Authors Jack Altman and Dr. Marvin Ziporyn discusses their book "Born to Raise Hell"
BROADCAST: 1967 | DURATION: 00:53:24
Richard Speck, the man who murdered eight student nurses in 1966, is the topic of Jack Altman's and Dr. Marvin Ziporyn's book, "Born to Raise Hell: The Untold Story of Richard Speck -- The Man, The Crime, The Trial". Altman saw Speck's public and private image as being quite different. When asked to smile for the cameras, Speck obeyed authority and was labeled a monster by the press when in reality, he blocked out the murders and was disgusted by his actions. Dr. Ziporyn sees this murderous violence as a disease and not as a monster as the press portrayed it.
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Studs Terkel At about 11:00 at night on July 14th, that's Bastille Day, incidentally, nothing to do with this, 1966, so, last year it was, Richard Speck, a drifter, killed eight student nurses. [The case was in the?] headlines, became a cause celebre, still is. Who is Richard Speck, is he man or a monster? And Dr. Ziporyn, Marvin Ziporyn, was his psychiatrist, and, I guess, the man most intimate with him, his confidant, during his stay at the County Jail. And he and Jack Altman, formerly of "Time" magazine, now a featured writer with "The Chicago Sun-Times", have written a book, "Born to Raise Hell", based upon the title, based upon the tattoo on the arm of Richard Speck. Where do we begin, Dr. Ziporyn? You were closest to him. "Richard Speck, monster," the phrase somebody might say.
Marvin Ziporyn Well, I never found that Speck was a monster. Of course, this is something that I've noted so frequently in working with criminals. A lot of my work has been in the jail setting, and I frequently pick up a newspaper and I'd see some kind of a terrible crime described. And in a day or two I'd meet the criminal or the alleged culprit. And I'd talk to the man and I'd expect to find the most depraved, degenerate kind of Mr. Hyde walking into the office. Instead I'd simply find a frightened, confused, unhappy, tortured person emotionally wracked, frightened by life, hiding from it, and I have never, to be honest with you in all the criminals I've dealt with, I've never met anybody that I would consider a monster. And I think Speck would fit into this category. He never struck me as a monster.
Studs Terkel You realize that was a leading question, that was deliberate, of course, and of course this is the stereotype we hear, here's a co--use the phrase "mass murder", if you will, eight people, a mass, young girls, but who is Richard Speck? Jack Altman, who wrote the book with Dr. Ziporyn, when you first heard of the prospect of you and Marvin Ziporyn collaborating, you had some theories. What--you made some notes, didn't you?
Jack Altman When I first talked to Marvin about the book, about its possibilities, about the material, I saw something in Richard Speck, in the private Richard Speck as opposed to the public Richard Speck that appeared in the Chicago papers, something that was very ordinary, very--in a strange way insignificant, in the same shocking way that Eichmann had been very ordinary, very insignificant. One had always wanted Adolph Eichmann to look like a monster. One had wanted him to have horns, to be evil, to have curling lips. Instead, he looked just like an ordinary civil servant, somebody horribly, horribly ordinary. And there was something in the first conversations I had heard about with Richard Speck that was of the same order and there was this banality, what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil" that seemed to be a theme running through Richard Speck's life as it ran through Eichmann's and probably very many other of the famous horror monsters that the people have loved to think about.
Studs Terkel I suppose this is a fascinating point, it isn't the one Jack makes, Dr. Ziporyn, but to me, the one difference is that Eichmann, both are ordinary men, banal men, Eichmann following orders of the established authority, in this instance a man on his own violating mores of the society. See, Eichmann was following an order, was he not?
Marvin Ziporyn Yes, but, you know, Speck sees himself as a person who should do that. Speck has a very military kind of mind in this sense. And I recall frequent conversations with Richard when I would try to talk about his future prospects and I said, "Well, perhaps you might be going to jail for a long time, or you might get a life sentence." We were speculating on the possibilities, and he was very much against this. First of all, because he believes very arduously in capital punishment, and he believes that wickedness ought to be punished, and that in addition to that he saw going to jail as the end of his life and with no prospects. And I would say to him, "But Richard, you know, it won't be as bad as you think. You might go to jail and you might become a trustee," because he, by the way, would say, "I always try to be a moral prisoner," which was a misstatement on his part but a Freudian one for a model prisoner, and he saw it in the same way.
Marvin Ziporyn Right.
Marvin Ziporyn That's right. And this is the point I wanted to make, and so when I said to him, "You might be a trustee and you might have some responsibility and take charge of things," and he very quickly cut me off and he said, "I don't take charge. I follow orders." This is his pride, that he follows orders. And I thought this was a very significant aspect of his personality. And, of course, he is rigid, he is puritanical, and he has very strong religious convictions. He believes in God, the flag, the country, motherhood. If Speck could have his choice of what to do, he'd be on a suicide squad of some sort in Vietnam today.
