HBM120: Own Worst Interest

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In the fall of 1989, in Vancouver, Washington, a short, 29 year-old man named Westley Allan Dodd raped and murdered three young boys. The boys were brothers Cole and William Neer, ages 10 and 11, and four year old Lee Iseli.

Content Note:
Sexual violence, suicide and capital punishment

A few weeks later, police arrested Westley at movie theater after he tried and failed to abduct another boy. He quickly confessed to the three murders. The prosecution sought the death penalty, and Dodd pled guilty.

Death penalty cases take a long time due to all the appeals built into the process. These appeals are designed to make sure the state hasn’t made any mistakes in the death sentence. They check for things like juror misconduct, incompetent defense lawyers, new evidence. Death penalty cases take years, sometimes decades.

Westley Allan Dodd did not want that. Instead, he wanted to be executed as quickly as possible.

In letters to the Supreme Court of Washington, Dodd urged the court to allow him to waive his right to appeal his death sentence. He believed he deserved to die for what he did, and wanted it done as soon as possible. Dodd was what’s known as a “volunteer”–someone who gives up their rights in order to hasten their own execution. The Death Penalty Information Center cites about 150 cases of “volunteers” in the United States.

Dodd’s case sparked debate both among people who supported and opposed the death penalty. Some argued he had the right to choose whether the court would review the validity of his death sentence. Others argued that the law ensures that all defendants have due process whether they want it or not.

In the meantime, Dodd continued to advocate for his own execution in interviews and in exchanges with his pen pals. He said he felt remorseful, and even wrote a self-defense booklet for kids to learn how to stay safe from men like him. The booklet was called “When You Meet A Stranger”.

The debate made its way to the Washington Supreme Court.  In a 7-2 ruling, they decided that Dodd did, in fact, have the right to waive his remaining appeals. After just three years on death row (5 years shorter than the national average at that time) the State of Washington hanged Westley Allan Dodd.

On this episode Bethany Denton interviews  Dodd’s former attorney Gilbert Levy. And defense attorney Jeff Ellis, who was a young lawyer during the time of the Dodd trial.   Bethany also talks to Becky Price, who was one of the recipients of Dodd’s pamphlet  “When You Meet A Stranger”.

Producer: Bethany Denton
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music:  The Black Spot

HBM106: Beautiful Stories about Dead Animals (part 2)

👉 Listen to Part 1 👈

This is a special two-part episode, in which Kryssanne Adams describes the many times where she’s seen death or inflicted it upon animals.

Content Note:
Animal slaughter and other descriptions of death

Kryssanne is a writer in Bellingham, Washington, where she also helps run the Bellingham Alternative Library, sings in a Threshold Choir, and works at a museum.

We turned these episodes into a book, which is available for purchase in our store.

Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: The Black Spot ||| Serocell

Kryssanne Adams. Photo by Jeff Emtman

Kryssanne Adams. Photo by Jeff Emtman

HBM102: Breath Holder

Archer Mayo has always loved finding lost things. He grew up on several navy bases and spent much of his childhood swimming and looking for human detritus–sunglasses, teacups, glass bottles. That’s why he takes such delight in searching for old lead weights in the murky waters of the Columbia River in Washington state.

Archer is a free diver and uses no breathing apparatus when he dives. He just holds his breath and gives in to his mammalian dive response. It’s a reflex that allows mammals to hold their breath underwater longer by slowing the heart rate and shifting blood from the limbs to the torso. “Once my mammalian dive response kicks in... I feel much more calm and centered.” Archer says, “I call it ‘The Flip’.”

Archer envies whales and dolphins for living in a world that seems weightless. He can only go so long living as a bipedal mammal on the surface before he feels the urge to dive again.

In this episode, HBM producer Bethany Denton watches from a river bank as Archer dives just outside of his home in White Salmon, Washington.

HBM101: Much Corruption

Growing up, Jeff Emtman had a hard time balancing his piety for the One God with his piety for the Gnomish lord Berwyn.  Generally, he deferred to the latter, though he lost favor eventually with both.

Jeff’s scoutmaster, a retired surgeon with a habit of collecting unusual boats, was always trying to get Jeff outside, away from the computer where he spent most of his free time playing a game where he tried to save the world from corruption and evil.  

Ancient Domains of Mystery (more commonly called “ADOM”) is an massive roguelike game that’s inspired heavily by Dungeons and Dragons.  Developer Thomas Biskup released the first version of it in 1994.

Jeff, a gnomish wizard of status, is susceptible to corruptive background radiation.  Once pure, his breath became ever more sulphurous, thorns that sprouted from his hands, etc. And he failed in his quest to save the world.

The Surgeon invited Jeff to join him for kayaking on the Naches River of Washington State.   The river holds a small irrigation dam that the two must navigate--the Surgeon with ease, and Jeff with no small amount of existential, religious struggle.

Example of a character bio created in ADOM. This character, a dwarfish wizard was born in the sign of the Falcon, which garners benefits to initial willpower and charisma. Also has increased ability to survive in in wild. Dwarves tend to be good with magic and subterranean skills.

Character ‘@’ engaged in combat with goblin berserker ‘g’ in a partially explored dungeon. Hostile ice vortex ‘V’ approaches. Far right: Staircase leading upwards ‘<’, lawfully aligned altar ‘_’ and an ancient statue ‘&’. Also pictured: walls ‘#’, floors ‘.’, and doors ‘#’.

The “burning hands” spell in this episode comes from a Esperanto-language reading of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, released as public domain audiobook by Librivox. The excerpt used can be translated to “...and the chain was bound around the arm.

Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: Serocell, The Black Spot, AHEE, Circling Lights ← New music!

HBM083: Sweet Like Snap Peas

Ryan Graves thinks that store-bought asparagus is as flavorless as potatoes.  But that's just because he's spoiled on the really good stuff. 

His preferred crop grows wild among the tombstones at Clinton Cemetery, hidden on an old gravel road between the towns of Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho.  Most who are buried there died over 100 years ago. 

That intervening century left the cemetery mostly forgotten and overgrown.  And Ryan thinks the deep-rooted asparagus taste so good because of the natural quality of their fertilizer.  

Ryan Graves thinks that store-bought asparagus is as flavorless as potatoes.  But that’s just because he’s spoiled on the really good stuff.

His preferred crop grows wild among the tombstones at Clinton Cemetery, hidden on an old gravel road between the towns of Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho.  Most who are buried there died over 100 years ago. 

Ryan Graves also appears on HBM042: Deers.  Jeff Emtman produced this episode.  

Music: The Black Spot


We have a question for you:

What will be unknowable to the archaeologists 3 million years from now?  What is understandable only to people of today?  

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