For the love of murder

Why do we care about murder?

We murder every day as regularly as we take our coffee in the morning. We murder in the fields of poverty, the poor beating out less than a bare living like slaves without the benefit of more comfortable ways to die. We murder in the name of war – which is but an acceptable excuse for the mob to kill other mobs. War is only gang killing by grownups. We murder in the gas chambers, or with the executioner’s needle on the gurney. We murder children, that is, we smash their beauty and creativity early on so they conform like beasts under the line and yoke.

The murder demon lurks evilly, furtively, insidiously in all of us. We have felt it. As born killers we have seen it in our mind’s eye. We deny it with all due vehemence. Have we ever thought of murder? Of course, not. No. Never.

Have we ever threatened murder? Weren’t we only joking, or simply expressing our passing anger when we said “I ought to kill the sonofabitch?” Just a way of speaking, so to speak?

But why does the idea of murder enthrall us so? The television marketers know it – their endless violent murders. Why do we stare so at the screen, excited like waiting hyenas for the kill? The psychologists call it sublimation. It is our deeply repressed need to kill that attracts us to the murder movie. Thankfully we can kill by watching killers. Violence and blood is a requirement because a neat and quiet killing does not satisfy.

We are all killers at heart. We know this, but we do not admit it. That is why we are so taken by the killing of others and their stories – like golfers like to watch golfers. OJ. Why did a nation become captured by a brutal killing committed by a man of little intrinsic worth? He could run his ass up and down a football field but he had little more to show for himself. If he’d been charged with sniffing glue or stealing baseball cards would we have cared? Even if he had been convicted of wife beating it might have made the headlines of the “National Enquirer” for a week or two. But a murder? A murder by OJ was something that would mesmerize a nation. Indeed, we were captivated by a single murder while we allowed millions elsewhere to die needless deaths from starvation or curable disease, which, when knowingly and intentionally permitted, could be argued as nothing less than murder.

It is the terror of murder – both our fear that it might be perpetrated against us or our loved ones, and that we, yes, we, might in some fit of passing insanity murder another. We do not speak of this although the kindest, most gentle know in secret places that they have fantasized murder – thank God we have our senses, our defenses so well poised against this monstrous crime – but we have seen it in our own mind’s eye. And the murderer was we.

It takes so little to arouse the murder gene within. Especially among the young. We make soldiers of these just-past-children because they can murder so readily. We teach them to intentionally kill, to kill with malice aforethought, to murder, not one but as many human beings as possible if they wear a different color cloth on their bodies (called uniforms) or if they pray to a different invisible entity (called their god.)

Perhaps murder is the easiest of all human skills to teach. It is easier to teach a young man to kill than to ice skate or shoot a decent game of pool, or to recite the Ten Commandments accurately, the sixth of which is a commandment against murder. One notes that having no other god before one, or creating a “graven image” or using the name of God in vain, or keeping the Sabbath holy or honoring father and mother are all commandments that come before the Bible’s admonition against murder. Presumably it is more sinful to work on Sunday than to murder.

And because murder is so much a part of us there is a powerful subliminal defense against murder. Legally one cannot cut the throat of a surprised bed partner of one’s wife, but a jury will often find ways to acquit such a killer because murder in the juror might explode in full force were he faced with the same situation. I am only saying that murder is so much a part of who we are as humans that we accept the horror of it with horror, mostly because the horror of it, in the end, explains who we are.


15 responses to “For the love of murder

  1. Paw Paw,

    When “It” happens what is it you see in a juries eye’s. I would enjoy it very much if you would let us sit on your shoulder as you walked us through the moments when you knew “It” was happening in one of your cases.

    Paw Paw for your anniversary party next August, it would be a real treat if one night you would turn all but the two outer lights on and have everyone sit and here you walk us and were able to show us how you tame “It” when “It” comes.

