After a lunch break, John Allen Muhammad's trial moved immediately
into the penalty phase. Judge Millette began the proceedings by issuing
yet another unusual ruling; according to the Baltimore Sun
Jr. ruled that prosecutors would be allowed to introduce so-called 'victim
impact testimony' only from the family of Dean H. Meyers."
In other words, after allowing everything under the sun into the guilt
phase of the trial, the judge was now going to limit prejudicial testimony
in the penalty phase to the actual crime that Muhammad was charged with.
Can you say "Bizarro World"?
Millette's decision was touted by the media as a huge victory
for the defense team -- indeed, the first significant ruling to go
its way. Prosecutors were said to be crestfallen -- but only until they
remembered that they had already introduced 'victim impact testimony'
concerning at least a dozen uncharged murders during the guilt phase of
In truth, Millette's ruling was no gift to the defense; it was
an acknowledgment that prosecutors had already presented the penalty phase
of their case. Conway acknowledged that as well when he responded to the
judge's ruling by explicitly instructing jurors that everything they had
already heard was now "fair game."
In addition to everything they had already heard, the state
had prepared a bombshell to drop on the unsuspecting jury: if the sniper
team had not been stopped, prosecutors solemnly informed them, the
jurors would have been the pair's next victims
. According to returning
witness John Hair of the FBI, the stolen notebook computer (that vast
reservoir of incriminating evidence) revealed that three specific locations
in the Hampton Roads area had been identified as future targets. The trial,
it will be recalled, had been moved to Hampton Roads - 200 miles from the
nearest shooting scene, but just a stone's throw from the Naval Air Station
Oceana - specifically because it was in an area of the state that was not
directly affected by the shootings.
Although it was Hair's testimony that most visibly affected the
jury, the most provocative witness called by the state was Navy gunner
Earl Lee Dancy of Tacoma, Washington. Dancy, it turns out, is the previously
unidentified witness who implicated Muhammad in both a murder and an
attack on a Jewish temple.
On the stand, Dancy contradicted himself frequently and was caught
in several lies. He testified that he had allowed Muhammad and Malvo to
stay at his home, with ready access to his guns, for several weeks in
early 2002, but he offered no credible reason for doing so. He admitted
that he had given widely varying accounts of his relationship with Muhammad
to various law enforcement officers. He admitted lying to authorities
on a number of occasions about a rifle that he claimed that he had bought
for Muhammad. He denied that he had ever pawned a gun, until he was confronted
with the evidence, at which time he admitted to having pawned at least nine
guns. He acknowledged, when asked directly, that he was a liar.
What makes all of this rather odd is that it was Dancy's guns that
were purportedly used in at least two crimes, one of them the murder of
a young Tacoma woman. And yet it is not Earl Dancy who stands publicly
accused of the crimes, it is John Muhammad, even though the only evidence
against Muhammad appears to be the testimony of an admitted liar who can't
keep his story straight and who has a vested interest in pinning the crimes
on someone other than himself. Go figure.
On Thursday, November 20, after defense attorneys had presented
another abbreviated case on behalf of their client, the state's and the
defense's closing statements were delivered. Prosecutor Paul Ebert then
handled the state's final rebuttal argument, which consisted largely of
once again displaying photos of the victims both in life and in death.
The jury, after being improperly instructed, began deliberating
the next day. Since it was a Friday, court was adjourned at around 1:00
PM, right after Judge Millette fielded two remarkably revealing queries
from jurors. Neither received much more than a passing mention in press reports.
Shortly after 12:30 PM, Millette received a note from a juror that
read: "If the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, what happens then?"
As a few reporters noted, the judge did not answer the question directly.
Instead, he spoke of the time that had been invested in the trial, and
he emphasized that "we really want to try to get a unanimous decision.
You have all weekend to think about it."
If the judge had bothered to answer the question directly, he would
have instructed the jury that a unanimous decision was only required to
hand down a death sentence; anything short of a unanimous decision would
result in the imposition of the default sentence of life imprisonment without
the possibility of parole.
Amazingly enough, the jury had not been given that most basic of
jury instructions. And even more amazingly, when asked directly for the
instructions that should have already been provided, Judge Millette gave
a response that strongly implied that a failure to reach a unanimous decision
would result in a hung jury, when the truth was that if the jury was in fact
'hung,' then the jurors had already reached a verdict.
