To meet its burden the state must prove
mens rea (culpable mind). It matters
what's in -- and not in -- the killer’s head.
Take negligent homicide.
Stu ought not have been texting
that time his rider mower trespassed
into the kids' birthday party next door,
but no one was more shocked
at what happened than Stu.
Reckless indifference to human life
(manslaughter) is more blameworthy still.
After robbing the convenience store,
Hugh meant no harm driving full-speed
at those pedestrians in the crosswalk
blocking his getaway. Most of them
made it to safety.
Then there is intent to kill, the worst,
when you think about the death
of your victim and plan it.
Like that time long ago when you thought
about hoisting your ex-girlfriend in your arms
and racing head-first towards the wall?
That was no plan, you insist,
just a shameful fantasy in the depths
of humiliation and jealousy
and loneliness and despair.
Hell, you couldn't even lift her.
And besides, if no bad act is committed
then it's no harm no foul no crime.
That dear impossible woman still lives,
I am -- I mean, you are -- able to say.
Roger reads "You Didn't Mean to Kill Anyone":
Roger confesses: "I have not committed a violent felony since I was a boy. 'You Didn't Mean to Kill Anyone' takes its tone from Alfred Hitchcock’s weekly introductions to his old TV series, which long ago found a home in my guilty poet's mind."