Saturday, April 30, 2011

Letter to England: W. Horton

I occasionally correspond with an English attorney: it’s frequently useful to get a completely different perspective on current events. So anyone interested on a completely different perspective on American affairs, kindly read on.

Dear Glyn,
A while back I asked you if you’d ever heard of the Willie Horton case, and you said you hadn’t. Well it’s like this: clear back in 1974, 3 young punks decided to rob a filling station. Who would’ve believed that 14 years later, it would be the decisive factor in an American presidential election? The filling station attendant, a terrified 19 yr old named Joseph Fournier quickly gave thugs all the cash in the register, which totaled, $60. However, they felt the need to stab him 19 times and stuff him into a garbage container, where he bled to death. As one of the criminal geniuses walked away with his $20 take, he commented, “That’s another dead honky.” All three were arrested and convicted. One of those three men was 21-year-old Willie Horton. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

That’s exactly where Horton’s life story should have ended. However, because he had the luck to commit his crime in the commonwealth of MA, he soon became eligible for a weekend furlough program (that is not a misprint, in MA, even prisoners serving life without parole can get furlough on weekends). In 1987, Horton decided not to go back to prison and managed to remain at large for 6 months until he was arrested several hundred miles south in Maryland for raping a woman and pistol-whipping her fiancé. I once read an interview in The Nation magazine in which Horton maintained his innocence. I guess it’s just extraordinary bad luck on his part that when he was arrested, he was driving his victim’s car. After a MD jury convicted him of aggravated rape, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and grand theft auto, the MD judge sentenced Horton to life in prison w/o possibility of parole. The MA requested that MD extradite H back to them so he could continue serving his life sentence, but the MD judge indignantly denied their request. So Willie Horton is still in prison 23 yrs later, and his chances of ever being released are slim to none with slim out of town.

Mr H never would have achieved a fraction of his notoriety except for the fact that he committed his second crime after the MA state legislature had passed a law excluding inmates serving life without parole form the furlough program and Governor Mike Dukakis. After the MD incident, Fournier’s family spoke out publicly about their outage that their son’s killer had been eligible for a furlough program. At that point, Mike Dukakis might conceivably have saved his electoral chances by meeting with the family, apologizing, and ending the furlough system. Instead he declared the furlough system had been “99% successful.” The next year, Dukakis won the Democratic nomination for President. During primary season, Senator Al Gore was the first to bring up the Willie Horton fiasco, and in the final months of the campaign, the Bush camp harped on it nonstop. The democratic response was predictable: since Willie Horton is black and both his murder victim and his rape victim are white, they screamed racism, racism, racism 24/7.

Usually that mantra works. It certainly did not this time. Election night 1988 was a nightmare for democrats. Horton is now in his 60s, serving in a maximum security prison in MD in solitary since he was responsible for the end of furlough programs in MD as well as MA, he’s not going to win any popularity contests with his fellow inmates.

1 comment:


wouldn't happen in the uk. Here it is accepted that robbers are black thieves white and asians sell drugs.

I once did a parole hearing for someone convicted of arson with intent to endanger life. He had drunk himself stupid and then set fire to his flat. In the hour before the hearing he assured me that he had learned his lesson and it would never ever happen again.

I should have known better. I was expecting ten minutes of contrition when he told the board that the five seats of fire were caused by a bouncing ciggerette.

Needless to say he's still in. It was only with great effort that i pointed out to him that the only tribunal that would have believed the "magic ciggie" theory was the warren commission