Accidental Murder

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Pi: I swear, that was an accident.

Ennesby: Congratulations. You just invented "negligent regicide."

Accidental Murder occurs when a situation that wasn't intended to be lethal ends with the death of someone anyway. Occasionally, this happens because a fight just goes too far (Bob and Alice start fighting, and the fight gets more heated than anyone suspects, and Alice ends up braining Bob with a heavy object or accidentally knocking him onto something sharp... and she doesn't realize he's dead until its over). Other times, this happens when innocent bystanders are caught up in someone else's fight and are dead before anyone else realizes they are there (Bob and Alice are fighting; Carol, a friend to both, tries to break it up and gets accidentally shot while Bob and Alice are wrestling for a gun). And sometimes there's no fighting involved at all; the person who dies is killed because the unintentional killer does something stupid.

Either way, it's simple bad luck for the dead guy, and for his killer. No one was meant to die, but someone died anyway. The ultimate result of an Accidental Murder varies. Bob killing Carol (or Alice killing Bob) may cause him to become The Atoner, or make a Deal with the Devil to bring her Back From the Dead. Often the character who committed the Accidental Murder will vow to become a pacifist, although it may just be the first step down a slippery slope of murder and mayhem. In real life, this type of death isn't actually called murder because murder requires an intent to kill. Instead it's either the lesser crime of manslaughter or not a crime at all and just a very unfortunate accident.

See also I Didn't Mean to Kill Him, which is usually what Bob tells the police when he's arrested. Compare to Murder by Mistake, where Bob had every intention of killing Alice, but for some reason ended up killing Carol.

Legal note: By definition, in most legal systems "murder" requires that the death was intended by the killer (or at least was the result of deliberately inflicted injuries). In the most of the situations described above, the charge would probably be manslaughter. However, that makes for a less evocative title.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Accidental Murder include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Inverted by Rurouni Kenshin. A bad guy manages to push Kenshin to the point where he reverts to Battousai and starts killing people, the first in line being said bad guy. Only it turns out that the sword Kenshin used was the other Reverse Blade Sword, meaning Kenshin has committed accidental non-murder.
    • Kenshin also accidentally kills his first wife, Yukishiro Tomoe, before the beginning of the series, which is what motivates him to give up killing in the first place.
  • Wolf's Rain:
    • Tobe unintentionally killed his elderly human owner/grandma.
    • Later he kills a girl's pet hawk.
  • In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the rules specifically state that Thou Shalt Not Kill, but also that if a fighter is accidentally killed in battle, their opponent won't be held accountable. This plays into one episode's plot, where Sai Saici is hounded by a Back From the Dead fighter who died while fighting Sai's grandfather and wanted vengeance.
  • in Fairy Tail Zeref can do this by standing to close to people. Understandably, his arival marks the end of the manga's days as a Nobody Can Die story
    • Simon would like to have a word with you about that.


Film[edit | hide]

