Your Lying Eyes

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12 January 2006

Murderer Also a Liar

I have to admit I am often disturbed when a condemned man protests his innocence to the end - I mean, what's in it for him? Why not confess at the last minute and apologize to the victims - there's nothing to be gained from denying the crime when the needle is about to go into the arm. So I worry that we've just executed an innocent man. Last month "Tookie" denied his guilt right to the end, and made me wonder.

Of course I'm thinking like a relatively normal human being. Capital murderers of course are far from normal - they've done something that is unthinkable to others - killed someone in cold blood. That such a person could also be a pathological liar is hardly surprising. In fact, such lying has been linked to the inability to feel remorse - another hallmark of a murderer. It's not surprising that as their last act they would withhold any possible comfort to their executioners.

Apparently, a number of death penalty advocates fell victim to a murderer's lies in the case of Roger Coleman, executed in 1992 for the murder of his sister in law.
"An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight," the 33-year-old said moments before he was electrocuted on May 20, 1992. "When my innocence is proven, I hope America will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized countries have."
Death penalty opponents also hoped to do the same by having DNA evidence re-tested under the more sophisticated testing available today (it was last tested in 1990). They were surely hoping against hope, as the previous test put the odds of the semen sample being his at 999 to 1 (not to mention other evidence in the case). After the new test, it's 19 million to 1. His advocates obviously mistook his utter lack of remorse for sincere protestations of innocence.


Anonymous Russell Wardlow said...

I vaguely recall, when I was about six or seven, heatedly protesting (lying) that I had not done something my mom accused me of.

I originally denied any wrongdoing simply because I didn't want to be punished, but as time went on and my protestations became more and more strident, I actually started to think I was in the right. I mean, how dare she not believe me?! It was a heady and pleasant feeling, such righteous indignation, much moreso than the basic cognitive frission of feeling you've done wrong and yet denying it.

Of course, I was a young child, with all the worst kinds of immature narcissism kids can be exhibit.

And really, who is more childish and narcissistic than cold-blooded, unrepetant murderers?

January 12, 2006 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Harlem said...

Wow! I've lost all my respect for murderers now that I find out they are liars too.
"Tookie" was simply an idiot. With all the celeb support he had behind him, he could have easily lived out his life folding laundry or making license plates if he'd only had the brains (or guts) to own up to his crimes. His failure to be smart enough to do that, particularly given the compelling evidence, only adds to the justifcation for his removal from living society. I think some of his celebrity supporters feel quite let down as well as the hue & cry over his demise didn't last long once he passed on to the eternity that he earned.
I like to look back to Cagney's performance in "Angels With Dirty Faces" (co starring the East Side Kids) when he cried in "the chair" in order to set the kids who had ill placed respect for him on the right path but that was, of course, fiction. Regardless of the laws, anyone who murders in cold blood, is not mentally sound. They've got a misfiring circuit somewhere that controls their whacky thought process. As such, it's tough to figure out their motivations though it is normally geared towards self preservation. Coleman may well have convinced himself that he didn't do it.
As Wardlow says, if you repeat it enough, you can come to believe it or at least get to a place where you can't admit the truth. If you are truly evil, it's just another way to make surviving "victims" suffer.
It was particularly painful to hear the anquish of the people who actually believed in Coleman's innocence deal with the truth. More innocent victims. I'm impressed that they didn't question the validity of DNA results but resigned themselves to the fact that they'd been hoodwinked by a truly evil, twisted individual. At some point, I hope they find comfort in the fact that he no longer lives in our society.

January 13, 2006 8:11 PM  
Blogger Dennis Dale said...

So sorry to witness Harlem's disillusion. I know how it feels, recently having discovered that Brad and Jennifer aren't soulmates after all.
Russell brings up an intersting point. The whole Tookie thing struck me as a sort of mass infantilization. His supporters were fond of referring to him with his childlike moniker, "Tookie"; his children's books; a ridiculous play-contract he devised for gang members to sign, supposedly enabling them to live in a cease-fire environment, all the while legitimizing the ongoing carnage when what is really necessary is a little adult sobriety and the basic level of maturity to identify murder as such.
He was even eulogized by a grown man who goes by the name "Snoop" and is known for speaking in a sort of pig latin that sounds suspiciously like baby-talk (and whose own love for capital punishment is well chronicled in his music-the form he prefers is individually and instantly administered by any who feel they've been offended).
When I hear young people and people who aren't so young anymore mouthing the cliches of phony street rebellion, pretending to be gangsta because it's just so much more romantic than settling into adulthood, I find myself thinking that a person has to has to pick sides eventually; youthful rebellion or adult citizenship. Tookie's fans were all play-acting. If Tookie ever showed up at their door on a dark night, they would certainly find the adult within in a hurry.

January 14, 2006 6:00 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Interesting. Sort of like infantilization without neoteny - or rather a grotesque neoteny.

For those who haven't read Dennis's post on Tookie, I highly recommend it.

January 14, 2006 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you've got your odds reversed. You say "the previous test put the odds of the semen sample being his at 999 to 1."

You meant to say: "the odds of the semen sample NOT being his at 999 to 1."

Or, you could say "the odds of it being his are one in 999."

Pesky English language.

January 21, 2006 3:11 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

I actually thought about how I should phrase it - I was thinking in terms of "The Champ is a 5-to-1 favorite" meaning is he overwhelmingly expected to win, so I thought that the favored result - the sperm being his - would be 999-to-1. Or that you might say "there's a 1-in-999 chance that the sperm is not his". Pesky indeed - I'll assume you're right, though, because I'm obviously unsure.

January 21, 2006 12:22 PM  

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