CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Encore Presentation: Interview With David Berkowitz
Aired October 26, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the Washington area's long nightmare is apparently over. What makes someone become a mass murderer? We'll take you inside the head of a serial killer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BERKOWITZ, SON OF SAM: I just felt like I had no mind; I felt something else was controlling me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, is next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Thanks for joining us. The events of the last few weeks in Washington have reminded many of us about the Son of Sam. David Berkowitz began his killing spree in the summer of 1976, and throughout the next year, he killed six, wounded seven and terrorized an entire city.
Berkowitz is currently serving sentences that add up to over 300 years, and while in prison, he says he has found God, counseling and ministering to other prisons. In a letter about recent events in Washington, Berkowitz responded with dismay and unique insight. He writes: "I feel that I have been feeling this person's anger and rage toward law enforcement."
It's that type of perspective that brought us to this decision to replay our 1999 interview with David Berkowitz. It was conducted at the Sullivan correctional facility in Fallsburg, New York.
KING: We're at Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York. It's about hundred miles north of New York City, off the New York thruway.
We're with David Berkowitz, the convicted "Son of Sam" killer, who is spending -- you have been here how long in this prison?
BERKOWITZ: About 12 years.
KING: Attica before that, right?
BERKOWITZ: Clinton before that.
KING: And then Attica.
BERKOWITZ: And then Attica. It's been 22 years altogether.
KING: Do you ever adjust to -- I mean, you have to, you have no choice. But how do you adjust to this kind of, for want of a better term, bleak living?
BERKOWITZ: Larry, prison is not easy, but over the years, God has given me a lot of strength and a lot of hope to make it and to endure and to survive. He has brought me -- he's done some miracles in my life, and he's brought me through a lot of things that maybe others would not have survived.
KING: If not for that, you don't think you'd be sitting here?
KING: Of course, you're going to be here the rest of your life, right?
BERKOWITZ: That's right. I'm doing consecutive life sentences totaling more than 300 years.
KING: You have parole eligibility, but that's very doubtful, right?
BERKOWITZ: As I understand it, actually I have my parole papers here: well, really the commitment papers. And as you can see, I'm doing consecutive sentences, which run right after the other. So one life sentence overlaps the other, and really what that means is basically it's translated as life without parole.
KING: How does it -- what do you do with something like that?
BERKOWITZ: Larry, believe it or not I have learned to just be content and accept the fact. There are things that happened in the past that I deeply regret with all of my heart, but I know that I can't change those things and I have to accept the punishment that was meted out to me. And God has just given me the strength to endure from day to day.
KING: Let's discuss it all.
KING: What kind of living condition do you have here? Do you have a roommate? Do you have a cell mate? What do you live like?
BERKOWITZ: I have my own cell. Some of the inmates are double bunked, which is something they started several years ago. But most of the men here have their own cell.
KING: And this is maximum security, right?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, this is maximum security.
KING: How many hours a day can you go out of the cell?
BERKOWITZ: Well, because I work and go to chapel and so forth, I can spend a good portion of my day outside of the cell.
KING: New York State's pretty liberal, right? You could have visitors every day if they wanted to come see you.
BERKOWITZ: Yes, yes.
KING: Unlimited phone calls?
BERKOWITZ: Well, in certain time restrictions, but you can make a lot of phone calls.
BERKOWITZ: They have televisions in the day room, but I'm not a TV watcher.
KING: You don't watch?
KING: What do you have in your cell? How big is this cell?
BERKOWITZ: I guess a little bigger than an average-sized bathroom in a home. And there's a bunk and a little table and a little locker and so forth. I have my typewriter, my books and so forth.
KING: How about eating? Do you eat in a group?
BERKOWITZ: I eat in the day room area. There's a day room area all the guys in the cell block eat.
KING: How do they treat you generally?
BERKOWITZ: Oh, I get along with the guys, thank God, pretty good. Over the years, as I said, God has worked miracles where men have pretty much accepted me and I'm no different than anybody else. I'm a member of the general population. And I come and go like everyone else, no special treatment. And for that, I'm thankful.
KING: How -- how's the supervisor here? How are the guards? How are you treated by the prison officialdom?
BERKOWITZ: Well, I -- I go by the rules. I don't have any problem...
KING: Would you say you're a good prisoner?
BERKOWITZ: I go by the rules, yes.
KING: What kind of work do you do?
BERKOWITZ: I work in the mental health unit. It's called intermediate care program. And I'm there as like a peer counselor for the men that have emotional problems. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I go over there to work with those guys. And that's really a challenge, and I enjoy doing that very much.
KING: You do counseling?
