Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher

Kemper on the Stand

Kemper himself took the stand on November 1. What the jury thought of this man who had so easily killed is not on record. They had heard large portions of his detailed confession and already knew what he had to say for himself. He discussed what he knew about his mental state and tried to convince the jury that his need to possess a woman and his acts of necrophilia were clear indications of an unstable state of mind. He had already told his interrogators that he'd felt remorse and that he'd taken to drinking more and more to relieve the pressure. But he had also described the sexual thrill he achieved from removing someone's head and had said that killing was a narcotic to him. He also described the feeling he had that two beings inhabited his body, and when his killer personality took over, it was "kind of like blacking out." He indicated that the same thing had happened when he had shot his grandmother.

Edmund Kemper in prison garb
Edmund Kemper in prison garb
The trial lasted less than three weeks. How many of his outrageous admissions were actually true is anyone's guess. While Kemper had admitted to cannibalism during Dr. Fort's analysis, he recanted that later, claiming it was meant for an insanity defense.

On November 8, the six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for five hours, says Frazier, before finding Kemper sane and guilty of eight counts of first-degree murder. Although Kemper hoped to receive the death penalty, he was convicted during a time when the Supreme Court had placed a moratorium on capital punishment and all death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. The death penalty became applicable only to crimes committed after January 1, 1974.

Everitt says that the judge asked him what he thought his punishment should be. It wasn't difficult for him to come up with something, as he'd been thinking about this moment since childhood. He told the judge that he believed he ought to be tortured to death.

California Medical Facility State Prison
California Medical Facility State Prison
No such luck. Instead, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Sent first to the California Medical Facility State Prison at Vacaville , north of San Francisco , for observation, writes Cheney, he ended up at the maximum security prison at Folsom.

At one point, he requested psychosurgery, which involved inserting a probe into his brain to kill brain tissue and potentially cure him of his compulsive sexual aggression. His request was denied, possibly because authorities feared that he might then petition for release. He became a model inmate, helping to read books on tape for the blind, but when he went before the parole board, he told them he was not fit to go back into society. In prison, he is reported to be cooperative and kind, and would like to forget his past. While he readily participated in requests for interviews and self-examination — hoping he would help others to learn about offenders like him — he often disliked what some of his interviewers later said about him. (Cheney said that when she asked for access to his juvenile records, he refused to cooperate.) Yet it's interesting to see how other professionals regarded him.