Friday, December 16, 2005

Why is a murder not a murder?

The verdict in the David Morley murder trial has left me puzzled. And I’m not alone in this. There has been quite a bit of confusion and anger in the gay community (and elsewhere, no doubt) as to why the perpetrators of this crime were not found guilty of murder, but rather the lesser crime of manslaughter.

I think it is appropriate that the CPS, The Metropolitan Police and other agencies involved take some time to clearly and patiently explain the outcome of this trial to the public.

This is what confuses me:

According to the BBC’s “jargon buster” (which is very useful to laypeople like myself) these are the relevant definitions::

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another human being without the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. The legal definition used to describe this accidental act of murder is violence 'without malice aforethought'.

Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. The legal definition used to describe the act of murder is violence 'with malice aforethought'.

Now – according to reports in The Times (and even The Sun):

The four, all from Kennington, South London, were also convicted of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and remanded in custody until sentencing.

Now this makes no sense to me. If you conspire to commit and act, and then you commit an act, how on earth was it successfully argued that they had no intention to commit the act – and thereby escape the murder charge?

Furthermore, can there be any doubt that a gang which had agreed an “attack” codeword and had video-capable mobile phones at the ready to film the attacks, and who were serial attackers acted with anything other than 'with malice aforethought'?

Was it that the defence was super-good – or that the prosecution was half-hearted? This may be an unfair assessment – for all I know the prosecution gave it all they’d got – but this is a lingering question that many are now pondering. We need an answer.

Another issue which throws up more questions than answers is why the police no longer consider this a homophobic attack. The judge is still out on that issue and will rule in January, but most media sources, including the BBC, are reporting that homophobia was not a motive. How can the media be so sure? What facts lead them to the conclusion that homophobia was not a contributing factor?

After reading dozens of media reports, the only thing I can find to suggest that homophobia was not a motive is that the accused said so. But surely their solicitor would have warned them of the extra penalties if this were judged a hate crime? Forgive me if I don’t find their say-so convincing. I think it was homophobic for a number of reasons. Let’s look at the facts.

The gang’s usual modus-operandi appears to have been this:

Happy slapping: they’d suddenly violently slap, punch or kick a random stranger and film their startled reaction.

Numbers: they typically attacked a lone person as a group of four – using their superior numbers as a weapon.

But the Morley attack was different in several aspects:

Firstly (and most obviously) the attack was ferocious and sustained – unlike the other assaults. Indeed, the frenzied nature of the attack bore all the hallmarks of a typical queer-bashing, rather than a mere “happy-slapping”.

Secondly, as a scrawny teenage gang of four, they elected to attack two adult men.

We know from David Morley’s friend, Alistair Whiteside, (who was the other person attacked) that the two of them were sitting on a park bench as he consoled Morley (who had been suffering depression as an aftermath of the Admiral Duncan bombing, Morley had been the barman on duty when the bomb went off).

Now, picture one man consoling another. This would suggest intimate body language, close proximity, touching, hugs… all the hallmarks of a gay couple on a bench. To homophobes, such a scenario is an invitation as clear as a surfboard silhouette to a great white shark.

The gang usually attacked lone individuals because they had a strategic advantage in numbers. Why did they, in case of David Morley and Alistair Whiteside, decide to give up this advantage and attack two people instead of one?

Another common factor in attacks on gay people is the ferocity of the violence. For example, the official motive for the murder of Jamaican gay rights activist Brian Williamson, was robbery. However, any criminologist will tell you that the violence used in the commission of a robbery is typically no greater than what is required to take possession of the goods. Williamson was hacked and stabbed repeatedly in a frenzied attack.

Similarly, unlike their usual modus-operandi of a quick slap, punch, kick or two (as happened in the other attacks that night) the gang attacked Morley and Whiteside with great savagery in a sustained attack, one of them even admitting to returning to aim another kick to Morley’s head.

Why was this not simply a “happy slap” like the other attacks? Was it the sight of two men appearing to be intimate that triggered the gang to go berserk and way beyond the normal scale and duration of their attacks?

