Over at All About Forensic Psychology, they've written a post entitled "Touching Evil: Getting to Know a Serial Killer," which discusses a newspaper article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The article relates how a group of forensic science students at Duquesne University contacted Keith Hunter Jesperson, a serial killer who murdered at least eight women in the early to mid 1990s, and asked if they could interview him as part of their course of study. The authors at All About Forensic Psychology discuss some of their concerns regarding this interview,which I recommend you link over to in order to read.
In general, I second the concerns voiced at All About Forensic Psychology. I can understand the logic behind wanting to interview the perpetrators of these heinous crimes in order to gain information and insight from them (I recall reading in the books Whoever Fights Monsters, and Mindhunter that this was the method that got the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit off the ground), but at the very least, the interviewers ought to go in prepared for the efforts at manipulation an offender like this is going to attempt. Apparently one student was quoted as saying, "I had no idea that he was going to turn out to be actually such a pretty nice guy aside from the fact that he killed a bunch of people." Um, what? How could someone come out of an interview with a man who has killed at least eight people and make that remark? This isn't inventing the wheel - we know certain types of offenders are extremely good as presenting false fronts, and I would think that these students would have been taught that during Lesson One. To the extent Keith Hunter Jesperson appeared to be nice, it was because he made a conscious effort to do so.
One common criminal thinking error (criminal thinking will be discussed extensively in future posts) is referred to as Power Orientation. This criminal thinking error is made when an offender seeks to obtain his or her way through an exercise of strength over another, either directly (e.g. bullying, threats) or subtly (i.e. manipulation). A sub-concept of Power Orientation is Contemptuous Delight, which is simply a boost to the ego of an offender who has "gotten over" on their target, regardless of whether there is any tangible benefit to them. For example, I once interviewed a sex offender who, at the beginning of the evaluation, provided me with the wrong birth date. He gave me a date that was off by several days. There was no reason for this; there is 0% likelihood that an adult "forgets" their birthday, unless they've forgotten everything else as well, which he had not. The only explanation for this was that the offender did not want to be there, resented the fact that I was evaluating him, and so "got over on me" by giving me false information, which he then enjoyed watching me write down.
While I was not present at the interview described in the article, and I haven't yet read all of the transcripts, my hunch is that, after finishing his interview with those students, who found him to be such a "nice guy," Mr. Jesperson had a smile of his face, knowing he "got over" one more time. If you are going to deal with an individual like this, at least be prepared for what you might come up against.