BERKOWITZ: In a sense, yes. It's in an unofficial capacity. I'm kind of like a combination chaplain, counselor, guidance counselor and just a friend to those guys.
KING: Is this garb that you're wearing, is that official prison garb?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, it is.
KING: Because you expect to see stripes and a number -- that doesn't exist?
BERKOWITZ: No. Not anymore. It's just green clothing, though, drab green, but this is part of the prison uniform.
KING: Can you tell us what happened to your neck? It's so obvious. That's a nasty scar.
BERKOWITZ: Yes, in 1979, another inmate -- I guess to make a name for himself -- tried to take my life. And he stuck me when I wasn't looking with a razor and opened up the whole side of my neck. And it was a miracle that I survived. When I went down to the prison infirmary, I walked down there on my own and I didn't really lose much blood. So I could just walk down there. And they sewed me up.
And you know, the doctor there said it's a miracle you survived.
KING: You walked down with that...
BERKOWITZ: Right, yes. It was a miracle. And after that I was fine, and just went back to my unit and like nothing happened. And I believe at that time God had protected my life.
KING: What did they do to the guy?
BERKOWITZ: Nothing, because I -- I didn't...
KING: You didn't press any press any charges?
BERKOWITZ: No, I didn't press any charges.
KING: Did you get to see him after that?
BERKOWITZ: Well, he was in a different place, you know? So they moved him on. But I didn't -- he didn't get any trouble. Some -- it was a nightmare I like to forget, you know, years of Attica and going through those struggles.
KING: Attica was the worst?
KING: Much worse than here?
KING: Did you ever -- didn't you try once to take your own life?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, there were several times that at the beginning, when I first came to prison, I was very suicidal. And I saw no hope in living. I was disgusted with my life. I was angry at a lot of people. I felt betrayed, confused, and I saw no hope. So there were some times when I did try to commit suicide.
KING: Isn't that almost impossible to do in prison, though?
BERKOWITZ: No. No, I -- I've known a number of men who...
KING: You had a plan?
BERKOWITZ: I wouldn't say I had a plan. I just felt driven. There was just so much in me that was driving me to destroy myself at the time. But again, God had his hand on my life and said: You're not; you know, David, you're not going to die. You're not going to ruin your life anymore.
KING: There's lots to talk about with David Berkowitz, and we'll continue on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 10, 1979)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout the past year, the people of this city had seen many faces of the "44 Caliber Killer" in a series of police composite sketches. Not one of his victims saw the "Son of Sam" smile. But as David Berkowitz was led into police headquarters early this evening, he broke into a macabre grin. For everyone else in police headquarters, there was good reason for good cheer. The police were convinced they had finally bagged the Son of Sam.
The infamous .44 caliber bulldog revolver found in his car was rushed to ballistics. Within hours, the experts were sure it was the same weapon used ti kill Stacy Moskowitz.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York. I'm Larry King with David Berkowitz.
You confessed to these crimes, right? So there was never a trial?
BERKOWITZ: Right, I just wanted to end it, and I was just so distraught. I just confessed and pled guilty and got it over with, and -- just wanted to get out of that environment.
KING: I'm not going to dwell on it, but let's cover some of those bases. I want to get into the film and your life now.
KING: But for people watching, especially younger people who don't know, why -- first, what was it like to kill someone first time you killed someone? We all wonder about something like that. What was it like?
BERKOWITZ: Larry, I -- I don't dwell on that much, and -- I don't dwell on it at all. It was a horrible thing. It was a horrible thing.
KING: You hated it while you did it?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, I felt that, looking back, I mean, I know that God has healed so much of my life and healed those memories and everything, and I'd do anything if I could go back and change it all and have prevented it from happening.
KING: Has he healed you enough to look at it dispassionately?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, but it's still very painful. And it was a...
KING: Do you know why you were killing? I mean, we've heard about your statements, but people who may not know this case, you feel you were sort of satanically involved?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, I was. It was the worst mistake of my life, a whole series of events happened that just seemed to be by fate, and...
KING: When you say a "mistake," what mistake did you make, before killing?
BERKOWITZ: Getting involved in things. I was lonely. I was looking for companionship. I wanted -- I just got out of the service. I did three years in the Army, I was honorably discharged, and I wanted to start a life. I enrolled in community college.
KING: Living where?
BERKOWITZ: In the Bronx. I got my own apartment. I had saved up some money from when I was in the service, and I just wanted to start my life, you know, coming out. And friends had move away, and I didn't know anyone and...
KING: How old were you?
BERKOWITZ: Twenty-one at the time. And...
