My Self-Forgiveness will focus on the following Article:
The Qualitative Report Volume 9 Number 2 June 2004: Sipping Coffee with a Serial Killer: On Conducting Life History Interviews with a Criminal Genius
Author: J. C. Oleson
In each blog I will walk self-forgiveness on different parts of the Article, discussing the developmental aspects of somebody who 'learns to kill':
"As part of my Ph.D. research on criminal genius, I conducted 44 semistructured interviews. One of the 44 subjects, in particular, stood out. This noteworthy individual claimed that he had killed 15 people. His story was particularly interesting because – unlike most social research involving serial killers – he claimed that he had never been arrested or convicted for his homicides. Compelled by his account, I met with this subject on five additional occasions, and gradually compiled his criminal life history.
Ethical and legal considerations limited inquiry into several dimensions of this subject’s life history, but over time, an interesting and richly textured narrative emerged. This article first describes the life experiences of this offender and then describes the methodological choices that shaped the research.
Because criminologists have historically focused their research on vulnerable populations such as juveniles or prison inmates (Barnes & Teeters, 1959), almost nothing is known about the patterns of criminal behavior among gifted adults with exceptional cognitive abilities (Blackburn, 1993).
Intrigued by this enigmatic topic, I studied the crimes of geniuses – offenses committed by people with IQ scores of 132 or higher (Simonton, 1994). I relied upon the self-report questionnaire (Huizinga & Elliott, 1986; Thornberry & Krohn, 2000) to inventory the offenses of my subjects. The selfreport instrument is one of the only means to effectively study hidden offending (Hood & 193 The Qualitative Report June 2004 Sparks, 1970). Using a newly designed self-report questionnaire, I collected extensive self-report data from 424 subjects in three different groups of geniuses:
1. Members of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry [ISPE], an international elite high IQ society with a 150 IQ [99.9 percentile] admissions threshold
2. Undergraduate and graduate students at prestigious American and British universities
3. High IQ inmates incarcerated in American and British correctional facilities.
Sampling from these groups allowed me to tap all three categories of genius described by Towers (1990): the outsider (the gifted individual, who joins a high IQ society to find the mental stimulation that he or she cannot find through professional or social avenues), the conformist (the gifted individual, who finds sufficient mental stimulation through work and peers), and the dropout (the gifted individual, who cannot or will not abide by the norms and laws of society).
The questionnaire included 17 demographic questions, 72 different offense items (ranging in seriousness from the abuse of work privileges to homicide committed outside wartime), and asked subjects about the books, movies, and famous figures that had shaped their lives.
I did not want my study to be a dry recitation of crime rates and correlations. Numbers and statistics alone could not capture the social realities of the offenses that I was documenting (Bryman, 1988). To do so, I needed qualitative results. I needed to write my subjects’ stories, to describe their thinking and feeling, and to convey some of the sensual aspects of their crimes.
I settled for conducting semi-structured interviews with 44 subjects (Brenner, Brown, & Canter, 1985). I purposively selected interview subjects (Jupp, 1989), trying to gather qualitative data across the entire spectrum of offending. All 44 of the interviews were fascinating. Still, the interviews that I conducted with the subject I called “Mr. X” stood out from the others, intriguing me.
When I met with the subject I called Mr. X, I was overwhelmed by the sentiment. Mr. X, who was not much older than I was, had been raised in a similar family environment and had been educated in some of the same gifted education programs as me. It made it frightfully easy to imagine myself in his shoes and to picture myself making the same choices that he had unwittingly made. In trying to understand what had led Mr. X to embrace crime, I was – I believe – simultaneously trying to understand what had insulated me from it (Patton, 2002, p. 11-12).
The six interviews that I conducted with Mr. X generated a wealth of qualitative data. Because research access to elite groups (like people with genius-level IQ scores) is often incredibly difficult to negotiate (e.g., Fussell, 1983; Nader, 1972), criminologists know virtually nothing about the crimes of the elite. It is exceptionally rare to find an elite, who will discuss undetected offenses. To find an elite, who is willing to discuss undetected offenses – including murder, – is unprecedented.
I will first recount the criminal life history of Mr. X. His account is broken into sections set off with evocative epigrams drawn from literature and philosophy that help to set the tone of his story.
