Essay on BTK Killer: The Public and Media Trial

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Denis Rader is a self-described BTK (bind, torture, and kill) serial killer who was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms on June 27, 2005. After his arrest on February 25, 2005, he had been charged with ten counts of first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty to all the charges, and as was part of his plea, he provided horrifying details of the crimes that he had committed in court.

Most of the observers noted that when he provided the accounts of the gruesome acts that he had committed, it seemed that he did not display any signs of remorse for his actions. However, it is important to point out that before his sentencing, he had apologized to the victims and occasionally wiped tears from his eyes. The only reason why he was not sentenced to the death penalty, which is legal in the state of Kansas was that he had committed his crimes before the state had reinstated the death penalty in 1994. He is currently serving ten life sentences (approximately 175 years), and it is assumed that he will spend the rest of his life at the maximum-security El Dorado Correctional Facility.

Judicial Mechanisms Used to Minimize Prejudicial Publicity

Investigation work in relation to the murders of the BTK killer was adequately conducted. The number of letters that Rader sent both to the media outlets and authorities were used as links to the puzzle that eventually led to his identity. The letters contained items that were related to the crimes that he committed, and also an outline of his story of why he committed these killings. It was reported that he left a computer disk that led to the investigation authorities to his church. The analysis of the security tapes in the areas where he had dropped some of the packages provided evidence which is, they spotted his white van on these locations.

It is important to point out that; in most of the crime scenes, the BTK killer left his semen, which was collected as part of evidence (his killing acts provided him with sexual satisfaction). The police were able to obtain a DNA sample from his daughter through legal means, which was used as part of the evidence that led to Raders arrest and subsequent conviction. Although the authorities suspected that Rader was the BTK killer, they could not just ask him to provide them with a DNA sample, as that may have alerted him that they were onto him. Instead, when the investigation team had learnt that Raders daughter had been to hospital where she had undergone a pap smear, they sought a judges order, which they were granted and they conducted a DNA analysis using the two samples. Therefore, this shows that the evidence that was presented in the court was from legitimate investigations and not speculation.

Raders first appearance was through a video link from his cell, and therefore, there were no pre-court or post-court interviews by the media personnel. Also, two of Raders victims filed a civil lawsuit whereby they sought damages from him. The motive of the lawsuit was to ensure that Rader did not receive any media interviews. It minimized prejudicial publicity in this case.

It is also important to point out that the defendant was allowed to exercise his right in court during the court hearings, and he waived trial admitting to committing the murders. In a twisted turn of events, contrary to what was expected, Rader pleaded guilty to all the ten counts of first-degree murder and then proceeded to provide a chilling account of how he had committed all the murders, including what inspired him to kill them. He described how he stalked his victims before killing them, and therefore it showed that he received a fair hearing and that what led to his conviction was his admittance to committing these murders that he had been accused of committing.

Media Trial Type

As this was a high-publicity case, trial by media could have occurred to ruin Denis Raders reputation and therefore create a perception that he was guilty even before the trial began. There were reports that as a child, he tortured animals and used to hang stray animals that were in his neighborhood. Such reports could have shown that he began these acts while he was still a child and that he derived pleasure from torturing and killing animals even when he was still a child. While most serial killers have been described to have tortured and killed animals as children, it is unrelated to the case, and therefore cannot be used as part of the evidence. However, from a public point of view, they can ascertain that because he killed animals as a child, then he was responsible for the murders, even if was no evidence to prove their way of thinking.

The media could also have released the letters that he had sent to them and stated that his aim was to spread fear in Wichita. They could have stated that he wanted people to know of his existence, that he was able to randomly select his victims, and that he felt invincible. He assumed he could not be caught even if he provided the authorities with evidence of his actions and reported his murders. This would have made his argument that his other personality was responsible for the murders invalid based on these actions. The media could also have stated that he was a coward mainly selecting vulnerable victims such as little girls or old women. Placing a high focus on these particular age groups would have

The Public and Media Trial Type

High profile cases normally attract intense media coverage and a huge public attention. In the case of the BTK killer, what seemed to attract the public was the evil nature of his actions. Rader can be described as a normal person in the society, in fact, he could have been looked at as a role model by many people in the community that he lived in. He had served in the U.S. Air Force and therefore could be termed as a patriotic individual. He worked in various capacities after serving the military such as being part of the ADT Security Services, whereby; his job was to install surveillance devices for people to improve the security at their homes. After leaving the ADT, he worked as a Park City Compliance Supervisor. In addition to that, he was Boy Scout troop leader and also an active member of the church.

His personal life was one that is described as an ideal life for an average American man. He was married and had two children, a son, and a daughter. He was even reported to have been an attentive husband and father. Judging from his personal and work life, there was nothing unusual in his life. In fact, one could assume that his actions were meant to improve the lives of other people. Therefore, there is a huge curiosity among the members of the public why such a person could have such an evil person and conduct the horrifying acts that he did. It brings out a chilling nature that anybody in the society can have an evil side, and conduct horrendous act without our knowledge. This was evidenced by the BTK killer, he continued to be part of the society as a functional member, despite having a dark side, and were not for the mistake that he committed, sending a floppy disk that was traced to his church, he could have gotten away with the murder.

He had managed to blend in the community, was an active church member and was a leader of the boy's scout in the region. My assumption is that he had been given the responsibility of taking care of the children who were in the boys scout when they went for trips. Imagine how the parents of these children felt they had placed their children in a vulnerable position under the care of Rader, once they knew who he was.

Another interesting thing about this particular serial killer is his physical attributes. He wears glasses and is going bald, and therefore he does not seem to pose a threat to the society judging from his physical looks. In addition to that, for a period of 30 years, he played cat and mouse game with the authorities and had managed to stay under the radar, even when he reported his crimes. He had proved to be a handful of the police in Kansas. In my opinion, most people are drawn to this particular case and serial killer because they want to understand his motivations, and the signs to look for to know you are dealing with a serial killer because; evidently, anybody can be a serial killer.


Douglas, John, and Johnny Dodd. Inside the Mind of Btk: The True Story Behind the Thirty-Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass, 2013.

Hansen, Mark. "How the Cops Caught BTK." ABA JOURNAL, 2006.

LaBrode, Rebecca T. "Etiology of the Psychopathic Serial Killer: An Analysis of Antisocial Personality Disorder, Psychopathy, and Serial Killer Personality and Crime Scene Characteristics." Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention 7, no. 2 (2007), 151-160. doi:10.1093/brief-treatment/mhm004.

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