The thrill and amusement they derived from violently attacking total strangers may have been their primary motivation, but – logically – this says nothing about their criteria for actually selecting their victims. Nor does it necessarily mean that they were always consistent.

For example, gay men are often targeted by muggers whose primary motivation is robbery. However, the selection of victims is underpinned by homophobia. They may believe that gay victims will get less sympathy, that gay men are weaker and unable to fight back, or that gay men are less likely to report being a victim of crime, or simply that gay men “deserve” it.

So, it is perfectly reasonable in this instance to ask the question: what prompted them to deviate from their regular pattern of behaviour – to attack two men together instead of a person on their own; to sustain the attack and escalate the violence so far beyond their routine attacks as to cause death?

One report quotes killer Darren “Neekie” Case as boasting: "David Morley, that dickhead, that's the one I killed.''

If Morley had truly been a random stranger and attacked for no reason other than random selection, why would Case personalise the attack and describe the victim as “a dickhead” – what could Morley have done to suggest to Case that he was a “dickhead”? Since Morley’s only engagement with Case was to receive fatal blows, the answer can only lie in Morley’s perceived identity.

I hope that in due course, the authorities connected to the trial will explain why it was not murder and why they no longer believe it was homophobic. People will want answers.


At 10:27 pm, Blogger marc vallee said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:41 pm, Blogger Recidivist said...

1) To be found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm, you don’t have to be part of a conspiracy that had the intenet to cause GBH – simply part of a conspiracy that resulted in it.

2) Under English law you can only find someone guilty of murder if you believe there was the intention to kill - with "malice aforethought" - or the intention to cause grievous bodily harm. The jury is not allowed to infer the necessary intention, unless they feel sure that death or serious bodily harm was a virtual certainty - a virtual impossibility when neither of those were the outcome with the gang's seven other victims on the same night).

Since there was zero evidence to suggest that the gang intended anything different from the other attacks, no responsible jury could ever have found the gang guilty of murder. That attack may very well have developed differently from the others, but there is no evidence to suggest that this was intended.

3) Brett’s understanding of the application of "malice aforethought” reduces to nothing more than word twisting (and I suspect very deliberate at that), because the malice aforethought bit only applies to the intent to kill.

The desperate need to show that the attack was in any way homophobically motivated is almost too laugable to even waste time on – and nice little sentences like ““After reading dozens of media reports, the only thing I can find to suggest that homophobia was not a motive is that the accused said so” just show a desperation to fuel fear and totally ignore the rather significant factor that there is equally not a single shred of evidence (aside from Brett’s own tortured logic) to suggest that there was any homophobic motivation (not even from Alistair Whiteside).

Finally, spare a thought for David’s father. He is satisfied with the verdict and was much closer to David than any of the deranged activists now seeking to get the gay community whipped up in outrage at the verdict.

At 9:04 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

TO "Recidivist"

(1) Presicely. They were part of a conspiracy that resulted in GBH, and if intentional GBH results in death, it is murder.

(2) Ditto. The intention to cause GBH was with "malice aforethough".

(3) The definition is VIOLENCE with malice aforethough, and that violence can either be the intent to kill OR cause GBH.

There is no "desperate need" to show the attack was homophobically motivated. There is nothing wrong with asking questions like: why was this attack far more savage than the others?

No one is trying to get the gay community whipped up. Were that the case, would I be calling on the authorities to clarify the issues and explain it all clearly to the community so that people can understand the issues?

In common with many people, I have questions which I'd like answered. That's all.

Besides, if my reservations about the verdict where so off the wall, I doubt that senior Metropolitan Police officers like Assicstant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur would be voicing the same reservations:

Police chief questions verdict on 'slap' killing

At 9:34 pm, Blogger Recidivist said...

But you once more (no doubt deliberately) miss the important point that the conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm verdict does NOT mean that they intended to cause GHB .. so it is not necessarily murder .. except in your desperate need for it to be.

If a small minority of gays are busy running around in a flap asking the questions, then perhaps it is because they are lacking the common sense to stop and think .. and because there are unprincipled prats, like Tatchell, going out of their way to stir them up into a flap.

