Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Predicting Extreme Fatal Violence

No Insight

J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in violence research, created a self-assessment of reported violence inventory (SSRV) believing it's important to observe a criminal's level of insight regarding his thoughts and feelings before, during, and after a violent act. "The unwillingness or inability to evoke memories of intrapsychic experience concurrent with violent behavior is a poor prognostic indicator, and suggests a borderline personality organization with either psychopathic or histrionic traits, respectively." Yet sometimes a person who seems to have insight is completely deluded about himself.

Gary Gilmore
Gary Gilmore

Gary Gilmore had spent his youth in reform school and prison for numerous delinquent activities. After being released and then committing armed robbery in 1973, he went to trial again. He asked permission to address the court, telling the judge that he had been locked up for the past nine and a half years since he was fourteen, with only two years of freedom. He argued that "you can keep a person locked up too long" and that "there is an appropriate time to release somebody or to give them a break...I stagnated in prison a long time, and I have wasted most of my life. I want freedom, and I realize that the only way to get it is to quit breaking the law. I've got problems, and if you sentence me to additional time, I'm going to compound them."

The judge told him that he had already been convicted once for armed robbery, so there was no option but to sentence him to another nine years. Gilmore was hurt and angry. As promised, he became more violent while in prison and tried to kill himself several times. That got him transferred to a maximum security penitentiary. Then, only three years into his sentence, a parole plan was worked out. He was released in April of 1976, but by July was back in prison for the cold-blooded murder of two men.

The question is, was Gilmore such a risk that even he did not know how dangerous he was, or might having given him a break earlier in the process made a difference? Much has happened in the area of risk assessment since the 1970s that would help answer this question. Early recognition and intervention has become the central theme.

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