KING: So you went to school. Did you have a life? I mean, were you dating girls? Did you work?
BERKOWITZ: Well, I was dating a little bit here and there, just very, very casually. I wouldn't really call it even a date. But, you know, I had -- but the hours I had, I was going to school in the Bronx full time, I was working at night as a security guard at the time. I had no real social life, you know? Just trying to get...
KING: And you got mixed up with some people?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, I got involved -- and it was a very long process, and I look back with regret and...
KING: All right, to a young person that might be watching who might be affected by it, is this a kind of a cultish group or -- what do you...
BERKOWITZ: I guess -- I guess you could say that.
KING: What -- what mistake did you make? What didn't you see that you should have seen?
KING: Was this a group of people? BERKOWITZ: Yes. I was adventurous. I was just an arrogant person. I was lonely. I just always felt -- it's such a long story. It goes back, really, to childhood and the struggles I had as a child, many psychological problems growing up.
KING: Did you know something was wrong with you? I mean, like, when you were in the Army, did you ever have times when you say, I don't know what it is. I'm out of touch with reality, or I'm not in sync with other people.
BERKOWITZ: Yes, yes, right, that happened. It happened a lot. When I was growing up, I was so disruptive in school and had so many emotional problems, behavioral problems, that the school officials told my parents, you know, you're going to have to -- to keep David in school, you're going to have to take him to a child psychologist. They made some kind of arrangements for me to go, and I went for about two years once a week to Manhattan with my mom. She would take me there to just -- just try to deal with me, deal with the situations. I had very bad bouts of depression when I was a child. I was very suicidal.
KING: But you were getting help too, right? Or not?
BERKOWITZ: Well, they tried to help me, but, Larry, that didn't work. That...
KING: Didn't work?
BERKOWITZ: It was like a waste of time.
KING: Should you have been confined? Would it have been helped if you had gone to some sort of institution early?
BERKOWITZ: No, no, it wasn't like that. I could still function. I mean, I...
KING: In other words, people who were working around you, let's say, a guy who was another security guard, would have no knowledge of this, of what was going on inside your head? BERKOWITZ: No.
KING: What finally spun it off?
BERKOWITZ: There was a lot of pressures and a lot of decisions and a lot of bad choices. I felt at this time I had, regrettably -- I mean, I look back with just regret. I just -- at this time I had made a pact with the devil, I had allowed this satanic thing to control me, and I felt these paranormal powers. I know that sounds so hard to understand, you know, bit that's...
KING: Explain it to me. I'm open.
BERKOWITZ: ... that's what was -- that's what was happening, and I felt somehow invincible. I felt that I had this power and I was, unknown to me, I was slowly being led down a path of -- of destruction and...
KING: Did it give you a high? In other words, what was the plus for you? There had to be a plus, what did you get out of it?
BERKOWITZ: Nothing, nothing.
KING: So you were not happy when you were doing this?
BERKOWITZ: No, no, I just felt like a brain-washed robot.
KING: What is that like?
BERKOWITZ: I just felt I had no mind. I just felt something else was controlling, controlling me...
KING: And you took it through a dog?
BERKOWITZ: No, no, that was...
KING: What was that?
BERKOWITZ: That was just -- I'd rather not talk about that. That was just a bunch of...
KING: I'm not going to pressure you, but there were pressures on you.
BERKOWITZ: Yes, sure, there were pressures.
KING: You were hearing from sources outside of yourself?
BERKOWITZ: Not in that psychological way, but it was a satanic thing. It was...
KING: Why do you think it took you to take a life of some one? Why do you think it took -- I mean, there are a lot of people in cults and a lot of people who do weird things. Why did you do what you did, do you think?
BERKOWITZ: At the time, I was misled. I thought that what I was -- what I was supposed to do. It was the stupidest...
KING: You thought what you were doing was right?
BERKOWITZ: It was -- not right, but that somehow this had some kind of plan.
BERKOWITZ: No, it wasn't that. It was just more complicated than that.
KING: All right. What was it like to read about yourself? In other words, "there is a killer loose in the city"?
BERKOWITZ: I didn't relate to that.
KING: Didn't buy the papers every morning?
BERKOWITZ: I saw them, but it was like something else, like, you know...
KING: You didn't say, that's me.
BERKOWITZ: No, I didn't, no.
KING: So there was no plan on how I'm going to get away with this?
BERKOWITZ: No, no.
KING: No plan to deceive?
BERKOWITZ: No, no.
KING: Maybe wanted to get caught?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, I wanted to get out of that, definitely. I just said, oh, God, you know -- I didn't even believe in God at the time. I was just a real mess. You know, I'm very ashamed for that. It was so stupid. It was such a waste of life, and I think of the people that lost their lives over this, and -- and it was about nothing, you know? It was just, you know, just a...
