Showing posts with label Manson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manson. Show all posts

31 July 2014

The Road to Damascus


by Eve Fisher

Every once in a while there's a high profile parole hearing, where everyone gets geared up on one side or the other.  (And yes, we just had one up my way.) They're usually murder cases, sometimes horrific.  There is press coverage, rehashing the crime in all its gory details.  The family (usually) protests vociferously to any parole.  The character witnesses for the prisoner are generally considered either bleeding hearts and/or easily gulled and/or sincere but mistaken. And usually the prisoner is not released.  Contrary to the television world, I would say that 90% of all violent offenders do not get released their first time up for parole, or second, or third.  And many violent offenders do not and perhaps will never get released.

This may not be a bad thing:  Charles Manson leaps to mind.  He is currently 80 years old, still residing in Corcoran State Prison in California, and that's fine with me.  The members of his "family" who participated in the Tate-LaBianca Murders (mostly tried in 1970, one in 1971) were:

  • Susan Atkins - 17 parole hearings, all denied; 22 years old going in; died at 61 in prison.
  • Patricia Krenwinkle - 13 parole hearings, all denied; 23 years old going in; currently 67 years old.
  • Tex Watson - 14 parole hearings, all denied; 25 years old going in; currently 69 years old.
  • Leslie Van Houten - 19 parole hearings, all denied; 19 years old going in; currently 65 years old.

Everyone agrees that they were manipulated by Manson; that he masterminded the horrible murders; that they were under the influence of drugs.  All had/have, over their 40+ years in prison, claimed to become born-again Christians, and/or worked with AA, NA, and other organizations, and/or transformed.  It is extremely doubtful that any of them will ever be paroled.  The crimes were too horrific (although no more horrific than others that have been committed against less famous people) and received too much publicity.

Okay.  So what about these cases?
  • A 16 year old tried as an adult, convicted, and sentenced to life without parole for shooting a taxi driver in cold blood in order to get the taxi and use it to flee from the scene of a robbery the kid had just committed.
  • An 18 year old Native American killed another man in a drunken brawl and was sentenced to life without parole because "he would never be a decent member of society."
  • Any of the many "three strikes and you're out" life convictions for committing three felonies.

What if they clean up their act, sober up, get saved, whatever, study, work hard, participate in AA, NA, and other organizations, and/or were transformed in various ways?  Two questions:
  1. Is there really such a thing as repentance and transformation?
  2. Does it matter?
First one:  Can people really repent, change, transform? You would think, given the title above, that everyone who claims to be Christian would say yes.  However, after years working in the judicial system, I can tell you that most people don't believe it, at least not for certain crimes and certainly not for others.  Why?  Well, here are a few options:
  1. They've - we've - all been taken one too many times; we've all been screwed big time and haven't gotten over it.
  2. They can't imagine another person's life, much less that life actually changing.  How can someone, anyone, think/feel/act differently than me without being dangerously crazy, and in need of serious treatment and/or incarceration? (Well, that's what fiction is for, to explain it.)
  3. Life is much easier when you maintain the "once a ___, always a ___" attitude.
But okay, say we do believe that people change.  Comes the second question, does it matter?  In other words, what is punishment really about?  I've read that it's a three-fold concept, incorporating
  1. retribution and/or incapacitation (as in Old Testament/Sharia law); 
  2. deterrence (although there have been studies that prove people aren't deterred by the severity of punishment; certainly in Restoration/ Victorian England, where people were hanged for stealing a handkerchief, there were still plenty of thieves because poverty was so endemic); and 
  3. rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation is the interesting one:  if rehabilitation (i.e., transformation) is the goal, and if people are capable of rehabilitation, does that mean we still execute them and/or keep them incarcerated for life? And if they are rehabilitated/transformed, shouldn't we let them out, to try again, to live again?  Or is rehabilitation, while a sweet dream, an ideal outcome, irrelevant to punishment as a debt that must be paid, using time instead of money?

(Although, speaking of debts, we all know, don't we, that prison is extremely expensive? Which is part of the push towards private prisons which, frankly, scare the hell out of me, because private prisons have quotas for occupancy...  And then there's the whole thing of trying to pry all the costs for our court system out of the accused and arrested - whether or not they are found innocent.  And then there's the infamous case of the woman who died in jail because her children skipped school and someone had to pay the truancy fines and they didn't have the money, so she got to go to the equivalent of debtors' prison in Pennsylvania.)

Look, I believe in rehabilitation.  I believe in transformation.  I am not the same person I was in my teens (thank God).  And yet, I have no answers, just questions.  There are some crimes for which I'd lock people away for life.  But they may not always be the same crimes that someone else would lock a person away for life.