  • In Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror, Snoop Dogg's character, Devon accidentally kills his sister, and sells his soul, becoming the Hound of Horror in exchange for her life.
  • In Walk Hard, Dewey Cox accidentally cuts his brother in half with a machete. Later, his father cuts himself in half...
  • In Pulp Fiction, Butch accidentally kills another boxer in the ring, though he shows no remorse for it.
  • In The Film of the Book Rebecca, Maxim accidentally killed Rebecca, his first wife; he got angry and pushed her, and she fell and struck her head. In the original novel he shot her, very much on purpose. In defense of the husband she had it coming. To the point of taunting him into doing it.
  • In Daniel Deronda, Gwendolen hesitates just...one...moment too long when her Asshole Victim husband, Grandcourt, falls off their boat. He drowns, although she does make a belated effort to save him.
  • In Magnolia, a very convoluted, accidental murder is shown in one of the tales at the start of the film. A boy attempts to commit suicide by jumping from the roof of his building. His attempt would have failed as he would have been saved by the safety netting below, installed by window washers but... he is fatally shot with a shotgun, fired by his mother, as he passes their window on the way down. She was threatening the boy's father with the shotgun when it unexpectedly goes off. She later tells the police she that it was never kept loaded and that she and her husband often threaten each other with it all the time but... a friend of the boy's says that the boy, having his fill of his parent constant arguing, had loaded the gun the sixs day before, hoping something would happen during the next argument.
    • That story was recounted in a Homicide: Life on the Streets episode, and is probably older than that.
  • Practical Magic has Sally putting belladonna into Jimmy Angelov's tequila to put him to sleep. Without something to put the safe amount in, she puts in too much and poisons him.
  • In Tokyo Zombie, Mii-chan and Fujio's accidentally kill their boss by hitting him on the head with a fire extinguisher.
  • In Twelve and Holding, Jeff and Kenny accidentally kill Rudy while trying to burn his treehouse down.
  • In Very Bad Things the titular action kicking off a slew of death and destruction was the accidental death of a prostitute on a bathroom towel hook during coitus.
  • In the original Halloween II a speeding cop isn't able to brake in time and winds up hitting the drunken Ben Tramer, slamming him against a parked vehicle.
    • In Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers a group of vigilantes accidentally shoot to death parkgoer Ted Hollister, thinking he might have been Michael.
    • Laurie seemingly kills Michael by chopping his head off with an axe in H20, only for the sequel to reveal that Laurie actually killed a paramedic whose larynx Michael had crushed before knocking him out and switching clothes with him.
    • In the remake Patty tries to blast Michael with a shotgun during his escape from Smith's Grove. Michael grabs an earlier downed guard and uses him as shield.
  • In Superstar, Mary Katherine Gallagher's parents were killed by their step dancing group stomping them to death accidentally during a performance, when the music was accidentally sped up.
  • Subverted in The Skulls, where Luke's best friend Will ends up dead, and he suspects his new friend Caleb. He watches the security tapes, and sees Will fall off a ledge to the floor below (which isn't enough to kill him), but Caleb grabs his legs to try to save him. He doesn't hold on, and Will falls on his head, and a cracking sound can be heard. Caleb assumes he accidentally broke Will's neck and leaves. However, Luke then continues watching and realizes Will is still alive, until Caleb's father's men arrive and finish off Will.
  • A running gag in The Little Shop of Horrors: all the murders committed by Seymour are accidental, even if he does feed the bodies to his man-eating plant. (Not so in The Musical.)
  • Partial example: In The Lion King, this is how Scar tries to convince Simba that Mufasa's death was his fault, and later tries to convince the rest of the pride of this. (Though, of course, it was actually Scar's fault.)


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the Dutch novel, film, and musical Ciske de Rat, the title character is only 11 years old when he accidentally kills his mother.
  • In Salamandastron, two weasels (who have taken refuge in Redwall Abbey) start playing with bows and arrows from a sports competition, until they accidentally shoot Father Hal in the neck, prompting them to flee out of fear of retribution. They end up accidentally framing the protagonist, who stumbles across the abandoned bows and is caught while picking them up.
  • In a flashback in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Albus Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and Aberforth (or any combination thereof) accidentally kill Dumbledore's sister during a duel.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: In one of the short stories in Oathblood, Tarma accidentally kills the lord of Viden when he attacks her because he's drunk and he tripped over Worrl's tail.
  • In The Drowning of Stephen Jones, the murder of Stephen Jones is CHARGED as accidental manslaughter. It wasn't, but hey, the judge said so.
  • Done by Parrish in Parrish Plessis. When Parrish attempts to rescue the kidnapped Wombebe, she ends up accidentally killing the poor kid herself with an explosion that was intended as a diversion.
  • In The History of Middle Earth, Fëanor sets fire to ships and accidentally kills his own son.
  • In Billy Budd, the title character accidentally strikes the villain to death. The bastard deserved it though.
  • Marsh opens an unstable Threshold for him and Lewis to escape through, and slams it shut after them. Unfortunately, their pursuer was already half-way through at the time.
  • At the end of Ender's Game, it is revealed that Ender had previously killed the school bully he fought in kindergarten, and later Bonzo in Battle School.
  • In the first book of The Hunger Games, Peeta goes to collect some berries. However, his partner points out they are poisonous. A few moments later, Foxface (another contestant in the Hunger Games) dies after stealing some supplies from the duo after seeing Peeta pick the berries.
  • Happens in the Lord Darcy case, "The Ipswitch Phial".


