Green Mile - Was John Coffey a murderer?

I know that he was innocent of the mudrders that he was on jail for, but there is a question as to whether what he did to Percy and Bill Wharton could be considered murder. Granted they were both bad people, and granted Bill did commit the murders that Coffey was jailed for, but even so, he didn’t have the right to take the law into his own hands. He couldn’t have died with a clean conscience knowing that he was responsible for one man’s death and another’s insanity, no matter how deserving they were of their fate.

Do you think that what he did was murder, or should it be classified as something else?

NOTE: I haven’t read the book, only seen the movie, but it seems the actual events are the same so that one could speak of either.

After I saw this movie with my friends, I came to the same conclusion (that he committed murder), and even argued with my friends that the movie was very pro-death penalty because of these events. Upon further reflection, I think it’s a little more difficult to say that, since the situation’s not realistic enough to judge John Coffey as an individual.

In other words, it depends on what you think of the characters.

If the characters were actual human beings, then John Coffey did something that caused them to die, perhaps even with the knowledge that death could or would result; this makes him guilty of murder, or vigilante justice at best.

I didn’t find the characters real enough to say that, though, so the alternative as I see it is that John Coffey is simply an agent of justice, not an individual at that point. It’s a case of the bad side getting what they deserve. An addition to this that alters Mr. Coffey’s position somewhat is the consideration (if I’m remembering rightly) that he transferred the evil thing (the flies-type stuff which had been cancer) from the innocent (somebody’s wife) to the guilty; in other words he’s working for both balance in the universe and justice.

In the end, I simply conclude that I didn’t like the movie much (for various reasons, chiefly that I had a limited amount of time to see my friends and was sad to waste so much of it at that movie) and that it was ultimately mute on the death penalty, except for the suggestion that one should use sponges for electrocutions.

Thanks for bothering to reply, panamajack. As for the rest of you…you’re no fun anymore.

I don’t want you to think I’m no fun, even if I’m not. I just saw the movie last night and enjoyed it tremendously. I kind of thought that their response to whatever was breathed into them was a result of their own evil consiousness. I dunno, I just liked it.

haven’t seen the movie. just thought i’d note that coffey is my mom’s maiden name. think i’m related? or were the names changed?

Ugh. I had to turn The Green Mile off after about fifteen or twenty minutes because, while it was beautifully filmed & looked like an interesting story, I used to get a lot of bladder infections & it was just too painful to watch.


I guess that says something about Tom Hanks’s acting ability.

This was my first thought too, but you have to take into consideration that it seems, to me anyway, that Coffey knew what was going to happen. If that’s the case, then he is guilty of causing Bill’s death, and thus murder. (Just as someone who orders a hit is guilty of murder even though they didn’t pull the trigger.) I don’t see this as a main point of the movie/book though.

It’s an interesting discussion in any case, and one that I must admit didn’t occur to me either while reading the book or watching the movie (both of which I enjoyed tremendously).

Why yes, you certainly are related to a fictional character. I believe John Coffey is your uncle.


Hmm… is it murder to kill someone on death row? I mean, they’re going to be killed anyway. What’s the difference in doing it before the set date.

Anyway, I don’t think someone who causes a murder is a murderer per se. A hitman doesn’t have to follow orders and kill someone. It is their decision to actually kill. Percy wasn’t forced to kill the other guy. He did it of his own accord after seeing in his own mind what was done to the two girls.

I also don’t think that John Coffey planned on causing the shooting. He just needed to get rid of some of the pain he was carrying around. I seem to remember him asking to do the same thing to Tom Hanks character, saying that it was hard for him to carry it all by himself. He wanted to get rid of the rest of it so that his last days would be without pain, and the only person he could cause that pain to without feeling bad was Percy.

Whatever, It’s a personal opinion whether you think it’s murder or not. I’m pretty sure the law says it’s not murder, but there are consequences for knowing that the murder would result. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I have facts that back this up. Just going by the fact that I’ve never seen someone prosecuted for murder who wasn’t accused of directly doing it.

o.k. take it back now

Yes. It’s legal (in some states) for the State to execute someone, but that doesn’t mean anyone can just walk up to them and kill them without repercussions.

**Well, I’m sure Rae Carruth wishes you were in the jury box right now as he is being chrged with 1st degree murder for arranging to have his girlfriend killed.

**Like I said, it appeared to me that he was aware of what was going to happen (he didn’t seem surprised in the least), so at the very least he’s guilty of negligent homocide.

Again, check the papers on former Carolina Panther wide receiver Rae Carruth. To see it in fiction, tune into The Practice which is covering this topic right now.