Marvin Ziporyn Right.
Studs Terkel Fighting.
Jack Altman For him, the attraction of Vietnam was always the violence that went on there as he saw it. The excitement of the jungle, he loved books about war, he loved books about the jungle, I don't think it's an accident that his first efforts at painting were of wild animals in the jungle, of leopards, of tigers, of lions. He saw life as a wilderness and he wanted to be in the thick of the fighting. He always got involved either in his own fantasies or in very often in the realities of the fighting in Texas with gangs and bar brawls, any kind of violence seemed to him to be what was exciting about life. Anything less than that was a bore for him.
Marvin Ziporyn And he was not only preoccupied with jungle animals, but you remember this one picture he painted of the horse rearing up about to be struck by a snake and his fascination with what happens to you if you're hit by a black mamba and various other snakes. This whole theme of violence was an interesting one to him and the idea of sexuality was abhorrent to him. He is a matter of fact in these male magazines that he used to like to read, where he'd like to read about battle and fighting, if there was any kind of sexual material in there, he'd turn away from it.
Jack Altman This was part of his puritanism. He might take an issue of "Playboy" magazine, perhaps, and look at the cartoons, he'd probably ignore the gatefold every time. Nothing of great interest to
Studs Terkel We come to a fascinating point here, don't we, that here we're talking now about a drifter, a guy who was a nomadic figure, who found his home in jail, didn't he, in a way? Killed eight student nurses, yet you're painting the picture of a very ordinary man, aren't you. Almost one who would be a--might be described as a solid citizen.
Marvin Ziporyn Well, he was in a way, and it was interesting to see the little exchanges he had with me about my children. He would tell me how he liked children and he was upset at the thought that people wouldn't want him to be a babysitter for my children. Things of this nature. He took good care of Robbie. He was interested in a home life.
Marvin Ziporyn Yeah, it reminds me of Nathan Leopold's comment that he was only a genius in the newspapers, so Speck was only a drifter in the newspapers, too, because, actually, he worked in one town for most of his life. He worked in Dallas, he had a succession of jobs there. Everybody who talked to his bosses agreed that he, if not a steady worker, tried to be a steady worker, which is very interesting. Now, he was a very heavy user of alcohol, and he would get drunk, and he would get sick, but he would make every effort to come to work. Now frequently, he couldn't make it and he'd get laid off, but he always felt a responsibility for taking care of his family, for meeting his obligations, for going to work. The only reason that he left Texas and got this drifter label was that he was wanted on a warrant for a burglary, and since he had already done time, he fled.
Marvin Ziporyn Well, I think so. He had severe head injuries. I think one of the most important was the fact that at the age of three months he had pneumonia, and he was in an oxygen tent for a month, and this is a very crucial period to the developing brain. The cells of the brain didn't get enough oxygen, the development, the flexibility, the subtlety, the nuances of the brain couldn't operate well. And that was his first strike in three months. The doctor then told his mother that he would never be quite right. And from then on, he had an amazing number of head injuries.
Jack Altman But I'm interested probably because I'm a newspaper man and the idea that whatever the private facts of Richard Speck's life were, the public facts were enough to establish him as a drifter. He had been born in Illinois, his mother had taken him to Texas. He had gone from job to job in Texas. He'd come back from Texas via the Great Lakes working on the steamers to Illinois and worked around there, these facts by themselves are sufficient in the public image to establish him as a drifter, but a drifter is a kind of personality. And when you actually examine the private personality of Richard Speck, the word drifter no longer applies. And this is what fascinated me all the way along in writing about Richard Speck, was this dichotomy between what one knew on the face of things, and what one found out about him underneath.
Studs Terkel And let's stick with this private aspect, because this is the key to it, really. So as far as the public face of Richard Speck is concerned, that's pretty well known. Headlines, Sunday supplements, editorials, the word "monster," quote unquote, crime of the century, though Nelson Algren, when asked to cover the Richard Speck case for "The Boston Globe" says, "Crime of the century? No, I'm not interested in going to Vietnam." So, there we go. This is rather interesting, so who is calling who what? And, so, we come back to Speck, don't we? We come back to this private man, and Dr. Ziporyn and Jack Altman are our two guests. The book, they've written a very fascinating one, "Born to Raise Hell", we'll ask about that in a moment, that tattoo, the name of the book, Grove are the publishers. The private man could easily--he's a banal sort of figure, is he not, just an ordinary guy who could be anywhere, could he not, who abides by every accepted moral code of our society. Would
Marvin Ziporyn But then he'd feel guilty about it and self-punitive and depressed. That's right. And the thing, the thing about it was that, he would do things and then he would always feel remorse. Every time he got into a battle with the jail guards, he'd come and say, "It's not them, it's me." And he tried, as Jack says, to maintain a kind of a posture which he was unable to do and his being unable to do it was, in my opinion, not his fault. It wasn't because of lack of desire or will. And I always felt--I never felt any sense of tension with Richard. Now, you talk about a monster. I spent hour after hour after hour alone with him behind closed, locked cell doors. And there's this one episode we describe in the book, for example, where Speck suddenly had a razor blade in his hands and he was puzzled, because one of the questions he would always ask me is, "Why did I do it? What happened there? What, what made it?" All the questions that everybody asked, he asked, too, because he's a member of the general public, and he always viewed it that way. He also couldn't understand this public Richard Speck.
