As the Indian government banned the broadcast of the documentary film India’s Daughter on the December 2012 gangrape case, here are six cases of famous convicts who have had their say in public.
The Government of India’s ban on the BBC documentary film ‘India’s Daughter’ by Director Leslee Udwin is still making headlines around the world.
Interestingly, with this ban on the documentary film, India has become one of the first countries to try to gag the voice of a convict after the sentencing has taken place.
The film chronicles the 16 December 2012 rape of a paramedic student and also features Mukesh Singh–one of the six convicted for the rape and murder of the victim. The girl was severely brutalised by six men in a moving bus and late succumbed to her injuries.
The ban raised a fundamental question. Should the voice of convicts such as these be heard? If so, what purpose do they serve? Or should Governments or authorities suppress such material because they could have an `adverse’ impact on the nation’s consciousness?
Looking at similar cases across time and space, the answer appears to lean in favour of greater exposure. We looked at cases where interviews of terrorists, serial killers and even Nazi war criminals that have been published and made available to the public through news papers, television and the internet.
The Kansas killers
One of the most famous portrayals of killers that was made available to the public was the book ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote. Capote captured the story of the brutal murder of a family in the state of Kansas in the 1960s by Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Capote conducted lengthy interviews with Perry Smith to understand his perspective and the book was written from the perpetrators perspective. As the writing of the book progressed, Capote is reported to have developed a soft corner for Smith and the second film on the subject—Capote underscores the complex relationship between the author and the criminal.
Criminal Mind – Ted Bundy
U.S. has an unfortunate history of serial killers and the story of Theodore “Ted” Bundy is one of the most famous case. Bundy admitted to the rape and murder of 30 women from the years 1974 to 1978. He was connected to at least 36 murders, but police officers have said that he had committed one hundred or more. Ted Bundy was considered a handsome man and his insistence of leading his own defence in court inspired a fan following. Hollywood went on to produce four films based on Bundy after his conviction. Ted Bundy gave his last interview to psychologist James Dobson just before he was executed on January 24, 1989 in Florida, U.S. This interview is still available on YouTube. The text of the interview too is freely available.
The Green River Killer
Gary Ridgway also known as the Green River killer for his penchant for dumping the bodies of his victims in Washington’s Green River, was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 48 women, mostly prostitutes in 2003. Ridgway is till date U.S.’s most prolific serial killer based on the confirmed number of murders. Ridgway’s sentence was commuted to jail for life without parole under a plea bargain which saw him admit to almost 90 murders. Following his confession and conviction, the videotapes of his interviews with police officers were released to the public by the county’s prosecutors. Ridgway’s interview with FBI psychiatrist is still available on YouTube. The Green river killer has spawned five documentary films, various mentions in non-fiction books and an artwork depicting Gary Ridgway’s face, composed of 11,792 portraits of his 48 victims.
Interviews before Execution
In the Chinese province of Henan, the state-run channel Henan Legal ran a show called Interviews before execution from 2006 to 2012. The show interviewed more than 200 inmates shortly before they were executed. The show amassed close to 40 million viewers and was one of the most popular shows in China throughout its run. According to its anchor, Ding Yu, the show was meant to educate the public and also act as a deterrent to criminals.
In 2012 Interviews Before Execution attracted international attention after the BBC broadcast a documentary about the programme for its This World strand. The film, Interviews Before Execution: A Chinese Talk Show, produced in association with LIC China, was aired on BBC Two in the UK on 12 March 2012. However, after the broadcast of this documentary Chinese authorities came down heavily on the producers of the show for giving access to the BBC in the making of the film, and banned Ding Yu and her colleagues from giving interviews amid fears it could damage the country’s international standing. The Chinese government later cancelled the programme as a result of the documentary and the international attention it had attracted.
The Butcher of Ardeatine Caves
One of the most famous Nazi war criminals to be tried and sentenced is Erich Priebke who was a Captain in Nazi Germany’s SS police force. He was known as the ‘Butcher of the Ardeatine Caves’ for the execution of 335 Italian civilians by Nazi soldiers under him, in the caves of Ardeatine in 1944 as retaliation for an attack that killed 33 German soldiers. Priebke was held responsible for ensuring the execution took place and also for shooting two civilians to death.
However, Priebke like many Nazis managed to escape to Argentina at the end of World War II, evading the 1948 trial in Rome of war criminals.
Priebke was uncovered in Argentina by American news channel ABC and was interviewed by Sam Donaldson in 1994. Priebke’s answers to the war crime allegations in the interview as ‘things that happened during times of war’ drew international outrage. After the airing of this interview, Priebke was deported to Italy to face trial. Because of his advancing age and ill-health he was allowed to serve out his life sentence under house-arrest after being extradited from Argentina.
In court, Priebke declared himself not guilty as he termed his actions ‘legitimate punishment’ for the attack on the German soldiers. Despite numerous protests in Italy, where Priebke remained till his dying days, the text of his interview is still available on the internet.
Inside the mind of a terrorist
In 2002 members of the Jemaah Islamiyah rammed an explosive laden van and exploded a suicide vest in two separate night clubs in Bali in a terror attack meant to target Americans. The two coordinated attacks killed 202 people from various nationalities.
Ali Amrozi, Ali Ghufron and Imam Samudra were convicted and sentenced to death for masterminding the attack. The three men were interviewed by CNN’s Dan Rivers in 2008. The series titled Inside the mind of a terrorist was telecast across the world, including India in October 2008. Throughout the interview the Bali Bombers as the trio are known as, defended their actions by quoting the Koran “blood for blood and soul for soul”.