Millette instructed the jury to continue deliberating as long as
was necessary to reach a unanimous decision -- in other words, to continue
deliberating until they could return with a recommendation of death. He
told jurors they had all day Monday, and even Tuesday (which had previously
been announced as the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday), to continue
After that curious exchange, jury foreman Jerry Haggerty was quick
to assure the judge - and more importantly, the media - that the question
was based merely on curiosity and did not reflect a division within the
jury. That wasn't quite true; it was later revealed by the L.A. Times
that "during a straw poll Friday ... several [jurors] had leaned toward
sparing Muhammad's life." Did I mention, by the way, that Haggerty is a
retired Navy captain and judge advocate?
After Judge Millette had fielded the first question, he received another,
possibly even more revealing, question from an unidentified female juror,
who inquired, incredibly enough, whether she could do some research on
her own over the weekend. Told that she could not - that her decision
was to be based solely on evidence presented in court - she nevertheless
persisted in asking for permission to pursue outside sources, explaining
that she intended to research other death penalty cases.
Despite the fact that the juror had clearly signaled that she intended
to base her decision at least in part on materials obtained outside the
courtroom, there was no request by either team of attorneys to have the
juror removed and replaced with one of the three alternate jurors, nor was
there any request to have the jury sequestered for the duration of the deliberations.
That in itself was rather odd. Perhaps even odder was that the woman
had been seated on the jury despite the fact that she had openly expressed
reservations about capital punishment during the juror selection process,
and despite the fact that prosecutor Ebert's primary litmus test for prospective
jurors had been that they be willing, even eager, to impose a death sentence.
Did I mention, by the way, that the juror who posed the question
was identified in one press report as a "former Naval intelligence officer"?
And did I mention that, given her current employment at the Center for
Naval Analysis, the 'former' part of that identification is debatable?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that, perhaps,
the juror was a 'plant' (as was, most likely, the jury foreman). The unnamed
female juror's job was to feign initial opposition to capital punishment
so that when she later voted in favor of imposing it, she could hopefully
sway other jurors to do likewise. Her question to the judge, coming just
after the other juror's question, seemed to be a pretty clear signal that
there were problems in the jury room -- specifically, the state had failed
to sway several jurors and fresh arguments were needed to bring them into
The jury, incidentally, was seated in record time given both
the magnitude of the charges and the wholesale contamination of the jury
pool. The fifteen panel members (twelve jurors and three alternates) were
selected from a pool of only 123 prospective jurors in just three-and-a-half
days. By way of comparison, it took seven weeks to seat the jury that heard
the evidence against the 'Unabomber,' who was similarly accused of committing
a series of impersonal murders across several states.
With no more questions forthcoming, Muhammad's jury was dismissed
for the day. Judge Millette then stepped down from the bench to congratulate
the opposing attorneys, offering the following words to Ebert (who headed
what the judge referred to as the "dream team," and who had been Millette's
boss from 1986 to 1990): "Best job you've ever done, Paul." Greenspun then
received the following accolade: "You exceeded even my expectations."
It is unclear exactly what "expectations" Millette was referring to,
but it certainly couldn't have been his "expectations" that Greenspun
would aggressively defend his client.
It is difficult to say exactly what transpired during the weekend
break from deliberations, but after assembling for just ninety minutes on
the following Monday morning, the previously divided jury returned with a
unanimous request that the state of Virginia execute John Allen Muhammad.
Formal sentencing was set for February 12, 2004, when Judge Millette will
formally impose the sentence recommended by the jury.
According to the L.A. Times
, one juror who changed his mind
over the weekend, Dennis Bowman, could "cit[e] no clear cut reason" for
doing so. Juror Heather Best-Teague offered this seemingly contradictory
explanation: "I can't say we're all good with the decision, but we knew
we made the right one."
Paul Ebert hailed the decision, reached after just five-and-a-half
hours, as a "victory for society." Muhammad, he said, is "the kind of
man that doesn't deserve to be in society." In the world that Ebert inhabits,
there are apparently a lot of people who don't deserve to be in society:
Muhammad is the thirteenth man that he has personally sent to Death Row,
making him the state's most prolific serial killer/prosecutor.
As jurors return to their lives and jobs, John Muhammad will find
himself on a fast track to the execution chamber. Virginia trails only Texas
in the pace of executions. The average time from sentencing to execution
- four years - is half the national average. And the state doesn't shy away
from executing juvenile defendants. Those are some of the very reasons
that John Ashcroft hand-picked Virginia as the state where Muhammad and
Malvo would answer for their alleged crimes, even though ten of the thirteen
sniper victims were shot in Maryland. Ashcroft also hand-picked the prosecutors,
whom he described as "seasoned and highly respected."
