Part 4, Chapters 8–11 Summary
When the trial starts, there are several visitors present who are connected to Perry and Dick. Mr. and Mrs. Hickock are present, as is Donald Cullivan, the man Perry knew in the army and with whom he has been corresponding. The only person from the Clutter family is Herb Clutter’s brother, Arthur. He glares at Perry, who looks at Arthur Clutter, recognizes the family resemblance, is shaken momentarily, and then looks away.
Nancy Ewalt and Susan Kidwell are called as the first witnesses. The other people who saw the crime scene the day of the murder are also present. The defense does not cross-examine. When the crime scene photographs are shown to the jury, Mr. Hickock mutters that this is not a fair trial. The defense attorney makes an objection, but it is denied. The jury is visibly shaken by the gruesome photos. Frank Wells is present and gives his testimony as to Dick’s intentions to rob and kill the Clutters. The defense attorney tries to weaken the witness’s credibility but is not able to do so.
The most damaging witness is Alvin Dewey, who gives explicit details about Perry’s confession, including the fact that he wanted to change his statement to say that he alone killed the Clutters in order to protect Mrs. Hickock. At this, Mrs. Hickock breaks down and is led from the room by a female reporter. Mrs. Hickock remembers Dick’s childhood and says he had always been a good boy.
The testimony of Donald Cullivan confuses many present; they do not understand how such a decent individual could befriend a known killer. He later dines with Perry in his cell and is impressed by Mrs. Meier’s cooking. Cullivan’s only concern is for Perry eternal soul, but Perry states that he bears the scars of the nuns and priests who tried to convert him.
The prosecution dismisses other character witnesses for being irrelevant to the case. The psychologists who testify are sure that both Perry and Dick were well aware of the nature of their crime and thus are to be considered sane. In a later professional article, one of the psychologists discusses Perry as a criminal with no apparent motive. The only motive for the murders of Mrs. Clutter and her two children is that, after Perry killed Mr. Clutter, the witnesses had to be killed. Perry had said in his confession that he thought Mr. Clutter was a nice man—right up to the moment he slit his throat.