Psycho Killer, Qu’est Que C’est? Psychologist Robert Hare contends there are 2 million psychopaths living in North America. The figure is staggering, but it comes from a reliable source. Hare is one of the world’s leading experts on psychopathy. The idea that millions of psychos are roaming the streets is a frightening one. The good news is that not all psychopaths are criminal offenders. The bad news? They all pose a threat—emotional, financial, psychological—to those they come into contact with. They lead parasitic lifestyles, draining others of love, finances and a sense of security. Morally depraved, psychopaths lack the emotions and empathy that make us human. On the surface they may appear normal enough, but this is a disguise, what Hervey Cleckley—another expert in the field— dubbed the “mask of sanity.” (1941) Psychopaths are akin to aliens attempting to mimic human behavior. Although beyond the norm, psychopaths are not considered insane. History is littered with psychopaths, including Roman Emperor Caligula who laughed as he told his dinner guests he had the power to have their throats slit, Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian countess who slaughtered hundreds of young women so that she could bathe in their blood, Grigor Rasputin, the charismatic “Mad Monk” whose fake resume and alleged mystical powers gained him access to the Russian Tsar’s family in the early 20th century, and Shakespeare’s fictional Iago, a heartless schemer who ultimately convinced Othello to murder his wife. Think you know a psychopath? You just might.
Summer trial set for Winter Hill leader. James “Whitey” Bulger, the wily gangster who spent more than 16 years on the run and topped the FBI’s Most Wanted List, is expected to finally stand trial this summer for more than a dozen murders and an assortment of crimes. Federal judge Denise Casper will preside. In the meantime, defense lawyers have been busy filing a slew of motions, including one asking for the charges to be dismissed altogether. Bulger’s attorneys argue that he cannot be tried federally for any crimes committed before 1986 because of a deal the gangster had with the FBI. In exchange for cooperating with the FBI, Bulger says he was given immunity from federal prosecution for crimes he may have committed—including murder—while serving as a confidential informant. Conveniently, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, the prosecutor who allegedly made this devil’s bargain with Bulger is now deceased. No evidence of any immunity deal seems to exist. John Connolly, the disgraced FBI agent whose friendship with Boston’s one man crime wave cost him his badge and earned him a 40-year prison sentence, is looking forward to Bulger’s upcoming trial. He is hoping evidence will emerge that will exonerate him. Connolly was found guilty of giving Bulger and his gang information to help them murder a suspected police informant. We covered the Bulger/Connolly story in True Stories of Law & Order, while Whitey was still on the lam. Martin Scorcese’s film “The Departed” was largely inspired by the Winter Hill gangster and his [...]
We were dismayed, but not shocked, by the news that an Italian court has overturned the acquittal of Seattle-native Amanda Knox and ordered her to be tried again for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher. At the time of the murder, Kercher and Knox were exchange students sharing a house with two other young women in Perugia, Italy. Kercher was found in her bedroom with her throat slit, the victim of what appeared to be a vicious sexual attack. DNA evidence linked to Rudy Guede, a drifter with a history of breaking into houses, to the crime. Despite evidence linking Guede alone to the crime, Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini decided Guede must have had help. Mignini, a highly superstitious man who insists witches, devils, and other spooky things roam the Earth, became fixated on Knox, believing the chatty young American with the “angel face” was really a “she-devil” with a twisted libido and an uncanny ability to manipulate men. Indulging his very fertile imagination, he concluded that Kercher had been killed during a drug-fueled orgy, offered up as a sacrifice to dark forces for refusing to participate in kinky sex games with Knox, Knox’s boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and Guede. This lurid theory, which speaks volumes about Mignini, had absolutely no basis in reality. Knox and Sollecito pleaded not guilty. In 2009, the case played out like the Salem Witch Trials, complete with manufactured evidence. The constant news coverage exposed a very dysfunctional legal system, and in a terrible [...]
The lead suspect in the shocking Julius Caesar murder case says he killed the victim to stop him from “wrecking the place.” Marcus Brutus, 43, was charged with the brutal premeditated murder of the 55-year old general and statesman. Caesar, best known as the guy who ran Rome, was stabbed 23 times by up to dozen perpetrators. Brutus is believed to have delivered the fatal blow. A total of 60 individuals have been implicated in the conspiracy. According to investigators, Caesar considered the defendant a close friend; the two men shared a love of politics and were often seen lunching together. Before collapsing from the vicious attack, Caesar reportedly whispered “Et tu, Brute?” in what witnesses describe as a sad tone. The defendant’s stunning betrayal is one that may not sit well with jurors, if the case ever makes it to trial. Clad in a flowing, ecru-hued toga, Brutus appeared dazed but defiant as he pled nolo contendere to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, obstruction of justice, and wielding a dagger with intent to maim, ridicule, or harm. Although the prosecution is confident it has a slam dunk case, legal scholars warn against underestimating Team Brutus. The defense has already lined up XXV character witnesses who will testify that Brutus is a respectable and honorable man. Meanwhile, the portrait of Caesar that has emerged is far from sympathetic. A reported megalomaniac, he commissioned statues of himself, put his own image on coins, kept all the best oak leaves for [...]
