Saturday, October 23, 2004

An Industry Thrives on Tragedy.

Brinkhous-Bullit houses the NC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner


Some things are inevitable or unpreventable, like death and taxes. Everyone dies, that’s a fact of life. Conception requires death some day. We live, if we are blessed we love and are loved, and then one day we die. For some death can be a blessing, a release from pain and suffering or life of hard work maybe loneliness. A cemetery I know of comes to mind, one with a sign over an entrance that says something like “That which is so universal, must also be a blessing”. It’s meant to bring comfort for all must go through those gates one day.

Many depart this life long before their time, at the hands of a predator. 1 Friends and family, or those who are left behind, grieve for and honor their dead. Many murders are motivated by greed and selfishness. Some acts or bad actors are motivated by evil in its purest form. The motives for murder are as individual as the assassin. Some seek money, others do what they do because they feel betrayed, and some are clearly delusional or deranged. The impacts on society are unique in every case in that each victim represents a different loss to every family and friend left behind. Each victim leaves their own mark on our world while they are here, and their memory leaves a unique impression or sense of loss.

Once a murder is committed, many things become necessary and are irreversible. A body usually becomes instant evidence. Records, samplings, transcripts and pictures are presented in courts and to strangers. An autopsy reveals a cause, and a manner of death. The event is recorded for posterity in the papers and a certificate is issued. The public is informed and debts are eventually settled, most of the time anyway. Some evidence is kept forever. What represents a lifetime of accomplishments is reduced to boxes, stories and records. Each murder results in a unique decision calculus and a set of dispositions or artifacts.

For a number of persons, it’s “a job”. A mini-industry thrives on tragedy. For some the victim and the accused represent a story to tell or a picture to take. The undertaker and Medical Examiner usually see each and every victim (and many murderers) eventually. The lawyers fight over right and wrong, what might be “fair” and who gets what for those that are left behind, that is if they aren’t already dead. The first group of buzzards circles the living and the lifeless. The “search for truth” or “sifting of lies” has become both a science, and an art form of sorts. The murder, murderer or the victim are transformed into some sick or twisted “entertainment” for a day… or two. Events are reduced to temporary diversions from what seems “normal”. Everything becomes more detached and a little less human for as long as it’s not one of yours or in your back yard. The illusion of safety exists for those who think they can keep the rest of the world at arms length (or further) away.

“The story” isn’t over until the predator is laid to rest after getting the last word. The families leave the buzzards to do their “work”. 2 Some confuse the murderer with being a victim and forget the circumstances, which require a punishment. When does accountability start, when should it end? 3 What does one do to prevent a proven predator from harming other innocents? 4 What makes the lawyers and media any different than buzzards? They always seem to be there to pick through the “bones” or engage in some form of self-promotion.

  1. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide trends in the U.S. (1992),
  2. Charlotte Observer, NC Executes a man who kills 6, (10/22/04),
  3. North Carolina Department of Corrections, Inmate Infraction Detail,
  4. North Carolina Department of Corrections, Inmate Summary,