KING: You think God, your God, has forgiven you?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, I know he has. It was a long process to understand that, but I came to terms with that. I -- I know that his word has promised that he's forgiven me.
KING: We're going to get into that. We'll be right back with David Berkowitz right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's one man and, you know, it can be anybody in the street, you know? Everybody looks suspicious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You walk down the street and everybody looks suspicious. You're so scared. You say, maybe it's him, you know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won't even let the car warm up anymore. I take right off.
QUESTION: Did you used to sit in a car? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plenty of times. Me and her used to have our best conversations in a car -- not anymore. I won't stay in a car. I'm too worried.
QUESTION: How about you? How do you feel about it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, now I'm, you know, very frightened, especially that I have brown hair. You know, I'm afraid to walk out at night. I used to walk out and I wasn't afraid, but now that that guy's loose...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with David Berkowitz.
When -- when the movie came out "Son of Sam," which, by the way did not do well, did that surprise you? That it opened and then almost closed?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, that did. That did.
KING: You were quoted -- I want to clear this up -- you were quoted in "The New York Times" by a Mr. Harden as saying that everything there is about Spike Lee and his family -- "I pray for Spike Lee and his family and his wife, Tanya, and his two children, Jackson and Satchel. God does not want me to be angry with anyone."
Did you say that to Mr. Holden?
BERKOWITZ: Only in part. Actually, there was a misquote. I think Mr. Harden did a very fair job and the article...
KING: Harden, I'm sorry.
BERKOWITZ: Mr. Harden -- right -- did a very fair job. He, you know, interviewed police officers, he interviewed a reporter, he interviewed some of the families of the victims. And, of course, he interviewed me, too. And I shared some of my feelings about the movie.
At the one part, I mentioned to him that I was following, as much as I can, about the making of that movie because I was, like, really concerned over these things that were happening. It was like this big storm was coming in my direction, and I had the feeling that this was all going to -- to whip up into a frenzy again with the news media, which it did in part for several weeks there in like June and early July. The media kind of went on a frenzy, the newspapers, and there was things every day. And I had feared that that was going to happen, so I had a lot of concern.
Concerning Mr. Lee's family, I was misquoted totally. I don't monitor anything about his family. I pray for them. I have absolutely nothing against Mr. Lee, and I never said anything bad about him it. I pray that God blesses him in every area of his life. I pray for many people. I'd never...
KING: Did you ever talk to Mr. Lee?
BERKOWITZ: No, no.
KING: Did you see the movie?
BERKOWITZ: No, no, I would not want to see that. That's not a part of my life. That's...
KING: Did you read the reviews of the movie?
BERKOWITZ: I saw some things, and, you know, pro and con, just mixed reviews. It just, like -- I just thank God that it wasn't the big -- this big storm that I thought would...
KING: I guess you're kind of glad that it came and went then in that sense.
BERKOWITZ: I'm glad that's out of my life, at least for a while, you know. I'm glad, yes, because, you know, it's -- I've moved on from there. I'm not living in the past anymore. I have friends now.
KING: Prison friends?
BERKOWITZ: Friends on the outside, like God has given me a whole new life. This tragedy that happened 22 years ago, that's not part of my life anymore.
KING: You have friends -- let me discuss that -- you have friends on the outside?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, sure.
KING: Who have come to know you since this?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, yes a lot.
KING: We'll be right back with David Berkowitz on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with David Berkowitz.
How did you make friends on the outside if you're confined to a prison?
BERKOWITZ: Over the years, Larry, my Christian testimony has been shared in many places, and a number of Christians who heard it or read about it were very blessed, and they would get in touch with me and a lot of friendships were formed.
KING: Why did you leave Judaism? BERKOWITZ: Well, Larry, I haven't left Judaism at all. I feel that I'm totally Jewish. I was born a Jew, I feel I'm going to leave this world a Jew. I believe that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews, and he loves the Jewish people. And I see myself now -- before I had no interest in spiritual things or the spiritual things that I were interested in were bad things back then, but today, I mean, I worship the God of Israel. I share from the Old Testament all the time. And I see myself as being a Jew...
KING: You did realize there were a lot of Jewish people very ashamed or embarrassed at your name -- that Berkowitz, that there was a Jewish serial killer. Were you aware of that, that people took that almost personally?
BERKOWITZ: Probably. I don't -- I'm not aware, but I'm sure that happened, yes.
