The Background Information on Death Penalties of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock Essay

The story of Perry and Richard outlines a background information on death penalties that were executed on the two characters. The author informs that Smith and Hickock were two prisoners who came to know each other at the Kansas State Penitentiary during the year 1956. According to the individual historical backgrounds of each of the two prisoners, they became criminals out of family related issues and desperations. While in prison, it is suggested that Hickock and Smith socialized closely with another prisoner by the name of Floyd Wells. Wells informed them about how rich Herb Clutter, his former employer was ruthless. From the information given, Hickock and Smith mistakably comprehended that Clutter used to keep a lot of money in his house. So both of them planned that immediately after their release they would go and rob Clutter and escape with his money. Therefore, I support that Perry and Richard were justified to be given death penalties.

Perry and Richard were justified to be hanged since both characters were a threat to the society. After their release, they did as planned but they didn’t get the money since Clutter rarely kept any money in the house. The two criminals ended up killing the whole family and escaped. Church mates are noted to be the ones who first noted the disappearance of the Clutter’s family in Church and decided to make a follow up. Their efforts led them to Clutter’s house in which they found only dead bodies. This is said to be realized on the second day after when the criminal event had taken place. The police were notified and in the process of making investigations, Wells informed the authorities that he had discussed about Clutter’s richness with Hickock and Smith and so they became the first suspects. Further investigations are mentioned to lead to the arrest of the two criminals a month after in Los Vegas and were brought to Kansas where they were charged for the murder case of the Clutter’s family. The two confessed while agreeing with the charges but their statements contradicted each other about who killed who. Nevertheless, the two murderers were both charged and sentenced to death by hanging and which took place in 1965.

Both characters were fathers of controversy and deserved to be hanged. The statements that each of the two criminals (Hickock and Smith) is informed that Smith agreed that he had cut Clutter on his throat and shooting Kenyon and Herbert Clutter on their heads while aiming from a closer range. About the killings of two women, Nancy and Bonnie Clutter, Hickock and Smith gave contradicting statement about who killed these two women, however, it is later found that Smith agreed that he killed all of them in order to cover up for Hickock. But Smith’s confession is said to have not been officially made since he refused to make it in court (Adams, 2015). Blanco (n.d) documents further claims made in regards to the judgment made in the murder case of the Clutter’s family. These claims are raised questioning the accuracy results or rather how accurate was the evidence presented which had been used by the court to decide this case. These queries are mentioned to have been brought up by Truman Capote in 1966 after publishing his novel “In Cold Blood” about Richard Hickock’s and Perry Smith’s killing the Clutter’s family. This query is constructed as follows: That the investigator to this case Alvin Dewey, began to suspect Hickock and Smith five after the murder event, when Wells informed that he had heard Hickock planning to rob Clutter and kill any witness to the event. This information made Dewey make follow ups with Hickock’s parents inquiring about the whereabouts of their son. In their home, Hickock’s gun was found that matched the forensic results. Thus, the two (Hickock and Smith) became prime suspects to the Clutter’s murder case. However, this prime detail is claimed to have been collected by the police five days after it had been given clues by Wells. Thus, question raised by Capote’s novel is, why did Dewey delay to gather such information? In response to this answer, the prosecutor to the case argued that initially, Dewey had found no evidence linking the two criminals to the Clutter’s murder and as a matter of fact, he had strongly believed that it was a local person whom Herbert Clutter had been at loggerheads.

The court was also justified to pass death penalty on the two characters since they were actively involved in cold blood activities. Another issue raised by Truman Capote’s novel “In Cold Blood” is about the punishment (death penalty) that Hickock and Smith were administered to when this case was decided by the Kansas court. As a matter of fact, this punishment made these two criminals become very popular in America. This information is said to have been gathered by Capote and his research assistant Harper Lee while in their attempt to make a story how this case impacted the American’s community in general. And in the process also, Capote also had managed to gather some primary information from the two criminals as well which he used to develop the novel ‘In Cold Blood”. Following up with the court case, it is informed that the dual criminals had made several attempts to appeal for a review of their punishment but this failed. Some of the guiding principles used to evaluate the punishment as too harsh on the dual criminals are listed as follows: (a) the case showcases the limitations in which courts consider mental status of the wrong doers especially when they were found to fail agreeing on who killed who and Smith carrying all the blame. The judge to this case, Mr. Tate is noted to have ignored to have the two defendants undergo a comprehensive mental test and thus, rather than a psychiatric, judge Tate ordered the law practitioners to interrogate the two criminals and relied on these results to decide the case (Blanco, n.d; Miller, 2015; Watson, 1994).

In spite of the tragic accidents that both characters had endured, they deserved the penalty since they were involved in bloody activities. Their historical backgrounds were never considered in the case but involved criminal and cold blood activities. As in the circumstances that had made the two enter into crime had not been reviewed. For instance, for Smith, in his quest to rebuild his life, he had a serious motorcycle accident that had badly affected his legs made him take too much of aspirin which made him become addicted to it and this perhaps is conveyed could have interfered with his sanity. Also, for Hickock who also had been involved in an accident and hit his head which made him be admitted in hospital for a couple of months, the outcomes of his head injury are also being advocated may have some impact on Hickock’s sanity. However, in response to this, it is explained that from the legal perspective, one is said to be insane if he or she cannot understand why he or she has done act and cannot tell whether the act is right or wrong. This argument is further developed that a psychiatrist was only involved to make judgments about the acts of the duals when evaluating the nature of the bodies lying on the floor in Clutter’s house. That is, the psychiatric was required to evaluate the criminals’ state of mind using the nature of acts established at the site of crime. The answers that the psychiatric would give are said were only limited to yes or no answers with no further comments. Based on such claims, Capote is found opposing the death penalty placed on this case and rather proposes that it would have been more reasonable and satisfying deciding on a life sentence on the two (Blanco, n.d; Miller, 2015; BBC, 2015).

Why this paper Supports Capote’s Opposition to Death Sentencing of the Dual Criminals

What has been gathered as guiding principles by Capote in challenging court’s decision (death penalty), are very much compelling. In that, historical information about the duals in terms of assessing their sanity status would have explained whether the two were in their right states of mind to execute such a murderous act which involved young teenagers of 15 and 16years. This consideration would have been triggered by the contradicting statements given by the two criminals (Ricketson, 2015; Capote, 2000-2011; Capote, 1975). To reinforce the opposition further, Adams (2015) explains about the development of death penalty law in Kansas. It is informed that this region has never had a standard rule of law that determines when to apply the death penalty judgment since its inception. This law has been facing several eliminations and reinstatements during the 1990s. Moreover, the State of Kansan during this period had not yet introduced life imprisonment punishments and thus, death penalty was perhaps seen as the best way to close the case.


Adam, S. (2015). Death Penalty: Kansas Continue to Debate Capital Punishment Decades Later. Retrieved

BBC (2015). In Cold Blood-The Book that Changed Me. Retrieved.

Blanco, J. I. (n.d). Murderpedia. Retrieved

Capote, T. (1975). In Cold Blood. New York: Transaction Publishers.

Capote, T. (2000-2011). BookRags Literature Study Guide: In Cold Blood. Retrieved

Miller, L. (2015). Truman Capote’s Greatest Lie. Retrieved

Ricketson, M. (2015). Truman Capote and the World He Made. Retrieved.

Watson, A. (1994). Capote’s Bias: In Cold Blood as an Anti-Death Penalty Argument. Retrieved.