Mr. XAt 31 years old, he was a young urban professionals, who rose from the ranks of the X Generation (Coupland, 1991) to succeed in the cutthroat job markets of California during the dot-com 1990’s.
He dressed in conservative labels, wore an old Rolex, scuffed, expensive leather shoes, and drove a nondescript luxury sedan. He was exceptionally bright, articulate, and had been educated at a prestigious university. He had scored a 162 on a self-administered IQ test, placing him in the 99.995 percentile (Jensen, 1980), catapulting him well beyond the 132 IQ minimum threshold of “genius” (Simonton, 1994).
We met on six separate occasions. During the second interview, he began to describe his offenses and the antecedents that (he believed) led him to the commission of these crimes. By gradually collecting the details of this man’s life throughout the six interviews, I was able to assemble his life history (Atkinson, 1998; Sarbin, 1986; Shaw, 1930). It was a remarkable history. Indeed, Mr. X was not entirely the affable genius he seemed to be. X had been shot three times. X also acknowledged smuggling thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States.
While “serial killer” is a term typically used to describe individuals compelled to kill for sexualized power-seeking reasons (Egger, 1998; Hickey, 1991; Norris, 1988; Wilson & Seaman, 1990), if X’s claim was true, he qualified as a serial killer within the law enforcement taxonomy proposed by Douglas, Burgess, Burgess, and Ressler, “Serial murder is defined as three or more separate events in three or more separate locations with an emotional cooling-off period between homicides” (1992, p.21).
In addition to murder and drug smuggling, X admitted to illegally manipulating bank accounts, forging official documents, fencing stolen goods and automobiles, and perjuring himself under oath.
And he’d gotten away with it.
Growing Up Different
"Farrington (1994) identified several antecedent risk factors that appear to predispose young people to juvenile delinquency and adult criminality, including low intelligence, socio-economic deprivation, and poor parental supervision. The stereotype of the common criminal (Sarbin, 1969) – the young man calcified by years of deprivation and abuse into a remorseless criminal – appears to be, at least in part, supported by criminological research (e.g., Agnew, 1992; Shaw & McKay, 1972)."
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to condition the world into believing that people of low intelligence, socio-economic deprivation, and poor parental supervision are more likely to become criminals, instad of looking at how and why we as a society and as the parents and care takers of the human race allow such things as low intelligence, socio-economic deprivation, and poor parental supervision.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing an economic system that determines the life of all beings on this planet, to the consequential outflow of somebody taking the lives of other beings, simply from a point of suppressed rage, based on a shitty life experience which was caused by things like poverty, separation, unequal education, depravation, greed and abuse within a family system, caused by the parents being under constant pressure due to their own financial worries and emotional pressure experienced from the life experienced they were pressured into.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing a world where we value sensationalism so much, over that of life that we will value - the energetic experience we get from reading about serial killers more than any form a self honest realization, that our world not only produces beings that suffer under 'low intelligence, socio-economic deprivation, and poor parental supervision' - but that this in many cases results in being lashing out at and into society, where they abuse and harm others, who are essentially also innocent within it all - instead of finding solutions once and for all to stop these generational, societal cycles of abuse.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing a society where we pride ourselves in apparently having intelligent people - but at the cost of an education system that divides children into groups, where only specific groups are catered for, and these groups get effective or semi effective educations, while the other groups become dumbed down due to the education system not providing for them - and within this capitalistic system -we realize if we dare to be self honest that if you are not thinking like a machine ready to survive in the world of working and money - then you will not even be able to feed yourself.
I forgive myself for creating intellectualized titles and categories for people that are of 'low intelligence, socio-economic deprivation, and poor parental supervision', instead of calling this a crime against life, and as criminologist, writing and communicating firstly about these crimes, before blabbering in self importance about these beings as if I am somehow superior to them in that God bestowed me with some special, 'ability' to watch as these beings are subjected to abuse and harm, so that I may write papers about how pathetic these beings are as they exist as characters in a story.
I commit myself to make self-education available to all, where the emphasis is the purification of the individual into Life that all can Live to the fullest and I commit myself to make it possible for each to walk this journey to life, no matter where you come from as long as you have the willpower to write yourself to freedom.
I commit myself to propose a change to the current economic system, into one that will stop all these cycles of abuse and re-form how humanity has functioned thus far as the starting point of ourselves as simplistic self interest and greed.