Lore they would be guilty of violating his right to a speedy criminal trial. If they tried Lore without reviving him they would be violating his right to know the charges against him, his right to call witnesses, and his right to choose counsel. (These are all based on the 6th amendment to the US Constitution, but they’re universally applicable and I’m going to assume the Federation has some version of). Only after having done all that would the Federation be in the legal and moral right to decide Lore’s fate.

If Lore’s deactivation were permanent then it would be analogous to death. This death happenedafter Lore was already subdued, defense is not an argument. Assuming the Federation is using definitions analogous to US law, Data killed Lore with [malice aforethought], it wasn’t an accident, but it was not premeditated so it could qualify as second-degree murder.
However the extenuating circumstances match the definition for the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter: Data was provoked by Lore, Data believed he was acting in self-defense (that Lore was too dangerous even disassembled), there was no prior intent to kill Lore, and it was not while committing another felony. The qualification that the circumstances would “cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed” would be very interesting to argue in court for Data.

Some people have raised details like Lore’s criminal insanity (“malfunctioning”), his crimes, and his relation to Data all as justification for allowing Data to make the decision to kill or permanently disassemble him. None of these are justifications. Let’s deal with them one by one.
Lore and Data are “brothers”! That works fine in fantasy stories, but not in a civilized society. Your family cannot judge whether your are insane and dangerous, that is up to a court. They can initiate the process, but ultimately a court decides. Why? Because you’re not the property of your family and your family cannot violate due process.
But Lore was really dangerous! This works in action movies, and it justifies the extreme measures of imprisonment (disassembly) Data recommends, but it doesn’t justify killing Lore once he has been subdued nor indefinite detention. No matter how fantastic the charges, Starfleet officers are not judge and executioner. They have subdued Lore, he is no longer a threat, and now has the right to trial. Even criminally insane mass murderers get due process.
But Lore was insane! This is not for Data to decide. Once Lore had been subdued the question of his mental state is handled by a court appointed mental health professional (or positronic brain expert I guess). Even if that had already been done, killing crazy people is still murder. Alternatively Lore would have to have consented, a court would have to agree Lore was able to consent (ie. that Lore wasn’t insane… which he was), and euthanasia would have to be legal.
But the Federation was at war with the Borg! Were they? When was this declared? Data doesn’t get to decide they’re at war, the Federation council does. Let’s say the Federation was at a state of war. Lore is either a Borg soldier in uniform, or a Federation citizen fighting for the enemy, or probably both. Once subdued, he is either a Federation prisoner of war or a criminal, probably both. Either way, Starfleet officers don’t get to perform battlefield executions of prisoners.

In the end, we do not know what happened to Lore after Data disassembled him. He could have undergone a fair trial, which would make everything Data and Picard decided to do moral and probably legal. If, as one novel says, he was dumped and forgotten in the Enterprise’s cargo hold that would leave Data and Picard on very shaky moral and legal ground playing judge, jury and executioner by detaining Lore indefinitely without trial. It also means Lore crashed with the Enterprise on Veridian III possibly to be found and assembled by someone else. Maybe a vessel that regularly sees combat and dangerous situations isn’t the best place to hold one of the most dangerous criminals in the quadrant: sloppy.
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Au contraire. We do have an indication of what happened to Lore; – Richard 2 days ago
Does any part of this answer change if we ask about Dr. Soong disassembling Lore (which he did) instead of Data? – Ellesedil yesterday
@Ellesedil Good question! If we hold the initial assumption that Soong-type androids are sentient Federation citizens, it’s the same. However, they wouldn’t have been at that time because he was only just creating them. Is the ruling retroactive? I don’t know. That raises the thorny problem of what if someone in the future creates a new Soong-type android, makes a mistake, and they malfunction like Lore. Can they just disassemble them and throw them in the closet? Or would that be like killing a developmentally disabled child? Federation legal scholars have something to chew on. – Schwernyesterday

Android ethics are neither here nor there. Data is a Starfleet officer, who acted in good faith while preforming his duties as lieutenant commander. He provides his captain with information pivotal to the security of the ship, presumably to be carried out in unspoken agreement – but not without informing his superior. Nor is it to be inferred that Data is solely (if at all) responsible for the dismantling of Lore: (re. the emotion chip)
Data: I had it removed from Lore’s body before it was dismantled.
You don’t have something removed, by yourself, personally. You remove it.
No and no.

Until such time as the defendant can be reprimanded to the proper authorities, it is the captain’s prerogative, to subdue or otherwise detain an unlawful enemy combatant charged with attempted murder, using any and all means they deem appropriate to insure the safety of their ship and its crew.
Reviewing the records, it can be seen that Data acted in a clear case of self-defense, showing him having been drawn-down-on by Lore. After stunning Lore, Data is still within his right to subdue his assailant by rendering Lore into a catatonic state. After this point, he advises his commanding officer that, “He must be disassembled so that he is no longer a threat.”
The only right of Lore’s that might become violated, is that “to a speedy trial”, for which no evidence has been forthcoming and no complaints filed.
If you have any other questions or accusations, please direct them to the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, c/o Captain Jean-Luc Picard. In pursuance to Starfleet law, it is required to inform you that if you suspect foul play, it is within your right to contact the Attorney General.
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I like this argument… up until the idea that Lore does not have a right to a speedy trial (I’m putting aside whether androids have a right to trial at all). By leaving Lore disassembled he is, effectively, being indefinitely detained without trial. For analogy, it is immoral to detain someone and put them into an artificial coma forever. – Schwern 2 days ago 
@Schwern – I didn’t mean that he doesn’t, just that I don’t think we know what happens to the body. Either way, Data is not responsible for how Lore is prosecuted. – “We’ve no reason to presume that Lore’s body (or at least his brain) wasn’t sent to Starfleet for analysis.” –Why wasn’t Lore given to Maddox? – Mazura 2 days ago

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