Vinyl (HBO): Is Richie Finestra A Murderer?

Richie Finestra, Guilty or Innocent (#vinylHBO)?

Of all the thousands of things I said over the span of Season One of Vinyl (HBO), nothing seems to have rankled people more than my insistence that Richie Finestra is a murderer. Even yesterday, weeks removed from the finale, I got this comment:

Lother ZoggA day ago on Vinyl (HBO) Episode 3: "Record...

"Why do you keep insisting that Richie is a killer? He didn't kill Frank Rogers, Bo Dietl's character, Joe Corso did. He was there, and committed the crime of being an accessory, but he murdered no one."

I don't mean to sound grumpy at all, I truly appreciate the comment and have no problem agreeing to disagree, however, I also wanted to respect his question with a more detailed answer. 

So, I guess that this is as good a time as any to answer Lother and the many other people who have asked me this question (one guy on Reddit was particularly mad I kept calling Richie a murderer, to which I say again that it is nothing personal).

Why I Call Richie Finestra A "Murderer"

So, why do I think Richie is a murderer? The fatal event happens after radio DJ Frank "Buck" Rogers (Andrew "Dice" Clay) tries to kiss Richie Finestra (Bobbly Cannavale). It is a long bizarre scene somewhat reminiscent of the scene in PT Anderson's "Boogie Nights" with Alfred Molina and the firecrackers. Basically, after a long bit of craziness, Buck tries to kiss Richie and Richie attacks him. At the end of this altercation, Buck is dead.

Even Richie admitted, in a late-season conversation with Joe Corso (Bo Dietl), that he was not sure who landed the fatal blow on Frank "Buck" Rogers. If you watch the actual blow-by-blow (HBO has disabled embed's but, I will try to give you some screen shots), Joe Corso does get in all of the blows with heavy objects (At first with a trophy and then with what looks to be a decanter) but, remember, Richie started the assault and is landing blows throughout both halves of the fight.

So, I am pretty sure it would not be termed self-defense (more on this later) and it is hard to argue Richie had no murderous intent (he hits him and then says "I will fucking kill you several times before Joe restrains Richie until "Buck" strikes back). 

Buck then tackles Richie to the ground and starts choking Richie out, unable to pull Buck off of Richie Joe takes a trophy and hits Corso against the back of his head several times. They assume he is dead.

Richie says "What Did You Do" and Corso responds "What did I do, you started it." Richie says, "Yeah, but I didn't mean to kill him (although he said clearly twice out loud that he would). But, Buck is not dead, and gets back up and attacks Richie from behind. This is when Corso picks up a decanter and clocks him again in the back of the head.

But, after Buck falls to the ground, Richie doesn't step back, he jumps on him and starts punching him over and over again in the face and head (this happens after Buck has clearly been rendered unconscious).

Now, I count 11 closed-fist blows to the head as he screams "Get Off Me" to a man who is clearly unconscious, any of those could have been the fatal blow. Yes, after this Joe finished things off by brutally smashing Buck's head several more times with the decanter but I don't think there is any question that Joe is also culpable (they both would be tried for murder IMHO).

Personally, I don't think there is a court or a prosecuting attorney in the United States that would not put Richie on trial for murder. I have watched the scene at least 20 times, and it seems pretty clear that he had murderous intent, that he could easily have landed the deadly blow, and that therefore the only question is what degree murder he would be charged with.

Here is the thing I don't get about the questions (and I have been peppered with this over and over throughout the year) is why people care so much who the "technical" murderer was (who landed the fatal blow). As I said to Lother, even if you are 100% right, Richie still attempted murder and, at best, would face manslaughter charges. So, why does his violent attack and pummeling of Buck make Richie somehow "awesome" 

I guess I wonder why this is anything but a minor degree of difference? My larger point was that Richie has so much anger and is so messed up that he is capable of great and terrible violence at virtually any time. There is NOTHING heroic about his behavior in this scene no matter if you call him "murderer" or "attempted murderer." 

Self-Defense From Frank "Buck" Rogers

At the time Buck tries to kiss Richie, he is no longer waving a gun around. The conditions for self-defense no longer apply to the moments after the kiss.

Richie could, maybe, claim it was self-defense, but the factors that would work against him are:

1) He initiated the violence

2) After he seemed to be rendered unconscious (no longer a threat) he continued to pummel him mercilessly.

I am not a lawyer, but I am pretty sure these factors (if the Court were aware of all the facts of the case we viewers have) would preclude a successful "self-defense" plea.

Anyway, that is my case against Richie. Even if I am wrong, I still think I am pretty much right (because even if he was not technically "THE" murderer - he was trying to be "A" murderer).

What do you think? Is Richie a murderer, and if not, why not? Let me here your arguments, leave a comment!