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Life Sentence vs Death Sentence: Discussion Research Paper

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Charles Manson

Charles Miller Manson was born on November 12, 1934. He was an American criminal who led the “Manson Family” a quasi commune that arose in the U.S state of California in the late 1960s (David E. Smith, M.D, et al “A Case Study of the Charles Manson Group Marriage Commune” Journal of American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine, 1970). He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate –La Bianca murders, which members of the group carried out at his instruction. Though the joint-responsibility rules of conspiracy he was convicted of the murders themselves.

Manson is associated with “Helter- Skelter”’ the term he took from the Beatles song of the name and construed as an apocalyptic race war that the murders were intended to precipitate.

Manson was born to unmarried mother who was 16 years old at the time of his son’s birth. The mother, Kathleen Maddox was married to a laborer named William Manson. Young Manson’s mother was allegedly a heavy drinker. She once sold him for a Picher of beer to a children’s waitress, from whom his uncle retrieved him some days later. When his mother and her brother were sentenced to five years imprisonment for robbing a Charleston, West Virginia, service station in 1939, Manson was placed in the Mc Mechen, West Virginia, home of an aunt and uncle. Upon his mother’s release in 1942 parole, Manson was taken by his mother and lived with her in run down hotel rooms. In 1949, Kathleen Maddox tried to have her son placed in a foster home but failed because no such home was available.

First Offences

By burgling a grocery store, Manson obtained cash that enabled him rent a room. A string of burglaries of other stores, from one of which he stole a bicycle and ended up being caught in the act and sent to an Indianapolis juvenile center. His escape after one day led to his recapture and placement in Boys towns, form where he escaped with another boy four days after arrival.

Caught during the second two subsequent breakings of grocery stores, Manson was sent at the age of 13 to the Indian school for boys, where he would later claim he was brutalized sexually and otherwise. He escaped with two boys in 1951. In Utah having burgled gas station along the way, the three was caught driving all along the way, the three were caught driving to California in cars they had stolen. For the Federal Crime of taking a stolen car across a state line, Manson was sent to the Washington D.C National Training for boys.

First Imprisonment

Less than a month before a scheduled February 1952 Parole hearing at Natural Bridge Honor camp,- a minimum security institution to which he had been transferred the previous October on a psychiatrists recommendation,- Manson took a razor blade and held it against another boy’s throat while sodomizing him. He was transferred to the federal Reformatory at Chillicothe, Ohio, a more secure institution due to serious disciplinary offenses (Harcourt, Bernard E., 75). In a month after the transfer he almost became a model resident which won him parole in 1954.

In 1955, Manson married Rosalie Jean Willis, a hospital waitress, with whom he had a child. At this time, he was charged with a federal crime for taking a stolen vehicle interstate. He was given five years probation. He was arrested in 1956 for refusing to appear on a charge filed in Florida. He was sent to terminal Island, San Pedro California to serve a three year imprisonment term. Rosalie gave birth to Charles Manson Jnr. while Manson was in prison.

Manson’s involvement with Wilson, Melcher, et al.

The events that culminated in the murders were started in 1968 when Dennis Wilson, of The Beach Boys picked up two hitch hiking Manson girls and brought them to his Pacific Palisades house for a few hours. Returning home in the early hours of the following morning form a night recording session, Wilson was greeted in the driveway of his own by Manson, who emerged from the house. Uncomfortable, Wilson asked Manson whether he intended to hurt him. Manson assured him he had no such intention and began to kiss his feet.

Inside the house, Wilson discovered 12 strangers mostly girls. In the next few months, the number doubled. Wilson and Manson used to sing and the girls were servants to them. Wilson paid for studio time to record songs written and performed by Manson. He also introduced Manson to Gregg Jacobson, Terry Melcher and Rudi Altobelli.

