Friday, August 19, 2005

BTK Sentenced

The last two nights I've listened to a replay of the day's events in Judge Waller's court room as the BTK sentencing has occurred. It has been a trying time for this area.

As we learn more about this killer, it's apparent that he was more than a little lacking in his abilities. He made many stupid mistakes. But he got a lot of lucky breaks.

I watched the victim's family members speak last night and was struck by just how vehement many of them were and how much name calling there was. I've never lost anyone in this manner, thankfully, and so I cannot imagine what it feels like to be in their shoes. Their disgust and hatred for Dennis Rader was obvious.

I'm not suggesting that it's not understandable, but I'm not sure it's beneficial either. I guess that's for the psychologists to figure out.

Since we started allowing people to witness executions, we've learned that people don't get from the experience what they expect. I think it's a negative in the long run. People are willingly subjecting themselves to something that can be psychologically damaging.

My friend, Sondra, and I were talking about that this morning and she summed it up beautifully. She said there are experiences that leave her feeling like there's a "pile of shit over in one little corner of the brain and you can't clean it up." It's so very true. That's exactly what some traumas are like. I'm not sure we should allow people to willingly subject themselves to more of them - like watching someone die - even someone who has done a loved one harm.

As research on the brain progresses, we continue to find indications that the brains of criminals are built differently. Evidence mounts that pedophiles do not "choose" to do what they do - their brains are built in a way that makes it no easier for them to control their actions than for you or I to control what color eyes we're born with.

Serial killers are such a rare thing that we have very little evidence to know how they're "built," but there are indications that their brains are different.

We had an opportunity to study Daumer - he was very cooperative - and we squandered it. From what I've read about him and the interviews I saw with him, he seemed - unlike so many - to have genuine remorse. He seemed to know he was a monster but he just couldn't stop himself. He wanted to find out why.

Unfortunately, serial killers are continually sent into a penal system where they're killed in a relatively short amount of time instead of to a lab where they're studied the rest of their lives. So, we're not likely to learn much this way.

It's odd that we care so much about civil rights until we send people into prison and then we do so knowing that they're likely to be killed brutally. I'm not sure why we think that's preferable to lethal injection. I guess just taking chances.

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