Two ideals and the death penalty. Criminal Justice Ethics Essay

This report looks at the serial killer Ted Bundy, in terms of some of the details of his crimes and a general analysis of what he did, in terms of the characteristics and techniques of his killing, his background, the prosecution, defense, and conviction, and the verdict of the case, as well as opposition, in regards to the use of the death penalty. Like many other serial killers, Bundy was known for having a very clean cut image and seeming like just a normal guy; it was said of him as of other killers that one might not have suspected him, based on the appearances of his life in society. “Bundy had a psychology degree, he was a law student, a boy scout and a college graduate. He was reported to be sophisticated and looked like someone that was going places, even though he admitted to killing over 30 women. On January 4, 1974, he killed Joanne Lenz, an 18-year-old student, in Washington” (Stewart, 2007). Bundy’s case and trial were very sensational as more and more information about his crimes came out and how many people he had killed. But in many ways his motives remained somewhat of a mystery, despite various reports and conjectures made from second hand information based on his crimes and the court case.


This report looks at some of the different features of Bundy as a serial killer, as well as some elements of the legal case. The report also looks at some motives that the serial killer may have typically, that is, as a type. This speaking of the type tends to suggest a list of general features that could be used to be a sort of profile of a serial killer. However, making a successful blanket profile that fits every serial killer in terms of motive and case history is difficult. For the most part, serial killers could be said to be the most alike in their ability to defy reasonable expectations about role behaviors which the killers have assumed as a part of public life, based on the resultant public perception of their serial murders.

As a general issue and point of interest, serial killers are not a recent phenomenon: they seem to have been around before, during, and after industrialization, and even throughout history. Our methods of sociological and psychological as well as criminological inquiry have advanced with society so that at the present we may be better to understand what motivates these people to kill repeatedly. In looking at serial killers, one must think about what kind of killer they are sociologically and psychologically as well as in a criminological manner in terms of profiling. “Just as serial murder ‘pulls a large crowd,’ one of the investigative tools often employed to aid in their capture, most broadly known as criminal profiling, has also received a large amount of attention in recent times” (Petherick, 2002).

Prosecution and defense

The prosecution made a successful presentation in the Bundy case, as there were serial murders. Although Bundy was able to blend in to society and appear as normal, when the bodies began stacking up, they kept coming, and with multiple bodies came multiple sources of evidence. However, a lot of this evidence was also circumstantial, which aided the defense. “The prosecution's mass of circumstantial evidence was further shown to link at least seven other men to some or all of the crimes for which Bundy was blamed. For example, another “Ted,” a convicted sex offender, lived in Seattle at the time of the murders there and moved to Aspen before Caryn Campbell was killed” (Ted, 2010). In terms of the defense, much of the evidence presented by the prosecution was seen to be duplicate or circumstantial. “Even in the DaRonch case, in which Bundy was convicted, there was another suspect who owned a pair of handcuffs, fit the description of DaRonch's assailant more closely than did Bundy, and later killed a Utah woman” (Ted, 2010).


The verdict was that Bundy was guilty of several cases of murder, and he received the maximum, the death penalty. The death penalty has been used by societies since ancient times, for various types of crimes and in various forms of execution. Generally societies that were based on scriptural rules regarding the death penalty for various crimes had their civil codes and laws that were often tied up in religion and providing a public spectacle. This places the death penalty on a moral scale that comes up in extant literature on the subject of linking the Bundy case to the death penalty, and forms an uneasy balance of religious morality and scientific psychology. “Bundy went on trial in Florida on June 25, 1979 for the murders of the sorority women. The trial was televised and Bundy played up to the media when on occasion he acted as his own attorney. Bundy was found guilty on both murder charges and given two death sentences by means of the electric chair” (Ted, 2010). Although the death penalty may sound definitive, there is the appeals process in US courts. In this case, an appeal can be related to the goal of reversal. However, Bundy’s appeals did not work. “After endless appeals Bundy's last stay of execution was on January 17, 1989. Prior to being put to death Bundy gave the details of more than fifty women he had murdered to Washington State Attorney General's chief investigator, Dr. Bob Keppel. He also confessed to keeping the heads of some of his victims at his home plus to engaging in necrophilia with some of his victims” (Ted, 2010). The details got worse and worse, but the maximum penalty, the death penalty had already been stated twice.


