Thursday, March 26, 2009

A changed man?

I was flipping around the dial on the car radio today when something on a Christian station caught my ear. It was an interview with none other than David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam serial killer from the 1970s. Berkowitz was pretty much Public Enemy No. 1 at the time of the killings, and he was sentenced to 365 years in prison for his heinous crimes. But a funny thing happened while Berkowitz was behind bars. The man who was an admitted member of a Satanic cult, and most likely also insane, found Jesus. Berkowitz became a born-again Christian in 1987. According to an Internet biography, Berkowitz has been very active in prison ministries and counsels troubled inmates. We can't see inside Berkowitz's brain – or his soul, if you prefer – but in the radio interview he sounded like a very intelligent, remorseful and sincere person - a totally different person from the one who pumped bullets into innocent people 30-some years ago. Which brings me to this question: If Berkowitz is, indeed, rehabilitated, if he is no longer a threat to society, should he be released from prison? According to the mainline Christian denominations with which I'm familiar, I believe Berkowitz became a new person in Christ when he was born again. The old David Berkowitz is no longer with us. And that points to a certain disconnect between the Biblical take on forgiveness and the human one. Can we forgive David Berkowitz for what he did? Should we?

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Blogger {cher} said...

i'm a true believer in rehabilitation myself. some people grow up to be victims of their environment and abuse, and when put in a place where they can find themselves outside of those negative influences, i do believe, can truly change. although to forgive and forget are two separate items. are there some people we cannot rehabilitate? i'm sure, but there's no exact science to it. that's the enigma that is the human mind.

we are living in a society that's telling people like Rihanna she's crazy for going back to bf Chris Brown who supposedly abused her, with ppl like Oprah claiming if a man hits you he'll hit you again. Then stop educating therapists, behavior specialist and counselors and stop with the therapy and anger management, because according to Oprah, it will never work!

Bullshit! People CAN change.

i feel if we give up on people with mental illness, addictions, past criminal activities and the like, we are just as barbaric than those that commit the crimes.

he was sentenced and should carry it out. if anything, with his intelligance and sincerity, he could be more of an impact on those inside the prison than outside where there will only be people that will constantly beat him down back until he turns into the monster he once was.

March 26, 2009 at 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you suppose a dog evangelized him?

March 26, 2009 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Rehabilitation is overrated... We have a penal system... from the word "penance" - repentance or remorse for your past actions...

If someone is rehabbed in prison, that's great... but really... you are there to be punished.

I imagine there are TONS of people who commit crimes and are either immediately remorseful or otherwise pose no more risk to society than Mr. Sam... you know, like a guy who shoots his wife and her lover...

Or... any prisoner who turns 80 while imprisoned... They aren't a huge threat at that point... but they DID do something years ago that was SO bad that we deemed it appropriate to put them in a box until they die.

I wonder if Berkowitz's change of heart has anything to do with getting the proper medications in prison... I mean, it's quite a turnaround to go from killing "kids" because your neighbor's dog told you to... to being remorseful and loving Jesus... I imagine the underlying illness is still there, but suppressed... imagine if he were released, went off his meds, and was in the vicinity of a parrot or something... holy jeez.

Berkowitz killed 6 people and wounded 7... he was batshit crazy and extremely dangerous... I'm glad he found god and all that... but he can stay in jail and continue his penance free of the influences cults, teenage girls, and possessed pets.

March 26, 2009 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

He believes in God and the resurrection. He can get out of prison when the kids he killed rise from the dead.

March 26, 2009 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger amom said...

I don't really care WHO he found...he needs to stay put.

March 26, 2009 at 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Berkowitz is a manipulator. Read John Douglas account of meeting and dealing with him. First he called David on his crap when he tried to bring up the dog story. Berkowitz was a serial arsonist before being a killer. He tried to stab a woman in upstate NY but it was messy so he switched to a gun. It was more efficient and replaced a certain part of his anatomy in his imagined sexual act.
He was known to observe the firetrucks at arsons he committed while entertaining himself. He continued to do the same at gravesites.
This is seriously sick individual that should never be allowed out. I can't believe that I agree with Ellispes, but I do.
As a Christian I believe in redemption and hope that he has repented, but if he has seriously repented, he will also realize that he should never walk out into the public again.
Dale, buddy, you nailed it with your comment btw.