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Heroes: Isaac and Peter are fighting, intending to kill each other; then Simone walks in and get shot by accident.
  • An episode of CSI involves the murder of a famous poker player known as the Candyman. Several people want to get back at him for something, but none claim to kill him. One drink server admits to putting eyedrops in his drink, but only to give him diarrhea. The connection is that the Candyman's favorite table munchies were a certain type of chocolate piece made from chocolate from West Africa, where they still use leaded gasoline. Thus, there was enough lead in his system to interact with the eyedrops and spiked his blood pressure enough to kill him; thus, literal death by chocolate.
    • Another episode deals with a college student who goes missing the night she is supposed to return home. It turns out she was cleaning out her dorm room, went to empty her trash, and accidentally dropped the trashcan down the chute. Knowing she wouldn't get her security deposit back if the trashcan was missing, she tried to retrieve it from the outside Dumpster. Unfortunately for her, a passing motorist just so happened to accidentally ram the Dumpster at the precise moment she had climbed up the back and was leaning into it, pinning her between it and a back wall and crushing her. She later fell into the Dumpster where she bled to death. Her body was fed unnoticed into the trash compactor.
      • Her parents refuse to listen to this explanation, convinced that she was murdered by someone. Of course, it's human nature to want to blame something (or someone) specific instead of a series of unlikely events. Grissom is actually confused by this, as facts are everything to him.
    • And then we have the guy who slipped on Jello and in the process accidentally stabbed his wife with a shard of glass.
    • Also the Season Two episode where two men got into a heated argument over the sale of their shared-ownership land, and the first punched the second in the chest—unwittingly causing a cardiac arrhythmia and basically stopping his heart.
    • Then there was the Firing in the Air a Lot case where a stray bullet shot accidentally into the air (instead of a target in the shooter's backyard) ended up killing someone halfway across town.
    • In early seasons, especially, these types of accidental slayings were pretty common. Especially when perpetrated by a guileless party, like a child or someone just going about his business. Sometimes it would cause the investigators to angst over the necessity of upholding the law despite their sympathy for the "murderer."
    • A shootout in a mini-mart results in all the crooks dead. Unfortunately, an innocent bystander is also shot during the firefight. It turns out that the cop was aiming for the crook who was running and shot at him at the exact moment he was passing the bystander. The bullet hit the crook, came out the other side, and killed the woman. The cop got a commendation for his actions.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Warren tries to knock Katrina out by hitting her over the head, but she dies.
    • Earlier in the show, an Accidental Murder is the cause of Faith's Face Heel Turn.
    • And then there's the worst case of a Type 2; Warren wildly fires into the air after having shot Buffy, hitting Tara through the window and driving Willow insane with grief.
  • In Lost, after hearing whispers in the forest, Ana Lucia accidentally shoots Shannon. Later on, while Michael kills Ana in cold blood to let Benjamin Linus escape, he sees Libby shoots her in the panic.
  • On Castle, it turned out the murder victim was having an argument with a client that was angry, but not bloodthirsty, and the killer pushed her backwards—not realizing she would fall and be impaled on the spikes of a tiny garden.
  • In Misfits the protagonists have ended up killing multiple people, and would have killed more if Curtis hadn't rewound time to prevent them killing their third probation worker.
  • In Bones, a man is killed while having an argument with a colleague, who pushes him, not realizing that there is a plane propeller spinning up behind the former. This would not be a murder, except the accidental killer and his wife then decide to cover it up by dropping the body from a plane.
  • This happens to Kenny in South Park where Stan and Wendy uncover Bebe's deep-lying conspiracy to get free shoes. Wendy and Bebe end up fighting for a gun, and after several seconds, a shot fires out. Wendy and Bebe both back away ... but neither is injured. We then cut to Kenny eating dinner with his family, when the bullet manages to hit him.
  • In The Practice, Bobby hires a hitman to intimidate exonerated (but guilty) serial killer William Hinks into ceasing his harassment of Lindsay, but the hitman kills Hinks instead. Bobby is legally responsible for Hinks' death regardless of his instructions to the hitman, but is acquitted anyway.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Romeo and Juliet - Tybalt kills Mercutio, bringing a plague on both Montagues and Capulets. Though it's up to the show whether their fight was in deadly earnest, or if they were just fooling around and it got out of hand. What everyone agrees on is that Romeo really messed it up.