KING: Because, I guess, the Jews have, you know, a certain moral code that they've set among themselves that this is an embarrassment.
KING: Do you feel sorry for that?
BERKOWITZ: Yes. The things that happened, there was a time when I was, like, no longer in control and...
KING: Do you have to forgive yourself, by the way? Is that part of this process?
BERKOWITZ: That was part of the process. I've learned that God has been showing me to forgive myself, because it's in the Bible that God -- in the Old Testament and in the New -- that God forgives sins for those who come to him through faith in Christ. And I did that. And I feel that God has completely forgiven me, and he's taught me how to forgive myself. You know, he's allowed my mind to be healed.
And it's been a long process. I've been a believer now in Jesus for 12 years.
KING: What do you say to those who say this is -- I think -- I'll give you a quote from the mother of your last victim, Stacy Moscowitz's mother -- that was your last victim -- said, "Show me one person that goes away for murder that doesn't turn to religion." It's utterly sick, she says, that people does that. You realize, of course, that there would be doubters who say, yes, the old conversion.
BERKOWITZ: Oh, sure. I'm sure there will be doubters. Many of the men who are in here in this prison are in here for violent crimes, including murder, probably a greater majority of them, and really only a fraction of those have ever turned to Christ or found, as people say, religion. It's not what people think. I wish more would come to faith in God. I wish more would begin to see...
KING: Was it a slow process for you?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, it was very slow.
KING: It was not some overnight message from above?
BERKOWITZ: No, it was a slow process. Another inmate had reached out to me 12 years ago. He came up to me and began to share his faith. We became friends, and in the space of maybe a couple of months he led me to a deeper faith in God.
But I was under so much bondage. I mean, I was -- my life was just such a total wreck that it -- it took a lot for God to reach me in -- you know, took a lot for God to reach me.
KING: Are there days of doubt?
BERKOWITZ: There were days of doubt.
KING: None now?
BERKOWITZ: No, I don't have any doubts now.
KING: More in a minute with David Berkowitz from the Sullivan Correctional Facility in South Fallsburg, New York.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEYSA MOSKOWITZ, "SON OF SAM" VICTIM'S MOTHER: I wrote David Berkowitz a letter -- yes, I did. And it was a letter from my heart. My daughter had just turned 20. I only had her 20 years. I wanted him to know what she was about from the time she was born, how she was growing up, in her the tender years and as a pre-teen and things like that. He took away her life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOSKOWITZ: I am left with absolutely nothing. He left me nothing. He left me with memories. Thank God I have that. But he left me nothing.
I lost the whole family with broken hearts.
He is a bastard. I could kill him with my bare hands, and I am not a violent person. I could probably kill him and go for a dinner and go to sleep that night very peacefully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with David Berkowitz.
Have you ever had to deal with relatives of the victims directly? Have you ever heard from them or spoken to them or had any contact at all?
BERKOWITZ: I did receive -- in 1993, I did receive a long letter from a mother, of Stacy Moscowitz, and she wrote me a beautiful letter. She had seen saw a problem on "Inside Edition," which aired back then, and it really touched my heart.
For many years I have been praying for her as well for all of the people that were hurt by this tragedy. And I did write to her a long letter, I think last year, and she received that well. But there's a lot of pain and hurt in their lives, and I wish I could sit down and talk with some of them.
KING: What would you say?
BERKOWITZ: That I'm sorry. And I know that wouldn't be enough.
KING: What else would you say?
BERKOWITZ: That I wish I could just undo it, all that happened.
KING: There is a young man living, right? He was blinded, right, but not killed?
BERKOWITZ: Partially blinded.
KING: Yes. Have you ever heard from him?
BERKOWITZ: He did make a statement through another news program, and I did have a chance to respond to that, because he had some misconceptions. I tried to say I was sorry, and it just tears me apart.
KING: Does it bother you that some people don't believe it? In other words, that in a Christian, a Judeo-Christian nation, which is based forgiveness, they don't forgive?
BERKOWITZ: It bothers me up to a point, sure, because I wish that others could experience the forgiveness that I know I've received from God: even though, I don't deserve it -- I've never done anything to deserve it. I did what the Bible said. I asked God for forgiveness through Christ, and I know: His word says he's completely forgiven me. It took me a number of years to understand and to accept that for myself.
KING: Would you have been able to forgive if it were your daughter or wife?
BERKOWITZ: I don't know. I don't know. I pray everyday for those that lost loved ones. And I pray that God would touch their lives and allow them to heal as much as possible.