At 9:51 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

"Recivist" is wrong.

According to the CPS website:

The prosecution must prove ... that either the defendant intended, or actually foresaw, that the act might cause some harm. It is not necessary to prove that the defendant either intended or foresaw that the unlawful act might cause physical harm of the gravity described [as GBH]. It is enough that the defendant foresaw some physical harm to some person, albeit of a minor character, might result.

(my emphasis added)

It is obvious that they intended to cause "some" harm. That they did not intend the harm they deliberately caused to amount to GBH or death is not relevant. Death was a result of the harm they intended to cause.

At 12:38 pm, Anonymous Chas N-B said...

I have supported so much of your work but this is not OutRage's finest hour.

In your recent press release, you have stated as fact that Morley's murder was a hate crime. You've no evidence for this.

The more one studies your 'reasoning' as to why it was a homophobic murder, the more laughable the whole thing gets.

You write: "Now, picture one man consoling another. This would suggest intimate body language...." Or, in short, imagine that the scene looked how you want it to have looked in order to fit your argument, despite their being no evidence that this is how the scene was. You are making it up as you go along.

You ask why the attack on Morley differed from other attacks the gang committed but ignore that there may be any number of explanations and plump for the 'it must be homophobia' answer despite no firm evidence whatsoever that this was the case.

A lot of hate crimes are accompanied by verbal abuse of a homophobic nature. In this case, there was verbal abuse of an entirely non-homophobic nature - they described Morley as a dickhead. Incredibly, far from this suggesting to you that this was not a homophobic attack, you use it as evidence that it *was* a homophobic attack! Dickhead is not a homophobic term however much you try and make it one.

You state as fact that this was a hate crime but you have no evidence that it was. The police who investigated say it wasn't crime and the man who was attacked alongside Morley has never said it was a hate crime.

But still you persevere. Why? Is it to get Peter and OutRage's name back in the paper? Is it a need to have a victim mentality?

You have completely disrespected Morley's memory and his grieving family.

You have damaged OutRage's credibility by putting out a statement that a child could see straight through.

You have LIED to try and scare the gay community. This makes you no better than the homophobes you oppose.

WHY have you done this?

At 1:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The term "dickhead" was used after the fact, during an interview, not during the attack. Brett's point stands: Why would someone characterise someone they didn't know as a "dickhead"?

I don't see any lies in the article. Only questions, reporting of fact, and speculation clearly marked as such. Of course, I did read it before commenting.

At 2:06 pm, Anonymous Chas N-B said...

The term 'dickhead' is not homophobic however much you keep pretending it is.

Why would someone characterise someone they didn't know as a "dickhead"? Because murderers almost always denigrate their victims after the crime, in order to deal with their guilt.

The lie I am referring to - as was clear in my response if you read it - is in last week's OutRage! press release put out by Peter and Brett. Shame on them.

At 2:20 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

As the previous poster noted, no one is claiming that "dickhead" is a homophobic slur. The questions I'm asking is: why, if it was a completely *random* attack, would the gang member have personalised it? Why would he have referred to his victim as "a dickhead" if the attack was random, not personal?

The OutRage! press release you refer to does not "lie". Most considered this a homophobic attack - certainly the 5000+ who turned up at the vigil did. The media have been referring to it as a homophobic attack for a year. The handful of reports that now question this came out on 14 December, the same day as the OutRage! press release which still assumed it was a homophobic crime, so OutRage! could not have been aware of them

Even so, the judge may still rule that it is homophobic, according to The Times

If the evidence were so clear - as you seem to suggest - that this was not a homophobic crime, then the judge would not still be in deliverations, as The Times reports.

At 2:33 pm, Anonymous Chas N-B said...

"Why would he have referred to his victim as "a dickhead" if the attack was random, not personal?"

Because killers often denigrate their victims to deal with feelings of guilt. You see, there is an answer to every desperate and silly attempt you make to twist Morley's death to suit your agenda.

But you keep scraping the barrell if you like. Hey, you might get your names in the paper. And you might drag other gay people down to your victim-obsessed level. We all know how much OutRage! resents the idea that the progress that has been made in gay rights might lead gay people to stop thinking they are victims.