Behind the scenes, the change of venue for the trial was likely hand-picked
as well. In addition to guaranteeing a jury pool teeming with Naval intelligence
types, the move insured that there would be no public viewing of the trial.
The courtroom reportedly had only 53 seats, including the ten seats occupied
by the prosecution and defense teams. Most of the rest were filled by
victim's family members and media representatives (who were likely also
hand-picked). Only five seats were set aside for the public. All cameras
were banned from the courtroom, save for a closed-circuit feed to a press
Judge Millette was probably hand-picked as well, which would explain
why he continued to helm the trial after it was moved 200 miles away from
the original venue. Judge Millette, incidentally, was the jurist who once
presided over the trial of John "how many of those patches will I need
to get it to grow back?" Bobbitt. In separate proceedings, Paul Ebert
was the prosecutor who failed to convict his spouse, Lorena Bobbitt. Defense
attorney Greenspun had his own brush with notoriety when he defended Marv
Albert on sodomy charges in 1997. More tellingly, his partner Shapiro is
currently representing Brian Regan, a retired Air Force sergeant accused
of being a spy. And Robert Horan, who was hand-picked by Ashcroft to handle
the prosecution of Malvo, spearheaded the prosecution of the man who was
recently executed for allegedly opening fire outside CIA headquarters in
1993. Needless to say, it takes a very special kind of attorney to handle
cases of that nature.
* * * * * * * * *
There has been almost no critical media analysis of the Muhammad
trial. At only one point during the proceedings was any outrage expressed
by legal commentators, and that outrage wasn't over Judge Millette's questionable
rulings, or his wholesale admission of prejudicial evidence, or his inappropriate
jury instructions; it was over the fact that Muhammad insisted on exercising
his constitutional right to represent himself.
Leading the charge in insisting that Muhammad be denied that most
basic of rights was Alan Dershowitz. There was too much at stake, wrote
Dershowitz, to allow such "foolishness." Allowing Muhammad to defend himself,
the pundit argued, was tantamount to "bestowing on defendants a constitutional
right to commit suicide."
But was it really the defendant's potential failure to mount an adequate
defense that Dershowitz was concerned with? Could Muhammad have possibly
done a worse job defending himself than his appointed attorneys? That hardly
seems likely. In fact, despite a number of press reports to the contrary,
Muhammad performed quite capably during his very brief career as an attorney.
The Baltimore Sun
reported that, despite having "no formal legal
training, Muhammad vigorously questioned witnesses and argued legal technicalities."
He also "proved able during several sharp cross-examinations." Judge Millette
acknowledged that Muhammad "appears to be competently representing himself,
he appears to be asking the appropriate questions, and he appears to understand
everything that's going on."
Perhaps, then, what really concerned Dershowitz and his fellow opinion-shapers
was the possibility that even an untrained attorney could perform capably
enough to expose the fraud being perpetrated by the state. Dershowitz, by
the way, penned a book on the theft of the 2000 presidential election, thereby
reaffirming his 'liberal' credentials, and then just months later used his
bully pulpit to loudly and cravenly promote the liberal cause of allowing
the illegitimate new administration to institutionalize the use of torture
on 'terrorist' suspects.
One question that remains unanswered is why Muhammad - who had been
quite insistent that he be allowed to defend himself, and who was quite animated
during his brief stint as an attorney - suddenly reversed his decision and
thereafter sat silent and expressionless throughout the remainder of the
trial, offering no protest over his defense team's failure to mount an actual
Perhaps the answer can be found in the fact that Muhammad was held in
isolation throughout the trial, denied contact with both visitors and other
inmates. His only contact was with his captors and with members of his
'defense' team. His current mental status is, therefore, unknown. All mental
health testimony was barred from trial, denying jurors any plausible explanation
of how a 42-year-old man with no history of violence (except for the officially
sanctioned violence performed at the behest of Uncle Sam) suddenly transformed
himself into a 'serial killer.' The judge's barring of all such testimony
was purportedly prompted by Muhammad's refusal to be examined by the state's
experts -- a refusal that was, perhaps, quite understandable. But there is
little reason to believe that the defense's 'experts' weren't cut from the
Muhammad's ex-wife testified that his behavior changed dramatically
after his participation in 'Operation Desert Storm.' He was never, she
said, quite the same after that. So if we are to accept that Muhammad was
in fact the DC Sniper, then should we not be asking a question that no
one at trial, and no one in the media, bothered to ask: how many John Allen
Muhammads will be coming home from Iraq this time?
