Journey into Darkness
By John Douglas and Mark Oshaker

Pocket Books, 368pages, 1997, $6.99.

Reviewed by Rick McMahan (4/98)

John Douglas' first book, Mindhunter, was an exciting first hand view of what it's like to work in the FBI's Behavorial Science Unit tracking serial killers. Now, Douglas and Mark Olshaker return with their second book, Journey into Darkness which recounts more tales from the cases of Douglas and other members of the BSU.

This book is not a rehashing of Douglas' exploits from Mindhunter, and it is not just about serial killers. These are interesting tales---tragic stories of monsters who prey on us and of dedicated cops--but the element that sticks out in my mind about Journey Into Darkness is the tales of the victims: their pain and suffering and sometimes, their bravery and that of their family. One story that stands out is about Suzanne Collins, a Marine who was brutally murdered in Memphis, Tennessee.

Douglas brings Suzanne to life. He shows us her life through the recollections of her family--- their memories and feelings. He shows us this victim, not as a picture and a name but as a living, breathing human being. And just as unflinchingly, Douglas details her murder. It is horrible. There is no other way to describe it. It is a horrible event, but Douglas wants us to face it. He has a reason for that. His reason becomes apparent when he describes the heart-break of Suzanne's family, not only through her death but with the insensitivity of the justice system. Douglas shows the long and winding road which had to be taken to finally bring Suzanne's killer to justice.

The Collins family should have had some peace of mind and time to mend once Suzane's killer was sentenced to die, but this is America. There are years of appeals. In the Collins' case, they were victimized again--this time by an appellate review board of judges. One particular judge, Penny White, once a circuit judge on the panel to review the punishment meted out to Suzanne's murderer, and then a few years later (the murder was still on appeal) she was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court where she made herself an enemy of victims and families of victims by continually ruling for the defense in death penalty cases. The Collins and other victims made it a victims' rights campaign to oust White from the Tennessee State Supreme Court, an almost unheard of event. And they did.

The importance of this one story should serve as a reminder of several things: one the justice system should protect the rights of all, both the accused and the victims. In America today, the justice system pendulum is far in favor of the criminals, giving short rift to victims. The second point to me, is that too many times people who sit in review situations like appellate judges and lawyers are dealing too many times from idealistic and lofty ideals, abstracting human suffering into nothing more than legal chess games. These people should come back to the trenches and see the real reason the justice system exists--- to put the humanity back in the justice system. For a very good true-crime read, do yourself a favor and pick up Journey into Darkness.


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