Another odd case of the law struggling to deal with killing. A guy got so plastered in the States that he found himself recklessly driving a car and causing two people to die. He got hit with a long jail sentence accordingly, but was formally convicted of murderNow his lawyers are appealing on the grounds that to murder someone requires an intent that one can only have if one isn’t totally off one’s face after binge-drinking beer for ten hours.

I’m strongly inclined to just say, look, perhaps our idea of murder is used to designate those acts where there is sufficient forethought of the kind that is clearly not possible when someone reaches mental states like these. But that’s fine. We just have to call the act in question something else which better captures the fact it was sheer inexcusable negligence rather than actively planning evil. That does nothing to show there isn’t a similarly stringent responsibility that we all have not to put ourselves in states where such catastrophic consequences materialise so effortlessly, and so nor does it do anything to show the law shouldn’t come down equally hard on his ass to enforce a norm against behaviour that can be as destructive as strict acts of murder. And that’s true even when we see these things are most probably conceptually distinct.

Once that’s kept in mind, there shouldn’t be too much room for disagreement here. We just need to cultivate our emotions to react more strongly to killing through negligence, rather than reserving our moral outrage mainly for murderers.


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