Watched Swan Song last week and Columbo says to Tommy Brown at the end something to the effect that his guilt would have gotten to him and Tommy agrees. I didn’t find that about Tommy Brown and don’t think he felt guilty at all. Who do you think would have been the killer most likely to confess out of pure guilt feelings had they not been caught by Columbo?
Carsini. He even tells Columbo at the end that he will confess.
I'd say Cahill. Did it to entirely protect his son
I think with Tommy Brown, the issue of conscience is more in the fact that because of his exposure to the whole Gospel movement that at some point the moral issue of committing murder would weigh on his conscience. It doesn't mean that he thinks Edna is any less evil, but that he knows that ultimately he can't hide from the fact he committed a terrible moral sin.
Do any killers ultimately have a conscience about *who* they killed? That I have to admit is a tough one. Adrian Carsini has no regrets about killing his brother. He never had much of a conscience IMO.
In A Friend In Deed, I think Hugh Caldwell wanted to do the right thing until he was forced to quid quo pro. Hugh: “I should have called the police.”
Halperin: “You DID my friend”.
Perhaps Vanessa Farrell in Columbo Likes the Nightlife would have confessed. The first killing was an accident and she was only an accessory before the fact for the second. And that was due to fear of Tony’s family. In any event, at least the men on the jury would have gone easy on her.
Overall, I think that most Columbo killers are psychopathic and plan the murder in great detail. They tend to be confident and smug and virtually challenge Columbo to catch them (i.e., Word game: TRAP!). As I was going through the list I was surprised at how few killers are remorseful.
I agree. Most of them are cold-blooded - Ken Franklin, Bart Keppel, Great Santini, Milo Janus, Eric Mason come to mind. Others do things in the heat of the moment - Brimmer in "Death Lends a Hand", Vanessa Fowler in "Columbo Likes the Nightlife". I think the killers who did their deeds in the heat of the moment would be more likely to have something of a conscience.
Carsini's murder was not pre-planned, either, but when he confessed he said he said there's no remorse attached to it. Carsini had been faced with the loss of the only thing he ever loved and reacted out of fear and anger. Then, the rest of his world began to fall apart. First, Columbo revealed that all his priceless wines had spoiled, making these huge investments worthless and then as Karen, ("quite the little Iron Maiden") began to turn the screws on him. He was caught and knew it, but really had no where else to go. He was really most concerned about the winery ("Who will take care of this when I'm gone?").
Others - such as Dr. Mark Collier ("A Deadly State of Mind") and Vivica Scott ("Lovely But Lethal") commit crimes in the heat of the moment, but later commit a second murder in a heartless manner, which makes me believe they really have no conscience and would never confess.
Thanks for the feedback. If I had to pick the most likely murderer whose conscience would eventually get to them it would be Ruth Lytton, especially if her niece were convicted and received life in prison. She seemed very cold blooded in how easily she killed her brother, but I still think it would eventually have gotten to her.
Ruth Lytton is an interesting case. She had a logical process to her where she seemed to want things to be done for the right reasons. It's why she turned off lights all the time to save money (which ultimately led to her capture), felt Columbo should tell Janie "it wasn't true" about her poisoning Janie's father with the chamomile tea and why she felt it was the right thing to kill her brother and Shaeffer. As to whether she would have let her conscience get to her - she did frame Janie by planting the belt buckle. (Perhaps she knew the evidence wouldn't stick). Would she confess to keep Janie from going to jail? Probably, because that wouldn't be the "right thing" to do. If anyone should be punished, it should be Ruth, as she was the one who committed the crimes.
Interesting topic, Irene!
In Lovely But Lethal, Viveca gives a pretty sad look as Shirley (who's her only DELIBERATE killing) drives away. It's hard to tell from that look just how bad she does or doesn't feel about it, but at least it's there.
I always found her goodbye to Shirley to be more of a sarcastic “little do you know this is a FINAL goodbye” look. It didn’t seem to have any remorse attached to it to me. I find many of the 2nd killings of the blackmailers or the people standing in the way of getting away with murder always turned those murderers into a person who feels justified that the 2nd victim brought it on them-self.