Friday, May 4, 2012

A Walk on The Dark Side

Gabriella Herkert
Catnapped and Doggone

I'm a little sorry I didn't get the week where we were talking about the ficitional characters we mourn the most.  This week we're delving into the real, a little too real, and there's more need for a shower than an eulogy.  I'm like everyone, I suppose.  I don't remember the names of the victims but the serial killers live on in infamy. They become psychic scars -- Jack the Ripper, Joseph Mengele, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Reynolds, Gary Gilmour, Charles Manson and on and on.  What do you ask these people?  Why did you do it? What did you get out of it? How did you pick your victims? How would you like to die?  For full disclosure, ritualistically, religiously, I'm a Liberal Quaker.  This may be too controversial for our regular blog but I don't believe in the death penalty -- ever. (I'm happy to talk about the whys to anyone who wants to ask). I only mention it because it colors the questions I would ask if I were sitting behind the glass at some supermax federal facility staring into the face of evil.

Ted Bundy, facing imminent execution in the state of Florida, granted a last minute interview to Dr. James Dobson.  You can find the entirety of the interview at

For this, I stripped down the Dobson's questions and eliminated the encouraging commentary as a starting place for my interview list.  I didn't want to include Bundy's answers.  Not just because it's not really part of the blog question but because I don't want to perpertuate him in cyberspace.  With that consideration, here's what I came up with:

Question: You are scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning at 7:00, if you don’t receive another stay. What is going through your mind? What thoughts have you had in these last few days?

Question: Are you guilty of the crimes you are charged with?.

Question: What are the antecedents of the behavior that we’ve seen? Were you raised in an unhealthy home?  Abused?
Question: Where were you first exposed to images of violence?

Question: Did you understand the difference between fantasy and reality?

Question: What made you step over the line between fantasy and reality?

Question: How long did you stay at the place between fantasy and reality before you actually assaulted someone?

Question: Do you remember what pushed you over that edge? Do you remember the decision to “go for it”? Do you remember where you decided to throw caution to the wind?

Question: Would it be accurate to call that a sexual frenzy?

Question: After you committed your first murder, what was the emotional effect? What happened in the days after that?

Question: Did you know you were capable of murder before you killed someone?

Question: Do you think one murder was morally worse than another?

Question: Are you surprised you were caught?

Question: Why do you think you were caught?

Question: Are you surprised you are being held responsible?  That people don't agree with your rationalizations?

Questions: Is there remorse?

In reviewing these questions, I'm not sure I could actually learn anything. There's a weirdness to that for me because I think everything is a potential learning experience but I really wouldn't want to end up as Truman Capote with Perry Smith forever whispering in my head. I can see the social scientists figuring out things that might help them catch the next one but in terms of personal insight, I shouldn't understand.  And I struggle to remember that there can be deep irony in which side of the glass any person might actually be sitting on for the interview.  Maybe that's the part I should learn and take into myself.  If Germany wins WWII, Mengele isn't a monster, he's a national hero and these questions are getting directed at the people who didn't follow his path. I'm answering these questions or some variation while he probes to find out how I got so far from the "norm."  Moral of the story is "norm" is subjective and I don't know what to do with that.

If you've got any ideas, let me know. Thanks -- really.

P.S. Now I'm going back to the bright side and take my favorite beast for a stroll in her favorite park. My world will be right again in the morning.


Gina Fava said...

I love that you listed the questions, instead of glamorizing Bundy's behavior, or giving him the consideration of a voice.
Also, I appreciate that we might not really have learned anything from the questions posed to the serial killer. Perhaps they were too clinical, not personal enough. After all, we learned a lot more about Clarice Starling from Dr. Lecter's pointed, personal questions, which in turn revealed more about his sympathetic bed-side manner, notwithstanding his choice of diet. It's not only to whom we pose the questions, but we must also ask, who is the interviewer?

Shane Gericke said...

To ask the questions is to frame the interview, and thus to shape the answers the way we want. Dobson did a surprisingly good job of it, considering how much he likes to slant everything else. Good for him.

And good for you for not supporting the death penalty, even against the Bundys of the world. Politicians screw up everything else they touch--and judicial death IS a political issue. Why trust them to get it right in capital cases? Better to let all killers serve life than to accidentally execute an innocent, as we've undoubtedly done but don't keep the records to prove it.

Gabi said...

I think you may be on to something. Maybe questions unrelated to the crimes would reveal more and (I would hope) limit the self-justification ranting. But I would worry that suddenly having red as a favorite color could be miscontrued or a wrong conclusion applied to the population generally. Like always, questions lead to more. Thanks for stopping by.

Gabi said...

For me, the death penalty is a religious issue and I take that separation of church and state thing quite literally. I don't get to decide and I feel great relief at that.