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I'm looking for the name of a short story I read back in the 1980's. Best I can remember a man is stopped and ticketed for some type of traffic violation. Every time he went to appeal his case, any human reviewing the case saw it was a clear error. However, there was no feedback loop to the AI-controlled court system, and eventually, the main character was sentenced to death. If I remember correctly some high ranking official pardoned him, but the "paperwork" was filed incorrectly and the man was executed for a simple traffic violation.

I seem to remember a reference to punch cards in the story, so I'm guessing it was written in the 50's, 60's, etc.

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    I came here thinking this was one of Larry Niven's "Organ Banks" stories, but the details don't match. One of those had a fellow sentenced to the organ banks (disassembly for transplants = death) for speeding in a school zone... Might have been "The Jigsaw Man" in the collection of the same title.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 15:54
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    If the answer was what you were looking for, it's customary to accept it. :) Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 23:27
  • Was it the one where an overdue library notice to return "Kidnapped" by Robert Louis Stevenson turns into an arrest warrant for kidnapping Robert Louis Stevenson? Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 0:42

1 Answer 1

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This is Computers Don't Argue by Gordon R Dickson. Not a parking ticket but a library fine.

I wrote you recently about the computer punch card you sent, billing me for "Kim,' by Rudyard Kipling. I did not open the package containing it until I had already mailed you my check for the amount on the card. On opening the package, I found the book missing half its pages. I sent it back to you, requesting either another copy or my money back. Instead, you have sent me a copy of "Kidnapped," by Robert Louis Stevenson. Will you please straighten this out?

later

POLICE DEPARTMENT, PANDUK, MICHIGAN.
TO POLICE DEPARTMENT CHICAGO ILLINOIS.
CONVICTED SUBJECT A. (COMPLETE FIRST NAME UNKNOWN) WALTER, SOUGHT HIRE IN CONNECTION REF. YOUR NOTIFICATION OF JUDGMENT FOR KIDNAP OF CHILD NAMED ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, ON NOV. 16, 2000.

And the story ends with a failed attempt at a pardon. You can read it online here

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    @Mark - Interesting. This story beat-for-beat matches your description, right down to the failed deathrow pardon due to a paperwork error. I'm genuinely surprised that this isn't it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 1:31
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    @Mark I'm guessing you are conflating the Dickson story with the Niven story where a man is sentenced to death/the organ banks for parking tickets/minor traffic offenses. "The Jigsaw Man" en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jigsaw_Man Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 3:08
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    @Mark This story fits your description so perfectly; if it's not the one you remember then we have to assume the one you remember was an adaptation of this one.
    – Stef
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 16:15
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    When @valurum posted his original answer I was all "that can't be right - there's no book club involved here." I just now was able to read the entire story and this has to be it. I can't imagine some one taking this story and turning it into the one I thought I remembered without being accused of plagiarism. I seem to remember a different story now about a couple of kids (boy and girl?) stopped by a robot cop who executes them on the spot for speeding (I think). Don't remember the end of story though, but maybe that was the mix up. Anyway, thanks for all the prompt comments and responses!
    – Mark
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 20:26
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    @Mark - The one with the robot cop and the kids being executed for reckless driving is probably 'Violation'; scifi.stackexchange.com/a/258351/20774
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 20:30

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