Death metal on trial in Billings murder case


Prosecutors in Jeffery Todd Guy’s murder trial say he followed the occult. Or death metal. Whichever makes him look worse.

On March 20, Jeffery Todd Guy allegedly opened fire at the Billings, Montana home of Scott Maxson. Police say he fired his .45-caliber Mac-10 semiautomatic pistol at least six times, killing Maxson. Guy called the police the next morning to report a dead body in the alley behind his house. Two weeks ago, he told a Billings courtroom that he shot the man in self-defense.

In recent articles about Guy’s case, it isn’t clear how — or if — Guy and Maxson knew each other before the incident. These days, prosecutors and defense attorneys are more busy bickering about his personal interests anyway:

[Deputy County Attorney Dave] Carter also said that Guy led a “double life” revolving around his belief in the occult. While his mother and family were unaware of his satanic beliefs, Guy “prominently displayed idols and literature on the subject” in his home, Carter said in court records.

[Public Defender Christopher] Abbott argued that the items in Guy’s home were associated with Guy’s interest in rock music commonly known as “death metal,” which often uses images of Satan and the occult.

There is no connection, Abbott said, between Guy’s interest in music culture and his potential danger to the community.

Well, at least the defense attorney said that Guy’s taste in music has nothing to do with whether or not he committed the crime. But this whole back-and-forth poses a lot of potential problems. Among them:

1. The prosecutor managed to plant the idea that Guy is into the occult, and was somehow “leading a double life” by hiding it from his family. (If these items were openly displayed in his home, why didn’t his family know about them? Did they never visit?) Once again, this links the idea of “the occult” and violence/homicide in the minds of the public.

2. The defense brought up Guy’s interest in death-metal music. Even though the attorney sounds like he intended to make Guy’s music tastes a non-issue, now he has created an association between “death-metal fan” and “man on trial for murder.”

3. The reporter for the Billings Gazette repeated all this in his coverage of the court hearing, without much in the way of explanation. By being suggestive, and by not clarifying, he’s legitimizing what the attorneys are saying.

Meanwhile, as regular readers of this blog know, death-metal music doesn’t make anyone into a killer, nor does an interest in the occult. Whether or not Guy was acting in self-defense remains to be seen. Either way, Guy has a right to like whatever music he likes, and follow whatever faith he likes, without those interests being suspect if he’s ensnared in a criminal trial.

What if Guy had been a fan of opera? Or country music? Do you think it would have come up in court?

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2 responses to “Death metal on trial in Billings murder case

  1. The problem with ‘death metal’ in a murder case is that it *seems* relevant based upon the genre name. If it were called ‘butterfly rock’ instead, it would attract a lot less attention. Have we considered rebranding ‘death metal’ to something less of a lightning rod for media attention – or was the intention of death metal always to shock, awe, and draw attention to its symbolism, fashion, and marketing? If only teens today would reject labels and genres imposed by corporate marketing interests, they might be more open-minded about the fine qualities of opera. Country music has no fine qualities besides repetition and social warnings about the fickle loyalties of trucks, drink, and honky-tonk women.

  2. Pingback: Another “Death Metal” Murder… Sigh… « The Erosion of Freedom

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