KING: Before we ask about what you do on the block -- and I know later you want to do a prayer, and I think that's essential that people see you do that. When -- after you would commit a crime and you would go back to wherever you lived, was there any remorse, any feeling of "this was wrong"? BERKOWITZ: I knew it was wrong, but at the time, you see, when -- when -- when -- when somehow -- to me, when a mind is captured by Satan and the mind -- that mind -- you can't -- you can't look at things and evaluate things in the right perspective. Something else takes...
KING: So I'm asking a logical question that you can't answer logically, right?
BERKOWITZ: That's right.
KING: Because there's no logic dealing with it.
BERKOWITZ: No, there isn't.
KING: So what would you feel?
BERKOWITZ: I was just empty. As I said, I was a blank. It was like a void, you know.
KING: Let's say you're out to dinner and someone would say, what do you think of this -- this killer loose? Oh...
BERKOWITZ: I don't remember what I felt back then, at that -- like stuff like that. It was like I was detached from it. It was a terrible thing.
KING: Now you know killers, don't you? There are killers in this facility?
KING: People who've killed other people?
KING: You've talked to them?
KING: Is that what you do a lot?
KING: And you try to convert them?
BERKOWITZ: I try share the Gospel, because I know that, you know, Christ could help a person, Christ could change a person's life, and that's what I strive to do every single day as a minister. I mean, God had taken me a murderer, and I feel that he's made me into a minister, just like he's done to the apostle Paul.
KING: So you counsel them. Do you have much success?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, sure. With a number of guys, there have been guys who have come to a deeper faith in God. There have been guys when I know they've been depressed and struggled -- a lot of guys have guilt. A lot of guys, when they come to prison, it's really -- they go through a process of reflection over time where they see that they've thrown away their lives. They've destroyed their relationship with their family, and that's when the regret begins to set in. Guys begin to seek an understanding of why they're in the mess that they're in. And here's the chance to share the Gospel, because Jesus came -- the Bible says Jesus came not for the righteous but for sinners.
And so here, you guys that are sinners like myself, and I say, hey, I want to tell you that God loves you, that he's got hope for you, that he's got a plan for your life. You don't have to walk around angry all the time. You don't have to be suicidal. God can give you a reason to live, a reason to get up in the morning.
And the guys, you know, take me seriously when I share. And there are other inmates too who are Christians who do the same thing. It's not just me in here.
KING: The guard outside, showing us in, told us that this is a very tough bunch in here...
... and this are not people you meet everyday?
KING: How do you deal with that? How do you deal with them? Those that -- I mean, do they ever hurt you?
BERKOWITZ: No. Some may not like my spiritual beliefs, but...
KING: Do they suffer remorse?
BERKOWITZ: Some of them, absolutely. Yes. They're human, like everyone else. And guys in here go through tremendous struggles inwardly. A lot of them, you know, play the macho role and keep things inside. But I know a lot of guys who cry on their pillow at night.
KING: We'll be right back with David Berkowitz right after this. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL DENARO, "SON OF SAM" VICTIM: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I certainly -- I don't forgive him. I don't have a whole lot of hate and anger, possibly because I'm still alive. That certainly has a lot to do with it.
What he's doing now, you know, he's -- he's a born-again Christian, which I think is just great, although when you're in prison for the rest of your life, I don't think there's a whole lot more to do.
So you know, I'm kind of ambivalent, to be honest with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 13, 1977)
NATHAN BERKOWITZ, FATHER OF BERKOWITZ: I cried.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's enough gentleman. (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give Mr. Berkowitz...
QUESTION: May we ask him if he wants to see his son.
NATHAN BERKOWITZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Berkowitz, thank you for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with David Berkowitz, touching some other bases.
You were adopted, right?
KING: Is your father still leaving living?
BERKOWITZ: My adoptive father?
KING: Yes. Does he contact you?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, we're in regular contact. He's a great dad.
KING: Was he a great dad when you were a kid?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, absolutely. I had great parents.
KING: What went wrong there, do you think?
BERKOWITZ: With my parents, nothing at all. They were the best. My mom, you know, she had passed away in 1967. My mother, Pearl, and my dad, who, thank God, is still alive today, they were the best parents a kid could have. I was an only child, and they, as -- on -- they were a little on the poor side, you know? My dad had to work six days a week, and they did a great job, you know, trying to...
KING: So you're not into blaming your parents?
BERKOWITZ: The problem -- no, the problem was with me. I was just -- I had a lot of emotional problems, which I know that broke their heart. I saw my parents, you know, break down and cry many times because they saw I was going through so many struggles, the depressions and not talking to them. They would...
KING: Did you ever find out who your real parents were?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, I did. Yes, I did meet my natural mother, and I did find out that my natural father had passed away in the early '70s.