Hinman Murder

In 1969, Terry Melcher visited Spahn Ranch to hear a musical performance by Manson and the girls. In the same year, Manson tasked Watson a Family member to assist the family prepare for the conflict. Watson defrauded a black drug dealer named Bernard Lotsapoppa Crowe. When Crow responded by wanting to wipe out everyone at Spahn Ranch, Manson countered by shooting Crowe at his Hollywood apartment in 1969.

In the same year Manson sent Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins to the house of Gary Hinman to obtain money. The three held Hinman on hostage while Manson came in with a sword to slash his ear. On Manson’s instructions, Beausoleil stabbed Hinman to death.

Tate Murders

On the night of August 8, 1969, Manson directed Watson to take Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel to the house where Melcher used to live, and totally destroy everyone in it. The four arrived as instructed and cold bloodedly murdered Wojciech Frykowski, Tate, Jay Sebring and Abigail Folger.

La – Bianca murders

The next night after Tate Murders, six family members, four from Tate murders as well as Leslie van Houten and Steve Clem Geogan rode out at Manson’s instructions. Manson directed Kasabian to drive to 3301 Waverly Drive, home of supermarket executive Leno La Bianca and his with Rosemarie. While in the house Watson stabbed Leno twelve times. He also stabbed Mrs. La Bianca. After he was done, he instructed all the girls to play a role as directed by Manson.


Initially, Steven Parent, a victim of shooting by the family was held as suspect of Tate murders. However, he was released on August 11, 1969 after undergoing a polygraph examination indicating that he had not been involved in the crimes. On August 16, 1969 the sheriff’s office raided Spahn Ranch and arrested Manson and others as suspects in a major auto theft ring that had been stealing Volkswagens. But because the warrant had been misdated the group was released a few days later.


At the trial, which began in June 1970, the prosecution’s main witness was Kasabian, who along with Manson, Atkins and Krenwinkel, had been charged with seven counts of murder and one conspiracy. Not having participated in the killings, she was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony that detailed the nights of crimes.

On January 25, 1971 guilty verdicts were returned against Manson, Krenwinkel and Atkins on the seven counts of murder and the one conspiracy. Van Houter was convicted on two counts of murder and one of conspiracy.

Midway through the penalty phase, Manson shaved his head and trimmed his beard to a fork. He told the press, “I am the devil, and the devil always has bald head” (Bugliosi, 1994)

On March 29, 1971 the jury returned the verdicts of death against all four defendants on all counts. On April 19, 1971 Judge Older sentenced the four to death. Relying on the decisions of California v. Anderson, 1972, this stated. “Any person now under a sentence of death may file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the superior court inviting that the court to modify its judgment to provide for the appropriate alternative punishment of life imprisonment without possibility of parole specified in the statute or the crime for which he was sentenced tom death. This made Manson eligible to apply for parole after seven years of incarceration. His first parole hearing took place in 1978 and was refused. Since then his parole has been refused eleven times. He applied for parole last on May 23, 2007 but was denied parole by California’s Board of parole hearings which said in part that Mansion, 72 continuous to pose an unreasonable danger to others and may still bring harm to anyone he would come in contact with” (Pfizer, “Manson again denied parole” Thomson Reuters, May 23, 2007). Mansion will be eligible for parole hearing in 2012.

Charles Manson’s life imprisonment

Charles Manson who was charged with conspiracy and murder initially was sentenced to death sentence and was originally set to be executed in the gas chambers. However, in 1977 his sentence was commuted to life prison with the possibility of parole along with other death row inmates when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional (Gould, John B., 156). Even though the state later resumed executions, Manson remains under life imprisonment because it had already been pronounced on him in 1977.

Jeffery Lionel Dahmer

Jeffery Lionel Dahmer was an American serial killer. Dahmer murdered 17 men between 1978 and 1991, with the majority of the murders occurring between 1989 and 1991. Dahmer’s murders were gruesome involving rape, necrophilia and cannibalism.

Dahmer was born in West Allis, Wisconsin, to Lionel an analytical chemist and Joyce Dahmer. At the age of 8 years, his family moved to Bath, Ohio where he attended Revere High school. Dahmer dissected dead animals as a child, and by his teenage years was an alcoholic loner.

