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The Craigslist Killer
August 27, 2013 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Wanted: Caretaker For Farm. Simply watch over a 688 acre patch of hilly farmland and feed a few cows, you get 300 a week and a nice 2 bedroom trailer, someone older and single preferred but will consider all, relocation a must, you must have a clean record and be trustworthy—this is a permanent position, the farm is used mainly as a hunting preserve, is overrun with game, has a stocked 3 acre pond, but some beef cattle will be kept, nearest neighbor is a mile away, the place is secluded and beautiful, it will be a real get away for the right person, job of a lifetimeif you are ready to relocate please contact asap, position will not stay open.

(emphasis added)
posted by gauche (113 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bummer. Sounds like a nice job.
posted by entropone at 11:48 AM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Article is on the The Longform.org Guide to Craigslist Crime, if you want more of such things.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:50 AM on August 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh, Craigslist...
There is nothing that would surprise me being done through CL, anymore.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:54 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Read to the end of the article y'all. It's really good.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:58 AM on August 27, 2013 [33 favorites]


My god the writing is good. Such a tragedy. Those poor men, and their poor families, and that poor fucking kid.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:02 PM on August 27, 2013 [21 favorites]


Wow, that was a really good article, and unexpectedly touching. Thank you for posting this, I'll be thinking about masculinity and family in a new way today.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:02 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read this story avidly, a real guilty pleasure. When I got to the last page, where I read about how society had failed these white men but someone still cares about them, I squinted a little and looked down for the author's name....and there it was, Hannah Rosin, who's recently written a bunch of other pieces for the Atlantic.

It made me suspect that she slathered that stuff onto a story that was just a good story but she couldn't figure out how to sell it to her editor...who ALSO was transfixed by the story and ALSO wanted a reason to publish it.

Also, that kid's story was just a sad waste of a life.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:08 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I got to the last page, where I read about how society had failed these white men but someone still cares about them...
It made me suspect that she slathered that stuff onto a story that was just a good story but she couldn't figure out how to sell it to her editor...


Well, she says explicitly that she went into her reporting expecting to tell a story about the recession and about how it had isolated these men and made their lives precarious, but the "surrogate family" angle was something that stood out to her during the course of her reporting, forcing her to refocus. I see no reason not to take her at her word about this.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:14 PM on August 27, 2013 [23 favorites]


At the trial, the local press seized on the story of how, at age 5, when he was in kindergarten, Brogan would eat breakfast alone, get himself dressed, and make his own way to the bus stop. “He raised himself, in my opinion,” one grade-school counselor who knew him told the jury. But things weren’t quite so simple: Michael explained to me that he worked an early shift at a machine shop and had to leave the house by 6:30 a.m. Before he left, he laid out clothes for his son, poured his favorite cereal in a bowl, and left him a little pitcher of milk. Then he gently woke him up and left for work.
Tearing up here at work a little.

It made me suspect that she slathered that stuff onto a story that was just a good story but she couldn't figure out how to sell it to her editor...

Unless you know more about her than the rest of us do, that seems a little unfair.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:16 PM on August 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


wenestvedt: It made me suspect that she slathered that stuff onto a story that was just a good story but she couldn't figure out how to sell it to her editor...who ALSO was transfixed by the story and ALSO wanted a reason to publish it.

Towards the end, the author explains her transition from story of times when men fell from steady jobs to looking on Craigslist for a job with an escape, to stories of interesting, complex people. Her straight-forward story developed its own twists, which she didn't prune from the final article, and which made the whole article a lot more appealing than a story of someone who valued others so little that he would concoct fake jobs to steal their stuff.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:19 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I really liked that kid's poem.

What an insane story.
posted by sio42 at 12:20 PM on August 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


Now that's a twist ending. "Nicely done" feels like an understatement, so I'll go with "damn."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:26 PM on August 27, 2013


Good article.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:34 PM on August 27, 2013


Here's an interview with Brogan, by the same journalist.

It's a great piece, but really sad. I think it's especially fucked up that a 16 year old get life in prison for this. He was 16, he was pressured by someone who had been an authority figure in his life since he was 8 years old. No way does he deserve a life sentence.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [44 favorites]


Every human being has a value, is worthy of love, or respect, or something, except for those who live as if no other human beings are worth anything. That is what evil is.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:36 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing that stands out to me is that surrogate families these men build for themselves. It's all on their terms with no pressure. Kind of like other internet relationships. It's all about what they're willing to give and settling for what they get.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:40 PM on August 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's a great piece, but really sad. I think it's especially fucked up that a 16 year old get life in prison for this. He was 16, he was pressured by someone who had been an authority figure in his life since he was 8 years old. No way does he deserve a life sentence.

Well, at least he's appealing. It's a ... tricky situation, and not one that the criminal justice system has a perfect solution for. I mean, he sounds pretty rehabilitated already.
posted by kafziel at 12:44 PM on August 27, 2013


The depiction of a segment of the male working class unwillingly alienated from the institution of the family is fascinating. These men create ersatz families, go to church or develop closer relationships with their friends. Their need to belong never ceases.
posted by banal evil at 12:44 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


“It was beginning to look,” Hannum later recalled, “like Mr. Davis truly was a victim rather than whatever I thought he was at the beginning."

Remind me never to need the help of the police in rural Ohio.

That was a fascinating story, and food for thought. I don't usually like Hanna Rosin's writing, but this was good.
posted by Miko at 12:46 PM on August 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


It made me suspect that she slathered that stuff onto a story that was just a good story but she couldn't figure out how to sell it to her editor...who ALSO was transfixed by the story and ALSO wanted a reason to publish it.

I loved the meditation on building a family-like support network, and thought the story about Beasley committing murders was actually kind of boring by comparison.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:50 PM on August 27, 2013


"I think it's especially fucked up that a 16 year old get life in prison for this. He was 16, he was pressured by someone who had been an authority figure in his life since he was 8 years old. No way does he deserve a life sentence."

Yeah. That's someone right there who can be rehabilitated. Instead, it's a life wasted and a public expense of, what, 40K a year, or so?

This story reads to me like something right out of Elmore Leonard. Leonard presented the real face of crime: a lot of stupidity, impulsiveness, short-sighted opportunism, people for whom violence and killing is just something you do and others who in doing it are forever scarred by it, criminals doing what they do because they're wandering around the margins where they're mostly ignored. And just enough occasional intelligence and hard work to accomplish spectacular feats of stupidity, cruelty, and waste.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:53 PM on August 27, 2013 [24 favorites]


Reminds me more of George Pelecanos, especially the victim who was a veteran sound engineer with two hipster kids in a metal band.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:57 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler: I think it's especially fucked up that a 16 year old get life in prison for this. He was 16, he was pressured by someone who had been an authority figure in his life since he was 8 years old. No way does he deserve a life sentence.

When I read his sentence, I was also taken aback. It made me think of Norway's racist mass-murder, who was deemed sane, and received 21 years in prison for killing 77 people.
He was sentenced to the maximum possible term of 21 years and was ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years in prison.

The sentence could be extended, potentially indefinitely, in the future if he is considered still to pose a threat to society. Norway does not have the death penalty.
This isn't some fluke, it's by design:
"The biggest mistake that our societies have made is to believe that you must punish hard to change criminals," explained Oeyvind Alnaes, Bastoey's then-prison governor. "This is wrong. The big closed prisons are criminal schools. If you treat people badly, they will behave badly. Anyone can be a citizen if we treat them well, respect them, and give them challenges and demands."

Alnaes' views reflect the way Norway and the rest of Scandinavia run their penal systems. In Norway, there are no death sentences — or even life sentences. The maximum jail term anyone can receive is 21 years, including for murder. Most people will serve two-thirds of their term before being released. Convicts retain the right to vote and can exercise it while in jail.
How beautifully enlightened.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:08 PM on August 27, 2013 [39 favorites]


That was really good... and also really, really sad.

If the point was truly to find people who wouldn't be missed, I think the killer could have done it. Even considering he was looking for people with personal possessions worth stealing, I think he could have found people who were somewhat adrift, had nothing to lose by moving out to a remote farm, permanently.

But Beasley didn't choose his victims that way. All of his victims had very intense personal connections with others. Apart from Pauley, the one who got away, all of them were sacrificing some of that closeness when they agreed to take the job.