Vietnam gave us such notorious 'serial killers' as Leonard Lake (whose
Wilseyville, California property yielded the butchered and buried remains
of as many as 25 victims), Arthur Shawcross (who claimed to have had 39 confirmed
kills in Vietnam, and 12 more in the States), and, indirectly, Richard "The
Night Stalker" Ramirez (who was mentored by a cousin who returned from Vietnam
with eight shrunken human heads and an extensive collection of grisly Polaroids
depicting the brutal rape, torture, murder and mutilation of his Vietnamese
How many men conditioned to kill, and to enjoy killing, will be coming
home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
* * * * * * * * *
Parallels to the Muhammad prosecution abound in the 'serial
killer' literature. Ebert's strategy, for example, borrowed heavily from
Vincent Bugliosi's prosecution of California's most famous inmate, Charles
Milles Manson (Bugliosi, by the way, also penned a book on the theft of
the 2000 election) .
As some readers will recall, Charlie Manson did not actually kill
any of the victims whose murders he was charged with. In fact, prosecutors
acknowledged that Manson was not even at the scenes of the crimes when
the murders were committed. And yet he was convicted of the murders and
sentenced to death (later commuted by a Supreme Court decision) based on
the state's contention that those who did commit the murders were completely
under Charlie's control.
Just as the state of Virginia has done with Lee Boyd Malvo, the
state of California prosecuted, and sought death sentences for, Charlie's
followers, even though, by the state's own arguments, the actual killers
could not control (and therefore should not be held legally responsible
for) their actions. And in both Virginia and California, although brainwashing/mind-control
was an explicit aspect of the state's case, no one ever publicly questioned
whether the alleged puppeteer could himself be a puppet.
Ebert's strategy also borrowed liberally from the prosecutions of
'serial killers' Albert DeSalvo, Wayne Williams, and Bobby Joe Long, each
of whom were convicted based primarily on the wholesale admission of prejudicial
evidence of uncharged crimes.
Popular mythology holds that Wayne Williams was convicted of the "Atlanta
Child Murders." In reality, however, Williams was never charged with, let
alone convicted of, the murder of a single child -- for the simple reason
that the state of Georgia had no case. Williams was brought to trial for
the murder of two adults, but the state did not have much of a case to support
those charges either. To compensate for the lack of an actual case, prosecutors
successfully muddied the waters and inflamed the jury by introducing evidence
of no fewer than ten uncharged child homicides. Georgia Supreme Court Justice
George Smith later commented that Williams assumed an “unenviable position
as a defendant who, charged with two murders, was forced to defend himself
as to 12 separate killings.”
Consider also the case of the lesser known Bobby Joe Long. Charged
with committing a string of brutal serial murders of women, and also with
committing a prolific string of concurrent, but unrelated, serial rapes,
Long faced a lengthy series of trials in the state of Florida, all of which
were deeply flawed. One of his many convictions was later overturned by the
Florida Supreme Court. In overturning the verdict, the high court specifically
noted that only four hours of testimony had been presented on the murder
for which Long was charged, while three entire days had been spent admitting
highly prejudicial evidence of other murders that Long was not charged
By the time the state of Florida was done with Bobby Joe Long, he
had received two death sentences and thirty-four life sentences, plus
an additional 693 years. Incidentally, Bobby Joe, the son of Joe Long
and Louella Lucas, was a cousin of prolific serial killer/assassin/patsy
(depending on who is telling the story) Henry Lee Lucas, who, for the record,
and despite what you may have heard, was the only Death Row inmate to have
his sentence commuted by Texas Governor George W. Bush.
Consider also the case of Albert DeSalvo, who popular mythology holds
was convicted as the "Boston Strangler," although the truth is that DeSalvo
was never convicted of killing anyone. He was never even charged with killing
anyone. And beyond an obviously fraudulent series of inaccurate 'confessions,'
obtained by his 'defense' attorney, there was never any evidence that
supported the state's contention that Albert DeSalvo killed anyone.