Marvin Ziporyn Right.
Jack Altman And by his other behavior we have no reason to believe one way or the other that it's true or not true. The point is, he has blocked it out for one reason or another, whether it was caused by his physical condition or whether it's a subsequent block, which I'm sure Marvin Ziporyn knows more about explaining than I do. He is therefore, because he doesn't remember what was going on, totally on the outside, constantly asking questions, constantly wanting to ask the very kinds of questions that the public are asking, believing what the public believes, that they, you know, sharing their view. He reads the newspapers about himself and he takes the reader's point of view rather than the inside view. He knows more about himself than the public does, but he suspends his own self-knowledge and he takes the part of the public.
Marvin Ziporyn And to add to that, do you remember when I would say to him, "Well, now, Richard, I'm, I don't know about whether you killed these girls or not," because I was concerned about the blood, the lack of blood on his clothing and so on, so forth. And every time I'd say that, if you recall, Jack, he would cut me up sharp and he would say, "Well, it must be me, the television says it was me, the radio says it was me, the newspapers say it was me, who else could it
Studs Terkel be? Now, don't we come to something now, another key here, by the way, this discussion of Richard Speck in this book "Born to Raise Hell", with the two guests, Jack Altman and Dr. Marvin Ziporyn, who was Speck's psychiatrist, [this is more than just about?] Richard Speck, basically this turns out to be about us now, it's coming to it. Here's a man who is directly involved in, convicted of being directly involved in the murder of eight student nurses, who suddenly says, "Wait a minute," when he reads in the papers or the mass, sees in the mass, he says, "Somebody knows more about this than I do." Even though he is the man right in the vortex in the middle of it, the committer of it, he's no, no, we're so accustomed now to accepting images offered by others, "Somebody upstairs know more than I do," we say about Vietnam, too.
Jack Altman Oh, is the mass media were a very important element in this, the way, for instance, he would be totally oblivious of what was in his own best interests, and when he would go to court for the pre-trial hearings, for instance, and the television cameras would be there ,waiting for him, wanting to take pictures of him, they'd say, "Hey, smile, Richard, smile." And he'd go ahead and smile, not realizing despite all kinds of warnings from people trying to protect his interests, that this kind of attitude on television, seeing quote "the monster smiles," would be completely detrimental to him. He obeyed the will of the television
Studs Terkel Somebody in authority. Now, what has greater authority than the guy who works in a medium of celebrities? He's a celebrity too, now, by the way, Richard Speck, you see. I would ask you that in a minute, his being a celebrity, his being in the center of things, but then the TV director or the newspaper man, somebody, you know, they're reaching [unintelligible] to do it and he does it, you know.
Marvin Ziporyn That's right. I was always fascinated, just a little tangential thing, by the way, that he learned of his involvement in this crime. Now, you have to go back to the night of the murders and accept his claim that he knew nothing about it. Now, his comment was that he heard about the murders for the first time on the radio the next day, and he turned to somebody, he was sitting at a bar as usual, and he turned to somebody and he said, "I hope they catch the guy that did this," only he used some profanity about the murderer. And for the next three days he's watching peripherally this manhunt. He sees his picture in the paper, and he doesn't associate it with himself because it wasn't a very good picture of him. Now, something happens to Richard that, I think, probably never happened to anybody before. Here's the crime of the century, and he knows that the whole world is looking for this murderer. Saturday afternoon he's sitting in a bar, and he's watching television, and all of a sudden they say, "We interrupt this program for a special announcement." And Orlando Wilson comes on the screen and Orlando Wilson says, "We have the name of the murderer of the eight student nurses." Speck is looking at this. Wilson says, "His name is Richard Franklin Speck." Now, Speck told it to me that it hit him in the pit of the stomach like a fist. And I can empathize with this, because I could put myself in that position. Here he is learning about this, you know, in public. I don't think it ever happened to anybody before. What a feeling.