That's the really tragic part of this story. Beasley didn't just kill four men, he also permanently diminished the lives of all of the people those men were close to. It can't be a coincidence that two of his victims - the two with the least amount of stuff worth stealing - were people who were missed immediately, because they were in the habit of reaching out to people who were close to them upwards of 50 times a day.
posted by subdee at 1:13 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


It can't be a coincidence that two of his victims - the two with the least amount of stuff worth stealing - were people who were missed immediately, because they were in the habit of reaching out to people who were close to them upwards of 50 times a day.

I came in to make a similar point. It was heartbreaking that one of the two you mention had nothing worth stealing because he gave everything he had to his sons before unwittingly going to his death.
posted by Gelatin at 1:21 PM on August 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah, this story is just so sad. ;_;

If the author wanted to stick to her original hook about financial insecurity, she could have pointed out that the killer-victim relationship took the form of an employer-employee relationship. Even before he killed them, Beasley demonstrated his power over his victims by getting them to agree to see their loved ones less in exchange for permanent financial security, and freedom from the daily grind. For some people this would be a win-win situation, but for the people Beasley killed it was actually a devil's bargain, because they all had people in their lives they were very, very close to.

In the current economy, employers have that kind of control over the lives of their employees.
posted by subdee at 1:22 PM on August 27, 2013 [32 favorites]


I think it's especially fucked up that a 16 year old get life in prison for this. He was 16, he was pressured by someone who had been an authority figure in his life since he was 8 years old. No way does he deserve a life sentence.

He drove the car that sent two men to their deaths. Helped dig their graves. And he sat on this knowledge for 3 months and did absolutely nothing. He had so many chances to say something, anything, to anybody, and he didn't. He is not a victim.

To put it another way. When his crime happened, Rafferty was about the same age as the football players from Steubenville. Even though some adults also helped cover up their wrongdoing, what they did was still wrong and they knew it and they should have gotten a tougher sentence for it. I don't see a difference here.
posted by FJT at 2:03 PM on August 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


He helped dig their graves *before* the crime was committed, no less.
posted by maryr at 2:09 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some people this would be a win-win situation, but for the people Beasley killed it was actually a devil's bargain, because they all had people in their lives they were very, very close to.

Her point is that everyone has people like that, or wants to - even the ones we stereotype as the most disconnected from their family and peers. People have been moving away from home for better jobs and/or a more idyllic lifestyle (for their personal definition of "idyllic") since feudalism stopped being a thing, and it has never not involved some measure of sacrifice.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:13 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I kind of agree with that, actually - that's why I said "if the author wanted" - but I still think think killer purposely chose people with exceptionally strong bonds. The second victim had a twin sister.
posted by subdee at 2:25 PM on August 27, 2013



The depiction of a segment of the male working class unwillingly alienated from the institution of the family is fascinating. These men create ersatz families, go to church or develop closer relationships with their friends. Their need to belong never ceases.


As a working class male unwillingly alienated from the institution of the family, all I can say to this is...um... ya, no shit. I would guess that most healthy humans of all classes and cultural backgrounds share this need to belong in some sense.
posted by Jeeb at 2:31 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh god the story about that kid.

Michael explained to me that he worked an early shift at a machine shop and had to leave the house by 6:30 a.m. Before he left, he laid out clothes for his son, poured his favorite cereal in a bowl, and left him a little pitcher of milk. Then he gently woke him up and left for work.

I had to take a little break from the article after that. Shattering.
posted by sweetkid at 2:36 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Satisfaction of reading a well written article. Sadness of learning about lives stopped & ruined. And the intelligent discussion for the follow-up read.

Metafilter: this was best of the web.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 2:42 PM on August 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Her point is that everyone has people like that, or wants to - even the ones we stereotype as the most disconnected from their family and peers."

No, everyone isn't like that. Geiger wasn't like that when he died. Many street people aren't like that (though many are).

Addicts and the "unemployable" and others can slip away — or be pushed away — from family and friends, become homeless or nearly homeless and disconnected from any substantial relationships. Parents and children are usually relationships of last resort, but the severely troubled will often be severed from these relationship when the pain and trouble are too much to bear for these loved ones.

And as people age, parents and other family elders will die. Even healthy, functional, middle-aged and childless working adults who've never married can find themselves without any family at all, and some will have no close friends.

It's certainly true that, as this article demonstrates, many people we might expect to be disconnected find ways to establish and maintain close human relationships. But in my opinion this just illustrates that we can't simply characterize the kind of person with close relationships or the kind of person without close relationships — probably the most extremely marginalized, such as the mentally-ill homeless, are most likely to be disconnected; but otherwise the disconnected are different kinds of people in different kinds of circumstances.

The fundamental truth is that twenty-first century American society does a poor job of creating and maintaining connected, close human relationships — the structures that do this are weakened or absent. People are more itinerant in most aspects of their lives, from their jobs to the neighborhoods where they live. Arguably, we have the close relationships we do because we make special efforts to establish and keep them, as these men did. The institutions in which we participate mostly don't help and often hurt.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:46 PM on August 27, 2013 [18 favorites]


He had so many chances to say something, anything, to anybody, and he didn't. He is not a victim.

I really don't like the meta blame game that seems to happen every time there's an article about a criminal act. Instead of trying to place people into these stupidly rigid binary categories of perpetrator and victim, can't we say that yes, although Brogan was at least partially responsible for the deaths of these men, it is a tragedy that he was placed into a situation where he could help to commit this crime, and it also is a tragedy that a 16 year old faces spending the rest of his life in prison.
posted by Ned G at 2:47 PM on August 27, 2013 [21 favorites]


Geiger wasn't like that when he died.

Summer Rowley doesn't count? Just because she wasn't letting him sleep on her couch doesn't mean they weren't close.

I think your overall point is on the mark, though.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:58 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


He had so many chances to say something, anything, to anybody, and he didn't. He is not a victim.

I really don't like the meta blame game that seems to happen every time there's an article about a criminal act.


I don't see this as a "meta blame game" and I don't think it necessarily locks anyone into perpetrator or victim roles to point out that this kid is not a victim, he is an accomplice to cold-blooded murder. In my opinion, while it is a tragedy that he ended up in this situation, the murders of those men are far, far more tragic.
posted by Jeeb at 3:12 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Steubenville kids weren't led by an adult that had known them all their lives and was like a father figure to them, into doing what they did. To my knowledge, anyway.

Beasley was basically a parent to him, Brogan trusted him, and was still a kid. A kid who seems like a good candidate for rehabilitation. Life is too long a punishment.
posted by emjaybee at 3:14 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Then they drove to a spot not far from where Geiger was buried, and Rafferty dug the grave intended for Pauley. Before they left, Beasley put a $20 bill under a nearby rock: if it was gone when they came back, he’d know someone had been there.
That's shockingly clever to me.

As for the sentencing, I will just notice that the Center for Law and Global Justice, through its investigation of the past several years, has confirmed that life without the possibility of parole is not a sentence that is given to juvenile offenders in any other country of the world but the United States.
posted by brokkr at 3:14 PM on August 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


this kid is not a victim, he is an accomplice to cold-blooded murder.

Seems to me he's both. I don't think these are mutually exclusive categories.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:17 PM on August 27, 2013 [19 favorites]


I know the writer was certainly painting a picture of Brogan, and I have no idea what he's really like. Given what I have to work with though, the idea that he'll be in prison for the rest of his life is really disturbing.

Yeah, he knew what he was doing; he didn't say anything; he was complicit in three murders. He was also 16 years old. I know that 16 is pretty old, and that we expect pretty grow-up behavior from 16-year-olds. However, they're still kids in a lot of ways--they're in that in-between area between childhood and adulthood, when they're capable of being responsible and mature one minute, and reckless and thoughtless the next.

I tried putting myself in Brogan's shoes, and I imagine I probably would've completely broken down in fear after the first murder, and wouldn't have gone through with any more. Still, I can imagine without a lot of difficulty that adding a relationship to someone like Beasley into my imagings makes it really hard to predict how I would react.

What I'm trying (and failing) to express in the preceeding paragraph is that a lot of teens are really just kids in adult bodies.

