A Story Problem

Since Marco.org has been increasingly frequented by law students and computer programmers, I thought I'd post a number of logic puzzles. Here's the first one. It's fairly open ended in that there are quite a few reasonably defendable answers.

Out West, in a time when men were men and women were scarce and the whole lot of them vaguely resembled tumbleweed, Banana Gun Jones liked to sit in front of the saloon and watch the dust blow. They called him Banana Gun Jones because he kept a banana in his holster instead of a gun. Whenever people walked up to the saloon, Jones would pull the banana on them, shout, “Bang!” and proceed to eat the banana. Some thought he was funny, most thought he was senile, but none knew where he got his seemingly endless supply of fresh bananas.

One day, Hank the Fastest Draw in the West rode into town. (“The” was his middle name.) Dubious Pete, one of the slower draws in town, greeted him on the way in. “Howdy, Hank, Fastest Draw in the West.”

“Howdy, Dubious Pete,” Hank said as he tied up his horse.

“Howdy, Hank,” slurred Salacious Sal, with a wink. Sal spent most of her time hanging around the saloon, though nobody was exactly sure what her job was.

“You can call me Pardner any time,” said Hank.

“So, Sal,” said Lecherous Greg the Sheriff, “You doing anything after you get off... whatever you do at the saloon?”

At that moment a number of things happened in quick succession. Banana Gun Jones started to pull his banana from his holster to aim it at Hank the Fastest Draw in the West. Dubious Pete saw this happening and realized that Hank might think Jones was planning to shoot him. He shouted “Hank, no! It’s only a banana,” and drew his gun, planning to shoot Hank before Hank shot Jones. At least, that’s what he intended to do. By the time he had said “Hank, no! It’s only a ban-,” Hank the Fastest Draw in the West had fired four shots.

Hank’s first shot hit Jones, who Hank thought was trying to shoot him. It is unclear whether Banana Gun Jones died from Hanks bullet or died from the sudden failure of his ticker when he saw Hank aiming a gun at him. Either would have killed him.

Hank’s second shot was aimed at Dubious Pete. However, Salacious Sal who had secretly been in love with Dubious (and rather clueless) Pete, dove in front of Pete and took the bullet for him. "Petey," she said, "there's something I've kept bottled up that I want to get out. I - " She died before finishing her revelation, so Pete assumed she was talking about the wine collection she kept stashed in the back of the saloon.

Hank’s third shot was also aimed at Dubious Pete. However, although Hank is the Fastest Draw in the West, he isn’t the Most Accurate Shot in the West, so the bullet missed Hank and hit Lecherous Greg the Sheriff. The bullet bounced off the sheriff’s star and embedded in Greg’s leg, which bled profusely. Because the doctor had died a month ago in a similar incident, this wound meant Greg would not live out the week.

Hank’s fourth shot hit and killed Dubious Pete who had not yet finished drawing his weapon. (All Hank heard was Dubious Pete saying, “Hank, BANG! It’s BANG on-BANG a ban-BANG.”) Dubious Pete slumped down and dropped his gun, which he had just managed to get out of its holster. When the gun hit the ground, it went off, hitting and instantly killing Lecherous Greg the Sheriff.

Around this time, you ride into town. “Who’s the sheriff around these parts?” you ask.

Hank the Fastest Draw in the West hands you the sheriff’s badge. “Congratulations, Sheriff,” he says. Although you protest that you’re not the Sheriff, he (and everybody else in town) insist that you were the last person to touch the Sheriff’s badge, so you’re stuck with the job. (Sucker.) Hank surrenders himself and awaits your judgment. As the law in the town, you’re Sheriff, Judge, Jury, and Executioner if necessary. There aren’t a whole lot of laws on the books in the town, mostly because there aren’t a lot of books. Thus, you can make up whatever you want.

  1. What do you charge Hank with? How many times do you charge him with it? (Answer this one before reading the next question.)
  2. On further investigation, you learned that Jones’ banana was actually a cleverly disguised pistol. According to Jones’ recently discovered diary, Jones had perpetuated the entire masquerade with the banana in hopes of being able to shoot the Fastest Draw in the West so he could carve “Faster than the Fastest Draw in the West” on his gravestone. Nobody had any idea about this. Does this revelation change your answer to the previous question? (Answer this before reading the next question.)
  3. As it turns out, this particular town hasn’t caught on past three hundred years or so of developments in common law. All serious crimes are considered felonies. The only punishment for a felony is hangin’. Does this change your answers to the previous questions?