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • In Twisted Metal: Black Agent Stone (Outlaw) accidentally kills a girl and her mother while taking out some terrorists. There's even an Empathy Doll Shot.
  • Persona 4: The first murder was a complete accident. The culprit was trying to rape the victim when he accidentally pushed her into the TV.
  • Persona 3: Shinjiro learned the hard way about losing control of your powers. When chasing a Shadow, he lost control and ended up killing an innocent woman. Who left behind a vengeful son. Tragedy ensues.
  • In Mafia II Joe Barbaro gets drunk after his friend is killed and starts waving his gun in the bar. When situation appears under control, Joe suddenly slams angrily his gun against the table accidentally pulling the trigger and killing the barman.
  • At the climax of Silent Hill Homecoming, Alex finally remembers that Josh has been Dead All Along, and his own role in it. During a fishing trip in a nearby lake, Alex, finally fed up with how his parents had always neglected him in favor of Josh, gets into an argument with Josh over their family's signet ring. During the argument, Alex accidently knocks Josh off the boat, breaking his neck in the process. The final boss, Amnion, is essentially a manifestation of both Alex's guilt over Josh's death, and Josh's desire for Alex to accept responsibility for his role in it.
  • In the CSI Nintendo DS game: One case involves the team investigating the the death if a man who apparently got impaled on the sword of a statute. It turns out that a man who was angry at the victim stabbed him with a knife with the intent to harm but not kill. The victim in, drank some wine to calm himself which caused his body to go numb. While walking around on a balcony overlooking the statue, the victim, due to this injury and the state of his body caused by the injury, falls over the side and is impaled on the sword of the statue. The man who stabbed the victim gets arrested for causing the man's death through his actions.
  • This happens quite often in Survival of the Fittest. A notable example during V4 is Kris Hartmann getting spooked by Reika Ishida and shooting her in the chest. Eric Lorenz's death at the hands of Alex Rasputin was also accidental.
    • In V3, Abel Williams is accidentally tripped up by Michael Anders and falls over... hitting his head on a rock and dying.
  • In The Reconstruction, after Dehl's father snaps and tries to kill everyone while searching for a cure to the Blue Plague, he is about to kill Dehl when Dehl's magic powers manifest. This knocks him back and into a sword he left lying around. Also a case of Offing the Offspring and Self-Made Orphan.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In The Boondocks, Granddad accidentally kills Colonel H. Stinkmeaner in the rematch to their fight. While everyone assumed Stinkmeaner had a Disability Superpower, he turned out to just be a blind, old man who got lucky.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Moses tries to stop an Egyptian from beating a slave and (possibly) accidentally shoves him off a multi-storied scaffold.
    • Note that this is Bowdlerizing the original story somewhat: in the Bibilical account, Moses deliberately killed the Egyptian in question.
  • In an episode of The Real Adventures Of Johnny Quest, a man and a woman were arguing and the man accidentally pushed the woman down the stairs and killed her (broken neck). How did he cover it? By burying her in a wall.