It's impossible to really draw the line when one becomes the other, but for most purposes, we've set that line at the 18th birthday. Why we decide that someone can't be mature enough to vote or sign a contract but can be mature enough to take full adult responsibility for something like this is a mystery to me.
posted by Ickster at 3:30 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't mean to be ignoring the dead in all of this, but every time I start thinking about them I'm on the verge of tears. Pauley looks way too much like my dad, and Kern's story is too heartbreaking for me to really dwell on.
posted by Ickster at 3:33 PM on August 27, 2013


"Summer Rowley doesn't count? Just because she wasn't letting him sleep on her couch doesn't mean they weren't close."

My impression was that he'd been close to Rowley before he became homeless but he wasn't actively in touch with her when he died. Remember that no one reported him missing.

Checking the article just now, I see that he met Rowley in 2004 when she was 19, she was 25 when she had her baby, that appears in the photograph with Geiger. That was 2010. But Geiger was living in a shelter and unemployed when Beasley found him.

I think Geiger is an example of both competing arguments. With Rowley, he found a surrogate daughter and formed a very close bond, as Rosin shows the other men did. She doesn't describe his family, but we know they didn't attend Beasley's trial and Rosin apparently didn't contact them or get much of a response. It sounds like they were estranged or distant.

But while Geiger had the relationship with Rowley for a long while, it sounds like when his life became turbulent — being unemployed and homeless — that fell by the wayside. Which happens.

A different way to make the point I made in my previous comment, and which will tie these opposites together, is that people tend to overestimate the endurance of close ties with family and longtime friends — those connections are more fragile than a lot of people believe and it's very easy for people to fall away from each other. Or be pushed away. In either case, there's lots of people for whom those ties don't exist or are so weak as to be almost nonexistent.

But, similarly, people also overestimate how difficult it is to form close bonds with just random people we meet, people around us. As several here have mentioned and per Rosin's thesis, most people desire connection and close relationships. One thing that actually gets in the way is the desire for sexual and romantic relationships because the pursuit of that can eclipse the possibility for all the other relationships we might make, and those are generally far less fraught and easier to initiate. People open themselves to each other and they will help each other. It's what people do.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:37 PM on August 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


but I still think think killer purposely chose people with exceptionally strong bonds.

Why would he do that?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:51 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the details about the pets that get me. That Pauley brought the ashes of his cat with him as one of his few possessions breaks my heart.

And the line from Rafferty about how it is he'll knowing he will be in prison when his pets die. I've always had this abiding belief that a person who can love an animal cannot be all bad. I do feel terribly sorry for him. For all of them except for Beasley , who just reinforces my other abiding belief that there are truly evil people in this world and you must watch out for them.
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:06 PM on August 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Rafferty is a victim. He said he did it because he was afraid for his own life and his family. And was right to be.
posted by bleep at 4:10 PM on August 27, 2013


filthy light thief: "When I read his sentence, I was also taken aback. It made me think of Norway's racist mass-murder, who was deemed sane, and received 21 years in prison for killing 77 people"

Coincidentally, I'm Norwegian. Make of that what you will.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:13 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems to me he's both. I don't think these are mutually exclusive categories.

Fair enough. I think I am naturally relating more to the murder victims in this case, as I fit the target demographic pretty well, and it has been quite some time since I was 16. I get it though, this kid was in a horrible situation and I do think life with no parole is too much, I just have a hard time feeling very sorry for him.
posted by Jeeb at 4:16 PM on August 27, 2013


Why would he do that?

Maybe because he enjoyed feeling powerful.

If you look at his history, one of his previous crimes involved picking prostitutes off the street, pretending to be a savior, and becoming their new pimp. And he was Rafferty's savior as well, before he made him an accomplice. If he kills people who are going to be missed, he doesn't just change their lives, he changes the lives all of the people who knew them as well. He's playing God.
posted by subdee at 4:41 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Beasley was basically a parent to him, Brogan trusted him, and was still a kid. A kid who seems like a good candidate for rehabilitation. Life is too long a punishment.

I can kind of see how Brogan might rationalize it before the first murder, by thinking, "Oh, we're just going to scare some poor schmuck with a gun, take his wallet. No way is Mr. Beasley going to shoot the guy, he's not a murderer."

But, once Beasley steps across the line, it gets really hard for me to sympathize. I mean, maybe someone can correct me on this, but didn't he sit in on the interviews for the men and also heard them talk when they were driving to the secluded spot? Brogan heard the life stories of these men, got to know that they had interests, families, friends, and pasts. I mean, for a person that wanted a father figure so much, he couldn't think through that someone's father was dead and was never coming back at all?
posted by FJT at 4:43 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great fucking story.
posted by klangklangston at 4:47 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Despite what I wrote above, I like the angle the author took on the story - many people have human connections, even people you wouldn't expect - more than the angle that Beasly enjoyed playing God. That story has been written so many times already... Focusing on how people connect to each other, and not on the messed-up psychology of the serial killer, makes the story more tender. (And also more sad ;_;)
posted by subdee at 4:58 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Victim or perpetrator, whatever the Kid might be, the narrative is polluted by the fact that he "confessed" and then "recanted".

He agreed to a plea deal and made whatever statements the detectives told him to before that deal fell apart.

As we are all aware, in order to get a plea deal people sometimes might say untruthful things that agree with the story the state already believes.

Who knows what actually happened?
posted by Megafly at 4:58 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you look at his history, one of his previous crimes involved picking prostitutes off the street, pretending to be a savior, and becoming their new pimp. And he was Rafferty's savior as well, before he made him an accomplice. If he kills people who are going to be missed, he doesn't just change their lives, he changes the lives all of the people who knew them as well. He's playing God.

That's a lot of maybe's when "he just wasn't very good at getting away with murder" is only one. Besides, in his vetting process, he weeded out people with close romantic relationships. I think it's far more likely that, like the author, he just assumed these men had come unmoored and wouldn't be missed, instead of the fact, which is that they had surprising and unusually close surrogate families.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:24 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


The thing about the kid, Brogan, is that he was brought into the crimes by suddenly seeing the older guy shoot the first victim - imagine seeing your father or some other father-equivalent commit some horrible crime right out of the blue in front of you. How would you process that? Particularly if you were young and had a traumatic upbringing. Could you see yourself getting drawn into covering it up?

I also wonder about how this group of people customarily relate to the police. A lot of times, if you're poor, you don't get in the habit of going to the cops or thinking that the cops will be on your side. You're used to seeing the cops arrest, for example, "both sides" in a domestic abuse case. Or you're used to seeing the cops get paid off. I've got to wonder if a factor in this wasn't simply that the kid had no mental framework for "I just saw something really terrible, I will go to the cops and they will believe me and not arrest me alongside the perpetrator".

What if the kid was basically in shock and too scared to get any kind of advice? No one who wasn't naive and in shock would write a poem about a murder he'd helped commit and leave it on his computer.

That's very, very different from choosing to sexually assault a girl and put the assault on the internet.
posted by Frowner at 6:21 PM on August 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


Thanks for linking to this. Nice piece of journalism.
posted by smoke at 6:38 PM on August 27, 2013


Both stories in the article, the murder story and the one about new family connections, were well worth reading. I hope the families get the chance to heal and remember their loved ones.
posted by arcticseal at 6:56 PM on August 27, 2013


I have been thinking a lot lately about how the US economy is awful in how vulnerable it leaves people. And this article fit in pretty well with those thoughts -- in this case, both the criminals and the victims were part of this vulnerable class. The criminal luring people to the woods so he could steal and sell their meager belongings and continue his threadbare boarding-house existence, and the victims lured there by a too good to be true job offer that would finally let them accumulate some savings and not worry about rent. Both criminal and victims were motivated by the effects of this horrible, cruel economic system. I hate this country.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:24 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brogan Rafferty deserves to serve life in prison and that is the most just punishment for him. Certainly, the second and third time around he knew exactly what he was doing and exactly what was going to happen. He was murdering those men to participate in robbery. A little profit was worth more to him than his victims' lives. He acted as a full and equal participant, not just tagging along. Of course now he says that he was afraid for his life (but he willingly joined in with a killer). In that case, he could have gone to the police and led them to the evidence. No one was preventing from from doing so. It's sad that he destroyed his life at such a young age, but he doesn't deserve a life in society any more, and he doesn't belong in society.
posted by knoyers at 7:42 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rafferty had plenty of time to think about what had happened, and prevent future attacks. He was a willing accomplice.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:26 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rafferty's role in this seems strikingly like Lee Malvo's role in the DC sniper attacks, with the same kind of influence by a father figure and a similar degree of culpability by Rafferty.
posted by Unified Theory at 8:50 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Knoyers, you do understand that babies don't pop out of the womb with a full idea of good and evil, right? That at 16 his brain is still developing, and he was under the influence of an extremely manipulative adult?

