What makes crimes occur? Greed, poverty, jealousy, hate, rage, psychology, nature vs nurture, ambition…..I’m sure anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists have studied the causes of crime for centuries.
How do crimes occur? Stabbing, poison, rape, drugs, kidnapping, robbery, guns……I’m sure the police, spies, forensic criminologists and others have studied the methods of crimes for centuries.
For victims of crimes, their lives are changed forever. I have not been a victim of a crime, except for the minor (meaning non-violent and I wasn’t present at the time) crime of burglary. I can’t imagine the horror nor the aftermath of being victimized and don’t pretend to. Therefore, I have no right to discuss the effect on the victims.
But what about the readers of “true crime” stories? People who love to read (or see movies/documentaries/reenactments) about actual crimes are obsessed with them. I used to be as well. My fascination started with The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. This story of the serial killer Ted Bundy and how he appeared to Ann Rule to be a sensitive, handsome and kind co-worker was incredible to me and was my first glimpse into the idea that serial killers existed.
There are so many examples of true crimes that are available via the media. From serial killers to sociopaths to crimes of passion, these true stories appeal to the general public. With the exception of Ted Bundy, who died in 1989, I am not mentioning any other specific criminal here. I don’t want to give them the attention.
The average reader who voraciously reads true crime stories is reading them from a far distance. These are fascinating stories that have absolutely nothing to do with us.
All of that changed for me when I was picked for a Grand Jury. Cases presented to a Grand Jury cannot be discussed. However, the experience was shocking to me. The experience highlighted the difference between true crime and true crime. Between reading about it from a distance without much emotional attachment, to hearing testimony, seeing the victims and the accused in front of you. Between rooting from the sidelines and having the daunting responsibility to determine if the evidence presented, according to the laws of the state, warranted the next step in the legal process.
No matter what the accusation, no matter who the victim or the accused, the actions and repercussions of these accusations are graphically, vividly and seriously presented and considered. Reading about a true crime story in a book resembles fiction. Seeing a small part of the ramifications of these crimes are in-your-face reality. Having even a small part in the process of innocent until proven guilty changed my view of society in a way that reading about it never could.
True crime vs true crime.