Studs Terkel Incredible. The--he was looking at this detachedly. "I hope they get that guy." And because as I gather in the book there was a blackout involved, or rather a complete lack of, a lack of any, as far as you know there was no acting involved here, this is--
Marvin Ziporyn Right.
Studs Terkel The important--we're talking now about the psychological aspects of it, and we're also talking about the private figure, Richard Speck, and us, our society, but a mass medium informs him that he is the man who did it.
Studs Terkel And he accepted it immediately because he was told by TV that he did it. So we come to something else, don't we now? We come to us again, don't we? And mass media. His attitude, by the way, his air of self-righteousness when he heard of other murders that followed, the kid in Mesa, Arizona.
Marvin Ziporyn Right.
Jack Altman It was also the kind of thing where he would get crank letters, for instance, from people admiring him, he would get letters from teenagers in New Jersey saying, "We think you're the greatest." And he would be absolutely disgusted with that kind of response. Occasionally, it titillated his vanity a wee bit, but most of the time he was disgusted with that kind of thing. Whereas if he had been the proud killer that I think most of the newspapers wanted to picture him as, his response would have been entirely different. You talk of him, Studs, as being a celebrity, of thinking of himself as a celebrity. One of the strange things is that he didn't really relish the role.
Jack Altman No, he obeyed rather passively. If he was asked by the photographers to smile, then he would smile, not because he wanted to appear big, but because there was some guy who was obviously fairly important asking him to do something, then he should go ahead and do it. It was just this kind of passive approach. But he wasn't sort of preening himself as a TV celebrity. I really got the impression from his comments on this that he wasn't a celeb--he wasn't seeking celebrity in this sense.
Marvin Ziporyn Well, it was rather incongruous. He would find out little things about me from time to time in the ordinary kind of transference relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient, and oh, for example, Jack Altman at one time had written something about LSD when he was working for one of the national news magazines, and he'd mentioned me in there, and Speck found out that my name had been in this national news magazine. So he said to me, "Gee, I didn't realize you were famous." You see? And of course that struck me, here I am talking to a man who is on the lips of everybody in the world that he's impressed with my little mention. And I pointed this out to him, you see, and he said, "Well," he says, "But you're in there for something good."
Jack Altman But he's a Puritan with a difference. One doesn't think of most Puritans as having a sense of humor, and Richard Speck most certainly did. And the kind of thing in connection with magazines, one of the male magazines he received was holding a competition for--they would pay people for telling dramatic stories. And Richard suggested, "Maybe they'd give me a hundred dollars if I wrote in my story. Do you think they'd print it?" And this is the kind of thing he was quite prepared to joke about at some length. He was constantly making this kind of quip at his own expense.
Marvin Ziporyn But he explained that to me once. He told me that his lawyers had asked him why he acted in a certain way in public, and he said, "What they don't realize is that I have to do this or I'd crack up," that it was a facade, a mask he was wearing--
Marvin Ziporyn Yes.
Marvin Ziporyn Right. This, again, is this moral issue. He was a very rigid person. He divided everything into categories. Everything was black or white, right or wrong. Now, as far as women were concerned, there were only two categories of women in the world: there were virtuous, virginal, pure, holy Madonna types, and he could find examples, his mother, his sisters, or there were women who gave their sexual favors away, and these women were sluts, tramps, prostitutes, what-have-you. Now, the problem with this kind of an approach, of course, is that it's unrealistic. It's against the facts of its existence and a person who believes this way is constantly developing feelings of hostility towards women because he's constantly in the position of evaluating a girl as a Madonna, finding out that she is a normal human female, and feeling betrayed. So his whole attitude towards women was permeated with feelings of hostility, and he would act it out if he was at a dance and a married woman flirted with him, he would throw whiskey in her face, because she's no good, she should have known better than that. She's a married woman. Contrariwise, once a woman did that, then anything could be done to her. And it was all right. There was this little tale about his having stolen a hundred dollars from a married woman who had committed adultery with him, and his feeling about her was that once she had done this, almost any, it was almost a joke to him, because anything he did to her was too good.
Studs Terkel Well, this leads to a fascinating bit of conjecture on the part of Jack Altman and Dr. Marvin Ziporyn, when he entered the home of Jeffrey Manor. One of the nurses, students, reminded him, it seemed resembled his wife who had been unfaithful to him. Now, he was also under liquor or drugs or combinations of both, [the brain and?] so this--just saying anything, this woman, you can do anything to this woman who is unfaithful. Was this a factor, then, the possibility that one of the student nurses looked like a woman who had been unfaithful to him, his wife?
