OPINION

Gary Gilmore cared little about the rights of others

Mother's intuition not enough for psychopathic son

Gary Gilmore was a psychopathic American. He started committing burglaries when he was a boy and ended up in reform school. When he was released, he upgraded his crimes to armed robbery and went to prison.

When Gary finished his long sentence, he worked at a normal job for a few months and drank heavily.

He became angry with his young girlfriend, Nicole, and choked her. She fled.

When he could not find her after days of searching, he felt frustrated, and he committed two robberies, netting a small amount of money. He made no attempt to disguise himself. Instead, he executed the two men he robbed.

In a hurry to get away, Gary shoved the murder weapon in a bush.

The gun went off and shot him in the hand. He left a trail of blood, and the police soon arrested him.

Nicole returned to Gary's life at trial. They had a strong attachment. Gary was convicted and sentenced to death.

Then Gary did something unprecedented: He refused to appeal the sentence. He preferred to die than to spend the rest of his life in prison.

When Gary's execution got delayed as various do-gooders tried to appeal, he convinced Nicole to smuggle in drugs for him to use for suicide.

He also convinced her to take pills to kill herself so no one else would ever have sex with her.

Their suicide attempts failed. Gary insisted on being executed.

Hours before the execution, he tried to convince one of his lawyers to help him escape. The lawyer refused.

You see in his story classic behaviour of a psychopath.

He cared little about the rights of others, whom he often exploited. He was ego-centric and impulsive. He rarely experienced guilt. He did not learn from punishment.

You might be surprised to learn Gary had a high IQ and that he was often charming. Those traits are common in a psychopath. Many family members and others liked Gary even though he was a murderer. Nicole did not want to live without him.

Thinking about Gary as I read about him in the book Executioner's Song, I concluded that he started life with a bad set of genes, mostly from his criminal dad, and grew up in poverty. His mother first worried about Gary being executed when he was three years old. Her worries were well founded.

Gary donated his organs for transplant. His final words were Dominus vobiscum (The Lord be with you).

- John Malouff

This story Mother's intuition not enough for psychopathic son first appeared on The Canberra Times.