And then there's Saul.  He was guilty, at the very least, of accessory to murder (he held the coats as Stephen got lynched), and he was going to kill as many heretics as he could find.  And then Saul got knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus, and became a believer overnight, blinded and restored to sight by a miracle.  He eventually had to leave Damascus - in the middle of the night - and went to Jerusalem, with a new name - Paul - but that didn't fool anybody. The disciples didn't want anything to do with him, because they didn't believe that he had changed.  It was a big risk. They took some convincing.  So do we. So do I.  The question is, when is the risk worth taking? Is it worth taking? How do we know?

02 December 2012

Crime History– Archibald McCafferty


by Leigh Lundin

Losing a child affects parents in a myriad of terrible ways, some damaged worse than others. This is a story about one of them.

The birth of a son was one of the few gentle things in the life of Archibald Beattie McCafferty, a 24-year-old Scottish-born Australian with an extensive criminal sheet. McCafferty's marriage to Janice Redington lasted a scant six weeks, just long enough for her to fall pregnant. One evening, she fell asleep nursing her infant and awoke to the horror she'd accidentally smothered her own child.

Then things turned worse, far worse.

In and out of mental and correctional institutions, Archie McCafferty wasn't firmly seated to begin with, but the death of his baby unhinged his teetering mental balance. More than ever, he embraced drugs and drink. Combined with grief, they may explain his 'vision' seeing his son hovering above the child's grave. In his hallucination, his son told him he could be brought back to life if McCafferty killed seven victims.
first murder scene
first murder scene

Se7en Incarnate

McCafferty had forged a Fagin-like bond with a 26-year-old woman and four teens, a relationship that involved alcohol, dope, and thievery. He described his son's visitation to them and demanded their assistance in carrying out his gruesome intentions. They acted immediately.

The first victim they choked, beat and stabbed in a bar's back alley before they came up with a better plan. Posing as hitchhikers in the rain, the teens rounded up and shot two more victims, wrongly described as tramps. The car they seized from the third victim ran out of gasoline, forcing the gang to postpone the final kills until the following night. That delay saved lives.

One of the teens didn't trust McCafferty and he sensed McCafferty didn't trust him. Rightly fearing he'd become one of the seven victims, Rick Webster nervously returned to work at the Sydney Morning Herald. Glancing out a window, he spotted his fellow gang members waiting in a van. He correctly guessed they intended to kill him as soon as he stepped into the street.
arrest
arrest

Certain he couldn't leave the building alive, Webster phoned police and asked for an investigator to come to the newspaper office. When detectives grasped what Webster was telling them, they called in a team that swooped in and arrested the entire gang. Without question, Webster's call saved McCafferty's wife and her family.

In court, the news media compared the case to the Charles Manson gang. Throughout, McCafferty had to be drugged with a quadruple dose of tranquilizers. Candidly telling the court he'd kill until he reached seven victims, he was sentenced to three life terms.

Prison

Only 26-year-old Carol Howes escaped a guilty verdict. The four teens were sentenced to prison. Gang member Julie Todd hanged herself days after her 17th birthday.

in court
in court
McCafferty proved to be the hardest criminal in Australia's penal system. He was convicted of murdering another prisoner and, as part of an internal 'murder squad', may have been involved with three other deaths. Interestingly, he denied killing the inmate, but a disbelieving judge sentenced him to an additional fourteen years.

Over time, his rage seemed to abate. McCafferty gave testimony about corrupt prison officials and other criminals. Eventually, wardens moved him from a maximum security prison to a minimum security farm. He was admitted to a work release program and allowed him to spend weekends with his brother's family. A judge agreed to consider him for parole.

Meanwhile, parole officials discovered a legal wrinkle. When McCafferty's parents brought young Archie to Australia as a child, the proper paperwork for citizenship hadn't been taken care of. Technically, McCafferty was still a British subject, meaning the state could make him someone else's problem.

Escape the Past

McCafferty today
McCafferty today
Upon parole, authorities put him on a plane bound for Scotland along with his jailhouse bride, Mandy Queen. McCafferty changed his name to James Lok, whereupon he found work as a painter and then a toymaker. Against all odds, the marriage lasted– he'd become a family man. As far as Australia was concerned, the case was closed. And so it seemed for more than two decades.

Twenty-five years after he landed in Scotland, he again fell under the influence of alcohol. After a drinking and driving binge, he threatened his wife and police. That was peaceably resolved.

On a trip to New Zealand, authorities arrested and deported him for failing to declare his criminal past. But, when all is said and done, McCafferty, one of the more feared of killers, kept up his end of the parole bargain better than expected.

That Manson Label

Manson's motivations embody pure evil, self-serving to the extreme. His followers long repented and, harmless if not toothless, should be released. But Manson– I can't imagine him other than the self-created monster of malevolence, incapable of interacting with society in a rĂ´le other than predator.

McCafferty isn't anything close. Although branded as Australia's Charles Manson, the label doesn't fit. We can at least understand the sorrow and pain that drove the man. And, McCafferty made great efforts to turn his life around. Life's imperfect, but he, his wife Mandy, and the court system deserve high marks.