Marvin Ziporyn He had a lot of feelings of hostility towards his wife. He claimed that she was unfaithful to him. Of course, this is his version of it, what the facts are we don't know. But from a psychological point of view, whether she was or was not unfaithful to him, the important thing is that he believed it. Certainly, she did divorce him, and he certainly felt that at the very least she had failed to stand by him in his hour of need. And Richard is a very dependent person. He wants love. He wants to be liked by everybody. He wants attention. And this hurt him, and he became angry, and as he told me once, and I think the way he put it is significant, "The Bible tells us not to hate. But if there's one person I hate, it's my ex-wife, and that's the truth." So he was saying there, "I know morally it's wrong, but I can't help myself. I hate her," and he had, for example, the night that she left him, taken his car and smashed it against a tree, so violent was his rage. Now, I think here we have to go into another aspect of things. I think that the potential for violence is in all of us, just as the potential to become sick is in all of us. Now, this doesn't mean that illness is normal, but it means that it's normal to become sick, if you follow the point. Now, all of us have this potential, but we have built-in corrections. We have breaking systems, we have controls, and so on, so forth. When this braking system is torn apart and there is no control, then this potential for violence can explode, and this is what happened in this case. Now, I agree with Nelson Algren, when he talked about Vietnam as the crime of the century. This is a feeling I've always had about Richard. All right, it's true, he took eight lives, that eight murders are eight murders. There's no getting around that. But I look around at our century as a violent century, and--
Marvin Ziporyn And our society is a violent society, and I see what the most civilized nation on earth, quote unquote, did in terms of systematic patterns of genocide. Here are people who sit down and can march a thousand people a day into a gas chamber. How can you compare this with that? Last year I was in Izmir, Turkey and I saw where in 1923 the Turks had put 100,000 Greek women and children on boats, opened the stopcocks, sank the boats, in one day killed 100,000 people. Weren't there any innocents in Nagasaki or Hiroshima when the bombs fell? I mean, these are deliberate instruments of policy and a corpse is a corpse. I think that you have to see Richard Speck not only as an ordinary person, but as a representative of an approach to life and a society.
Jack Altman This business of the--what triggered off the resemblance that might have triggered off his acts of violence in the nurses' house, it's a theory that is suggested, since we don't know actually what happened, nobody has really told the story, not even the surviving nurse has been able to tell the full story of what went on in that house. We do know that there were eight nurses, one of whose pictures when shown to Richard reminded him afterwards of his wife. We do know that he has felt great hostility towards his wife, and we do know that he has acted violently in response to that kind of hostility.
Jack Altman Yeah, it is very possible that the same kind of hostility was at work during those hours he spent in the house. The nurse concerned, Gloria Davy, arrived after the other nurses. He saw her afterwards, and alone. He went downstairs to let her in. And, so, he was confronted with her by herself. She could have triggered certain responses in him. It does seem significant that she was treated differently from the others. She's the only one of whom the police reported that she had been sexually assaulted, as all the others were murdered, but there was no report of sexual assault. This was just in the case of Gloria Davy, she was the only one who was found nude in the house. It does seem that she was singled out for special
Jack Altman This may, we're prepared [to grant?] for people who have questioned this theory, this may have been coincidence. It does seem an awful lot of steps there, that suggest a possible theory similar to the one we're making.
Studs Terkel Yeah, so that, really, there are two facets to this conversation: one is the crime itself and what may have triggered off the crime on the part of Speck of the possible resemblance of one of the nurses to his wife, whom he disliked intensely and the aspect of violence here. But the other part of this conversation, the other prong to it is, to me, much more fascinating, it's not Richard Speck, but it's us, our society.
Studs Terkel What Dr. Ziporyn's talking about, that You spoke of various crimes committed in the name of authority. And, so, we come, again, to the two figures, Eichmann and Speck, that we, [both?] are banal figures, the evil of banality. Both are very dull men, but the fact is one committed that in the name of his country's authority, and the other did not, you see.
Studs Terkel Right.
