The Trial

Starkweather’s options were bleak: facing the death penalty in Wyoming, where Collison had been shot, entailed the gas chamber, while Nebraska used the electric chair for executions.Believing the latter to be the least bad option, he opted for extradition to Nebraska. This was a mistake for him; the single murder in Wyoming, which also had a State governor opposed to the death sentence, would probably have seen him serve a life sentence, whilst the multiple killings in Nebraska would definitely attract the death penalty.Starkweather’s trial began on 5 May 1958, with him trying to override his defence’s attempt to have him plead innocence by reason of insanity: he clearly felt that being insane carried a greater stigma than being a murderer. Initially, Starkweather had maintained that Fugate had been an unwitting participant in the crimes, but when he found out that Fugate was claiming to have been his hostage, he implicated her in a number of the murders, stating that she had inflicted all of the mutilations on Carol King.The jury were plainly convinced that Starkweather had been sane at the time of the murders, and took very little time in pronouncing him guilty, specifically asking for the death penalty.