When I was two years old, Dale Carnegie published his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. It has remained a classic on human nature and is still popular today. One of his chapters dealt with the fact that people never blame themselves even when they are clearly wrong. One of his examples involved "Two Gun Crowley" a killer who was finally trapped by the police in his girl friend’s apartment in 1931. Surrounded by police Crowley carried on a gun battle with police until captured. New York’s police commissioner said he was one of the most dangerous criminals in the history of New York who would kill "at the drop of a feather."
Carnegie points out, however, that while Crowley was trapped in the apartment he wrote a "to whom it may concern" letter which said in part: "Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one – one that would do nobody any harm." A short time before this, Crowley had shot a policeman to death when he asked him for his driver’s license. When Crowley was sent to Sing Sing to be executed, he said "This is what I get for defending myself." The point of the story is that "Two Gun Crowley" didn’t blame himself for anything.
Carnegie accurately reported on human nature. As a witness to that we have the recent report about Bernie Madoff who is serving his 150 year prison sentence after his conviction for a decades long Ponzi scheme which defrauded people out of some 19 Billion dollars.
According to an article by Steve Fishman in New York Magazine Madoff told fellow inmates that he had been put in a trap by people who "just kept throwing money at me." He said he took money from people who were rich and greedy but wanted more. He went on to say that he had "carried his employees for years and felt they had turned their back on him" by their cooperation with legal authorities. Madoff was quoted as saying: "F- – – my victims. I carried them for twenty years and now I’m doing 150 years."
Like "Two Gun Crowley" Madoff confirms Carnegie’s universal rule that people don’t take personal responsibility, no matter how bad their conduct. They don’t blame themselves. They find excuses and blame others. That’s human nature. I recommend Carnegie’s classic to every trial lawyer as the source of fundamental characteristics of human nature. I have read it many times and still go back to remind myself about the basics of how human beings think and act. It is a very helpful source for us in dealing with clients, judges and others. As old as it is, it is still the Bible of human conduct for me, because human nature doesn’t change.