  2. Polemicist – a person who writes or sets forth controversial views or a person who writes polemics. The polemicist could debate any case skillfully.
    Polemic from Greek polemikos warlike, hostile, from polemos war; perhaps akin to Greek pelemizein to shake, an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another or the art or practice of disputation or controversy or an aggressive controversialist.
    As with most legal terms, the precise definition of “murder” varies between jurisdictions and is usually codified in some form of legislation. See the on-line Wikipedia definitions and exclusions for the definition of “murder” at
    “Murder” is the unlawful killing of another human person with malice aforethought, as defined in common law countries. Murder is generally distinguished from other forms of homocide by the elements of malice aforethought and the lack of lawful justification. All jurisdictions, ancient and modern, consider it a most serious crime and therefore impose severe penalty on its commission.
    It boils down to how you define “murder.” Self defense is recognized as a legitimate justification for killing another person. The war time killing of an enemy combatant in a life and death situation is considered acceptable by most and not defined as “murder.”
    Controversial and sometimes unique points of views designed to challenge an ordinary person’s way of looking at some things can be difficult for some people to grasp.
    Clarence Darrow and other famous trial lawyers had unique and sometimes controversial ways of looking and discussing subjects and ideas that could be challenging for the ordinary person to understand.
    The killing of another human being can sometimes be necessary for self defense and in times of war in the defense of a nation. Soldiers doing their duty is generally accepted. The right to self defense is practically “instinctual” and the “fight of flight” response in animals and humans beings may almost be genetic or in-born or instinctual.
    The insanity defense while sometimes controversial has been recognized and acknowledged as a legitimate defense.
    Multiple other exceptions, justifications, and mitigations exist to the definition of “murder.” To some animal rights activists and to some extreme pacifists, the eating of any animal meat is considered some kind of cruelty or some form of murder like act or to some as being unnecessary. I like a good burger or steak and so I do not agree with this point of view but I can understand how someone who chooses a different lifestyle than me might believe things different from what I believe.
    Are all humans really “murderers”? What is your definition of “murder”? What would Clarence Darrow say? What is the Gerry Spence argument —- jurors may subliminally accept that “murder” in certain situations is “necessary” and that we all have the capacity for “murder” but there may be extreme circumstances where it is not “murder?” Jurors may subliminally be capable of murder but consciously be horrified at the thought or idea of “murder” even though in some cases it is necessary. Psychologically, jurors may subconsciously believe one thing and consciously act another way?
    Yours in Defense of Fellow Human Beings,
    Glen R. Graham, Tulsa Criminal Defense Lawyer

  3. Gerry,

    Its time for more… We are hungry!!!


  4. Remy,

    More is coming. This is part one of a two part offering.



  5. When Moses in the Bible killed the slave-master who was beating the slave and then fled the country did he commit premeditated “murder” or was it a justifiable killing in defense of another?

  6. Glen R. Graham:

    Glen, your question has to be answered under Biblical law. In that I am gratefully not an expert.


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  8. A long time ago, I read one of your books that talked about being religiously irreligious. The idea wasn’t anything new for me, but putting a phrase to it showed me a way to grasp my own thinking.

    Great post, I have always appreciated your writing.

  9. Glen (I just discovered the blog and know this is a late response),

    Under Biblical law, Moses was a murderer. David was a murderer. He had a man killed to take his wife. The Apostle Paul was a religious terrorist and murderer. Yet these men wrote the most influential books in the Bible. The message here for modern times is that God chose to redeem and send his message through very human agents. The message is that even “men after God’s own heart” as David was are capable of murder are also capable of redemption.

    • El Guapo: Good point. Who is or isn’t a murderer depends on whom we want murdered at any given time. I suspect George W. Bush is a murderer in the eyes of many as was Sadam H. Think of Stalan and Moa.


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  13. The female of any species obviously cannot be a “born murderer” or the species would become extinct very quickly. So , speak for yourself, John Alden. (But we still love ya anyway.

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