What DeSalvo was charged with was a series of sexual assaults/robberies
(Albert, like Bobby Joe, was said to operate simultaneously as both a serial
killer and an absurdly prolific serial rapist), but there was a serious
shortage of evidence to support the charges -- which meant, naturally, that
it was necessary to introduce evidence of a dozen or so uncharged murders,
both to guarantee a conviction and to obscure the fact that the actual charges
were entirely unsupported.
This time, however, there was a unique twist to the strategy: the
evidence of the uncharged crimes was introduced by the defense
the state had presented its paper-thin case in support of the assault/robbery
charges, which the defense made no effort to challenge, the defense responded
by presenting evidence purportedly tying the defendant to thirteen uncharged
The attorney who presented that novel defense, without even a hint
of shame, described his strategy thusly: "I wanted the right to defend
a man for robbery and assault by proving that he had committed thirteen
murders.” Prosecutors, needless to say, didn't have many objections
to such a strategy.
The defense claimed that the intent was to prove De Salvo insane by portraying
him as a maniacal killer, and thereby win him an acquittal on the far less
serious charges that he was actually facing. The real intent, however, appears
to have been to use the cover of the legal proceedings to 'convict' DeSalvo
of the uncharged murders in the court of public opinion -- which was the
only way that he could be convicted given that there was no evidence to support
an actual prosecution.
The attorney who 'defended' DeSalvo - by first fingering him as the prime
suspect, then coaxing a 'confession' from him (with help from CIA hypnotist
William Jennings Bryan), and then presenting the state's case and calling
it a defense - should have been permanently disbarred. Instead, he went on
to completely unwarranted fame and fortune. In fact, you may have heard of
him. His name is F. Lee Bailey.
In addition to the curiously parallel prosecutions, Albert De Salvo,
Wayne Williams, Bobby Joe Long, and John Allen Muhammad had another thing
in common: all took the fall for crimes that they almost certainly did not
In recent years, relatives of the alleged killer and of some of the
victims have pushed for a reexamination of the Boston killings. Evidence obtained
through the recent exhumation of bodies has effectively cleared DeSalvo
of some of the crimes he was 'convicted' of committing. But don't expect
the official mythology to change any time soon; the recent involvement in
the case of notorious disinformation-peddler Gerald Posner sends a clear
signal that the true facts of the so-called "Boston Strangler" case will
continue to be covered up.
Many of the relatives of the children slaughtered in Atlanta do not
now believe, nor have they ever believed, that Williams was anything more
than a patsy -- for the simple reason that the available evidence never
came close to indicating otherwise. The media, of course, happily played
along with the state's ruse, billing Williams' trial as the "Atlanta Child
Killer" trial, just as Albert DeSalvo's trial was billed as the "Boston Strangler"
trial. The truth remains, nevertheless, that no one has ever stood trial for
the murders in either Boston or Atlanta (just as no one has stood trial for
the ten sniper shootings in Maryland).
Another parallel to the Muhammad case can be found in the trial of
'serial killer' Herb Mullin. Mullin's defense counsel, James Jackson, began
his opening statement by declaring: "Friday the 13th, October 1972, Herbert
William Mullin took a baseball bat and clubbed one Lawrence White to death.”
Not only had he declared his client guilty of murder, he had declared him
guilty of a murder for which Herb had never even been charged! Jackson
also informed the jury: “We do not, as you know, intend to argue the proposition
that [Herb] did not commit these killings.”
"We do not," Jackson may as well have said, "intend to actually defend our
client." Jackson employed that very same strategy when he was called upon
to defend 'serial killer' Ed Kemper and 'mass murderer' John Frazier (Jackson
was assisted in all three cases, incidentally, by psychiatrist Donald Lunde,
just as Bailey was assisted by Bryan).
'Serial killer' Gary Heidnik's attorney included this little gem in his
opening statement to jurors: "The judge said something this morning about
people being innocent until proven guilty. My client is not innocent. He
is very, very guilty.” Heidnik, incidentally, was kept heavily dosed with
Thorazine throughout his trial and reportedly sat expressionless, staring
straight ahead and saying nothing. He was described as being "nearly catatonic."
Gary Heidnik had joined the U.S. Army in November 1961 and requested
that he be trained as a military policeman. The Army though opted to send
him to Ft. Sam Houston, near San Antonio, Texas, for training as a medic.
