To Err is Human: Mad vs. Bad It is widely believed that all those who commit murder are insane. Many claim anyone would have to be out of one's mind to kill another person. But in the spirit of war, ordinary men and women are trained and encouraged to kill people without remorse or empathy. The circumstances under which death takes place affect whether or not it is acceptable to society.

With this in mind, it is obvious that to class people as insane only because they kill, is inaccurate. In our society, there are legally permissible circumstances wherein some people are allowed to kill. Without question, police men and women are equipped with and trained in the use of guns. The purpose of this is to protect ordinary citizens and defend themselves. Similarly, our armed forces would be useless in time of war if they were not armed and instructed to kill. It is expected of them.

Total bloodshed in World War One, on both sides, was immense. Losses totaled 8,538,315 killed and 21,219,452 wounded. Until recently, our Government executed criminals in certain cases. In 1976, after two trial periods when there were no executions, Parliament abolished capital punishment for all crimes.

In some countries, including parts of the United States, execution is still a common practice. Obviously, none of these instances involve insane killers. Conversely, there are also methods which are accepted by some and condemned by others. Euthanasia is intended to end the pain and suffering of a person with no hope of recovery from an incurable condition.

It is still legally considered murder. In Canadian criminal law, the motive of a person who commits homicide - or any other offense for that matter - is not a factor in determining guilt or innocence; what matters is the intention. If you intend to cause death and do cause death, then you are guilty of murder it is of no consequence that you may have been motivated by kindness or pity. In the same vein, abortion may be considered murder by those who consider the fetus a person, while others do not. For those who take the view that human life exists from the moment of conception, abortion becomes a form of mercy killing if the woman's life is genuinely endangered, and a form of murder if it is not. Unfortunately, many deaths have occurred as a result of deliberate neglect or abuse of children, invalids and elderly people.

The parent's wish to commit infanticide... may be more prevalent that any of us would think. The young child who fell from her mother's arms on the Capilano suspension bridge in British Columbia is the most recent example of alleged child neglect or infanticide. When a person displays a reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons it is considered criminal negligence. A driver who throws an empty glass bottle out of his car window is guilty of criminal negligence if a person nearby is killed by flying glass. The accused is convicted because he showed an indifference to the consequences of his actions. There are also those who go to great lengths to plan out their murderous actions.

These actions are often logical when analyzed. For instance, Ted Bundy did not kill women because he disliked them. On the contrary, he disliked men. He wanted to destroy the males who were what he was pretending to be.

To ultimately destroy them, he took away what they loved the most, their women. From this, he got what he desired, power. His logic may seem warped to most people, but he followed a line of reasoning that showed he could think rationally. Although killing was generally unacceptable, in his mind it was the inevitable conclusion. Revenge is another motive for planned, well thought out murder. One example of this is the killing of the Manchu r family in Waka w, Saskatchewan.

John Mychaluk murdered the entire family and burned their house down for revenge. He had fought with the father over money and had been turned down by the daughter when he made improper advances. One night, he went to their house and shot the father, mother, their three daughters and another relative. When he was finished, he set fire to the house to destroy the bodies. Help arrived more quickly than he had thought and it was discovered they had been shot. His logic led to this crime, but in his mind it was planned and reasonable.

If a loved one was in danger or one's life was threatened it is a fact that whatever means at hand will be used in defense. For instance, an abused wife whose husband also abused the children has been known to kill her husband when he is subdued and not in the act of abuse. Everyone is justified in using force to defend himself or anyone under his protection from assault, if he uses no more force than is necessary to prevent the assault or the repetition of it. This is definitely murder, but is the justifiable act of a sane person. Murderers need not be insane, only provoked. Finally, murder can be used as a tool for personal gain.

There are many robberies and forced entries into homes and businesses that occur. Murder can be and often is involved, but these disturbances are almost invariably planned ahead of time. This shows the planning of an ordered mind. Furthermore, this can occur inside a family unit. When one or more members wish to benefit from an insurance policy or an inheritance, the temptation to do away with the person or persons involved is often irresistible. A prime example of this is the case of the Menendez brothers who violently killed their parents, to gain control of their money.

An act like this was obviously premeditated and discussed once or twice. Another example is: In the autumn of 1949, a thin dapper Quebec jeweler earned the dubious distinction of inventing a new means of murder. In order to get rid of his wife, he had a time bomb manufactured and placed aboard a scheduled airliner. The wife was duly blown to bits - with 22 others...

Before his wife went aboard the plane... Albert Guay took out an extra $10,000 insurance policy on her life at the airport desk, with himself as beneficiary. Also, it is commonly known that there are assassins for hire. These people are presumably sane but amoral. It is not suggested that all those who kill are sane. However, all those who kill are not necessarily insane.

By definition, insanity is a defect or weakness of the mind that makes a person incapable of understanding the nature of particular acts or legal actions and consequently releases him from legal responsibility. Therefore the armed forces, police men and women, government, those who perform euthanasia, those who kill for power, revenge, self defense and personal gain are logical, sane, killers. The main difference is what is legally and socially acceptable.


1. Ralph Allen, Ordeal By Fire, (Toronto, 1961), p.
171.2. James H. Marsh, The Encyclopedia of Canada, (Edmonton, 1990), p.
284.3. G. Roderick Cameron, B. Comm., You and the Law, (Montreal, 1973), p.
662.4. Ibid, p. 661.5. David Bakan, Slaughter of the Innocents, (Toronto, 1971), p.
14.6. A&E Biography on Ted Bundy 7. Max Haines, The Collected Works of Max Haines, (Toronto, 1991), p.
86.8. Ibid, p. 106.9. G. Roderick Cameron, B. Comm., You and the Law, (Montreal, 1973), p.
670.10. Walter S. Avis, Funk and Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary, (Toronto, 1989), p.
697. Bibliography Allen, Ralph. Ordeal By Fire. Toronto: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1961.
Avis, Walter S. Funk and Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary. Toronto: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1989.
Bakan, David. Slaughter of the Innocents. Toronto: CBC Learning Systems, 1971.
Cameron, G. Roderick. You and the Law. Montreal: Reader's Digest Books, 1973.
Haines, Max. The Collected Works of Max Haines. Toronto: Sun Publishers, 1991.
Marsh, James H. The Encyclopedia of Canada. Edmonton: Hurting Publishers, 1990.
McGrath, W.T. Crime and Its Treatment in Canada. Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1976.
Rule, Ann. The Stranger Beside Me. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1986.