With Mass Murderers the Tragedy May Be Heinous, But It’s Rarely Senseless

Many Rampage Killers Have Strikingly Similar Motives

When the news of a mass shooting breaks, there are often three questions that come to mind: How many people are dead? Who was the shooter? What was their motive?

The last question is one that tends to engage the media, and bleed into the minds of the public.

Motive (from the Latin word motivum, meaning “moving cause”) is what moves a person to commit a certain act. In U.S. criminal law, there is no requirement to prove motive to reach a verdict. However, motive may be shown by the …

Americans Mostly Kill the Ones We Know

For All the Media Obsession With Mass Shootings, Homicides in the U.S. Are Most Often About Familiarity and Contempt

Turn on your television in the coming months, and you will see and hear just how much Americans fear strangers and guns.

Yet when it comes to violent crime, especially …

The Morality of Murder

The ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Attackers, Like So Many People Who Use Violence, Probably Thought They Were Acting Righteously

The Charlie Hebdo massacre was utterly despicable. To nearly everyone, including nearly all Muslims, what the perpetrators did was a terrible moral transgression. From everything I’ve read about the events, …

I Covered San Francisco’s Bloody November of ’78

After the Murder of My Colleague and the Mayor's Assassination, I Kept Writing

I awoke before dawn on November 19, 1978, nearly 900 miles away from the city desk of the San Francisco Examiner, where I worked. As I stepped from the shower, …

Meet the Philip Marlowe of 15th-Century Paris

At a Time When Detective Work Meant Putting Suspects on the Rack, a Meticulous Sleuth Untangled a Political Conspiracy and Changed the Course of History

On a chilly, moonless Parisian night, Jacquette Griffard was putting her baby to bed when she heard shouts in the street: “Kill him!”

This shoemaker’s wife looked down from her upper-story …

When Killers Target Kids

The Science of Empathy Grapples with the Unthinkable

As shock gives way to mourning and to attempts to make sense of an unthinkable act of violence in Newtown, Connecticut–an event that’s sadly less isolated than we would hope–we …