Some people are insane, and some are just nuts

Mike Royko

February 21, 1992|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

I DID IT," SLATS Grobnik said, the ring of triumph in his voice. "I got through the whole thing without knowing what's going on."

You got through what thing?

"This creep Jeffrey Dahmer in Milwaukee. The trial's over now. He's going to prison. He's going to disappear from the newspapers and the TV, and I got through it all without reading one word about him."

Not even one word? I find that hard to believe.

"Only the headlines. I had to look at the headlines so I'd know what I wasn't going to read. And when I watched the news, I sat there with the zapper in my hand. The second the guy says, 'and now for the latest in the the Dahmer trial,' zap, I'd be gone. I'd switch over to that Nick station and watch reruns of 'Mork and Mindy' or something."

Then you don't know how he lured . . . .

"Shuttup."

Or the way he would use his kitchen to prepare . . . .

"Zip it, or I deck ya."

You're serious.

"You bet I am."

I didn't realize how squeamish you were.

"It ain't being squeamish, although that's not the kind of stuff I want to read over my morning oatmeal. It's knowing what I gotta know about and what I don't. If I read every word and watched every minute of the trial on that courtroom station, would I be a better-informed, more well-rounded person?"

Possibly. You would know more about the difficulty of establishing whether someone is legally sane or insane.

"Sure, that's why those TV guys were running out of the courtroom to get on camera to give us every creepy detail. They were thinking: 'We want to enlighten the viewers about the difficulty of establishing one's state of mind when one is killing and eating people.' I knew all I had to know. The guy was nuts."

No, the jury found that he was not insane.

"Yeah, I know. I saw the headline. And my wife told me. She read all the stories. You know how she is about collecting recipes. But just because the jury says he's not insane don't mean he's not nuts."

You seem to be contradicting yourself.

"Let me explain. What if I invite you over to the house and I take you in the kitchen and I say: 'See that big pot? I been killing guys and cooking 'em in it.' And I showed you something that would make you believe it. You know, leftovers. What would you say?"

You mean after I ran out of your house and down the middle of the street screaming?

"Yeah. What would you say about my mental state?"

I suppose I'd say that you were, uh, that you had, uh . . . .

"You'd say I was nuts, right?"

I suppose, something like that.

"So why should I watch TV or read a paper to find out what some nut has been doing?"

But in a court of law, while trying to resolve the question of whether someone is insane, you just can't say he is nuts. You would have to define what you mean by nuts.

"That's easy. If somebody does something really nutty, then he's nuts."

If you believe that, then you believe the jury shouldn't have found him to be sane. Therefore, he shouldn't be sent to a prison for life, since we don't treat insane people that way.

"I didn't say that. You don't have to be insane to be nuts."

This is not easy to follow.

"Look, I know he's nuts, my brother Fats knows he's nuts and if I go down the bar here and take a survey, everybody will say, yeah, sure, he's nuts. I bet everybody on that jury thought he was nuts. Anybody who ain't nuts knows he's nuts. And there are probably some nuts who would tell you he's nuts."

You seem to be saying that anyone who commits unspeakable crimes is, to use your word, nuts.

"Yeah. Some are nuttier than others. A guy who sticks up a grocer and then whacks him on the head for the fun of it is a little nuts. The guy in Milwaukee, he's real nuts."

Then you don't want to lock any criminals up because they are deranged. If it were up to you, our criminal justice system would be in disarray.

"You got it mixed up again. I'm just saying there ought to be separate categories. That way, when someone comes in and tries to get off by saying he's insane, the judge could say: 'Nah, you ain't insane. You're just nuts. And if I don't lock a nut like you up for good, then I'll be nuts.'"

That's a very loose standard.

"No, it's easy. You go up to 100 normal people and ask them if some savings and loan swindler is nuts. They'll all say that he's just a crook. Then you say: 'By the way, you mind if I eat your leg?' And they'll say: 'You must be nuts.' See? It's real simple."

It's a good thing for our criminal justice system that you're not a lawyer.

"Nah, it's a good thing for the lawyers that I'm not a lawyer."

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