In the courts, ascertaining motive or intent is an integral part of the legal process. The determination of a person’s motive can mean the difference between the death penalty, life in prison, a long sentence, a short sentence, and freedom. When Cain slew Abel there was no hiding his jealous intent from God and God chose the punishment that fit the crime.
I watched a program the other night, interestingly about two brothers. One was in custody for killing the other and he claimed that his brother attacked him and his only motive for the killing was self defense. Since the court doesn’t have God’s omnipotence, the judge had to listen to testimony from the prosecution as to why they didn’t believe it was self defense and from the defense as to why it was most certainly self defense. It was interesting watching the process. In the end the judge granted the the claim that it was self defense, basically saying that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove otherwise. The brother was set free.
When constructing a suspense or mystery novel involving a crime, motive makes the whole story more believable, but it may be murky at first in order to keep the mystery strong and compelling. I’ve heard it said in writing classes that there are three main motives for murder: love, money, or to cover up a crime. While those are the big three, I would add a couple more, revenge for one. The recent incidents here in California with Christopher Dorner indicate that the motive for his murderous rampage was revenge. Gang members will sometimes murder random subjects or rival gang members to prove themselves to the gang. Terrorists kill to incite terror. There is also a small segment of criminals who commit murder for the “thrill” or the perceived notoriety the crime will give them.
But what if there is no clear motive? In the Star Trek spin off, Voyager, Tuvok, a Vulcan (all logic, no emotion) is the ships security officer. In one episode there is a murder on board the star ship. When Tuvok finds the murderer and the murderer can’t tell him why he committed the crime, Tuvok goes a little nuts; he can’t conceive of such a crime being committed with out a motive. But then Vulcans are ruled by logic while killers seldom are. Yes, most crimes probably have a clear motive, but some make an investigator scratch their head. I remember handling a homicide where the manager of an apartment building was shot and killed simply because he asked a drunk man to stop urinating in the ivy in front of the building. The drunk was angry, but he was also drunk which made something that might have been only a shouting match turn into a homicide. People can be murdered over the stupidest things. When the drunk sobered up I wonder if he regretted taking someone’s life for absolutely no reason.
No clear motive would make a crime harder to solve. If you interview ten people knowing one was the murderer, but not knowing which one, you’d need a motive to narrow the field. Without God marking the killer like Cain, a random killing with no discernible motive would be tough for any cop to solve.
Trivia question: In the book of Numbers, God deals with murder and motive, or lack thereof. He cites specific instructions for dealing with those who kill accidentally as well as for those who kill with intent. What makes a difference to God in these situations, in other words, what does God cite as showing malicious intent on the part of the slayer?
Cite chapter and verse, and only from Numbers, the translation I use is the New Living Translation.