Marvin Ziporyn And--
Jack Altman Well, I don't know. I don't know whether I would question that Eichmann is the same kind of man as Speck. But the analogy I was drawing between the two is the nature of what they did. Had--both stemmed from banal, ordinary men who may I believe that possibly, in fact probably, that they were banal and ordinary in different ways. And I think it would be pushing them a little far to compare Eichmann, as far as his personality was concerned, with Richard Speck. The German is slightly different from the American in
Marvin Ziporyn Well, I'd like to move in just a little different area, if I may. The thing that interests me is that you read about somebody in the paper, a Speck or anybody else, and you say, "This person is such a monster, so horrible, that he is inhuman or not human. He is different than me. He is different than you. It's a freak, a spectacle." Now, to me, this attitude is harmful, destructive, and dangerous. I told Speck when the question of raising, of writing the book first came up, and Speck wanted to know what the good of it would be, and I said, "Look. I'll guarantee you that in the next year we'll pick up the newspapers half a dozen times and we'll find headlines of a mass murder taking place. It's statistically predictable." And I wasn't wrong. It was right after that that Whitman exploded, was right after that that Smith exploded in Arizona. Since then there've been the Saskatchewan killings, the Minnesota killings, the Lock Haven, Pennsylvania killings last week. And you know, it hasn't stopped today. I can hear, I can make the same guarantee to you sitting right here now, somebody walking the streets today, somebody who is considered normal and quiet like this fellow in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania is going to kill half a dozen people within the next year. Now, what--as long as we say, "The people who do this are not members of the human race, they're qualitatively different than us," we're never going to get to the solution of this thing. Now, to me, the important thing is to start off with pulling our heads out of the sand and saying, "Look, this is a thing that is not done by peculiar aberrational individuals. It's done by you and I. We all have it within us." As Clarence Darrow said, "If we haven't actually killed, we've all read the obituaries with pleasure from time to time." The thing that I feel about this is that it is a disease which appears in the human being. And I think that instead of saying, "This is a monster," we have to treat it the same way we treat any other disease. I think we're in the position with this kind of social action, as we were with, let's say, leprosy 150 years ago, or if you go back through the whole history of leprosy, it's a loathsome disease. Murder is loathsome. I'll agree. But the next step is, "Okay. It's a terrible thing. What causes it?" It can happen to anybody; to you, to me, to anybody. Let's study it. Let's get rid of this talionic concept which has been in operation for the last 4,000 years or more, which hasn't gotten us anywhere, it doesn't bring us one step closer to understanding the illness that [the saying? they're saying? the sane?] that the sick man is being punished by God or is being possessed by witches. The point that we have to do is say, "It's an illness. It can happen to anybody. Let's study it, let's analyze it dispassionately, let's collect data, and maybe we'll eventually learn how to handle
Studs Terkel And, of course, this study, I would gather, Dr. Ziporyn, implies, Jack, Jack Altman, is not just a study of the physical, not just a study of brain damage, not just a study of effective drugs, but the study of the values of our society.
Marvin Ziporyn It involves the study of everything, every conceivable piece of data that's involved in a thing, and you collate it, and just like you study anything else, you don't know what's going to be important.
Jack Altman One of the sad situations at the moment, and possibly one of the reasons for the book in the first place, is that the legislative structure at the moment and the institutions available are woefully inadequate for that kind of study and the kind of climate that will make it possible for these institutions or the legislative structure to be improved, is the kind of climate where people accept first of all that this is in him--this is something that touches them intimately and if they can be shocked, literally shocked, into seeing that these men are ordinary men, no different from them, then this is the first step. You can't sort of propound a treatise saying, "This is the kind of treatment these men should have. This is what you must do now." You must first of all make it possible for people to believe that something should be done. That first step must be taken. Once you've persuaded them that something should be done, then you can start examining what exactly in detail could be
Marvin Ziporyn Right.
Studs Terkel There's another aspect here, too, isn't there, virility? Be a man, be a man. I mean, this is also, was an aspect of--wasn't it the--his--he had an antipathy toward what he considered homosexuality.
Marvin Ziporyn Yes.
Jack Altman Oh, yes. He gained a lot of energy. It was a kind of self-perpetuating situation, from violence you gain more energy for more life, for more violence, and this was for him an affirmation of his virility, which he avoided sex in most cases. He didn't consider that as any proof of his virility. For him it was going around with the boys and driving around in fast cars and living a life of bravado. This was for him a proof of virility and his opposition to homosexuality was one that was so violent that it led doctors to pour in to examine a little further the roots of latent homosexuality in him, in Speck himself.
Marvin Ziporyn Yeah, he was involved in being a man and this was very true, but--and he was fascinated, for example, with Mark Clancy, who was in the cell next to him, because Clancy was a romantic, adventurous kind of person and Speck modeled himself after Clancy very much. I think that one of the aspects that ought to be stressed about Speck is the fact that here's a man who did something that he didn't want to do. In other words, it isn't enough just to hold to certain beliefs. It isn't enough just to have a certain ideology. People will do things against their convictions and against their will. I, as I pointed out in the book, I am a determinist and I'm reminded of Sidney Smith's comment: There but for the grace of God go I." And it seems to me that it's very difficult to point a finger at Richard Speck or anybody else and say, "You are a villain. You're a monster and you have to be punished for this because to me, Speck can't be blamed for what he did any more than a man can be blamed for sneezing. This is a basic thing. You know, the old indictments, if you recall if you're a lawyer I know, Studs, or you went to law school--
Marvin Ziporyn Oh, well, you remember the old indictments, though, they used to read, "John Doe being of malevolent disposition, and having turned his eye from the grace of God, hath deliberately, etc., etc." And it's still the same kind of--
Studs Terkel I remember one phrase, I've marked it down here. My one memory of law school, one was a case of statutory rape, which I member, but the other was the phrase "irresistible impulse." Now, "irresistible impulse," I don't know whether this applies to this case or not.