"The OutRage! press release you refer to does not "lie"."

It does. It reports Morley's murder as a "premeditated
hate crime" when you have no evidence that it was one.

The laughter and disbelief that is greeting your approach to this case is striking. Some of your biggest supporters in the media are speechless with shock. You can either keep digging your hole or you can work out how you are going to regain the credibility you have lost.

At 2:51 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Cha. Firstly, I'm making no claims or trying to twist anything. I'm simply asking a series of questions and speculating. Until the judge has ruled on 23 January, ALL statements - whether agreeing with me or not - are simply speculation.

It is not "a lie" to refer to the attack as "premeditated hate crime". If it were, ALL the media who have been reporting this case as a "homophobic attack" over the past year are also "liars".

Almost everyone has assumed that this was a gay-bashing. It may be a hasty judgement or a faulty assumption, but it is not "a lie".

My article simply lays out why I think - on balance - it is. It offers a theory, it poses questions. Nothing more, nothing less.

Do you plan to take to task all the newspapers, websites, the Mayor's office, the Lambeth police, the organisers of the vigil, and everyone else who has proceded from this assumption for "lying"?

At 12:13 pm, Blogger Recidivist said...

"Recivist" is wrong.


Actually. Brett, you just show a staggering ability to see what you want to see, but the CPS website is not the guide to the law, it is a guide to how prosecutions are directed.

All the CPS guidance does is set out the policy by which the CPS decides if people should be charged with muder .. it is NOT a guide to the law itself and it is up to the courts to decide if it is murder.

The law itself clearly states that in is NOT enough that the defendant foresaw some physical harm.

Keep spouting this utter garbage if you want, but it just makes you look rather stupid .. and in fact today’s Law Commission report on the murder laws pretty much undermines everything that you are claiming.

At 12:24 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Ah yes, the CPS direct prosecutions without any basis in law for their policy or any regard for the law itself. Good one! What was that about "utter garbage"?

At 12:25 pm, Blogger Recidivist said...


“Making claims” and “trying to twist” is exactly what you are doing .. and it is exactly what you are doing when you repeatedly refer to David’s killing as “murder”, when it has already been decided that it isn't (by my reckoning making you a libelous liar)and make out that your 'homophobia' explanation for anything and everything is the only possible reasonable explanation.

In pursuing your line you are expecting people to totally ignore that which is supported with evidence (and proven in a court of law) and believe what is supported by nothing more than the wild and paranoid (and quite frankly unbelievable) speculation of those who have a vested political interest.

At 12:32 pm, Blogger Recidivist said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:33 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Questioning whether a manslaughter verdict was appropriate and expressing the opinion that it should have been murder is not "libelous" or "lying".

"Libelous lying" would be claiming that the court found them guilty of murder, which I clearly do not. Indeed, the whole point of my article is to question why it wasn't murder, and hence, making it perfectly clear what the court's verdict was.

At 12:36 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Recidivist, I have deleted your last post, not because I want to deny you freedom of speech, but because it's my blog and I won't tolerate personal abuse. If you want to make a calm and constructive contribution, be my guest.

At 10:07 pm, Blogger Recidivist said...

Questioning whether a manslaughter verdict was appropriate and expressing the opinion that it should have been murder is not "libelous" or "lying".

Specifically referring to those who have been found not guilty of murder, as "murderers" is not the asking of an innocent question.

Deliberately misrepresenting the law in order to make them out to be murderers is not the asking of an innocent question.

But if you can't handle being calmly held accountable for YOUR own words and are so insecure about your position that you feel that this makes you the victim of personal abuse, then pardon me for my stifled laughter.

At 10:59 pm, Anonymous Brian_Bedfordshire said...

Reading this exchange, I am tempted as a gay man to ask a simple question:

How can we expect society to value our lives as equals, when we have people in this thread who are willing to argue that people who murder gay men shouldn't be charged with murder?

At 11:24 pm, Blogger Recidivist said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:30 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

I've warned you "recidivist", you are welcome to post constructive comments, but personal abuse will not be tolerated.


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