On of the most disturbing items on display in the Washington, D.C. Crime Museum is serial rapist and killer Ted Bundy’s Volkswagen Beetle. He used the car to abduct dozens of women. Executed in Florida’s electric chair in 1989, Bundy was linked to 36 murders, although he may have killed as many as 100 women. Sporting an arm cast or crutches, Bundy would trick unsuspecting women into helping him carry books or bags to his car. Once there, he would knock them out. To keep his victims from being seen as he transported them, he removed the passenger seat. Ted Bundy relied on human kindness and his own non-threatening, quasi-good looks to lure his victims to their deaths. We all like to think that we can easily identify monsters, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Our own good nature can put us in harm’s way. In an unguarded moment, do you know how you would react if a smiling, seemingly innocuous stranger asked for your help? Here are some important safety tips from the Crime Museum’s website: • Never get into a stranger’s car or lean into a stranger’s car with your back to the person. Just because someone seems old or disabled doesn’t mean they can’t hurt you. Women have a tendency to be sympathetic, make sure these sympathies are not played on. • If you are thrown into the trunk of a car kick out the tail lights and stick your hand out the holes and wave [...]
The cat detectives here at True Stories of Law & Order are in a tizzy. I can’t say I blame them. It’s been a lousy week for cats. On Monday, guards at a Brazilian prison stopped and frisked a kitty who wandered into the prison yard. Covered in duct tape, the cat was packing a saw, drill, cell phone, charger, batteries, and memory card. Prison official believe the cat was a hapless victim to a wannabe prison Houdini. “It will be hard to discover who is responsible since the cat does not speak,” a spokesperson told reporters. On Tuesday, a feline became an unwitting pawn in a game of cat and mouse (sorry) between Japanese police and an elusive hacker who has been threatening to commit random acts of destruction in Tokyo. The anonymous, puzzle-loving cyber punk planted a digital memory card in the cat’s collar for police to find. The memory card contains details about a computer virus. Not cool, humans. Not cool. Disclaimer: All cats are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. —Fio
In 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. His transatlantic flight catapulted him into the limelight, but it also made him a target. Five years later, the pilot’s namesake, Charles Jr., just shy of his second birthday, was taken from his crib as he slept. A ladder was found outside the child’s bedroom window. The kidnapping and frantic search for the Lindbergh baby captivated the nation. The investigation, led by New Jersey Police superintendent H. Norman Schwarzkopf, involved suspects ranging from Lindbergh’s household staff to members of the mafia. Months later, the baby’s lifeless body was discovered in the woods. Bruno Hauptmann, a German immigrant, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of Charles Jr. Mark W. Falzini and James Davidson examine the crime and media circus that surrounded it in their new book New Jersey’s Lindbergh Kidnapping and Trial. Falzini is one of the foremost experts on the subject and the author of Their Fifteen Minutes: Biographical Sketches of the Lindbergh Case. Davidson is a local historian and long-time collector of Lindbergh memorabilia. Short, succinct chapters recount the details of the case, but the story here is really told in the pictures. Dozens of rare and vintage photographs, many not seen since the 1930s, take readers inside the massive investigation and circus-like trial of Hauptmann. It’s an extraordinary look at a case that continues to fascinate historians and true crime buffs. —Fio
On a recent episode of “Cops,” a bare-chested, shoe-less fool complained that the officers hadn’t read him his Miranda rights. The officers were asking him about a fight that had just taken place. The shoe-less wonder wasn’t a suspect, so Miranda wasn’t necessary. The common right of inquiry allows law enforcement agents to question civilians—Miranda warnings are not required. Answers provided during such inquiries are legal and valid at trial. Miranda only applies to suspects in custody. If you are skulking about the neighborhood, an officer has the right to stop and question you. Custody is defined as the legal physical control of a person or object. Police custody occurs when a person is detained by law enforcement and not permitted to leave on his/her own accord. Once a person is taken into custody, police officers must be careful to read the Miranda warnings before beginning any interrogation. The shoe-less wonder eventually got his wish. After throwing a fit and lunging at the officers, he was arrested….and Mirandized.
“The prosecutor can get the grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” Are grand juries really so eager to indict ham sandwiches? Any prosecutor worth his/her salt knows grand juries can be prickly, and are seldom impressionable enough to coerce into returning a true bill of indictment for deli meat or particularly weak cases. Still, it seems like some pundit, reporter, or TV character is always making the “ham sandwich” declaration. If I had a quarter for every time I heard it, I’d be rich—or at the very least, have enough money to buy a few dozen ham sandwiches. We can blame Sol Wachtler for introducing the phrase into the popular lexicon. Back in 1985, Wachtler was the newly appointed Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals when he told a reporter that prosecutors had such influence over grand juries they could convince them to “indict a ham sandwich.”
True Stories of Law & Order series authors Kevin Dwyer and Juré Fiorillo weigh in on crime, justice, and their favorite television show.