Showing posts with label Sympathy for Killers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sympathy for Killers. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Can you feel sympathy for the convicted killers ?

The following thread was written by "Grim Traveller". He will be writing threads for LSB3 periodically, as his schedule allows. I look forward to his contributions. Please join me, in welcoming Grim to our staff.

It comes naturally to feel sympathy and sorrow towards victims of crime and the families and friends of those that have been the victims, especially where the crime was violent. There are those that may even extend such sympathy to the families of perpetrators.

However, when it comes to the perpetrators of criminal acts, especially violent crimes, in particular rape and murder, how in the world it is possible to have any kind of sympathy or feel sorry for them ? They have, after all crossed that boundary of no return. They don’t deserve understanding. Sympathy. Solace. Mitigation. Peace. Resolution. All they deserve is death and if that won’t happen, jail until they die. Some rough treatment, hopefully at the hands of some vile, sadistic inmate and a few illnesses that bring excruciating pain wouldn’t go amiss either.

Yet when I look at the backgrounds of some of the members of ‘the family’ I do find myself having a certain amount of sympathy towards some of them.

I want to make it clear and stress that having sympathy doesn’t mean I think they got the wrong sentences or were not guilty or should necessarily be paroled. Some of them {Pat Krenwinkel, Bobby Beausoleil and Charles Watson in particular} were extremely fortunate that the death penalty in California was abolished after they’d been given it, while Steve Grogan was fortunate that the judge in his case overrode the jury’s death verdict.

Yet with all this in mind, I do have some sympathy with some of the convicted killers.

I feel in some ways for Charles Manson. Yes, it’s true that he could have gone down a different path in life, one that ensures we’d probably never have heard of him. All human beings are blessed with choices and the ability to choose. But human parents are also charged with the responsibility, whether by God, the State, the tribe, the family {no pun intended} or whoever else, to show children the right way. And not just by telling them verbally. The right way has to be observed and observed over a lengthy period. And even living it isn’t enough. Children need to be invested in right up to the point at which they become adults and a little beyond.

Who invested in Charlie Manson ?

His Dad wasn’t even known to him. His Mum didn’t want him. Numerous times she tried to get rid of him. Certainly in England, if a woman did half the things Kathleen Maddox did to her son as a child, she would be in jail were it nowadays. 

Manson says:
“She started a man without a Father.....the biggest disappointment in her life was getting pregnant when she was 14. When she got pregnant, she said ‘wow, man!’ And I came. And there wasn’t no abortion clinics, you dig. And I ruined her life. I destroyed her whole life. I was the biggest disappointment in her life.

And all her life, she queered everything I ever tried to do. She would tell me she was coming to get me and leave me standing there dressed in a little suit waiting to go home on Monday morning and she wouldn’t show. And then they’d take me back and then tell me ‘next week’ and then she wouldn’t show. And then she would just tear my heart out and throw it on the ground and stomp on it. She tortured me and tormented me and destroyed me a thousand times. She kept me locked up for over 22 years.....”

Having worked with 5~16 year olds for over three decades and seen first hand what a less than stellar beginning can bring in someone’s life, I can’t help but be sympathetic. Charlie goes on about how “the DA” created him but in truth, his parents were the first rung on that creation ladder. 

None of this excuses his future criminal pursuits. It’s hard however, to believe that had his parents loved him and invested in him, he would have gone down the same path. Of course, he might have. But the cards were seriously stacked against him from even before he was born. Although he says it taught him to rely on himself, it’s not hard to see that it truly hamstrung him too. 

“When you was going to high school and you was doing all the little things that you was doing ~ I was crying.......your Mother bought you shoes and sent you to school. My Mother gave me a handful of comic books and sold me for a pitcher of beer. She ran off and left me and went to the penitentiary, you dig ? And what do you think that did to my brain ?”

What indeed ?

Pat Krenwinkel astutely observed of him “so, obviously he didn't have a very high view of families.”

But it gets worse because his Mum’s attempts to get rid of him eventually succeeded. But where he ended up was arguably worse than where he was coming from. Again, a series of State run boys homes/training camps/correctional facilities should have provided something that was not a training academy for future criminals. Of course there were those that worked in such places who had the boys’ best interests as uppermost in their minds and practices.

There were also those that did not.

It’s those in that vein that help perpetuate {rather than create} monsters. People in positions of responsibility that have some kind of self appointed mandate to carry out some warped justice by “treating the scum like the scum that they are.” I wonder how many workers in those facilities looked back over the years at where some of their young charges eventually ended up in life and were honest enough to take a certain measure of responsibility for their part in the blooming of a lawless monster. Yet we get more than upset when the criminal refuses to take responsibility for their crimes.........

Charles Manson has alluded on a number of occasions to the brutality he encountered in various facilities before he was in jail. Although in “Goodbye Helter skelter” George Stimson says that the story of Manson being gang raped is untrue and that the author Nuel Emmons admitted to making it up, in Stimson’s own book, Manson states, among other things, “”when you’re in juvenile hall in boys school, children don’t have no mercy on each other. Children are very vicious. They’re born predators. The shit that I went through before I met you, [when I met you guys,] I knew that no one was no fucking good. They treated me bad because they could get away with it. They just look for someone they can get off on. They get off on anybody they can. They get you on four point restraint and no one’s looking, you dig ? Then they do all kinds of things that you ain’t ever even dreamed – you ain’t seen the bottom of this pit......” which I guess can be taken any number of ways to mean a whole slew of things but it doesn’t sound vastly different from the Emmons supposed claim of what Manson told him, especially when it’s part of Manson’s own record that he raped a fellow inmate and had other sexual assault incidents that played a part in him being moved from one facility. Where did that come from ? It could be that from young he really was the embodiment of evil but I don’t buy that ~ human life isn’t as simple as that. He would have to have been one of the most remarkable people ever to have lived if he hit the streets in ’67 with no ill will towards authority, the establishment and the society that gave it the space and consent in which to operate.

