What does it feel like to murder someone?

 

"Without a doubt this is probably the most personal question I think I could ever answer. This is a question I have been asking myself for a very long time now, and I am just coming to grips with the answers I have found. To say my answer is complex, and that I am going to have difficulties expressing exactly how I have felt, and still feel about murdering someone, is an understatement.

I guess the beginning would be the best place to start. When I took another man's life I was just 19 years old. Looking back now, I can honestly say I felt immense peer pressure to go through with the murder. I felt like I would be seen as a weak punk if I let another man get over on me.

I was a drug dealer, and I felt I had a reputation to uphold. I can see all this now, but at the time I could see none of this. I realise now I was in a very bad place in life. I was in the midst of a serious drug addiction. I felt worthless and unworthy of love, so in return I placed little value on my life or on the life of anyone else. All of these feelings made me feel so powerless in life, I lashed out.

My lashing out cost another human his life. I am ashamed to admit it, but at the time I felt a great weight was lifted off my shoulders when I pulled the trigger. I felt like I had finally stood up for myself. I was completely irrational. I realise now it is like my friend David Monroe always says, "Hurt people, hurt people". I was really hurting and I didn't know how to ask for help.

I continued to justify my actions for a long time, but somewhere deep inside I have always known that there was never any justice in taking someone's life. Admitting to myself I was feeling scared, lonely, unworthy of love and respect was just too hard.

Also, by admitting these feelings, I would also have to come to grips with what I really did, and how I affected the world. This was a hard prospect for me, but I am finally there over 15 years later.

Now I feel sadness over murdering someone. I feel I have robbed my victim's family of the most precious thing in life. I feel immense sorrow for this. I feel I have robbed my family out of truly ever knowing me. I feel like I have created fear in my community. I feel that I have done the world a great disservice, and that I owe a debt that I can never fully repay. I am full of guilt and shame over my actions. I never want anyone else to feel the way I do."

Tommy Winfrey, inmate at San Quentin State Prison, California

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This answer, facilitated by volunteers as inmates do not have access to the internet, comes from The Last Mile San Quentin, a programme of paid internships for recently released convicts

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