We know the brains of humans is still maturing until we're in our 20s, and we have a different set of rules for judging those under 18 because a just society recognized that juveniles behave differently and aren't operating at the same mental capacity as adults. Unfortunately, the punishment fetishes that has overtaken the US means too many people care more about hurting those that step out of line than working towards rehabilitation.

More and more children are tried as adults as a consequence of this perverse punishment mentality. I weep at the loss of empathy in US culture.

I agree up thread with the idea of him being both a victim and a murderer. Bad, yes. But he should get the option of being rehabilitated. Otherwise we let Beasley take the life of yet another victim.

The poem was so racked with guilt. With the attempt to rid himself of the horror and the guilt and failing... That isn't a cold blooded killer, it's a dumb kid, being stuck in a horrible, mind breaking situation. He said he feared for his life and that of his family, but I bet it was nothing nearly so clear. He feared, he was just afraid.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:57 PM on August 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


The trouble with Rosin is that she is always looking for ways in which (generally white) men are being victimized for being (generally white) men. I have uncertain feelings about journalism that comes about because you're specifically looking for ways to somehow prove that privilege doesn't exist or that white men don't have it--a goal that treats this like it's somehow emblematic of the wrongs we've all done to white men. Even when it's an interesting story.

It seems, I guess, to diminish the very real stories of more ordinary economic hardships, as well as this particular story of something that is not some kind of trend piece but a horrible thing that happened for all the usual reasons that horrible things happen, all of which we can speculate about ad nauseum, but I prefer not to. This is one of too many stories of bad things that have happened to good kids, to good men, to good women, to all kinds of good people, to some people who weren't very good but still didn't deserve what they got, whatever.

I may be overly sensitive here because Akron's gone through some incredibly hard times, and is still going through some incredibly hard times. This was, again, a horrible thing that happened. It does not deserve to get tied up in her personal agenda, and neither do the economic troubles of my particular bit of the Rust Belt.
posted by Sequence at 9:00 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


The trouble with Rosin is that she is always looking for ways in which (generally white) men are being victimized for being (generally white) men.

To be fair, it's her specialty. Gender and its discontents - that's her beat. It's the focus of her whole cultural inquiry, so of course she'll find stories that allow her to do that interpretation.
posted by Miko at 9:05 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


We understand that people in abusive relationships can have skewed perspectives of the situations they find themselves in. Gaslighting, we call it. And when that happens, we understand the abused to be a victim of abuse; we tell them to escape, to help themselves, to detach from the situation. We understand that the 'reality distortion field' of an abusive relationship can color everything, even including the victim's own decision-making processes. We understand that it's not so easy as blaming the victim and saying -- "you could have just gone to the police and told them your situation. No one was preventing you from doing so!"

It doesn't sound like this relationship was abusive at all -- and quite the opposite. Rafferty had a crack addict mom and an absent father, but managed to find a father figure so trusted that Rafferty thought"he was the greatest thing that ever happened to me." Reality distortion fields happen around people who we care about and who take care of us, also -- do we pardon the small problems of those we care about? Of course!

So even in a non-abusive relationship, these attachments and bonds can form that impair the decision-making abilities of a person --- especially if that person is a sixteen year old kid. And we send him to life? Forever?

===

In that case, he could have gone to the police and led them to the evidence. No one was preventing from from doing so. It's sad that he destroyed his life at such a young age, but he doesn't deserve a life in society any more, and he doesn't belong in society.

Rafferty had plenty of time to think about what had happened, and prevent future attacks. He was a willing accomplice.

Bullshit. I've said it before and I've said it again: the judicial system is either a system for retribution or a system for rehabilitation. Statements like these are short-sighted and have nothing but retribution in mind, which doesn't take into the longer arc of social improvement: "Person did X - file under crime Y and punishment Z". If you were actually interested in results, such as reducing recidivism, then the logic would be different.

For example:

Your child does something bad, like drink while underage. Well, with the logic of retribution, bad things warrant appropriate responses. So, you scream and yell at your child and you ground them. The next time around, your child drinks and just keeps it more quiet from you. Nothing has changed. In fact, you might be pushing them into a situation where they start keeping larger secrets from you and putting themselves into dangerous situations because they're unable to rely on you as a resource. You become a policing agent rather than a supportive agent, and enter into an antagonistic relationship with your child.

Or:

Your kid does something bad, like drink while underage. You ground them and explain to them the reasons behind why drinking is dangerous. You explain the harmful effects that drinking can have, especially at such a young age. While they're grounded, you explain that you're still supportive of them, and that they can still call you and get out of a dangerous situation in the future, no-questions-asked. While your specific response may have been less harsh, your actions have a more positive, constructive effect. You become a source of support and help from your child.

Which one would you normally pick? And if so, why? And if you did so, then why shouldn't the relationship between a society and its members who commit crimes operate in a similar why?

===

To commit Rafferty to prison without parole means that we wholeheartedly believe in the possibility that he can not and would not be reformed, would not be a positive member of society. It means that, when Rafferty dies in prison in 2057 at the age of 60, we will nod our heads sagely and say yes, the actions he took forty-three years ago have still influenced him; we are still glad that he is still in prison. It means that, we did the right thing to spend a million dollars keeping him there. It means that we will agree that, when people commit crimes, we collectively agree to jettison them away from society, even if that person is not yet a legal adult. Mindboggling.
posted by suedehead at 9:30 PM on August 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Reading these comments, I was all on the side of "16-year-old kid brainwashed by adult", but then I read the interview and saw his drawings. And maybe there's guilt in that poem, but in his description of drawings and the interview there's a remarkable lack of understanding in his culpability. It's like he acknowledges he did it, but it wasn't his fault. The way he speaks about the murders, he was an instrument with absolutely no choice of his own, and is now unjustly being punished and played with by the justice system.

It's the nature of teenagers to be terrifically self-involved, but the last quote in the interview reads so false: he's an artist, he feels so much more deeply than other people, and someday he'll be able to put the pieces together, blah blah blah. It's a little too on the nose, like he read Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace and decided to emulate them.
posted by schroedinger at 9:51 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


To commit Rafferty to prison without parole means that we wholeheartedly believe in the possibility that he can not and would not be reformed, would not be a positive member of society.

I honestly don't care if he has the possibility of becoming a positive member of society. I'd rather society spend it's energy and resources on the millions of other children that did not take advantage of and kill vulnerable people for personal gain.
posted by FJT at 11:46 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I'd rather society spend it's energy and resources on the millions of other children that did not take advantage of and kill vulnerable people for personal gain."

The article didn't say that Rafferty kept any of the stolen belongings or money from them. That was Beasley's purpose. He had Rafferty help him. Rafferty lived with his dad. He didn't show up at home with mysterious television sets. Rafferty didn't profit from these killings.

As for "society spend[ing] its energy and resources on the millions of other children", you're arguing for life imprisonment versus rehabilitation and using cost as the rationale? Really?

It costs about $40,000 a year to house an inmate at a state prison. Rafferty is about 19. He can probably expect to live to be 70, which is fifty-one years from now. That'll cost slightly more than two million dollars. How much do you think it would cost to rehabilitate him? I don't know what you had in mind, this "energy and resources" that wouldn't go to "millions of other children", but I doubt it would cost two million dollars. Maybe some counseling and vocational training, which are probably available to him in prison, anyway. So, ten years in prison for $400K, let him start a new life, we've saved 1.6 million dollars that can go to those other millions of deserving children.

Your way is more expensive. Your way devotes more resources to this kid you've written off. Your way takes resources away from those deserving children. Are you sure you've actually thought this through?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:00 AM on August 28, 2013 [31 favorites]


Metafilter: there are no bad guys everything is tragic. He wrote a poem, see he's real sorry.

