Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Part Three- Helen Morrison, "My Life Among the Serial Killers" (2004)

This is the third in a series of posts presenting a point-by-point rebuttal of Helen Morrison's My Life Among the Serial Killers (2004).

15. "Then I heard that the lawyers and Bobby Joe had spoken to some other psychiatrists for his trial, and I felt that was not a good sign. As I found with Gacy, too many cooks spoil the broth" (p. 160)

Evidently, after Morrison had served as a defense witness for Gacy, her services were sought after by attorneys and defense teams representing other serial killer clients. Given her failure in the Gacy trial, one wonders why that was so. Perhaps it's because it's difficult to find a psychiatrist willing to work towards a lesser punishment for the most spectacularly dangerous members of society. However, we might be tempted to assume the type of legal fees such experts command are convincing. It's clear from her description of the situation that not only does Morrison see herself as more competent than attorneys, but she also resents having her sole authority challenged on a case.

16. "Like other serial killers I had profiled and interviewed, [Bobby Joe] Long had never matured emotionally beyond infancy." (p.180)

Morrison has a disturbing tendency to infantilize serial killers. This is the crux of her unique approach and perspective. She is making the claim that these criminals kill because they are "emotionally immature". Throughout the book, she systematically dismisses other common factors attributed to serial killers- head trauma, childhood abuse, prior criminal behavior, etc. In this she proves to be irredeemably reductionist. She believes she is revolutionary in finding the unifying theory behind serial killing.

17. "There's a kind of profiler who has studied behavioral science who believes that serial killers torture and kill dogs and cats in addition to humans and that torturing animals is a precursor to killing human beings. But I have not seen this to be true." (p. 191)

Here's an example of what I mentioned above. Her attempt to flout conventional wisdom makes sense because (if there is any truth to it) then her own pet theory crumbles. Unfortunately for Morrison, there are many reports of killers first initiating their cruelty upon animals. Jeffrey Dahmer is just one well known example of this. As conflicting "evidence" we have Morrison's contention that she just hasn't "seen this to be true".

18. "Many [serial killers] have IQs that are above average, though none are geniuses." (p.194)

Here's another incident of the author making a completely unsubstantiated claim. How does she know that no serial killers are geniuses? Has she tested each and every one of them? It seems that Morrison believes that by stating something with absolute authority, her words become reality. Maybe a psychiatrist of like mind would suggest that this itself is an indication of "emotional immaturity".

19. "In one swift moment, Pearson bit [Robert] Berdella so hard, he nearly severed his penis. (..) Berdella then injected him with acepromazine, an animal tranquilizer, and began thrashing Pearson with part of a tree limb. It was thick, splitting Pearson's lip and knocking him out. Then Berdella, oozing a lot of blood from Pearson's bite, drove himself to the hospital." (p.191)

"Most people might immediately react to the pain by wanting to get back at the person who hurt them, a reaction that might lead to killing someone who did such a thing. Berdella did nothing to Pearson right away, he just left the house and went to the hospital." (p. 196)

Nothing of course... besides thrashing him unconscious, and leaving him in that state. Morrison doesn't even seem capable of following her own narrative. She wants to make the case that Robert Berdella (a known sadist) was like a "baby playing with a ball" who did not know the actual reality of torture. She says that he didn't know what pain was, and therefore failed to kill his intended victim when, in the course of that victim's attempted resistance, he almost had his penis severed. In the process of trying to make the facts conform to her theory, she descends into complete and utter nonsense.

20. "He was sleeping like a baby." (p.206)

In an account of the crimes of Michael Lee Lockhart, Morrison describes how Lockhart killed a cop, fled the scene in a sports car, lost control of the getaway vehicle, crashed, escaped on foot, cleaned up at a nearby restaurant, and hailed a cab to Houston. When the cab was pulled over by a the Texas Highway Patrol, Lockhart was discovered sleeping on the backseat. Maybe he was exhausted by the day's activities? No... not in Morrison's esteemed judgment. Her guess is "that he was lulled by the movement of the car, which can have a soothing, soporific effect, especially for someone like Lockhart, who wasn't emotionally developed." (p.206) By now we know exactly where Morrison is going with this.

21. "To me it means they all have this kind of free-flowing identity that is sometimes male and sometimes female and sometimes something in between, pointing to the fact that they have a very fluid sexuality, which means they can function as heterosexuals or homosexuals." (p.208)

This is another absolute gem. Now we are told that all serial killers are bisexual. Are you feeling enlightened yet?

22. "It wasn't that he didn't like his mother or that his father had abused him, and that led him to kill. There was something deeper at work here, something that had less to do with nurture and more to do with nature. To me, there was a consequential, scientifically logical connection to be made here, a connection that no one, absolutely no one, before had made." (p.212)

Morrison's talking about Michael Lee Lockhart here, but she could be talking about any serial killer. In her eyes, she has identified a pattern that applies to them all- They are simply immature babies! You have to appreciate the way she congratulates herself here for this amazingly unprecedented revelation. She's obviously forever altered the case of modern criminology.

23. "All the others before and all the others in the future: they all had this trigger moment prior to killing. They were addicted to killing." (p. 214)

Wait... what's that you say? Maybe they are not all babies? They are addicts? OK, that explains it. And it's a good thing too, because now all we have to do is get them into a 12-step program. Who wants to be a sponsor?

Tomorrow... the last installment of this sordid affair...

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