December 3, 2012
The Prosecution of Smith and Hickock
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are gathered here today not to assess whether these men, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, are guilty of their crimes; they have confessed and there is overwhelming evidence against them. No, today we are here to determine how they will pay for taking the lives of four innocent people, the Clutter family. My role here is to argue that these men should pay for their crimes with their lives. This is not merely a matter of opinion; this is what should be done according to the law of the great state of Kansas. Using evidence that the criminals themselves have provided, I shall prove to you that these men deserve to get the death penalty as retribution for their sins. I suppose I should begin my argument by going over the specific laws regarding the death penalty in Kansas. The death penalty is given as punishment for capital murder with 8 aggravating circumstances. The defendants are guilty of several of these aggravating circumstances, and I will go through each one using the evidence gathered. Let’s start at the top of the list, shall we? “The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or depraved (or involved torture).” You may be thinking that this does not apply to them, because as you heard in his testimony, Mr. Smith told us that he “didn’t feel that [he] ought to ask [Mr. Clutter] to stretch out on the cold floor, so [he] dragged the mattress box over, flattened it, and told him to lie down” (241). Indeed, this does show sympathy and caring on the part of Mr. Smith because he wanted Mr. Clutter to be comfortable. In addition, “as [Perry] was leaving [the room], [Mr. Clutter] had a coughing fit, so [Perry] stuffed a pillow under his head,” further demonstrating care for the late Mr. Clutter (242). However, these two acts of kindness do not change the fact that the murders were psychologically cruel in the cases of Nancy, Bonnie, and Kenyon, and physically cruel in the case of Herb. Mr. Smith, the same man who made sure Mr. Clutter was comfortable, also slit the man’s throat. Smith said, “[he] didn’t realize what [he’d] done until [he] heard the sound. Like somebody drowning. Screaming underwater” (244). Smith even said it himself, the man was screaming from fear and agony while choking on his own blood. Shortly after, Perry shot him because “the man had the strength of ten men – he was half out of his ropes, his hands were free” (244). If slitting a man’s throat is not an especially cruel way to murder a man, I do not know what is. Perry didn’t shoot him afterwards to ease his pain either; he only shot him because he was afraid he would break free and attack them. At this point, the family had obviously heard the shotgun blast that killed Mr. Clutter, and was terrified. Their worst fears had come true – that they would actually use the shotgun. One-by-one Smith and Hickock made their way through the house and shot each family member in the head, despite Kenyon’s “murmur of muffled pleadings” and Nancy saying, “‘Oh no! Oh, please. No! No! No! No! Don’t! Oh, please don’t! Please!’” (245). These poor children were obviously terrified, knowing that their deaths were imminent, especially Nancy, who was experiencing psychological trauma, as evidenced by her plea. In addition, Bonnie was under such mental distress that “having heard all she had, [she] welcomed their swift approach” (245). Bonnie actually wanted to die because she was so traumatized from having to hear the shotgun blasts that slaughtered her entire family. According to Detective Dewey, “they had experienced prolonged terror, they had suffered” (246). While the murders were not physically cruel to anyone but Herb, they were indeed mentally cruel to the rest of the family. Okay, number two: “The defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death for one or more persons in addition to the victim of the offense.” The wording of this one is tricky,...
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