When that training was completed, he was sent to an Army hospital in West
Germany to work as an orderly. At that hospital, Heidnik became the involuntary
subject of experimentation with powerful hallucinogenic drugs (can you say
MK-ULTRA?) Gary was then sent back to a military hospital here in the States
and then released early with an honorable discharge. He later became a 'serial
In January 1979, Jeffrey Dahmer joined the U.S. Army and requested
that he be trained as a military policeman. The Army though opted to send
him to Ft. Sam Houston, near San Antonio, Texas, for training as a medic.
When that training was completed, he was sent to an Army hospital in West
Germany to work as an orderly. That did not work out too well, however,
and Jeffrey was released early with an honorable discharge. He later became
a 'serial killer.'
In September of 1948, Albert De Salvo was inducted into the U.S. Army.
He was just seventeen years old and he was on parole, but Uncle Sam didn’t
seem to mind. DeSalvo served for nearly eight years, spending much of that
time in West Germany, before being honorably discharged. He later became
a 'serial killer.'
I could go on here. I could go on for a very, very long time. But I
Instead, I will close by noting that there was one website that distinguished
itself by offering principled (though limited) criticism of the Muhammad
(and Malvo) trials: Findlaw.com
Cassel (a practicing Virginia attorney, author, and teacher), in her various
postings, has denounced what she referred to as the "shameful treatment"
of Malvo; condemned Ashcroft's selection of jurisdiction based solely on
the desire to obtain a death sentence; and linked the sniper case to the
U.S. Supreme Court's January 27, 2003 decision to decline to review
the use of the death penalty on juveniles.
Cassel also took aim at the strategy employed to garner Muhammad's
convictions. Those convictions, Cassel wrote, "remain quite shaky." She
noted three areas where there are strong grounds for appeal, one of which
she described as "an extremely prejudicial evidence decision [that] allowed
families of several sniper victims to testify, even though there was no specific
evidence as to the murders. Thus, this evidence is of dubious, if any,
relevance and may have been highly prejudicial to jury deliberations related
to guilt." The judge, Cassel suggests, "may have exceeded the bounds of
Cassel also questioned the judge's dubious decisions concerning Muhammad's
purported role in the shootings. Specifically, Cassel objected to the instructions
from judge to jury that they need only find that Muhammad was an "immediate
perpetrator" of the crimes, and that they could consider the car itself to
be a murder weapon. Those instructions, needless to say, certainly played
a key role in garnering the convictions.
Most significantly, Cassel questioned the notion that a murder case
can and should be treated as a 'terrorism' case. In addressing that issue,
Cassel cut to the heart of what the DC Sniper trial was really about:
In the Muhammad case, the concept of "terrorism" has been
stretched beyond its breaking point. Broadly interpreted, without attention
to its purpose - as prosecutors have interpreted it - the Virginia law would
view every crime meant to intimidate the civilian population as "terrorism."
But this broad interpretation cannot stand, for virtually every crime is
arguably done with this intent ... In the end, when the proverbial smoke
clears, the sniper trials may be remembered as a landmark in the post-September
11 attempt to broaden the term "terrorism." The appeal in the Muhammad case
will test whether lawmakers can extend the reach of this emotionally charged
term to everyday crimes.
Well said. I would add only that there is virtually no chance that Muhammad's
convictions, or his sentence, will be set aside. If there were any chance
that an appeals courts would seriously and objectively review what occurred
in Millette's courtroom, the trial would not have been conducted with such
a brazen disregard for the law.
Tobias Barrington Wolff, also writing for Findlaw.com, has questioned
"what it means for a civilized nation to be obsessively focusing its collective
attention on the swiftest, surest way that we can take more life in response
to horrible acts of murder ... What does it do to our respect for human
life to hear frenzied debates among government officials about the swiftest,
surest way to kill the presumed criminals?"
What does it do? It cheapens and degrades human life, just as virtually
all aspects of Western popular culture cheapen and degrade human life. Every
time you turn on a television - or walk into a movie theater, or thumb your
way through the latest bestseller, or fire up a computer/video game - you
see human life cheapened and death trivialized ... you see violence, sadism
and vigilantism glorified ... you see a world devoid of empathy, of sympathy,
of decency, of compassion ... you see a lack of understanding, of even a
desire to understand ... you see the celebration of ignorance, pettiness,
You see, in other words, the open promotion of a lynch-mob mentality.
You see, coming from all directions, a massive propaganda barrage aimed
at instilling in the American people a thirst for public bloodletting as
a cure for our ailing nation.
