Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bobby Joe Long

The Slippery Con

In 1985, Long was tested and considered competent to stand trial. There was evidence, according to Norris, of organic impairment from his earlier head injuries, but doctors did not deem them problematic for the courtroom. Norris suggests that the physical analysis was too superficial to be useful. He and psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis believed that Longs problems stemmed from brain injuries and impairment, and that he should not have been considered responsible for his behavior. Norris also points out how the hormonal imbalances influenced Longs behavior (though others in Longs family suffered this as well, but they did not become serial rapists or killers).

Dorothy Lewis, Norris writes, noted that Longs hypersexuality and hair-trigger violence conformed to a pattern of behavior associated with neurological damage associated with the limbic region of the brain.

He claims that had Long understood that his problem was a medical one, he would have had it treated. Yet there is no evidence to indicate that this is true, aside from his word on it and this from a man who believed his rapes were good for his victims. Even organic impairment would not make him that oblivious or arrogant. Nor would it make him despise prostitutes or women in general, or make up different accounts about what he had done to his victims (which can be seen when comparing Norriss rendition with the letters that Ward publishes).

Long says that by allowing a victim to go free, he basically turned himself in. Yet any psychopath who wants to retain his illusion of control might say as much.

Long admitted that he was aware of what he was doing and that it was wrong. He showed careful control of his crimes, taking care not to be discovered, which is sufficient to be judged guilty rather than insane. He says that he considered going to a doctor but decided not to take the chance that he might be turned in to the police. Clearly, then, he knew that what he was doing was wrong and against the law.

Long faced a lengthy series of trials in Florida, all of which were deeply flawed, and it was his intent to drag the process out as long as he could. Many different attorneys came in and out of his case, including celebrity defense attorney Ellis Rubin. Two of Longs death penalty convictions were later overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, because among other problems, that panel of justices deemed that the police had gone over the line in their interrogations. The high court specifically noted that only four hours of testimony had been presented on the murder for which Long was charged, while three entire days had been spent admitting highly prejudicial evidence of other murders with which he had not been charged. That got Long new trials.

Longs guilt was never really an issue, but whether he should be executed or granted life in prison was the primary consideration.
A parade of mental health experts was brought into the case to try to prove that Longs genetic anomalies and head injuries accounted for his behavior. They also blamed his parents and too much pornography, according to Ward.

Dr. Helen Morrison, who had interviewed Long for 23 hours, diagnosed him with atypical psychosis. He had a distorted perception of reality and was unable to make moral decisions. His mind was fragmented and non-cohesive, and had been so since he was a very young child. He eventually lost his ability to maintain control. Thus, he could not comprehend the criminality of his actions. Another psychiatrist said that once he picked these women up, he was like a stick of dynamite with a short fuse.

Bobby Joe Long
Bobby Joe Long
Throughout the string of trials, beginning with the one in Pasco County for the Virginia Johnson murder, prosecutors were looking for two death sentences, just in case one might be overturned. Simultaneously, Long was being tried on his home-invasion and rape cases. The defense just kept raising the neurological issues in the hope that someone would see that Long could not be responsible for becoming a serial rapist and killer, and show mercy. In one trial, they actually said that he was such a unique specimen that he should be preserved and studied.

Even Dr. John Money, renowned for his work in confused gender identity, came into the case. He spoke about the effects of the extra female chromosome, exacerbated by the head injuries, on a fragile ego. This had created in Long a Jekyll/Hyde syndrome. (Money was to be discredited in years to come when his failed work on a re-gendered young man came to light in the victims book).

The prosecution countered with psychiatrists who contended that Long had antisocial personality disorder, not deemed a mental illness. He was a liar and he had known what he was doing when he raped and murdered.

In the end, no jury accepted the defenses psychiatric testimony. By the time Florida was done with Bobby Joe Long, he had received two death sentences and 34 life sentences (many of which were reached in plea deals), plus an additional 693 years.

After his first death sentence, Long left the court whistling a tune. He had decided that since he was no killer like other guys on death row, his sentences had merely been political.

Then something else happened.

During 1997, the FBI lab came under the scrutiny of the Department of Justice, which issued a blistering 500-page report about testimony from the crime lab technicians. Those cases that had been worked by renowned fiber expert, Special Agent Michael Malone, became eligible for appeal. Longs was one of them, since fiber evidence had been instrumental in his conviction. In fact, a 1992 assault conviction based on Malones neglect to do the proper testing of the fiber evidence was overturned in 2003, and other cases were re-examined. Malones once sterling reputation came under fire and he was allowed to retire in 1999.

Bobby Joe Long, recent
Bobby Joe Long, recent
However, along with fiber evidence, Long had also confessed and there was other evidence as well, including McVeys powerful testimony and hair from a victim found in Longs car, so the appeal merely delayed the process. As of this writing, Long is still on Floridas death row.

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