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Science of Murder

Is there a science to murder? Is evil real or folklore?

William Blackstone (citing Edward Coke), in his Commentaries on the Laws of England set out the common law definition of murder as:

“ when a person, of sound memory and discretion, unlawfully killeth any reasonable creature in being and under the king’s peace, with malice aforethought, either express or implied.”

The elements of common law murder are:

The killing—At common law life ended with cardiopulmonary arrest—the total and permanent cessation of blood circulation and respiration. With advances in medical technology courts have adopted irreversible cessation of all brain function as marking the end of life.

of a human being—This element presents the issue of when life begins. At common law, a fetus was not a human being. Life began when the fetus passed through the birth canal and took its first breath.

by another human being—at early common law, suicide was considered murder. The requirement that the person killed be someone other than the perpetrartor excluded suicide from the definition of murder.

with malice aforethought—originally “malice aforethought” carried its everyday meaning—a deliberate and premeditated killing of another motivated by ill will. Murder necessarily required that an appreciable time pass between the formation and execution of the intent to kill. The courts broadened the scope of murder by eliminating the requirement of actual premeditation and deliberation as well as true malice. All that was required for malice aforethought to exist is that the perpetrator act with one of the four states of mind that constitutes “malice.”
Now, these are only a few mentionings of the legal aspects of murder.
What are some of the scientific factors involed in one human being coming to that snapping point of murder. What actually happens in the brain?

The Killer’s Brain
What makes a murderer? Can malfunctions in the brain compel someone to commit acts of extreme cruelty? Are killers born or made? From Columbia University, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Stone has created journeys to better understand why people kill and shows this information on Discovery Channel’s Most Evil . He talks with a variety of scientists about their work and examines possible scientific explanations for violent behavior. Here is a small video excerpt:

Do you think that committing murder is only a matter of choice? Does everyone have the capability of preventing that snap in the brain? Is it all just chemical imbalances, lack of one chemical or too much secreted of another that causes the switch to flip in the mind of a murderer?

To argue agains chemical imbalances, Elliott Valenstein, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan who rejects the simple-minded ‘chemical imbalance’ theories. He challenges the conventional assumption that mental illness is biochemical.
In his 1998 book, “Blaming the Brain: The Truth about Drugs and Mental Health”, Valenstein agrees that while psychotropic drugs sometimes do work, they do not even begin to address the real cause of mental disorders. They are still considered an “unproven hypothesis” used as pocket-padding marketing practices of the drug industry.

So, are all of the murderers in our prisons considered to have a chemical imbalance/mentally ill?
Just eight years ago, there were 148,300 persons in America’s state prisons who had been sentenced for the crime of murder. Within these confines, approximately 16 percent of the population had been diagnosed by doctors, prescribing chemical lobotomizing drugs, as having mental illness. Thirteen percent of incarcerated persons who were mentally ill had been sentenced for murder. Based on these rates, and a recent state prison population count of 1,255,514,1 it is estimated that more than 26,000 persons with a mental illness are currently incarcerated for murder in the United States. Despite the magnitude of these counts, surprisingly little is currently known about prisoners with severe mental illness who have been incarcerated for murder. a high school education or equivalent, were living in stabilized housing, and, to a lesser degree, were involved in significant intimate and familial relationships. Rage or anger, sexual perversions and issues of control were overwhelmingly directed toward intimate or family relations and were frequently mentioned motives for murder. The use of a firearm or sharp object, were the widely used tool of choice . Most of those who were chosen to be studied had been raised in households with significant family dysfunction, had extensive histories of substance abuse and criminality, and had received little treatment for their mental and substance use disorders.
Some like to blame the quick-to-prescribe-a-pill psychologists and their sidekick pharmaceutical companies for creating these monsters. Others want to blame the actions of these twisted minds on the social impacts of poverty, alcohol and street drugs. And still, scientists are saying that they now have a way to prove the makings of a murderer through new technologies which can measure aspects of the human brain.
Is evil real and can science prove or disprove its existence within us?