"They don't call them stiffs for nothing"
posted by HyperBlue at 4:54 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


there are no bad guys everything is tragic. He wrote a poem, see he's real sorry.

Straw man much? What's your point?
posted by gauche at 5:37 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Writing poetry to attempt to come to terms with wracking guilt suggests that, like, there is guilt to be felt there. Meaning the kid recognized what he was doing was monstrous.

If you don't notice the muted horror in a line like "They don't call them stiffs for nothing" then I recommend you have a talk with my 9th grade English teacher. Especially within the context of the rest of the poem, that is pretty glaringly a "what the shit" line, not a "ha ha dead guy" line.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:07 AM on August 28, 2013


Also, that interview with Brogan is kind of chilling:
I tried to keep it together, but I've learned since that my family and friends saw just how disturbed I truly was. I drank enormously. My friends saw it as high-school partying at first, but later realized it was something much colder. I ate much less and lost a lot of weight, and when I did eat I would often go out by myself so as not to be with my father. At school, I walked the halls with hundreds of people, but my eyes would just see through them as if they weren't there. After school I'd come home and sit in the dark. When my father came home, I'd turn the television on and continue to stare at the wall.

I remember my girlfriend calling me the day before school started to break up with me. She said she no longer felt a connection with me. I was no longer "there." I couldn't blame her; I hadn't called her in weeks. It was the middle of the day and when she called I was already drunk.

I thought I was going insane. I was estranged from society. I started having nightmares, insomnia, and cold night sweats. I started shaking violently at random times. My car was without power steering, causing me to pull extra hard turning the wheel while executing a sharp turn. Once while turning the wheel, my hand started shaking so violently that the wheel slipped from my hand, nearly sending my friend and me into traffic. I could sleep only with medication.
It's possible that Brogan is some sociopathic genius capable of weaving detailed, descriptive lies with that degree of fake introspection, nuance, and understanding, but my experience with sixteen-year-old kids tells me that that story is the product of a young guy picking over and over his recent experiences in his memory, trying to make sense of what the hell happened. I don't have any experience with accomplices to murder, so maybe you become a better liar when a life sentence is threatening you, but with pettier crimes it tends to be the opposite, and your lies become more blatantly self-inflating when you become scared of what's gonna happen to you. That bit above rings true to me.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:14 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Over the next few months he stayed in touch with me constantly and I would see him in public. At one point my mother described someone who looked like Beasley driving around the neighborhood. As this went on, I began to feel that it was best to wait for him to decide he was done with me and murder me. At that point it sounded nice. An unmarked grave in a quiet, peaceful, heavily wooded area sounded like a good end to this horror story.

As long as I kept him pleased and didn't give him any trouble, there was a chance he wouldn't go out of his way to kill my family after I was gone. I chose them over me. Even now I can't really complain about spending my entire life in prison. I'm supposed to be dead anyway.
Jeez.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:17 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meaning the kid recognized what he was doing was monstrous.

I mean, that cuts both ways though, both in that he knew it was terrible -- he's not a completely amoral monster -- but also he kept participating anyway despite that knowledge. I'm committed to the idea that criminal justice should be about rehabilitation and never retribution, but I don't know whether the poem helps or hurts here.

I think at least in part, people decide what outcomes we want -- to punish with a vengeance or to work for the redemption of another -- and look at the evidence with a view to supporting their outcome.

But yeah, I think that when you look at the totality of Brogan's circumstances, at least as presented in the article and interview (thanks for posting that, Joakim Ziegler) it seems clear that he was put into a very tough position by a very scary man.

Oddly enough, it was his ties to his family that Beasley used for leverage, which is interesting considering how Beasley went to lengths to find victims without such ties.
posted by gauche at 6:44 AM on August 28, 2013


I really don't like the meta blame game that seems to happen every time there's an article about a criminal act. Instead of trying to place people into these stupidly rigid binary categories of perpetrator and victim, can't we say that yes, although Brogan was at least partially responsible for the deaths of these men, it is a tragedy that he was placed into a situation where he could help to commit this crime, and it also is a tragedy that a 16 year old faces spending the rest of his life in prison.

Blame? This has nothing to do with blame, and everything to do with personal responsibility. A sixteen year old understands both death is permanent and murder is illegal. He knowingly and willingly chose to commit a terrible act with terrible consequences...and should be held responsible for it. He is a criminal. He is not a victim. There is no ambiguity what-so-ever within the scenario outlined in the piece.
posted by Nibiru at 6:57 AM on August 28, 2013


He is a criminal. He is not a victim. There is no ambiguity what-so-ever within the scenario outlined in the piece.

Well, except for the ambiguity as to how we treat criminals in our society, and how we determine whether a particular criminal is capable of maturing or redeeming or rehabilitating themselves, growing past the mistakes and atrocities of their former selves.

But if you were paying attention to THAT ambiguity, then you'd actually have to be reading the thread, wouldn't you. And then you wouldn't keep getting to open your mouth.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:00 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, except for the ambiguity as to how we treat criminals in our society, and how we determine whether a particular criminal is capable of maturing or redeeming or rehabilitating themselves, growing past the mistakes and atrocities of their former selves.

But if you were paying attention to THAT ambiguity, then you'd actually have to be reading the thread, wouldn't you. And then you wouldn't keep getting to open your mouth.


I've read the thread, and you're suggesting I should have concerns in regard to how we, as a society, treat criminals in terms of sabotaging the possibility of rehabilitation? I don't at this time, so obviously have little interest in addressing that particular aspect of the discussion.

As contributors don't possess the power to dictate to others which aspects of a discussion or debate they must become involved with, I'll continue to disregard whatever holds little or no interest to me.
posted by Nibiru at 7:18 AM on August 28, 2013


He is a criminal. He is not a victim. There is no ambiguity what-so-ever within the scenario outlined in the piece.

False. It's pretty clear that he's a criminal (insofar as he appears to have been an accomplice both before and after the fact to a number of murders), but nothing either in the piece or in the rest of life should suggest that it is impossible to be both a criminal and a victim at the same time. That's something you are bringing to the table, and it's something I don't think you can logically support.
posted by gauche at 7:33 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is no ambiguity what-so-ever within the scenario outlined in the piece.

No, that's incorrect.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: there are no bad guys everything is tragic. He wrote a poem, see he's real sorry.

I guess Metafilter is the place for me, then, because I can earnestly agree with all of that.
posted by The Minotaur at 9:52 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


So at 16, a kid can get locked away for being "incorrigible" and similar bullshit of which only a child could stand accused. But the court is free to prosecute and sentence that child as an adult, to life in prison or even death, on tail-chasing tautological whim? I never could understand this.
posted by Goofyy at 10:13 AM on August 28, 2013


But the court is free to prosecute and sentence that child as an adult, to life in prison or even death, on tail-chasing tautological whim?

Not death anymore. We haven't been able to execute people who committed their crimes as minors in the United States since 2005.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:16 AM on August 28, 2013


But really, my confusion is about commonality. I recall a time when charging a minor as an adult was a Very Big Deal. When did it become so standard?
posted by Goofyy at 10:27 AM on August 28, 2013


As contributors don't possess the power to dictate to others which aspects of a discussion or debate they must become involved with, I'll continue to disregard whatever holds little or no interest to me.

You are absolutely right, there is nothing any one can do to "make" you argue from a well informed and careful considered position. You're free to pull whatever dogma out that fits your inner narrative, never actually considering the evidence presented. Everyone is free to do that.

It just makes the world a shittier place. So good on you.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:27 AM on August 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


But really, my confusion is about commonality. I recall a time when charging a minor as an adult was a Very Big Deal. When did it become so standard?

It was part of the "tough on crime" movement in the eighties and nineties. Really started to pick up in the early nineties, as I recall. There were a bunch of prominent news stories featuring minors committing serious crimes that helped drive it. For instance (and sadly), the Central Park jogger case.

The public narrative at the time was along the lines of, "if these minors are capable of committing horrific crimes that we typically associate with adult perpetrators, would should treat them as adult perpetrators." Which doesn't really make any sense, but there you go.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:35 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


"As contributors don't possess the power to dictate to others which aspects of a discussion or debate they must become involved with, I'll continue to disregard whatever holds little or no interest to me."