Overall, this report argues that the death penalty was effective in the Bundy case. But some argue the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to many crimes, including murder. Even though this is one of the main reasons given by its advocates, other conclusions make more rational sense. Murder, is most often done in the heat of passion or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. From this perspective, dispassionate serial killers like Bundy are the exception. Normal murderers do so in the heat of the moment. In this state, the person is not cognizant of the outcome of their actions; they are acting on impulse rather than planning out what they are doing. And in opposition, some may argue most murders do happen this way. Those that do not are generally preplanned and worked out so that the perpetrator does not expect to receive any punishment at all. In neither of these cases is the murderer thinking of the death penalty: in the first case, they are not thinking of the future at all, and in the second, they are assuming they are not going to be caught. In both of these cases, the death penalty is not doing anything to stop the murder from happening; it is simply assuring that, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, an eye for an eye is going to keep making the whole world blind. States that do not have the death penalty do not have greater murder rates than those that do. This exposes the practice as essentially barbaric and bloodthirsty, from a state of opposition. However, this report advocates the death penalty for Bundy.


The Bundy legal case sheds light on the sensitive issue of developing a profile for serial killers based on a basic assumption of their non-allegiance to the societies in which they want to appear as normal as possible. “Ted Bundy fits no pattern at all; you could not look at his record and say: ‘See, it was inevitable that he would turn out like this’” (Rule, 1980, p. 11). This statement may be true, but it is also of interest to think of Bundy in hindsight, in the light of what appears to be their most important psychological characteristic. That is, the serial killer wanted desperately to appear normal, and went out of their way to, within the society while perpetrating the most abnormal and horrid of acts that were against the codes of the same society. “Bundy mostly lured his victims to their demise and he picked a certain type of female; the compassionate type – He said that murder is about possession, it is seeing that last flicker of life or that last breath – at least he says that is what done it for him. Bundy frequently returned to the woods, in the mountain area, WA, where he had buried many of his victims” (Stewart, 2007). The repercussions were partly over, however, when Bundy was executed after his trial. He was sentenced to the death penalty in the state of Florida.


There has been a divide within the U.S. in terms of support for the death penalty since independence, depending largely on the legal culture and public opposition to state-sponsored execution, but psychological issues are also prevalent, including the recently overturned execution of the mentally retarded in the U.S. Other systems around the globe have their own systems of death penalty, and many of these societies have also abolished the practice. Domestically, the death penalty existed in the U.S. for many years before it was even questioned by the state authority system which had perpetuated its implementation and use. Many U.S. states abolished the death penalty entirely during the 19th century, while others did not. Degrees of murder were legally established and related to the death penalty in some states as early as the eighteenth century. Executions became more humane and less the object of public spectacle as general policy grew and was amended. Today there is a situation in which moral and psychological progress share an uneasy balance, and executions are used on the most severe criminals, such as serial killer Ted Bundy..


Ted Bundy fit the description of someone who should be imposed the death penalty. “After the Court ruled in 1972 that sentencers could not have ‘untrammeled discretion’ in how they imposed the death penalty, some states changed capital punishments statutes to make the death penalty automatic when homicides were committed under specific conditions” (Mossman, 2003, p. 22) Those who want the death penalty continued often make their arguments on the grounds of philosophical or psychological speculation stating, “The fact that a state can be just and apply the death penalty does not, of course, mean that the death penalty cannot be applied in error, but the fact that it can be applied in error does not by itself justify the abolition of the death penalty in cases in which the burden of proof is high” (Sorell, 2002, p. 30). A more reality-based perspective is wanted when discussing the actual issue of special crimes such as serial murder in relation to the death penalty. Crimes like serial murder, rape combined with murder, and kidnapping combined with murder, often warrant instant consideration for the death penalty.


Mossman, D. (2003, winter). Psychiatry in the courtroom. The Public Interest 150, pp.


Petherick, Wayne (2005). Criminal Profiling: Fact, Fiction, Fantasy, and Fallacy. The

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Rule, Ann. (1980). The Stranger Beside Me. Thorndike, ME: Thorndike Press.

Sorell, T. (2002, summer). Two ideals and the death penalty. Criminal Justice Ethics

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