Dahmer attended Ohio State University, but dropped out after two terms. Dahmer’s father forced him to enlist in the Army where he was to serve for a six- year enlistment. He was discharged after two years due to his excessive drinking. When he was discharged in 1981 by the army, he was provided with a plane ticket to anywhere in the country. Dahmer explained to the police that he could not go home to face his father; he therefore headed to Miami Beach, Florida because he was “tired of the cold”. He spent most of his time there at a hospital but was kicked out shortly after drinking,

In 1982, Dahmer moved in with his grandmother in West Allis, where he lived for six years. In August of the same year, he was arrested for exposing himself at a state fair. In September 1986, he was charged again with public exposure after two boys accused him of masturbating in public. This time round he was sentenced to a year in prison of which he served 10 months. In the summer of 1988 Dahmer’s grandmother asked him to move out due to his late nights and foul smells from the basement. He then found an apartment at Milwaukee’s Westside. On September 25, 1988, he was arrested for sexually fondling a 13 year old boy in Milwaukee, for which he served 10 months of one year sentence in a work release, camp. He was required to register as a sex offender. He convinced the judge that he needed therapy, and was released with five year probation on good behavior. Shortly thereafter he began a string of murder that would end with his arrest in 1991.


In the early morning hours of May 30, 1991, 14 year old Konerak Sinthasomphone was discovered on the street, wandering nude and under heavy influence of drugs and bleeding form his rectum. Reports on the Boys injuries varied. Dahmer told police that Sinthasomphone was his 19 year old boyfriend and that they had an argument while drinking. Against the teenagers protest, police returned him over to Dahmer they later reported smelling a strange scent but did not investigate it. It was later found to be bodies in the back of his room. Later that night, Dahmer killed and dismembered Sinthasomphone, keeping his skull as a souvenir. John Balcerzark and Joseph Gabrish, the two police officers whom returned Sinthasomphone to Dahmer, were fired from Milwaukee police department after their actions were widely publicized, including an audiotape of the officers making homophobic statements to the dispatcher and cracking jokes about having re-united the “lovers”. The two police officers appealed their termination and were reinstated with back pay. They were named police officers of the year by police union. Balcerzak would go on to be elected president of the Milwaukee police Association in my 2005.

By the summer of 1991, Dahmer was murdering approximately one person each week. He killed Matt Turner on June 30, Jeremiah Weinberger on July 5, Oliver Lacy on July 12 and Joseph Barderhoft July 18.


On July 22, 1991 Dahmer lured another man Tracy (Traci) Edwards into his home. According to the would-be victim, Dahmer struggled with Edwards in order to hand cuff him. Edwards escaped and alerted a police car, with the handcuffs still hanging from one hand. Edwards led police back to Dahmer’s apartment, where Dahmer at first acted friendly to the officer, only to turn on them when he realized that they suspected something was wrong. One officer subdued Dahmer, the other searched the house and uncovered multiple photographs of murdered victims and human remains, including their several heads and penises. A further search of the apartment revealed more evidences including photographs of victims and human remains in the refrigerator

The story of Dahmer’s arrest and the inventory in his apartment, which was apartment number 213, quickly gained notoriety: several heads were found in his refrigerator, and implements for the construction of the alter of candles and human skills were found in his closet. Accusations soon surfaced that Dahmer had practiced necrophilia, cannibalism and possibly a form of trepanation in order to create the called “zombies”.


Jeffery Dahmer was officially indicated on 17 murder charges, which were reduced to 15. The murder cases were already so notorious that the authorities never bothered to charge him in the attempted murder of Edwards. His trial began in January 1992. With the evidence against him being significant, Dahmer pleaded not guilty by reason of in insanity. The court found Dahmer sane and guilty of 15 counts of murder and sentenced him to 15 life terms totaling to 957 years in prison. At his sentence hearing Dahmer expressed remorse for his actions, also saying that he wished for his own death.

