Dec 17, 2018 in Book Review

In Cold Blood: Book Review

In the criminal investigative (non-fiction) bestseller – In Cold Blood – Truman Capote demonstrates his ability to retrace the factors, influences, causal effects and reasons behind the horrendous murder of the Clutters, a farmer family living in Holcomb, Kansas. This crime, committed by two individuals, shocks many people, due to the nasty nature of the whole event, with fatalities occurring as a result of the shotgun wounds. An investigator Al Dewey has later articulated:

We have to keep going till we know the Clutters better than they even know themselves. Until we see the connection between what we found last Sunday morning and something else that happened maybe 5 years ago. The link got to be one. Got to. (Capote, 1994, p. 104).

This case was indeed a fascinating occurrence (Capote, 1994). This is true because the four killed members of the Clutter family had indeed lived peacefully, with the rest of society, engaging successfully in their farming activities. Their brutal death, in the hands of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, with no form of resistance as well as for no reason, made the murder case a great mystery, until the arrests of the aforementioned suspects. Through the establishment of various links, as well as the myriad of fine leads, the investigators were able eventually to solve the murder. By utilizing a number of different, yet interrelated techniques, the investigative team was able to obtain confessions from the two suspects, eventually leading to their conviction.

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Obtaining crucial evidence, in the form of a knife and the shotgun used in the foulest murder was critical for solving the case. During their arrest, a box picked up by Hickock and Smith at the post office was found inside the vehicle they were in and it further provided crucial evidence ultimately linking the two to the crime scene and murder weapons. With no motive for the crime, as well as initial suspicion, there were almost no clues to solve the murders. The Clutters were a prosperous, remarkable people, who lived their lives in a reserved and hence dignified way. It was important for them to save their human dignity even in the face of death, when they looked straight into the eyes of their killers (Capote, 1994).

In order to be able to understand the case scenario, one should establish a list of different forms of evidence, which, through eventual linkage, provides a perfect picture of that fateful night. Firstly, the two suspects have had a pair of binoculars and a radio taken from Clutters home. Then, there is the crucial confession of Floyd Well, entailing his and Hickock’s narration of the alleged large sum of money in the Clutters’ home. Thirdly, are the confessions obtained later on by Capote with the help of his trusted assistant and friend. The evidence of various individuals, who saw one or both of the suspects within the area were also helpful. While forensic DNA testing was not yet discovered, there were also items such as a bloodied hat and different hair strands from the members of the affected family.

Since there were no clues, it was not until Floyd Wells’ confession that some progress was made as to the reasons behind the murder. Wells, a former farmhand, who was at that time incarcerated himself, was able to inform Hickock about an alleged safe with large amounts of cash at the Clutters home. Hickock was later able to contact a former cellmate, Smith, with whom he committed the murders. Hickock had developed a plan, what he called – the perfect score, a cinch – according to which he with his friend would be able to make good money easily and start a new life in Mexico (Newcomb, 2012).

Some insignificant items, taken from the Clutters’ home, made the two drifters/former convicts to admit to the crime, with no excuse for possessing the radio and binoculars. Footprints, found at the crime scene, also indicated the involvement of the two criminals, who, eventually, succumbed and confessed to the four murders. Additionally, further there followed the confessions of both the aforementioned suspects, who were interviewed by an author Capote, a newspaper journalist/writer at that time. Psychological relation and recollection were the two interrogation techniques utilized to obtain confessions from two men. While applying recollection technique, the detective used Smith’s troubled family history to get a confession from him.

Prior to their arrest in Las Vegas, the two suspects had gone into hiding, evading the law in either Mexico, or the State of Florida, doing odd jobs to earn some money. While Hickock and Smith were away, detectives approached Hickock’s home, finding only his parents present. Accompanied by several cups of coffee, some clues were pieced together, such as the fact that Hickock had possessed a shotgun as well as a knife. These are two crucial leads as the head of the family, Mr. Clutter, was killed by slitting of the throat and head shots from a shotgun. Knowing about such crucial evidence stored in the suspect’s parents’ home, the investigators had to acquire search warrants from a judge to seize them (Newcomb, 2012).

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As per the American Constitution, the right to private property and individual privacy is crucial bedrock of other fundamental human rights. Thus, the investigators needed a legal judicial permission to search the house, and I would have done it no differently. Any other way would have been seen as tampering with evidence, which entails interfering with ongoing investigations. Possessing these two crucial items the investigators were able to arrest and accuse Hickock and Smith of the quadruple murder of the Clutter family.

A box was found in criminals’ vehicle during their arrest, executed by the Las Vegas police. If I were an investigator, knowledgeable in the aforementioned case, I would not require a search warrant to retrieve the box. This is due to the fact that the two suspects were already linked to the aforementioned murder by Well’s confession and the rifle and knife found at Hickock’s parents residence. I, on my part, also would not seek a search warrant, as the two suspects have already been linked to the murder case with crucial evidence and witness being present. Consequently, I would have confiscated the aforementioned box as a part of the larger haul of evidence, to be later utilized in later-date trial proceedings. The prosecutor’s office would have investigated the box’s contents identifying whether the items are crucial leads/evidence towards solving the murder or not (Capote, 1994).

In conclusion, while the two murderers were almost able to go unpunished, even being released from detention due to the fact that they had passed the lie detector test, these were the crucial lead of Floyd, as well as the finding of murder weapon’s, which eventually decided the fate of the two suspects. Eventually, they were hanged, but not after Truman got vital information that enabled him to compile this bestseller.

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