A story of 6 murders…
IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote
One Indian summer night, in the plains of western Kansas, a family was murdered inside their own home –a man, his wife, their son, and a daughter. Armed with a knife and a 12-guage shotgun, the murderers robbed, and killed each member separately with a close-range shot to the head. Forty-six days later, the murderers -Perry Edward Smith and Richard Eugene Hickcock -were apprehended in Las Vegas. And at the wee hours of April 14, 1965, they were hanged for their crime at the Kansas State Penitentiary; despite their lawyers three (3) attempts for appeal. It was a crime that gave the whole of Kansas a nightmare.
A year after, January 1966 to be exact, In Cold Blood was released; after its success in The New Yorker installments. Hence, the birth of the Non-fiction Novel. Capote’s book was a product of organized journalism fussed with novelist flair. There was no doubt, his ability made a new kind of statement. He made facts into drama, not just mere reality.
The book was an immediate international best seller, yes; but it was sensationalized by intrigues too, and none more so by William Burroughs’ personal admonition of Capote. Yet, no one can deny the emotions the book had invoked –compassion, anger, shock, disgust, and helplessness. It was a statement of the grieving soul -for the murdered family, and the criminally insane. It also made us reflect on pain and revenge;on true justice; and examine closely how a flimsy imaginary line separates death penalty from murder.
During Henry Plantagenet’s reign, starting 1154, he institutionalized Common Law. It was devised to deal with situations where a person’s behaviour has unfairly caused someone else to suffer loss or harm. Such included the reasonable ancient dictum of “furiosus furore solum punitur” (the madness of the insane is punishment enough); in criminal cases therefore idiots and lunatics are not chargeable for their own acts, if committed when under these incapacities: no, not even for treason itself. As William Blackstone explained further in his Commentaries on the Law of England (Book 4 Chapter 2), executing a criminally insane is “a miserable spectacle, both against law, and of extreme inhumanity and cruelty, and can be no example to others.”
The Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, headed by Chairwoman Donna Schneweis, is the leading critic of the Kansas death penalty and strongly fighting the state to repeal the law. However, none was executed since its reenactment in 1994. Currently, they have 11 inmates on death row.
ISBN: 0679745580 (ISBN13: 9780679745587)
Pages: 343 pages