You know, there's an even more elegant way to not contribute to a conversation.
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 AM on August 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Your way is more expensive. Your way devotes more resources to this kid you've written off. Your way takes resources away from those deserving children. Are you sure you've actually thought this through?

Okay, I wasn't really talking about money. But if you're so concerned about money, there are ways of saving it through the prison system by, y'know actually not imprisoning people who don't deserve it and are innocent (drug laws) instead of helping the clearly guilty. And if you're so concerned about money, why isn't anyone arguing to rehabilitate Beasley, either?

In addition, Rafferty helped kill three people. And not only that, he helped take away someone else's brother, father, and friend. Three people, who, if once again you're thinking about money, are not able to work and contribute their skills and knowledge to society.
posted by FJT at 11:22 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Okay, I wasn't really talking about money."

What you wrote was: "I'd rather society spend its energy and resources on the millions of other children..."

I'm sitting here asking myself if it makes any sense to argue this with you. You weren't talking about fairy dust. You were talking about a limited resource1 that's valuable2 and so ultimately it's money. That's what you meant. There's nothing else you could have meant.

"there are ways of saving it through the prison system by, y'know actually not imprisoning people who don't deserve it and are innocent (drug laws)...

Great idea! I'm all for it! You're right — that will also free up resources to help those millions of innocent children.

"...instead of helping the clearly guilty"

Why "instead"? If the choice is either long incarceration (at $40K a year) or rehabilitation with a shorter incarceration, then each year taken off the sentence could pay the salary for a dedicated counselor for that convict for one year! Well, that's clearly excessive. So let's just say that we spread around those resources, spend maybe 5K per prisoner more per year on additional rehabilitation, and therefore save $35K for every year we reduce the incarceration by rehabilitating someone and getting them back in the world and working.

So, no "instead", we do both and still save money that can go to millions of innocent children.

"And if you're so concerned about money, why isn't anyone arguing to rehabilitate Beasley, either?"

I'd love to rehabilitate Beasley. If it can be done, we should do it. Talk about energy and resources — he's been sentenced to death. That will cost us far, far more than $40K a year. It will cost millions, not including that baseline $40K. Millions to pay attorneys and courts for all the appeals and everything else associated with a death sentence, a death row inmate, and the execution. All that energy and resources could be helping a lot of kids. How many do you think?

But maybe he can't be rehabilitated. He's got a long history of criminality and incarceration. I'd say it's worth looking into. I'm not opposed to the idea in principle, either way.

"Three people, who, if once again you're thinking about money, are not able to work and contribute their skills and knowledge to society."

And spending more money on imprisoning Rafferty for his entire life will bring that back?

On the other hand, according to you, Rafferty's life was lost, his contribution to society was lost, when Beasley killed Geiger. Before that moment, he had a life to offer, too. After that moment, according to you, it was erased. Lost forever.

Except maybe it's not. We can't bring Beasley's victims back from the dead, but we might be able to rescue all that you claim was lost in Rafferty.

The obvious fact of the matter, perfectly clear to everyone else, is that you have a conclusion you feel strongly about — screw Rafferty, he should disappear down a hole and never be seen again — which you've painted over with a facade of reasonableness, even supposed "charity", by talking about "energy and resources" and "millions of innocent children". But you clearly don't actually mean this, or you'd care about it enough to admit that what you want to do with Rafferty actually diverts "energy and resources" away from innocent children, not toward them, because it takes a lot more energy and resources to keep someone in prison than it does to rehabilitate him and let him free, if he can be rehabilitated, and there's every reason to believe that Rafferty can.

You, and others here, want to spend money, energy, resources, whatever to punish Rafferty, period. That's the goal, that's the rationale. Own this and what it really means and don't hide behind opportunistic nods toward "millions of innocent children."

1. "Rather" means a choice. If we have to choose where to use it, then it's limited. Because otherwise we could do both, we wouldn't have to choose, and there'd be no "rather" in your sentence.
2. It can help rehabilitate killers or help millions of other children, so it's valuable.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:18 PM on August 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


It just makes the world a shittier place. So good on you.

Do you know what will make the world a shittier place? It isn't the sanctimonious holier-than-thou rhetoric and endless empty justifications for criminal behaviour which is consistently regurgitated in these sort of threads, but the very strong possibility when you and your ilk finally take the reins from the Baby Boomers, these soulless creatures will be assigned sympathetic labels, be briefly, "rehabilitated", and then set free to continue wrecking havoc upon genuine victims. Having said that, perhaps it's just the naïve exuberance of youth or visions of Utopia by cosseted introverts because if history repeats itself (as it often does), the pendulum will swing the other way - the Baby Boomers, incredibly free-spirited and sexually liberated once upon a time, are now conservative social and political fear-mongers.
posted by Nibiru at 3:46 PM on August 28, 2013


You know, I wonder if there is a way to have this discussion that doesn't involve apocalyptic scenarios of liberals releasing pent up criminal animals to feast on the flesh of the public.

I mean, that was a pretty impressive diatribe, but if I don't know that sanctimonious and holier than thou is beat by shrill, paternalistic, and paranoid in the rochambeau game of conversation.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:56 PM on August 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


"It isn't the sanctimonious holier-than-thou rhetoric and endless empty justifications for criminal behaviour which is consistently regurgitated in these sort of threads, but the very strong possibility when you and your ilk finally take the reins from the Baby Boomers, these soulless creatures will be assigned sympathetic labels, be briefly, "rehabilitated", and then set free to continue wrecking havoc upon genuine victims.

No.

You've provided no evidence for your contention, only a bunch of fear-mongering, aggrieved jibber-jabber based on some weird moral convictions entirely divorced from the world.

So, no, compassion for prisoners will not make the world a shitty place; in fact, the very opposite is true now, a lack of compassion and an emphasis on punitive measures are making the world a shittier place.

Feel free to back up your opinions with facts, statistics or cites, or go back to your yurt and cower least the criminals eat your eyeballs.
posted by klangklangston at 3:58 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nice strawman empire you've built there, Nibiru. Shame if some recidivist should set fire to it.

Do you ever wonder whether being tough on crime actually works? Do you ever wonder how some Western European "liberal" (= pinko commie) countries, with their laughably lenient incarceration facilities, manage to keep lower rates of violent crime than the US? Do you ever wonder why, even with the threat of a life sentence, people still commit petty crime? I mean, surely the risk of receiving a heavy sentence should play a big role in deterring these scheming monsters, right?
posted by brokkr at 4:08 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


You've provided no evidence for your contention

The recidivism rate is extremely high - somewhere between forty and fifty percent within three years of release. Common sense would dictate more criminals being assigned sympathetic labels and being either released more quickly or simply not incarcerated at all would increase this percentage - this equals more victims. No, it isn't an apocalypse, but it's not a particularly cheerful scenario, is it?
posted by Nibiru at 4:11 PM on August 28, 2013


"The recidivism rate is extremely high - somewhere between forty and fifty percent within three years of release. Common sense would dictate more criminals being assigned sympathetic labels and being either released more quickly or simply not incarcerated at all would increase this percentage - this equals more victims."

No, it wouldn't. You've provided nothing to link recidivism with compassionate incarceration; in fact, moving away from a punitive model to a rehabilitation model decreases recidivism. Cross national studies support this contention.

This is the reason why an appeal to common sense is a fallacy, not an argument — you came up with a post hoc justification for what you already believed rather than relying on any data or policy studies, of which there are many, and thus put forth an absurdly ignorant conclusion couched in self-satisfaction.
posted by klangklangston at 4:24 PM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


"...weird moral convictions entirely divorced from the world."

No, I live very much in this world; a world in which the vast majority believe those who rape children or commit or participate in cold-blooded murder shouldn't be excused from their crimes with sympathetic labels...or given luxurious vacations in which they can fish or swim in the name of, "rehabilitation". Perhaps you're more enlightened than I...or perhaps you're merely ignorant of basic human nature.
posted by Nibiru at 4:29 PM on August 28, 2013


No, it wouldn't. You've provided nothing to link recidivism with compassionate incarceration...