Imprisonment and death

Dahmer served his time at the Columbia correctional institution in Portage Wisconsin where he ultimately declared himself born again Christian. This conversion occurred after viewing evangelical materials sent to him by his father. A local preacher Roy Radcliff met Dahmer and agreed to baptize him. After attending a church service in prison chapel, an inmate tried to slash his throat with a razor blade. Dahmer escaped the incident with superficial wounds.

On Nov 1994, Dahmer and another inmate named Jesse Anderson were beaten to death by a fellow inmate, Christopher Scarver with a bar from a weight machine while on work derail in the prison gym. Dahmer died from severe head trauma in the ambulance while on the way to hospital.


Lionel Dahmer, Dahmer’s father published a book in 1994 titled a “father story” and donated a portion of the proceeds from his book to the victims and their families. Most of the families showed support for Lionel Dahmer and his wife Shari. Dahmer’s estate was awarded to the families of all Dahmer’s victims who had sued for damages.

In 1996, Thomas Jacobson, the lawyer representing eight of the families, announced a planned auction of Dahmer’s estate up to one million dollars sparking controversy. A civic group called Milwaukee civic pride was quickly established in effect to raise the funds to purchase and destroy Dahmer’s possessions. The group pledged $ 407,228 including $100,000 gift by Milwaukee real estate developer Joseph Zilber for purchase of Dahmers estate; five of the eight families represented by Jacobson agreed to the terms and Dahmers possessions were destroyed. In Jan 2007, evidence surfaced linking Dahmer to Adam Walsh’s 1981 abduction and murder in Florida. True crime writer Arthur Jay Harris, who investigated the case for years, found evidence that Dahmer was in the same mall where Adam was killed and may have had access to the blue van.

Dahmer’s Death Sentence

Owing to the criminal acts that Dahmer had committed it was justified that he serves the prescribed judgment of 957 years in jail. This is owing to his gruesome murders and cannibalism.

Who plays God?

The issue of who plays God is based in various theories of punishment namely theory, Deterrence theory and preventive theory. In reality no one plays God. According to Best, Reba A., nobody is entitled to take another’s life (Best, Reba A., 216). Everybody has right to live. However, if one takes another’s life then he/ she is entitled to be deprived of his life under just means. The main reason why one is deprived of life under just means is to prevent other persons from committing similar offences.

Sir Lionel Fox quotes the example of an 18th century judge who passed sentence of death saying “You are to be hanged not because you have stolen a sheep but in order that others may not steal sheep”, capital punishment will be justified so far as it appears likely to prevent more evil in the long –run than it produces immediately (Anderson, James F., 173).

According to exponents of preventive theory the object of punishment is to prevent a criminal from committing crimes in future by rendering the offender incapable of the offence either permanently or temporarily. The best way to prevent a person from committing the act again is to detach him from society. The penalty is the most severe form of the preventive theory put in practice.

Works Cited

Abrams, Norman, et al. Federal Criminal Law and its Enforcement. Thomson West: 2006.

Anderson, James F. American Criminal Procedures. Durham, N.C: Carolina Academic Press, 2007.

Bergman, P & Sara J. et al. The Criminal Law Handbook.” Know Your Rights, Survive the System”. Berkeley: 2006.

Best, Reba A. Identity theft A Legal Research Guide Buffalo: Hein, 2004Bumgarner, Jeffrey B. Profiling and Criminal Justice in America. Santa Barbara: 2004.

Demleitner, Nora V., et al. Sentencing law and policy: cases, statutes, and guidelines. New York: Aspen Publishers, 2004.

DeSimone, Cathleen, and Death on demand: physician-assisted suicide in the United States: Hein, 1996.

Gould, John B. The Innocence Commission: Preventing Wrongful Convictions and Restoring the Criminal Justice System New York: New York University Press, 2007.

Harcourt, Bernard E. against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Hemmens, Craig. Current Legal Issues in Criminal Justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury, 2007.

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