Part 4, Chapters 5–7 Summary

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The trial is set for March 22, 1960. Perry’s and Dick’s attorneys discuss requesting a change of venue because the emotions of Garden City are so high, but they decide against it because this is a religious community and the city’s ministers are mostly against capital punishment. The lawyers tell their clients that at this point they are focused on saving their lives, not acquittal. They also request psychological evaluations at the state hospital in Larned, which will take from four to eight weeks. Judge Tate, who will sit on the bench for their trial, is known to dislike attempts to focus on the criminals rather than on their victims. He allows local psychiatrists to talk to Perry and Dick; they are found to be sane and competent to stand trial. Perry is cynical, saying the psychiatrists simply wanted to hear the gruesome details from the killers’ own lips. There is also a request for a postponement because the Clutter estate sale is scheduled for the day before the trial begins. This request is denied. Several thousand people come to the auction and everything is sold, including Nancy’s horse, Babe.

Despite the sensationalism of the case, it does not receive as much national attention as the residents of Garden City believe. During jury selection, most try to get out of serving for different reasons. Fourteen jurors are eventually selected. They are all local men but not all objective. The defense attorney goes to Larned and convinces a doctor to travel to Garden City to meet with the defendants. Both Perry and Dick write out a statement of their past for the doctor. Perry focuses on the instability of his home and the violence of his parents. He speaks of his time in the orphanage when a nun abused him for constantly wetting the bed. Perry claims to be impressed with the psychiatrist’s sense of dedication to the truth. Dick writes of his relatively normal childhood. He speaks of his high school years and his participation in sports. He confesses that he initially went to the Clutter home to rape Nancy but that Perry prevented him from doing so. He also tells of several of his pedophiliac rapes. He believes he has a “sickness” caused by brain injury during his automobile accident. He confesses to drinking and passing bad checks. He tells the doctor that he knows he needs help.

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