Marvin Ziporyn Well, I think it does. I think it does now that the statutes of Illinois, just so that everybody is talking on the same semantic level, state that an individual who has committed an act may plead not guilty if he does not know the difference between right or wrong, which is the old McNaughton rule, or, knowing the difference, is unable to conform his conduct to the right. That's loosely what is meant by it. The wording is a little more technical. Now, it's my opinion that Speck certainly knows the difference between right and wrong. In fact, he makes a production of it, knowing the difference between right and wrong. But at the time, at the night of July 13th, the morning of July 14th, because of the combination of physiological factors: the brain damage that he has, the alcohol he'd taken, the barbiturates that he'd taken, the injection that he'd taken, he was completely unable to know what he was doing or to control his conduct or to conform to law. So, by definition, it appears to me this is a clear case of irresistible impulse.
Studs Terkel We always must return, do we know, we can't, I realize the three of us can't get away from the fact that Speck and us, not Speck per se, not Speck separated from us. There are legal aspects involved, there are obviously, there are psychological aspects involved, there are medical aspects involved, but all of them come back to the question of this man and ourselves continuously, doesn't it?
Jack Altman Well, you know, it seems to me the important thing that the book can do is just principally to raise a question. People have made up their mind about this case. In too many cases, that seems to be the truth, that they've read about Richard Speck, they read about the murder, and then read about the trial, and they then reached a decision. It's a convenient thing to do. What was important for us I believe was to raise a question again, that we cannot be certain. The people's certainty, people's decision, conclusion about the case, must be questioned over and over again. And just to plant a doubt in everybody's mind, I mean, this was the main purpose of the book.
Marvin Ziporyn All right, now let's take another look at Speck the man. I spent a lot of time with him. I talked to him. I related to him, and I wound up with a genuine feeling of friendship for him. I like him. As a person, as a human being. Mark Clancy, next cell, who was with him night and day, liked him. The guards liked him. Everybody who had any personal contact with Richard Speck found him a warm person and liked him, and strangely enough, we always did dissociate the crime from the man. It was a clear case of a situation where we all said, in effect, "We hate the sin, but not the sinner," because we saw the sinner as being ourselves, something that we could do. And I think this is a basic thing in terms of the humanity of Speck himself.
Studs Terkel You know, as you're saying this, I [point out?] a column by Clayton Fritchey, a columnist, "Chicago Sun-Times", and "hate the sin but not the sinner." A young boy is writing a letter to his father, this appeared in the Akron, Ohio "Beacon Journal", and the boy is somewhere in Vietnam, and he tells about himself and here again, let's consider Speck for a moment, the sin and not the sinner. This is a gentle young boy. "Some of the guys are so careless. Today a buddy of mine [unintelligible] come here into a hut and an old man came out of the bomb shelter. My buddy told him to get out of the way from the hut since we had to move quickly on a sweep and just threw a hand grenade into the shelter. As he pulled the pin, the old man got excited, started jabbering, running toward my buddy and the hut. A G.I., not understanding, stopped the old man with a football tackle just as my buddy threw the grenade into the shelter. After he threw it, running for cover, we all heard a baby crying from inside the shelter. Nothing we could do. After the explosion, we found the mother, two children, and the almost newborn baby. That's what the old man was trying to tell us. The shelter was small and narrow. They were all huddled together. Three of us dragged out the bodies onto the floor of the hut. It was horrible. Children's fragile bodies were torn apart, literally mutilated. We looked at each other and burned the hut. Well, Dad," says the boy. "You want to know what it's like here. Just give you an idea." Now what about this young boy who tackled the old man? The kids who threw the grenade? We come back. Under orders, obviously, again, that's why I said the Eichmann and the Speck parallel, that apply, one is under orders and one is not, but basically there's a sin and a sinner.
Marvin Ziporyn Yeah, and the thing is, the way I feel about it, nobody comes before the throne of God prior to being born and says, "Make me evil." Speck couldn't help being what he is. Speck couldn't help the pneumonia he had, Speck couldn't help the loss of his father. Speck couldn't help the blows on the head that he had. Speck couldn't help the fact that his IQ was 90 and not 150. Every one of us is put into a situation where we make certain assumptions about life as if we're responsible for them. Well, we're not. And things happen. The forces of life act upon us and we find ourselves acting in a certain way willy nilly.
Studs Terkel Yes, but can't man reach a state? Now we come to something else. Not Speck, of individual responsibility to recognize. See, recogni--what you, Jack Altman and Marvin Ziporyn, both ask for is recognition, aren't you? Recognition of a certain truth, of the Speck in us, aren't you?
