Ronald Opus
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This article is written by  Suman Chatterjee Team LawSikho.

In 1987, then president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Dr Don Harper Mills, shared a particular story where the medical examiner fell into a huge dilemma whether to rule a death as a murder or a suicide. 

It was a logical paradox but what really got my attention was the deeper meaning hidden with it. 

Here’s the CliffsNotes version of it:

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The medical examiner faced a dilemma when he received the body of Ronald Opus killed by a shotgun to his head. Now, what’s so tricky about that, right? This is where the story starts getting more and more complicated.

Opus was killed by the shot while committing suicide. He lept off the top of a 10 story building and was killed while in mid-air. Was this a suicide or a murder?

Now, if someone is killed by any external factor while committing suicide, it would still be considered a suicide. This is assuming that the person was certain to die from the suicide attempt. 

Was Opus supposed to die though? Unbeknownst to Opus, a net had been installed on the 8th floor to protect window washers from falling. As a result, it was concluded that since Opus had a chance of survival, it was a murder.

That’s where things got even more interesting.

It was discovered that the shooter was an elderly man who was quarrelling with his wife and in anger, pointed the gun at her. Accidently, the gun was shot and while missing the aim at his wife, the bullet hit Opus freefalling outside the window instead. 

As such, the elderly man was charged with murder because he had the motive to kill and also fired the weapon that killed someone else. 

Was he? Both he and his woman who he shot at said that the gun was supposed to be empty. It was his habit to point the gun in such manner during quarrels, and even his friends and family can attest to it.

How come the gun was loaded then? Whoever loaded the gun might have had a sinister plan? It was discovered that the elderly man’s son whose allowance was cut off by his mother, the man’s wife, conspired the murder of his mother. He knew about the bad habit of his father and was expecting that his father would accidentally shoot his mother during one of such arguing spells. 

So, going by this logic, the son was the murderer, isn’t it? Here comes another turn in the story.

When the elderly man was asked for his son’s name to arrest him, the man answered, “Ronald Opus”.

So, Opus himself loaded the gun that killed him? 

Was this a murder or a suicide? 

The medical examiner ruled it was a suicide. 

But the man shot his son?! How would you decide a death where the dying person was the principal but the agent was someone else? I am not going into the argument here since it is outside the scope of this email.

What interests me though is the utter confusion as to who is to blame in this case. It’s crystal clear yet hazy enough to confuse the best of minds. You might even come up with logic along with relevant case laws, as to why it was a murder or a suicide. 

Deep inside, there will remain a question—a nagging doubt of its accuracy and applicability. 


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This is how it happens in life too. 

Sometimes, it is not clear who the culprit is behind a disaster. Many people might have been directly or indirectly involved in bringing it about, and to blame one would be ill-thought and plain wrong. 

I am talking about this because I have seen many students come up with so many excuses in their lives about why they would not be able to able to succeed in making their dreams come true.

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Trust me when I say that most of these excuses are pointing fingers at others—it might be their parents, their university or their luck!

This type of thinking is toxic to start with. The first thought that comes up is how you are going to keep blaming the thing that you do all your life. Is it going to give you the results you want? Of course, not. 

What happens when your parents pass away? Who would you blame then? What happens when you are well past your college-years and facing a mid-life crisis? Would you still give the non-NLU excuse to your spouse and your family? Would you still continue to blame the lines on your palm for all your failures and lack of trials? 

Nope. You can’t. You won’t.

Life will move on, and your excuses, whatever they are, will feel foolish and baseless after a certain time. But that’s not what this article is about.

Are you sure who is to be blamed?

Go back to the Ronald Opus story and read it again. 

Who is to be blamed for his death? Is it his father, his mother or himself?

Confusing, right?

In real life too, it is often unsure who the real culprit is. 

Think hard and long. Are you sure that you haven’t left any stones unturned? Just like the blame ultimately fell on Opus himself, are you sure the blame is not going to fall on you eventually? 

In the process of pointing your fingers at others, what if you forgot to point it at yourself? 

If you are nodding your head right now and vociferously refuting this, saying that things were never under your control, that you did everything you could, I agree with you.

For some, every factor affecting the circumstances might be so against you that you probably could not do anything about it. 

Even if you try with all your heart and soul, you probably lost the game before you even started playing.

But situations do not stay the same always, right? Maybe the wind was blowing against you at that time. It might not at this very moment. What are you doing to overcome the challenges today? 

I have seen enough non-NLU lawyers reach the zenith of success by dint of hard work, commitment and perseverance. I have also seen enough NLU lawyers lead relatively mediocre careers because they did not put in their 200 per cent as their other peers did. 

I, myself, went through a hard time and from my own personal experience, I can tell you that things started to take a turn for the better when I finally took the responsibility of my life on myself and stopped giving excuses and putting the blame on others.

What are you going to do now?

John Wooden said, “You can make mistakes but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes.”

Now, you might not have made a mistake per se but the fact that you still choose to put the blame of not producing the results you want on someone or something else is a MISTAKE. What should you do instead?

Are you satisfied with your growth in your legal career? If yes, great.

But if you need help, if things are not moving along, ask us. We can help you out with rapid learning and career growth, even during COVID.

You have two options ahead of you.

Either do what you are doing right now and continue to get the same results all over again.

Or, decide to do something different instead.

Like, giving our career counsellors a call on 011 4084 5203 or comment below to this article, stating your phone number and a message “I need help with my career.”

The choice is yours.

To your success.

P. S. LawSikho is running hour-long webinars every day. Want to learn how to improve your learning skills? Prepare an LLM application to a foreign university? Career opportunities in new, upcoming areas of law? Don’t miss these high-quality webinars with industry and academic experts. 

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