“Depraved-Heart Murder”

Recently, when reading an article about Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore, I noticed the chilling term “depraved-heart murder”. Duhaime’s Law Dictionary provides the following definition:

Where an individual under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby caused the death of another person.

Duhaime’s website has this quote from Justice Adkins of the Court of Appeals of Maryland:

Depraved heart murder is the form of murder that establishes that the wilful doing of a dangerous and reckless act with wanton indifference to the consequences and perils involved, is just as blameworthy, and just as worthy of punishment, when the harmful result ensues, as is the express intent to kill itself. This highly blameworthy state of mind is not one of mere negligence. It is not merely one even of gross criminal negligence. It involves rather the deliberate perpetration of a knowingly dangerous act with reckless and wanton unconcern and indifference as to whether anyone is harmed or not. The common law treats such a state of mind as just as blameworthy, just as anti-social and, therefore, just as truly murderous as the specific intents to kill and to harm.

Baltimore Police Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. drove the van that transported Freddie Gray to jail. Goodson didn’t secure Gray’s safety and during this rough ride, Gray suffered the spinal cord injury that killed him. Goodson acted with reckless indifference to life and was charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder.

Gray’s body flailed, tossed, shattered, died. Say it for Freddie Gray. Depraved-heart murder.

Depraved-heart murder. Say it about Gov. Rick Snyder and officials in Flint, Michigan who knew that water flowing into homes contained lead, yet made pronouncements that this water was safe to consume. Say it about criminal acts that destroyed the presents and futures of children affected by lead-contaminated water.

Depraved-heart murder. Say it for little Carlina Lankford whose mother Tiana said, “My youngest daughter is almost two. She’s been drinking that water her whole life.” Tiana is a single mom with three children and works full time. Carlina was formula fed. Tiana used bottled water until she ran out and then she made the formula with tap water. To kill bacteria, she boiled the water. “No one told her boiling the water could make things worse by concentrating the lead.”

Depraved-heart murder. Depraved-heart murderers. U.S. Empire, propagandizing, invading a path of brutality throughout the world. Collateral damage. The child who washes up on a beach fleeing a war-ravaged country with his parents. Troop suicides. Traumatic head injuries. Depraved-heart murder and murderers. Among these are men and women elected to act on our behalf but instead represent the interests of Wall Street, the barbarous multinational corporation CEOs and board members that create toxins that destroy our ecosystem. This is the “deliberate perpetration of a knowingly dangerous act with reckless and wanton unconcern and indifference as to whether anyone is harmed or not.” And human beings always are harmed. Say it. Depraved. Heart. Murder.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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