As stated earlier, none of this excuses his later activities in life but I think it is naive to simply dismiss the effect his early life had on him.

Can you feel sympathy for the convicted killers ?

Is there anything in the early lives of some of the convicted murderers that, when considered thoughtfully, could cause you to feel in any way sorry for any of them ?
Would you feel any sympathy if we weren’t talking about killers ?

Lest anyone take me for an apologist, I must stress that very rarely in life are there occurrences that actually force anyone to kill, much less commit murder, so excuses are out of the window from the kick off. However, by ignoring mitigating circumstances or factors that may have played a part, are we not shutting our eyes to something which often comes back to plague us again and again ?

I think one can see possible reasons that contributed to someone going down a particular road without saying that what they did was somehow justifiable.

When the Tate case was said to be ‘solved’ in December 1969, three particular things shook many in the Western world; one was the tender age of those indicted for such savage crimes. Another was that four of the indicted were not only young, but young women, that looked like hippies, not experienced, battle/street hardened ghetto types. The third thing was that they seemed to come from normal homes with what were then seen to be normal suburban middle class values from the most advanced and powerful nation in the world.
However, much of the 60s counterculture was precisely about the seeming redundancy of those “normal suburban middle class values from the most advanced and powerful nation in the world.” While on the surface, they looked wholesome, beneath was the emergence of a very different picture. Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten & Bruce Davis {not to mention Charles Watson, Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner & Steve Grogan} came from such backgrounds and all emerged as damaged people that were only too ready to join up with those that questioned and sought to dispense with Western values.

None of this justifies murder but I can’t help feeling for Bruce Davis, frequently denigrated by his Dad and raped twice, at 12 & 13, in an era {the 50s} when almost no one spoke about such things.  A close relative of mine is almost 70 and he’s still hurting about his relationship with his Dad whom he feels wasn’t there for him and constantly put him down when he was there.  I’ve known a few people of the older age group in that situation. It doesn’t necessarily get dealt with or just go away. And in the last three years here in England, there have been a series of high profile cases brought by people that were raped and sexually abused when they were children by entertainment celebrities, politicians, priests, teachers {and others not at all well known} back in the 50s, 60s and 70s and one sees just how these victims have been affected throughout their adult lives in a variety of different and harrowing ways.

I can’t help feeling for a  woman that felt ugly and unlovable as Pat Krenwinkel says she did, which was then compounded by the divorce of her parents, which, had they not parted could have been one thing that just might have helped keep her head together. She actually stated in one parole hearing “my parents' separation was, you know, I felt it was definitely my problem, that I had created it” ~ a not uncommon response to a parental split, even though she acknowledged “my father was a workaholic and eventually broke, destroyed the marriage, and that's why they know, during the 50s, no one really talked about their problems or there was very little discussed” which led her to the point where she observed; “I wanted so badly to be acceptable, to be loved......
I became anything, I would do anything, because I wanted somehow to have someone say I was something special in their eyes.” That her half sister fell into drug problems and had kids she had problems caring for {with one being adopted out and the other having emotional problems} and eventually died of an overdose, found in a river, shows that Pat wasn’t the only one affected by goings on in the household.

I can’t help feeling for Susan Atkins, who, arguably was already on the negative drift when her Mum became ill and then died of cancer, resulting in her Dad just leaving the family home which meant that a teenage Susan and her little brother were shuffled here and there. Her younger brother observed “Then our mother passed on. We were all young. Susan was 15, I was nine and our older brother, Mike, was 18 and went right into the service....Our father ended up having to sell both houses and all of our furniture to pay for our mother's hospital bills. My mother's death was very hard on all of us. Our father turned to alcohol, which left my sister, Susan and I home alone a lot. We were very close and became dependent upon each other. One day our father left us. Susan was going to school and working full time to keep a roof over our head. The landlord would not accept our rent money from Susan as she was not of age to be my legal guardian, which led us to look for somewhere to live. Susan reached our brother, Mike, in the service and even though Mike had just recently married, Mike took me in. That left Susan alone to fend for herself.” But that ‘negative drift’ didn’t happen in a vacuum, she states both her parents were constantly drunk and rowing even before this, while she was sexually abused by friends of her Dad and worse, by her older brother and his friends. In 2005, she said she hadn’t seen that brother since before she was arrested.

And is it sheer coincidence that Leslie Van Houten’s descent into the darkness of teen pregnancy, abortion and drug experimentation has it’s genesis right there in the aftermath of her parent’s divorce ? While it’s often thought that mid teens can be pretty much left to their own devices, I would that it’s in this crucial, never to be repeated period of transition from child to adult that the strongest guidance, tolerance and understanding is needed. Things can go awry at any point in a person’s life with devastating consequences but schisms in the transition can leave a set of problems that may take almost a lifetime to overcome. That most get through it unscathed is scant consolation because many do not and it sometimes seems that those affected are held responsible for matters they aren’t equipped to negotiate their way through.

There is plenty of documentation to be found in books, parole hearing transcripts, trial transcripts, magazine articles & interviews, broadcast interviews and internet sites for those that are looking for ways to piece the puzzles together ~ almost a half centuries worth.

Even if none of the above mentioned had gone on to murder, I’d have a certain amount of sympathy. I’d feel for them if they were train drivers, nurses, company executives, sports stars, refuse collectors, school cooks or hobos. That sympathy doesn’t disappear because of what they went on to do. Neither does it lay the groundwork for arguing for their freedom.
But what say you ?