KING: Did your natural mother have any problems that might give you a clue to any of the gene problem that might have occurred here?
BERKOWITZ: No, nothing like that at all. I did have a chance to meet her. She was also Jewish, just like my natural father. And she turned out to be a very nice person. I met her when I was, I think, around 22 years old.
KING: So the problem, David, was with you?
KING: As in Shakespeare, the problem is with ourselves, right?
BERKOWITZ: Right, yes.
KING: OK. Did you get, by the way, did they have to medicate you when you first came?
BERKOWITZ: When I was first arrested and I was in Kings County, the prison ward there...
KING: In the hospital.
BERKOWITZ: ... they had given me medication. After I came upstate to prison and I was in Attica for a brief period of time, I was receiving medication. And then I, of course, I had some suicidal episodes, and I wound up going to a Marcy psychiatric center there for a little while.
KING: Are you in good health now?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, absolutely good health, thank God.
KING: Have you had any homosexual problems here, which is common in prison, is it not?
BERKOWITZ: No, I haven't, no.
KING: Is that surprising to you? Isn't that fairly common?
BERKOWITZ: No, not -- that's...
KING: Is that overdone?
BERKOWITZ: That's overdone stuff from the media, yes.
BERKOWITZ: I mean, it happens here, but it happens everywhere, I'm sure. You know...
KING: Not to a greater degree here with...
KING: ... these men confined for great periods of time?
BERKOWITZ: No, no, no.
KING: All right, you counsel them. Do you get psychiatric counseling?
BERKOWITZ: No, I don't, no. The department...
KING: At all?
BERKOWITZ: No, the department of corrections has given me a clean bill of heath. I'm a -- as I said, in the general population I have no problem, no mental or emotional problems. Whatever I had in the past, God has completely and totally healed me of that.
KING: So what do you do for the people you counsel?
BERKOWITZ: I give them a lot of encouragement.
KING: They let you have private meetings with them all day, and how does it work? Give me your day?
BERKOWITZ: Well, I get up in the morning pretty early. I like to pray. I like to read my Bible, make myself a cup of coffee. And...
KING: You do that in your cell?
BERKOWITZ: Yes, right in a little thing you can warm up water. And then I start my day. I go to breakfast and programs. I have to go -- I leave my cell block and go down to the unit there, the intermediate care program, I go to that block and I begin to just be with those guys. Those are the guys that have some kind of emotional problems, coping difficulties, and I spend the day with them.
KING: Is there a psychiatrist there with them? BERKOWITZ: There is a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist in the facility.
KING: Is it a room you're in?
BERKOWITZ: No, it's a regular cell block.
KING: A cell block. And you counsel them individually and in groups? BERKOWITZ: We used to have a group Bible study that I did, but the doctor that allowed me to run it, he had moved on to another assignment. So it kind of dissolved. But I encourage the guys to go to the chapel.
Basically, I empathize with them. I want to be a good listener. And I'll share scriptures with them.
KING: Do they ask you a lot about your past? Are they interested in Son of Sam?
BERKOWITZ: In here, most of the guys don't even talk about it. It's -- guys don't ask me about that. Once in awhile, a guy will be curious and ask a question, but they say I don't really want -- they see I don't want to talk about it, so they respect that. I thank God that, as I said, I'm like everyone else. Nobody fusses over me or guys...
KING: That's the way you want it.
BERKOWITZ: Right, that's the way I wanted it.
KING: Back with more of David Berkowitz after this.
KING: We're back with David Berkowitz.
So you will -- you showed me this card. You'll take a piece of scripture and read it to the men?
BERKOWITZ: Right, see like what I do is sometimes, in a way, I help -- I reach out to the guys. I'll take a scripture verse from the Bible and I'll share it with a guy. I'll give it to him. I'll say, let's say, Joe, you know, could you read that back to me? And we'll discuss that. It's like...
KING: Let's say you do Isaiah. Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on Thee because he trusts in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever, for the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.
KING: You have the prisoner read that to you.
BERKOWITZ: Right. And then...
KING: And then you discuss what that... BERKOWITZ: Right. Then we'll talk about it. Like I'll say, well, Joe, what does it mean? Now, these guys have some mental problems: coping problems; problems with suicide attempts, depressions and all that stuff. And I'll say, well, Joe, what does it mean to be in perfect peace and how is God going to keep your mind stable? And we'll discuss that. And then I'll say, well, what do you have to do? Does it come automatically? And he would respond, no, you know, you have to trust God. I say, ah, you see, there's the key. We have got to work on learning how to trust God, allow...