  1. October 3, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I enjoyed reading this! I don’t have any answers or even a point of view on this.
    Who knows. Could be chemical, could be surroundings, or drugs, drink…
    I liked the letter from Jack.. that’s really creepy. lol 🙂
    Thanks for the read! Hope your day is going terrifically!

    • October 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm

      Hello, my favorite smiley person!
      Thank you! I did quite a bit of reading and wound up having to cut alot of the blog down before posting or else it would have just been a reasearch paper…hahaha.
      The scary reality of it all is that even a normal person, well,…that is ironic to say, isn’t it,…because I am not normal and prefer it that way…societal norm is boring… the scary reality is that anyone is capable of going off that edge into the darkness. I believe it takes more than one factor, such as mixing a cocktail of bad childhood, mental disorder, substance abuse and fear of ridicule and rejection and/or humiliation. Everyone has their limitations. Yet it does all come down to a matter of choice to tell yourself when to step away from the point of no return. Yet, there are times when the point of no return is a necessary.
      Thanks for stopping by! I have missed your words 🙂 and I hope that your son is doing much better now.
      Lots of love!

      • October 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm

        Hello lovely! Me again. lol
        Yes, my son is starting to get used to the pills he now has to take, and he’s feeling overall better, I believe… eating and going to school and so on! Thank you so much for asking!! 😉

        It’s scary, but true… and the thing is that you don’t have to have ALL the ingredients… one, two or three will do the trick! Gah!!!

        The makings of real horror stories, huh? 🙂

        I hope you have a monster great day! 🙂

  2. October 5, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Wow!! – Firstly I would like to shout “GREAT POST!!!”

    Secondly – thanks for the headache – i can’t make my mind up?? I was all for capital punishment, as i’m fed up with killers getting off with their crimes (which effectively a prison sentence is a good as).

    But then i thought about this scenario, if science or medicine could find the gene or serum that could prevent violent crime, then surely we should pursue this goal. I’m thinking of a vaccine that was given to kids, just like tetanus, and turned us all into model citizens……..that’s quite scary too!

    Argh!! I’m confused.

    Respect and Peace!

    P.S. I’m also abit worried about how ‘we’ as a society, perversely idolize killers, especially the serial killers. We love to know all the details of the killings and this access to information is deadening the senses, what would have shocked the knickers off me nan, would barely raise an eye-brow of my 8 year, xbox addict!

    We live in scary times!


    • October 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm

      Truly so! And there is much to be said in different levels of understanding on this point. We give death sentences to the people we cannot control, most of the time not realizing that we ( in general as a society ) are the creators of these monsters through neglect, indifference, lack of those willing to work on a daily basis with these chemically imbalanced creatures and instead, beging the peddle-pushing of drugs. These drugs we give to the psychotics and neurotics that at times cannot be afforded to all and they then turn to the next best thing, street drugs. The rest of us turn from them in our disgust and abhorrence…. because they are not ” normal “. We also need to realize that this is cyclical. Poverty begets drunks and users, govt. ups the cost of medical care, children are born with the chemical imbalances to those who were too poor to afford help and they grow up in low skill levels and bad mental health, begtting more poverty striken areas( because the full potential for better jobs cannot be reached ) and the govt. imposes more taxes and so on, and so on.
      This is not to say they are not in any way responsible for their own actions. It does however provide a buffer zone of sorts. Think if it were you. You were born to a family with little or no money. No money for healthcare.Your father and/or mother were alchohol or substance abusers. how would your life become?

  3. October 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Y’know the more i think about this, the more confused i get. I can see arguments for many stand points and have no idea which way we should turn.

    Obviously it’s too big a question for any one person to answer and as a collective i’m hoping we can find a well balanced solution to the ills of our time???

    Respect and Peace!

    • October 17, 2010 at 6:33 pm

      @dam, you slay me – “shocked the knickers off me nan”, lol.
      Great stuff!

      Yes, it’s complicated..but to the person who has just lost someone to violent crime, we are all subject to emotions… not just logic. Scary! There are so many reasons for these things to happen and there is no easy answer….

      Course… it would sure be a start if the gov cared about someone other than themselves and obtaining money!!!

      Lots of love! T.

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