Meds have nothing to do with the underlying fantasy realm that these killers create in their minds. Sexual depravity, their fantasies involving victims are much more of the real issue.

Cher, people can change, but the risk reward for society must be considered. The danger is too great with someone that has committed great evil and the chance of change WAY too small, in particular with crimes of a sexual nature. Berkowitz was having imagined sex through the gun with his victims. The gun was simpler than the knife, safer and less messy.
This is not a local drug addict changing or even a hardened criminal but a dangerous sexual deviate.

March 27, 2009 at 2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW Brant, your war on religion continues to be old, old old. Masked attempts are no better than real ones, actually they are more tiring.

March 27, 2009 at 2:39 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Sorry to have tired you. There's no attack whatsoever here. I'm sure you'd prefer to read one into it, however, because it fits into your preconceived notion of me. I think the Bible contains many great stories and concepts. The chance of redemption for those willing to repent is one of those. I'm saying in this post that religion seems to offer more forgiveness to people than we, as a culture in general, are willing to extend. Where's the attack in that? I'm just trying to foster a discussion. And at least when I do take issue with religion or "attack" someone or something, I put my name to it.

March 27, 2009 at 7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant if you don't want anon postings, then don't allow them. Otherwise stop the crap. The simplest thing for a blogger to do is allow anon postings and THEN complain when people do post.
Given your newspaper's previous threat by Moe to reveal who people were (another NO NO of the internet) your organization would seem to be more obsessed with controlling the discussion than bringing people in.
Be happy that some of us are actually visiting.
BTW I enjoyed this topic overall, it was one of your better one.

March 27, 2009 at 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your family member was killed simply because she was a young woman with long dark hair or someone who happend to be out with such a young woman and who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, how forgiving would you be?

It's easy to say forgive and forget when that person's actions have not wounded you.

Besides, jail isn't a place that you go until you say you're sorry. If that were so, then they would be empty. It's a place you go to be punished.

A jury of his peers found him guilty and sentenced him. He must carry out the sentence.

I also find it very, very strange that you are espousing a Christian viewpoint when you have attacked the same many times for things you perceived to be hypocrital. Ironic much?

March 27, 2009 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

It's not Jesus I have a problem with. It's some of his followers.

March 27, 2009 at 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if David Berkowitz is somehow rehabilitated, the nature of his crimes were so gruesome that he shouldn't be let out of prison. He's at the same level of notoriety as Sirhan Sirhan, Mark Chapman and Charles Manson -- releasing him just wouldn't be practical or wise.

Besides, like Chapman, Manson and Sirhan, what would he do with his life if the Parole Board let him out? He's spent the bulk of it in prison. Not like he can go get a job or blend back into society.

--Brad Hundt

March 27, 2009 at 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are plenty of religious-oriented quotes about forgiveness and judging:

"Judge not lest ye be judged."

"let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

"Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord."

Of course you also have "an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" and the lovely instruction from the OT God to bash a few babies heads on rocks to make a point. So which part of the Bible are we to follow?

As for Berkowitz and others who have gone through the legal system, let the verdicts stand -- even if it was the first OJ Simpson verdict. That's the chance you take.

March 29, 2009 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I didn't see any attacks on religion in Brant's post. The whole thing seemed to be a thoughtful attempt at generating a discussion.

Having said that, Berkowitz should stay in jail for the duration of his sentence. I don't care if he became the Dali Lama while in there...he killed people, he was found guilty and sentenced, and that's all there is to it.

As for the anonymous poster who whined about the anon postings...I don't know who you are, but I for one have never written anything on this blog for which I am embarrassed or that I wouldn't sign my name to - no matter my stance or the reactions to it. Don't be such a pud.

March 29, 2009 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

What a coincidence! Priguy, just last week I asked Brant if some calamity had befallen you and left you disappeared...


March 30, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgive David for his crimes. But I think he should be punished with a life's stay in prison. The two are separate issues.

March 31, 2009 at 10:28 AM  

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