See above.
posted by Nibiru at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2013


[knock it completely off you guys, we're all bored watching you. Take it to email. Talk to the rest of the group.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:36 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


“I get half a pit in my stomach,” Rafferty later told the investigators, “because as the story goes on and on, I’m realizing that I’m about to help Beasley do this for no reason at all. Not that I even wanted to do it at all. But it takes, like, all the minimal sanity and reason out of doing this … It would be like if a lion killed a zebra just to kill it … Just ’cause it wanted, like, its hoof or something. The man literally I think had $5 in his pocket.”

The above is what is most damning for me re: Rafferty's state of mind. He's basically admitting that he only started questioning the murders when it's clear they weren't going to get a "payoff" from the final victim.
posted by zakur at 5:11 PM on August 28, 2013


I spend a little time around teenagers (and did a lot more when I was a teenager) and I can vouch that they do stupid shit all the fucking time, for stupid reasons, that are caused by more stupidity all around them, and that they are stupid about what to say, and so on. My theory is that half that stupidity comes from only participating in life for probably less than 100 years, another half comes from weird biology (for example becoming more rash when seeing another idiot that's naked, more violent when seeing entirely different people being violent, or more subdued when seeing the color blue. WTF is up with all that? Weird.) and the third half comes from being surrounded by people in the same boat as them.

The above is what is most damning for me re: Rafferty's state of mind. He's basically admitting that he only started questioning the murders when it's clear they weren't going to get a "payoff" from the final victim.

I read this as realizing that his father figure was unbalanced, rather than someone who was making rational if ugly plans.

To keep this in perspective, let's not forget that I could walk out my door right now and within a minute find several people who decided they wanted to kill people as a profession, many of whom explicitly acknowledge that they weren't killing the right people but had left justifications up to third parties.
posted by tychotesla at 5:37 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


“I get half a pit in my stomach,” Rafferty later told the investigators, “because as the story goes on and on, I’m realizing that I’m about to help Beasley do this for no reason at all. Not that I even wanted to do it at all. But it takes, like, all the minimal sanity and reason out of doing this … It would be like if a lion killed a zebra just to kill it … Just ’cause it wanted, like, its hoof or something. The man literally I think had $5 in his pocket.”

The above is what is most damning for me re: Rafferty's state of mind. He's basically admitting that he only started questioning the murders when it's clear they weren't going to get a "payoff" from the final victim.


I don't know. I think it shows a dawning realization that all the murders might have been, all along, mostly about murder. In the interview letters, he said the cops think it was robbery by way of murder but he now thinks it was murder by way of robbery.
posted by vegartanipla at 5:40 PM on August 28, 2013


"I think it shows a dawning realization that all the murders might have been, all along, mostly about murder. In the interview letters, he said the cops think it was robbery by way of murder but he now thinks it was murder by way of robbery."

Right.

We had a heated discussion in the Boston bombing thread that was similar to this — I feel like many people are very unrealistic about what most people are capable of, and how it is that they find themselves doing things that are abhorrent.

I mean, look, my judgment about this isn't based on some handwavey-introspection-speculation, it's my observation of my own experience and the experience of other people I've known and known about. Put aside for the moment all the dramatic, criminal stuff; just consider what every one of us has experienced in our lives repeatedly: there's all sorts of transgressions and hurtful acts that in a conversation like this one we'll say, no, I won't cheat on my spouse, I won't lie to a friend, I won't say the most hurtful possible thing to someone I love, I won't cheat on a test, I won't ever hit a child, I won't mistreat an animal, I won't lie on an expense report or on a tax return, I won't drive when I suspect that I might have had a bit too much to drink, I would never run a red light.

But we all find ourselves at some point or another doing these things or other things like them. And when we do, and someone is hurt, we wonder how it is we made that bad decision, it was dumb, what in the world were we thinking?

About much, much less malign transgressions like these we have difficulty being honest with ourselves about what we are capable of doing, we are surprised when we do things we knew full well we oughtn't have done.

Our fictional narratives provide us with evil villains, in a very real sense they're more comforting than they are frightening. And those people exist, certainly. But of people who do abhorrent things, they're the minority. There's a William Calley for most My Lais, but for every one of him, there's a dozen freaked-out, confused soldiers who keep their heads down and do nothing and six other freaked-out, confused soldiers who follow the Calleys and shoot women and babies. The Calleys will have their rationales. But that other eighteen will wonder how the hell that all happened.

We do awful things because shit happens faster than we are able to actually think about what we're doing. We do awful things because each step along the way didn't seem quite right but we didn't want to be the one who causes trouble and we can always get the hell out later if things really go wrong — except by then we often discover that events have outpaced us and we've already done things that we don't want to admit to ourselves we've done. The sunk cost fallacy is extremely powerful in human psychology.

The significance of that Rafferty quote is that as you move down that path of doing really dumb, awful, heinous things — you know, it started as "we need to party, so we need money for beer, Larry's got some, oh but he's not home, remember though that big jar of quarters in his bedroom, let's climb in the window, be quiet I think someone heard us, shit his Dad is going to call the cops don't let him turn on the light, he's got a gun he's gonna shoot us get the gun..."

Instead of the initial justification being understood as not even remotely proportional to what you're now doing, your psychology actually works the other direction — you hold on to that initial justification because that's the only damn reason you're doing this crazy shit in the first place. The crazier it gets, the more incentive you have to tell yourself that at least you'll accomplish your original purpose. And also we tend to just fixate on goals when anxiety ratchets up, the more upset we get the more of a tendency we have to continue toward goals that have been rendered irrelevant or even impossible.

For Rafferty, after having been an accomplice to the killing of three men already, this was finally the moment when he realized that this whole thing didn't even make the tiny bit of sense that he'd thought it'd made, not that the robbery justified anything, but that was the reason, that was the point, Beasely was going to not have a place to live, it was about the stuff and the money. It wasn't right, it was awful, but it made some sort of sense.

For Beasely, killing all by itself made some sort of sense. But that was never where Rafferty's head was, Rafferty was one of those guys running along behind Calley and shooting because Calley was the Lieutenant and that's what you do. But Beasely was Calley, he was doing what he wanted to be doing.

We want to somehow think that only some special kinds of people do the really awful things and for the most part the rest of us just don't have it in us. And, well, I think that's true insofar as most of us don't have a Calley or a Beasely in us — at least not without years of shit bringing that to life in us. But I think most of us do have a Rafferty in us, we're fortunate to not find ourselves in environments where Beaselys run wild and drag us along because we're not in a war zone and/or live in a mostly peaceful society. But the Beaselys are out there, some of us are unfortunate to fall into their orbit. And, by the way, that's actually almost impossible to avoid in prison.

And if we don't think that people divide by essential nature into "those who can do evil things" and "the rest of us", we still tend to think that when people do wrong, they either know they are doing wrong or they don't. But we know that's not true from our own experience because when we do the little things we do that are wrong, we prove to be adept at self-deceit and forgetting and doubting and then doubting our doubting and thinking that it's wrong but not that wrong, or just this one time it's not like I do this all the time (except when I do), or but I didn't really mean to, I'm not the kind of person to be cruel and hurtful, that was never my intention, maybe I can take it back, maybe I can fix it.

Rafferty is everything that everyone has said he is in this thread. He's guilty as sin and he's innocent, he's a victim and he's a villain, he's old enough to know better and too young to understand Beasely's influence, he knew what he was doing and he was lying to himself.

I'm not really interested in sentiment-driven approaches to criminal justice. Neither touchy-feely compassion for its own sake, nor brutal punishment for its own sake. If it makes any sense at all to think that we have some responsibility to murder victims, then it's to actually do something that makes the world a better place in response rather than do something that merely makes us feel good. What might make the world better is removing someone from society that can't be rehabilitated. Or it might be to rehabilitate someone who can.

Nibiru thinks that those of us on this side of the argument are idealistic, callow youths. Well, I'm 48, I just barely qualify as a boomer. About criminal justice, I'm not idealistic. I'm practical. Throwing people in prison indefinitely because "they deserve it" isn't clear-eyed and practical, it's myopic and self-indulgent. It's immature.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:58 PM on August 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


Nibiru thinks that those of us on this side of the argument are idealistic, callow youths.