What we bore witness to, in the guise of a legitimate legal proceeding,
was a two-pronged effort to both obliterate the line between crime and 'terrorism,'
and to sell to the masses the idea that the way to heal our wounds and make
ourselves whole again is through wholesale bloodletting. All we need do is
identify the 'terrorists' -- and then kill them. Kill them all.
* * * * * * * * *
And what of the sniper shootings themselves? As with most 'serial killer'
cases, the murders served several purposes, one of which is to disguise the
nature of targeted killings by mixing them in with a seemingly random series
of murders (which is, incidentally, exactly what Henry Lee Lucas claimed that
he was paid to do). The most likely targeted victim in the sniper case was
Linda Franklin, though there could be others.
Another function served by 'serial killers' is to provide a pretext for
a full-blown media circus, thereby providing a handy distraction from more
substantive issues. Distraction is, you see, one of the primary tools by which
Washington maintains control. Keep all eyes focused on the arrest, thousands
of miles away, of an aging, disoriented, unkempt homeless man, and few will
notice that Team Bush has bestowed upon itself extraordinary new police-state
powers. Keep all eyes focused on Michael "Extreme Makeover Gone Bad" Jackson,
and few will notice when Miami police hold a dress rehearsal for New York
City's 2004 Republican National Convention.
This is not meant to suggest, however, that 'serial killer' cases should
be regarded simply as useless distractions. There is, in fact, much to learn
from a thorough, independent examination of such cases -- but little will
be gained from the sensational, disinformational, homogenized, fear-inducing
coverage that such cases normally receive.
This is also not meant to suggest that specific distractions are necessary
to keep the media focus off of the egregious crimes committed by the Washington
elite. As becomes clearer with each passing year, the American press corps
can always be counted on to cover up and/or ignore that which is deemed unfit
for public consumption. But providing distractions allows the American people
(those who are paying attention) to continue deceiving themselves into believing
that the massive U.S. media machine is not fundamentally corrupt, just easily
The most important function served by any 'serial killer' case is, without
a doubt, scaring the hell out of the American people. As should be clear by
now to just about everyone, fear is another primary tool by which Washington
maintains control -- fear of crime, fear of 'terrorism,' fear of ruthless
foreign tyrants intent on despoiling our cherished way of life, fear of all
the things that we must wage war on.
No one can escape the pervasive fear that permeates 21st century America.
The gullible and intellectually lazy (which is to say, the majority of us)
live in perpetual, and irrational, fear of 'the terrorists.' And so it shall
always be. Every hollow victory trumpeted by the White House is quickly followed
by an elevation of the 'terrorist threat level,' to remind the unthinking
that, while we are definitely winning the 'war on terror,' we will never again
Those who have not yet lost the ability to independently analyze the 'news'
live in fear as well, albeit a different kind of fear -- the entirely rational
fear that comes with living in a country where any 'suspect' can be 'disappeared'
indefinitely; and where, without a warrant, any home can be entered and searched,
any phone can be tapped, any e-mail can be intercepted and read, any piece
of mail can be opened, and any piece of luggage can be searched; and where
exercising your purported right to express your dissatisfaction with the policies
of your elected representatives can land you in jail, or in the hospital.
Perhaps the only escape from the fear is through self medication -- hence
the wholesale use and abuse of pain killers and psychiatric drugs.
Few things have struck fear into the hearts of Americans like the specter
of the marauding 'serial killer' -- a monster who kills without warning, without
pity, and without rational motive. It is precisely the suddenness, the
viciousness, and especially the alleged randomness of the killings that cause
such fear. Anyone, according to conventional wisdom, can fall victim to a
Just as importantly, anyone can be
a serial killer, hiding behind
a mask of civility. A co-worker. A neighbor. A friend. Even a family member.
The serial killer mythology, a creation of the FBI's Behavioral Sciences
Unit, has played a prominent role in the atomization of 'Western' society
(which is already at a very advanced stage). The objective of the 'powers
that be' is to continue the process until all remaining social bonds have
been shredded -- until the people, broken up into armies of one, have lost
the ability to fight back against the rapidly encroaching fascist police state.
And so it is that we now have lurking among us a new breed of mythical creature
that preys upon society. As with 'serial killers,' no one is safe from the
'terrorists.' And no one is above suspicion. According to Team Bush, someone
doing something as seemingly innocuous as carrying an almanac could be a 'terrorist.'
And while 'serial killers' have been relatively few in number, 'terrorists'
will be everywhere.