Category Archives: murders

George Floyd was no black Jesus

Dalrymple writes:

When I first saw the mural of George Floyd with angel wings, I assumed that it was a satire — effective, perhaps, but not in the best of taste. Shortly afterwards, however, I realised that the mural was in earnest. The picture in the newspaper included a man genuflecting before it, and the caption said that he was making a ‘pilgrimage’.

Floyd

was not a saint; he was a bad man, and being killed by a brutal policeman does not change a man’s life from bad to good.

At least one of Floyd’s crimes, Dalrymple notes,

was of deep-dyed malignity. Along with five others, he broke into a pregnant woman’s house and held her at gunpoint while his associates ransacked the house for drugs and money. This is not the kind of crime that results from a sudden surrender to temptation. It was premeditated and planned.

Floyd

had several convictions for possession and supply of drugs, yet when he moved to Minneapolis, allegedly to turn over a new leaf, he still took drugs, and a video showed him discarding what was probably a packet of drugs when he was first arrested.

Dalrymple points out that of course

none of this exculpates the policeman, Derek Chauvin, and no decent person would suggest that it did.

But

the ludicrous sanctification of Floyd naturally conduces to an examination of his character, and is moreover a sign of our modern tendency to make martyrs or saints of victims. But victims do not have to be martyrs or saints in order to be victims, and  Floyd certainly did not die for any cause.

Sentimentality

is a short step away from brutality.

The sanctification of Floyd implies, says Dalrymple,

that the character of a victim of murder is in some way a measure of the seriousness of the murder, when what is wrong with murder is that it is murder. Even the murder of a very bad man is murder, such that if Chauvin were killed in prison by other inmates, it would still be murder. We may in our hearts regret the murder of a good man more than we regret that of a bad, but the law can take no notice of such a distinction. Any other attitude would be to justify or excuse murder.

The British state places little value on lives criminally extinguished

Three men, who lodged together in a flat, allowed another man to stay with them, then beat him to death. The kind of things that prosecutors and police say about such murders shows, writes Dalrymple,

how far they have absorbed and accepted the thugs’ view of the world.

The prosecutor said:

There was no good reason to kill the victim, but they were all very drunk, and maybe that is an explanation.

Dalrymple comments:

This implies that the perpetrators might have had a good reason to kill the victim. It also accepts that extreme violence is a pharmacological effect of alcohol, which it is not—unlike, say, incoordination.

A policewoman said:

This was a brutal attack on a man outnumbered by the other three, who didn’t stand a chance to defend himself. My thoughts remain with the victim’s family. I hope the verdict brings them a sense of justice and allows them to come to terms with this tragic and senseless death.

Dalrymple comments:

Her statement implies that if the murder had been more chivalrous—two against one, say, or man to man—it would have been markedly less heinous, and therefore that it was the cowardice, not the killing, that was so reprehensible. The hope that the verdict alone would bring a sense of justice to the family was surely absurd, unless it was followed by appropriate punishment—as almost certainly it would not be.

The prosecutor and the policewoman’s remarks

show how far both have come to accept that chivalrous and sensible murders are an inevitable part of British life.

The tragedy of penological deflation

In 2003, Dalrymple writes, the ‘rock’ exponent Bertrand Cantat

brutally did to death the actress Marie Trintignant, with whom he was having an affair. He beat her so severely that she died not long afterwards of her head injuries. He was under the influence of alcohol and cannabis at the time.

For this terrible crime, in which there were no mitigating circumstances, Cantat

spent four years in prison, a derisory punishment.

Dalrymple asks:

If you have to serve only four years for such a crime, what punishment can a lesser, but nonetheless serious, crime attract, assuming that the principle of proportionality of punishments has still to apply?

Forces beyond the criminal’s control

Dalrymple’s 2017 work

In the prison where Dalrymple works, there are at the moment

three stabbers (two of them unto death) who used precisely the same expression when describing to me what happened. ‘The knife went in,’ they said when pressed to recover their allegedly lost memories of the deed.

Dalrymple comments:

The knife went in—unguided by human hand, apparently. That the long-hated victims were sought out, and the knives carried to the scene of the crimes, was as nothing compared with the willpower possessed by the inanimate knives themselves, which determined the unfortunate outcome.