KING: Do you feel by doing this a sense of accomplishment? Do you feel that you have a purpose on this planet?
BERKOWITZ: Yes. God has shown me that he has given me a lot of purpose: not just even here in the prison but reaching out to youth.
KING: Do you read things other than things biblical? Do you read books? Do you...
KING: Are you open to enlightenment in areas other than just the church?
BERKOWITZ: Oh sure. I read all kinds of books. I'm not much on novels, but I read autobiographies.
KING: What do you do at night? You don't watch television. So after dinner, what do you do?
BERKOWITZ: Well, I have my time at the end of the workday. I can go to the chapel on nights we have Bible studies or services, or I can stay back on other nights and write letters. I read and so forth.
KING: Can you make -- you can make phone calls, right?
KING: You have to call collect?
BERKOWITZ: Call collect.
KING: Visitors come how frequently?
BERKOWITZ: Well, they have visiting seven days a week in the daytime.
KING: You get a lot of visitors?
BERKOWITZ: Not a lot. Once in a while some people come up. I have a number of friends from the area who come by and visit.
KING: Do you ever think that someday maybe I'll be paroled?
BERKOWITZ: No. That's not...
KING: That's -- forget it.
BERKOWITZ: No. God -- I realize that because of what happened and the way the sentencing structure is I'll be in prison for the rest of my natural life.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments. We'll have a prayer as well -- stay with us -- after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENARO: There was no way David Berkowitz acted alone. He has already come out and said there is other people involved. I mean, this has been -- he said that publicly close to 20 years ago.
JOSEPH COFFEY, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: David Berkowitz was the only person involved in these crimes. He knew every detail. He knew how he shot every victim. He knew the conditions of the street. He knew where he shot the victims. He knew what part of the body he shot them in.
He knew whether there were in automobiles or they were walking along the street. He knew every possible detail.
Anybody who tells me any different that Berkowitz had co- conspirators, I challenge them to bring me the evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. By the way, did you always act alone?
BERKOWITZ: Well, not really. Not totally like that.
KING: Were other people caught?
KING: They're still out there?
BERKOWITZ: Most have passed on. And...
KING: But they were involved in killing as well?
BERKOWITZ: They were...
KING: They got away with it?
BERKOWITZ: Well, no, they haven't gotten away with it and they won't. I -- I...
KING: Do you think they're in hell?
BERKOWITZ: Some have lost their lives. And...
KING: Are you going to go to heaven? BERKOWITZ: I know I'm going to go to heaven. I don't deserve it, but that's God's mercy, because that's the promise. You know, I know that the blood of Jesus has washed away my sins.
KING: What kind of prayer do you want to do for us?
BERKOWITZ: I'd just like to pray in general if that's OK.
KING: OK. We have a couple of minutes.
BERKOWITZ: Thank you so much, Larry, for, you know, this opportunity. And it says in Second Chronicles, Chapter Seven that the Lord is speaking. He says, "If I shut up heaven, that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land or if I send pestilence among my people."
It says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and I will heal their land.
KING: Do you feel sad as to how you will be remembered?
BERKOWITZ: Yes. Because I have regret over that. I...
KING: Your obituaries will not have pluses in it, while you in your heart may have done lots of good for lots of people since all of this.
BERKOWITZ: Of course, I know because of my past they will always remember the bad. But God has had mercy on me and he'll have mercy on anyone who calls upon him.
KING: Are you a good person, David?
BERKOWITZ: I feel that God has made me a good person, a decent person. I was not always a good person, and there's a part of everyone that has a propensity to do bad. Even today, I know I could choose to do bad but I don't want to.
KING: Do you have bad thoughts?
BERKOWITZ: Bad thoughts or sinful thoughts come to everyone. But the Bible says that God makes a way of escape when someone has a bad thought, they can call on the Lord and the Lord will deliver them from that.
KING: Are there days that's real hard, though?
BERKOWITZ: There are days I struggle a lot. There are days I feel that sometimes everything is in vain, although I know it's not. And there are days when it just -- I feel a heavy spirit sometimes, I really feel an oppression fighting against me. But I press on because I know who has helped me in the past, it's the Lord, and he will always help me.
KING: How old are you?
BERKOWITZ: I'm 46.
KING: And are you envious that I'll go out of here and you won't?
BERKOWITZ: No. No.
KING: David, I thank you very much for this hour.
BERKOWITZ: Thank you.
KING: David Berkowitz was eligible for parole in July, and at the hearing, he stated he did not feel he deserved to be set free. Parole was, of course, denied. He is eligible again in June 2004. Thanks for watching. I'm Larry King. Good night.
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