Marvin Ziporyn Yeah. Right. Now, you're going into something about recognition of responsibility. Now, Speck, for example, takes responsibility. He, Speck says, "Assuming that I did it, and I must have done it because the papers say so, then I should be punished for it." Matter of fact, there's a little vignette in the book where I try to explain to Speck about an accident. He asked me, "Well, if you were the father of one of these girls, wouldn't you be thirsting for my blood? Wouldn't you be wanting to kill me? And you'd be right! You should do it!" And I said, "Well, of course, as a person I'm prone to all the weaknesses of every other person and I'm sure that emotionally I would respond that way. But as an objective observer, I can see these forces and I can realize that it's not your fault. There was a man in Philadelphia whose daughter was raped and killed and he came forward and pleaded with the court for mercy for the killer because of these factors, and I would hope that I would have the courage and the dignity and the intelligence and the humanity of that man. That isn't to say I would do it, it's no use making an argument ad hominem"--
Marvin Ziporyn And then I used the illustration of an automobile accident, that if somebody had injured one of my children or killed one of my children in an automobile accident, of course I'd be upset, but I would realize that it was an accident, and he couldn't even see that. His determination of responsibility was that he gave me a story about how some automobile had frightened the daughter of one of his employers and how this employer had beaten the man and so on, so forth. He carried this idea of insisting on human responsibility to this punitive degree. Now, when we're talking about human responsibility there are a number of confusing problems. It isn't very simple. For example, how does one take the responsibility if you say to me, "Don't you think you should be able to achieve this and that and the other thing?" My response is, "How do I get to achieve it, by using my brains? Where did I get the brains? Genetically. What if my genes didn't furnish me with an IQ of sufficient complexity and subtlety to be able to do it? What if my upbringing didn't furnish me with the necessary conditioning patterns to be able to do it?" And all these multiple things, it isn't enough to say
Studs Terkel There's a paradox involved here, quite obviously, the paradox is to say someone personally is responsible for that act that was committed is one thing, when the person himself is not, due to whatever it may be, genes, damage, etc.
Studs Terkel Something called a societal responsibility, individuals in that society. I'm not talking about Speck, I'm not talking about us, to recognize who we are and what we are doing, whether here, there or elsewhere.
Jack Altman Recognize the weaknesses, recognize the strengths, but also where the weaknesses are prevalent and likely to cause this kind of crime, try to prevent rather than do something about it. There's one reviewer of the book who made an astounding comment after having reviewed the book and gone very seriously step-by-step through the analysis that we make of this Speck case. The reviewer says at the end, "Well, psychiatry is still an inexact science, and we can't be sure that psychiatry is going to come up with the answer. It seems to me that the cure is worse than the disease." Now, this I swear appeared in a responsible West Coast newspaper.
Marvin Ziporyn This is why I say, and I used the phrase before, "I hate the sin, but not the sinner," because I think as a society we do have a responsibility to find what the real causes of this, nothing happens without a cause. I think I'll start with that as a basic premise, to find the causes and to take steps to eradicate it. But to point the finger at an individual and say you are going to be our scapegoat, and we can easily get out of the responsibility by making you the personal target, that's something else.
Studs Terkel I think one thing is clear--the book by our two guests, by Jack Altman and Dr. Marvin Ziporyn, "Born to Raise Hell: The Untold Story of Richard Speck" published by Grove Press raises these questions. It's a fascinating and terrifying book to read, at the same time revealing in that it helps us recognize he's a [unintelligible] scapegoat. Perhaps we can end with that fable. There's a Peruvian tale, you know, Peruvian folklore, a town is overcome by a plague and they see the little goat and they put a black hide over the goat and whip it with sticks and they drove it out, and thus drove out the plague, they thought. And we can drive out the plague, we think, by getting this one man or getting this one society or getting this one people who are different from us, whatever they
Marvin Ziporyn That's exactly the point that I feel is happening with all this thing. If you pick a man like Speck, and you say, "Aha. Now he is the symbol, the crime of the century." How could that be the crime of the century, when we see the crimes of the century all over? But it takes us off the hook to say that it's Speck, and it's a very interesting thing to me. The crime happened on a Wednesday; from Wednesday to Saturday, everybody in the world was saying, "Obviously, the work of a deranged man." The minute they had a real live flesh-and-blood human being to hang, then all of a sudden he wasn't deranged anymore.
Studs Terkel We are sane. And, so, the book is "Born to Raise Hell", again, I repeat the title because it's a fascinating one, and it's a challenging one by our two guests, Jack Altman, Marvin Ziporyn. Grove Press, the publishers. Thank you very much, gentlemen.