Monday, May 6, 2013

"Law and Disorder" by John Douglas (2013)

Brace yourselves for a gripping and thought provoking read in this book by veteran FBI Agent/ Profiler John Douglas; who, along with writing partner Mark Olshaker; will change your mind about capital punishment, and then, change it back again. By explaining the art of forensic science and profiling, the authors have created a work which accurately portrays the reality which the TV shows we have all come to know and love so well are really based upon. And the truth is far from the simplified version of what is presented there and even from that which is portrayed in the media. Mr. Douglas does a very good job in explaining how it works in real life, while using some of his; and the nation’s; most infamous cases to prove his points.

Starting with the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th Century, the book also delves into the evolution of crime; including arson, murders, and serial killers, on into the late 20th Century. In that time frame he explores what makes the killer think; or the rapist rape? What turns a petty house thief into a killer? Is it power? Greed? And ultimately, what do we, as a society, do about it?

Beginning with one of his earliest cases; in which he still harbors doubts about the suspect’s execution, and the role he may have played in it; Mr. Douglas questions not only the perfection of the system; but also the failure of some of today’s most expert, and advanced, methods of crime detection. And that includes the much touted DNA; which when taken out of context to the crime, and without regard to other mitigating factors which may alter the evidence offered by the Prosecution; is not always the solution we have been led to believe it is.

Also explored is the way that “justice” is handled once a verdict and sentence has been rendered. It is, under the present system, possible, to have new and exculpating evidence not admitted at the last minute in order to “stay” an execution. With most of the condemned men waiting for years to exhaust their appeals anyway, what do a few more months matter in the pursuit of Justice? Why the rush to execute?

The supposed Multiple Personality Disorder; in which the criminal did the crime, but not as his himself; is given deep thought and the authors come to a very definite conclusion. MPD is a crock. If the accused has a history of the disease, that is one thing. But when they suddenly develop the ailment on their third appeal, how much credence should it be given? Is it right; or moral; for a killer to languish in jail for more years than their victims lived? That was the case with Marine Private Suzanne Collins, whose killer took 21 years to be executed for taking the life of a 19 year old woman. How absurd is that?

With experience in the Jon Benet Ramsey case, as well as some very other high profile cases, the book is gripping in both its scope and depth. The cases all range from murder, arson and kidnapping. And, surprisingly, against all scientific evidence, many have been innocent.

The case of the so-called West Memphis 3; accused of killing three 8 year old youngsters as part of a Satanic Cult; when no such cult even existed; would be a fascinating book all on its own account. Only the interest of a woman outside of prison would serve to break that case open again; this time with justice ruling the day. Too bad it took over 15 years for that justice to be served.

Though he has seen it all in the way of injustice; even seeing innocent men being “murdered” by the state when new evidence has been available; Mr. Douglas is still in favor of the death penalty as a deterrent for the most heinous of crimes. But, only after all reasonable avenues have been explored. This was a surprise and came about just when he had me convinced that I was wrong in my support of Capital Punishment in the first place.

Straddling the wire between his own beliefs, and the needs of justice for the accused; as well as the victims and their families; cannot be easy. But Mr. Douglas need lose no sleep over the issue. He has presented his case; and cases; in a forthright and logical manner, causing the reader to do the most important thing of all; think. No matter what you believe about the issue of Capital Punishment, this book will strike a chord with every reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment