Film At 11
Budd Dwyer was an American politician, born in 1939 in St. Charles, Missouri. He was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1965 to 1970, the state Senate from 1970 to 1980, and state treasurer from 1980 to his death in 1987. He is best known for the spectacular way in which he died -- he arranged for the broadcast of his suicide to a nationwide audience.
During the early 1980s, employees of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania overpaid millions of dollars in FICA taxes. As a result, the Commonwealth began requesting bids for the task of calculating refunds to each employee. One firm, California-based Computer Technology Associates, was owned by a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native named John Turquato. Turquato used his Harrisburg-area connections and a series of bribes that totalled approximately $4,700,000 to obtain the contract, worth $12-15 million. An anonymous memo then reached the governor's office, describing the bribes that had taken place. In late 1986, Dwyer was charged as having accepted a related kickback of $300,000.
Dwyer was convicted, but continued to maintain his innocence. If sentenced, he would have been removed from office and spend up to 55 years in prison. On January 22, 1987, the day before the sentencing, Dwyer called a press conference to "provide an update on the situation". At the conference, a visibly agitated and nervous Dwyer stated that he would not resign his position as state treasurer.
He then handed out a series of envelopes (which contained copies of a suicide note), then pulled a .357 Magnum from another envelope. Chaos broke out as those in attendance pleaded with Dwyer to put the gun down. "Please leave the room, If this will...if this will offend you.", he asked, "Stay away....this will hurt someone." He put the barrel of the firearm into his mouth and pulled the trigger, paying little regard to the still-rolling television cameras. Dwyer was killed instantly.
Much to the chagrin of Dwyer's family, fascination with the suicide continued long after his death. Copies of the suicide footage continue to circulate on the Internet to this day and have also appeared in many Faces of Death-type movies. In 1995, rock band Filter had a hit with the song "Hey Man, Nice Shot", which, although not explicitly mentioning Dwyer, was clearly about his suicide.
The case of the Dwyer suicide has long been a favorite of professors of journalism ethics. The suicide is often used to demonstrate that news editors, especially in the medium of television, must be prepared to make near-instant decisions, weighing both the psychological impact on viewers and the need to compete with other outlets.
In the Dwyer case, news editors had to decide whether or not to air the graphic images live, in the middle of the afternoon, or to delay broadcast of the tape (or portions thereof) until the evening news. Of the six Pennsylvania TV news stations covering the "press conference," only one elected not to cut away; five others aired the footage, in drastically edited form, on the evening news; and one used no footage at all.
Some Grainy Footage Of The Event Is Here
Video Requires Divx Codec
"I thank the Good Lord for giving me 47 years of exciting challenges, stimulating experiences, many happy occasions, and, most of all, the finest wife and children any man could ever desire. Now my life has changed, for no apparent reason. People who call and write are exasperated and feel helpless. They know I'm innocent and want to help. But in this nation, the world's greatest democracy, there is nothing they can do to prevent me from being punished for a crime they know I did not commit. Some who have called have said that I am a modern-day Job.
Judge Muir is also noted for his medieval sentences - I face a maximum sentence of 55 years in prison and a $300,000 fine for being innocent. Judge Muir has already told the press that he, quote, "felt invigorated" when we were found guilty, and that he plans to imprison me as a deterrent to other public officials. But it wouldn't be a deterrent because every public official who knows me knows that I am innocent - it wouldn't be a legitimate punishment because I've done nothing wrong. Since I'm a victim of political persecution, my prison would simply be an American Gulag.
I ask those that believe in me to continue to extend friendship and prayer to my family, to work untiringly for the creation of a true justice system here in the United States, and to press on with the efforts to vindicate me, so that my family and their future families are not tainted by this injustice that has been perpetrated on me.
We were confident that right and truth would prevail, and I would be acquitted and we would devote the rest of our lives working to create a justice system here in the United States. The guilty verdict has strengthened that resolve. But as we've discussed our plans to expose the warts of our legal system, people have said "why bother", "no one cares", "you'll look foolish", "60 Minutes, 20/20, the American Civil Liberties Union, Jack Anderson and others have been publicizing cases like yours for years, and it doesn't bother anyone".
At this point in time... is Bob Bolstey here? Bob... and where's Greg... can you come up here? And where's Don Johnson... can you come up, Don?"
handing out sealed envelopes...
Greg... where are you... okay, just
hang onto that right for the moment... Don, there's some things for you to
do, and there's a note in here for Joanne...
He returned to the podium and pulled out a .357 Magnum revolver...
When I... and I...
The crowd began shouting - "Don't do it Budd!"...
"Please leave the room if this will... if this will offend you..."
The crowd continued shouting
Budd warned them off:
"...no, no, don't, don't, don't... this will hurt someone..."
Budd stuck the gun into his mouth, fired, and fell to the floor... the room erupted in horror... (A man's voice can be heard saying, "keep shooting." - to the camera man)
Then an aide of Dwyer's, spoke to the media members still in the room:
All right... settle down. Don't panic, please... don't panic... don't panic. Someone call... someone call the ambulance and a doctor and the police... don't panic, please... show a little decorum, please... dear god in heaven...
You've got your footage....now will you kindly wrap up your footage...get your cameras out..please get out of the room.....You've gotten all that can be gotten at this point....Paul please....Paul please (Speaking to photographer Paul Vathis who continued to photograph Budd Dwyer's body)...please wrap up your cameras and get out of the room......Oh my god in heaven! (Looking down at the Dwyer's body) Dear god in heaven!
Photographers continued to snap pictures of Dwyer's dead body and at least one camera continued shooting
Now that's enough! That's enough! Please leave the room now!
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