Do idealistic and callow youths (or middle-aged adults) cleverly construct rationalisations in which even the most evil and barbaric acts of human depravity are essentially redefined as predictable and understandable progressions....perhaps just beyond lying to a friend or cheating on a test?
posted by Nibiru at 8:12 PM on August 28, 2013


[Nibiru you sort of need to have a conversation with the group here and not just do this "Oh yeah?" thing.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:34 PM on August 28, 2013


"...cleverly construct rationalisations in which even the most evil and barbaric acts of human depravity are essentially redefined as predictable and understandable progressions...

You write that as if there's an apparent negative moral value in describing them as "predictable and understandable progressions". So your implicit assertion is that understanding "evil and barbaric acts of human depravity" to be unpredictable and incomprehensible deviations is a morally positive act of intellectual virtue?

There is, no doubt, much in theology and moral philosophy that I've forgotten, and far more that I've never known; but of what there is available to me, I'm failing to recall any tradition that asserts that evil is better thought to be unknowable and unpredictable and that to understand anything about it, to describe how and why men do evil, is equivalent to disregarding its threat and excusing its expression.

Where is the treatise explaining, the holy book exhorting, that see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is the foundation of moral law? The religions I know, the moral philosophy I've read, have various explanations for why men commit evil and how men come to evil ways. It seems to me, in fact, that most of them tend toward presenting evil as even more explicable, comprehensible, and predictable than I have.

"...perhaps just beyond lying to a friend or cheating on a test?"

Beyond it, surely, far beyond. Nothing I wrote even hints at the possibility that serial murder is "just beyond lying to a friend". Where did you get that idea?

But you have many strange ideas. You confuse understanding evil with excusing it, and averting your gaze from it with preventing it.

I'm snarking, clearly, but it occurs to me that your reaction makes a certain sense. Your argument is self-defeating because your psychological relationship with the possibility for evil following from free will is paradoxical — a person who commits evil must be fully responsible for their choice; but to be responsible for that choice, that choice to commit evil must be comprehensible to themselves. Either you are the same kind of being as that person with regard to the capacity for choice, and therefore that choice must also be potentially comprehensible to you; or you are not the same kind of being with regard to the capacity for choice, and therefore cannot be morally responsible for your actions. If that choice is potentially comprehensible to you, then it is possible that you might make that choice. If you cannot be morally responsible for your actions, you are not fully a person in the very sense that you revere and urge on the choice for morally good action.

But your visceral, intuitive understanding of evil is that it's beyond understanding, that these evil and barbaric acts of human depravity are a choice that is self-evidently an incomprehensible choice to make, it literally is a choice you believe you could never make, under any circumstances. Yet, as I just demonstrated, your assumption of free will and its essential nature requires that you could, in fact, make such a choice.

Therefore if you think about what it means to choose, what is evil, and what it means to choose evil, you are forced to accept that you, yourself could choose evil. Which is unacceptable. You are not like that.

The only solution is to write the entire matter off as unpredictable and incomprehensible. No more discomfort and lots of opportunity for social acts of explicit denial.

As for myself, I find evil comprehensible and moderately predictable and yet in no way does this lead me to condone it nor, indeed, to deny that we must assume the capacity for moral choice and we must hold people accountable for their choices. I would hold murderers accountable for their murders by way of demanding that they become better people, which gets to the heart of what such accountability really is.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:42 PM on August 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm a little concerned by the apparent fact that the states that decide our presidential elections, Ohio & Florida, have some of the scariest people.
posted by univac at 1:10 AM on August 29, 2013


As for myself, I find evil comprehensible and moderately predictable and yet in no way does this lead me to condone it nor, indeed, to deny that we must assume the capacity for moral choice and we must hold people accountable for their choices. I would hold murderers accountable for their murders by way of demanding that they become better people, which gets to the heart of what such accountability really is.

Absolutely.

I do not have to deny the evil in which the boy participated to know the following things about myself:

1) I can imagine myself killing a person in order to protect my family or loved ones. Generally I think this would be wrong, but I can understand it and imagine myself doing it.
2) I can imagine myself covering up even a heinous crime, if a close family member committed one. I know this would be wrong and I hope I would do what is right, but I also know that loyalty is powerful and that I would probably at least consider doing so.
3) I know that at age sixteen, I did not have the greatest grasp on what would happen if I outright defied an authority figure, nor on the limitations of what adults could demand of me.

None of these things require me to deny that these murders were awful and evil, nor to deny that Brogan was (it seems likely on the facts) an accomplice to them both before and after the fact. But consideration of these things suggests to me that it is by no means a foregone conclusion that Brogan is entirely unredeemable.

Instead, they force me to consider that Brogan is not very unlike myself at all. I cannot say with great certainty that, were I put into Brogan's situation, I would have acted very differently, and yet I do not consider myself to be a moral monster beyond all hope of redemption. None of this is to deny the evil that was done, merely to point out that people often, when they do evil, do evil for very human, understandable reasons, and the presence of evil is not always the absence of humanity.
posted by gauche at 6:17 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if there is a way to have this discussion that doesn't involve apocalyptic scenarios of liberals releasing pent up criminal animals to feast on the flesh of the public.

NOPE
posted by Greg Nog at 6:27 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, and to address the other point, I don't understand how anything I said above is callowness or youthful sentiment. It seem to me to be a sober-minded look at the potential for evil that lives in my own heart as a way of trying to understand what might be the best way to treat a person the state holds in custody. I have to entertain the possibility there are other ways to try to understand that question, but the way that strikes me as particularly naive is the way that assumes as a foregone conclusion that this boy is somehow frighteningly and irrevocably different from you or I.
posted by gauche at 7:27 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Our fictional narratives provide us with evil villains, in a very real sense they're more comforting than they are frightening

This is a really interesting observation. As a true crime fan, I find the most compelling stories for me are about the truly evil mofos. The crimes of passion, greed, circumstance, etc., tend to be less compelling. I've often pondered why, as a non-sociopath myself, this is. And I think you're right, it is comforting in a certain regard to know these people exist because I know, no matter what, I will never be like them. The latter group, well, you never know.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:44 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jess the Mess: "The crimes of passion, greed, circumstance, etc., tend to be less compelling."
See also: "the banality of evil".
posted by brokkr at 9:00 AM on August 29, 2013


Miko: "Remind me never to need the help of the police in rural Ohio."

Police are like this everywhere; it's the nature of any job to classify problems into buckets and cops are going to have some of their buckets be "crazy drug deal gone bad and now one of the involved parties is covering it up with wild stories". Because that probably happens at a ratio of 10,000 bad drug deals :1 internet serial killer or even more skewed.

I think of the reklaw thing where he was convinced hotmail had told his ISP to forward his email. Encountering an internet serial killer victim in the rural woods of Ohio for cops must be like finding out it was actually the NSA who arranged for the forwarding. I mean sure it might be possible but past experience will have you leaning the other way.
posted by Mitheral at 9:16 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, according to you, Rafferty's life was lost, his contribution to society was lost, when Beasley killed Geiger. Before that moment, he had a life to offer, too. After that moment, according to you, it was erased. Lost forever.

That's not according to me, let me correct you. Yes, Rafferty participated in the murder, that's true. But as I said before, he also failed to report the crime for three months. He didn't speak a word of it to anybody. I understand that he could not stop an adult, a father figure no less, with a gun. I don't really blame him for that. But to not speak out for three months, that is something he has to take responsibility for.
posted by FJT at 12:21 PM on September 9, 2013


You, and others here, want to spend money, energy, resources, whatever to punish Rafferty, period. That's the goal, that's the rationale. Own this and what it really means and don't hide behind opportunistic nods toward "millions of innocent children."

I'm not hiding, and even reading your response a week later, it sounds like you're getting a little bit ahead of yourself on this. I've been saying since the beginning, Rafferty should be punished. And what I basically meant was, other people deserve more to be rehabilitated than Rafferty, because Rafferty has done wrong.

Yes, it costs money to punish somebody, but they took away lives that shouldn't have been taken away in the first place. If they didn't commit the crime, of course there would be no reason to punish them, and the money would not have been spent.

But, perhaps Rafferty can eventually be rehabilitated. I still feel he should take responsibility and be punished for what he's done, but eventual rehabilitation should also be considered.
posted by FJT at 12:55 PM on September 9, 2013


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