Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Let Them Live So Others May Be Spared

In a Thursday, July 7, 2005, Huckleberries Online weblog post sponsored by The Spokesman-Review, associate editor and columnist Dave Oliveria asked:

Question: Can anyone argue against the death penalty for the BTK killer and whoever -- wink -- is responsible for the Groene murders?

Yes, I can.

No, I do not believe for a nanosecond that either Dennis Rader or Joseph Duncan can be rehabilitated. Watching both of them on television and knowing their histories, I believe that both represent a grave danger to humans and must be confined for the rest of their lives. But that is not to say that neither of them can make a beneficial contribution from inside prison walls. They both can, if they will.

Both of these sexual offenders need to be carefully studied by practicing behavioral scientists. Just as medical scientists and researchers study those afflicted with lethal diseases to learn how to better diagnose and treat, so must the behavioral scientists and researchers study Rader and Duncan in hopes of learning how to better recognize, assess, and classify others who may be like them and those who may be dramatically different from them. Assessors and evaluators must learn how to differentiate between those who are not correctable, those who may be correctable, and those who have been successfully corrected. And if we ever hope to be able to prevent the kinds of acts inflicted by Rader and Duncan, we must learn as much as we can about what precipitated them.

Executing Rader and Duncan will neither resurrect their victims nor heal survivors' wounds. Any satisfaction we might experience by seeing Duncan and Rader take his last breath will be short-lived. Studying them in inescapable confinement may contribute knowledge enabling prosecutors and judges to better recognize virulent, violent offenders and to rule they must forever be isolated from society. Better assessment and classification criteria and practices will help assure that more criminal justice system resources are devoted to those who pose the greatest threat to offend or reoffend.

So yes, I believe that Duncan's and Rader's lives should be spared. If by learning from their perversions now we can prevent future Duncans and Raders from inflicting their pain on others, sparing their lives now will be worth it.


Anonymous Sue said...

Good argument. I would add that the death penalty also does not seem to be a deterrent in any way, esp. with twisted minds like those you referred to. A civilized society must find other methods. Still, if anyone was truly deserving, you'd have to admit they fit the bill.

8:09 AM, July 08, 2005  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


Thank you.

Look at what Watson was quoted saying in today's paper:

"When you walk into that type of violent crime scene, those things are usually driven by sex, money or drugs, and nothing fit," he said. "This incident is going to rewrite a chapter in profiling. It doesn't fit what we're used to.

"I've not seen anything and not read anything like this."

His words emphasized the point I was trying to make. We have to learn as much as we can about past incidents and the people who perpetrated them if we ever hope to be able to prevent those kinds of deviant behavior.

8:22 AM, July 08, 2005  
Anonymous Bob said...

I agree to a point. The problem with these super low frequency case studies is you really can't learn that much. Not enough sample size to develop robust risk predictors to use in the population. If the Watson quote is re Duncan, nothing he did surprises me...he was a mentally ill sexually violent predator rapidly decompensating. I don't know what profiling will be rewritten but maybe LEO practice of rounding up the usual SO suspects with kids are taken needs to be revisited.

9:38 AM, July 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill --

This is one of the most creative --and practical -- ideas I have come across in some time.

I have no problem with the death penalty under the proper circumstances. In fact, when I was an assistant prosecutor for a short time many years ago, I worked on a couple of cases where the death penalty was imposed and I felt no misgivings.

In this situation, however, I believe sparing the convicted would be a good idea, as yuou propse.

Careful study of this type of malignant deviance would be of much greater value to society than the visceral, and not necessarily uplifting, glee of seeing them die.

You are right. Perhaps the knowledge learned would help others be spared.

This proposal, novel as it is, deserves very serious consideration at the state and local levels.


9:43 AM, July 08, 2005  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


I agree with you - the sample would be too small to develop predictors that "profilers" might use. And that's exactly the point that judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and defense attorneys need to understand: Each of these offenders may be completely unique in his behaviors. It is a serious mistake for all those in the criminal justice profession to lump all sex offenders together in a one-size-fits-all bag. Each case must be assessed individually. I am not a huge fan of behavior profiling from a law enforcement perspective, because it tends to cause profilers to focus on similarities rather than look for the differences. Behavioral profiling can cause police to put blinders on. I would prefer profiling be done "blind", that the profiling results not be disclosed to investigators too early.

2:50 PM, July 08, 2005  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...

Anonymous Tom,

Thank you.

I don't have enough letters after my name to do the studies, but if there is anything we can learn from these offenders to prevent even one future offense, it's better than just planting the offender in the ground.

2:53 PM, July 08, 2005  

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