Part 4, Chapters 12–15 Summary

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Although the more influential and wealthy citizens of Garden City have not attended to trial, many decide to come on the day of the closing arguments. Many out-of-town visitors, especially lawyers, are also seated in the courtroom on the last day. The defense attorney pleads not for acquittal but for mercy, calling the death penalty a relic of barbarism and out of character with a Christian community. The prosecutor, however, states that murder is to be punished by death and supports this with quotations from the Bible. He repeats the order of the killings, that Kenyon had to wait in sight of his father’s murder, Nancy’s pleading, and Mrs. Clutter’s suffering as she listened to her family being systematically destroyed. He reminds the jury of many murderers who have been released on parole and who have gone on to kill again because of “chicken-hearted jurors.” The jury finds Perry Smith and Richard Hickock guilty on all charges and recommends the death penalty for both.

Mrs. Meier later tells a friend how upset she was by the verdict even though she knew of Perry’s guilt. She had gotten to know him while he was in her home. She says that when he returned from the courthouse, all he did was cry while she held his hand.

Perry and Dick are transported to the state prison in Lansing and placed on death row. Among the others there is Lowell Lee Andrews, who is notorious for the murder of his own family. Outwardly, Andrews was a quiet, overweight, bookish student of biology at the University of Kansas, but inwardly he was forming plans to poison his parents and his sister. His intent was to use arsenic and then burn down the house with the appearance of an accident, but he feared that the autopsy would reveal the arsenic, which would then be traced to him. Instead, he quietly shot his sister and then each of his parents. Then, to provide himself with an alibi, he drove back to college in Lawrence and said he had been on the road for two hours due to bad weather. He picked up his typewriter (the reason for the trip, he said), went to a movie, and then returned home, where he called the police to report a robbery. When the officers arrived, they found him sitting on the porch. He calmly told them to go inside to look. He later confessed to the family preacher, who was one of the major witnesses against him at his trial. Like Perry and Dick, Lowell Lee Andrews is awaiting death by hanging.

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