Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Last Chapter in Sal Mineo’s Life

Anyone who’s seen Rebel Without a Cause will remember Sal Mineo’s performance as the sensitive young kid who meets a bad end when he is fatally shot by police. He came to a violent end in real life as well: he was stabbed to death.
I recently saw a biography of Mineo and browsed through it. Since I’d heard of his murder, I wondered if they’d ever found the culprit. I discovered that a pizza delivery guy named Lionel Williams was convicted of not only Mineo’s murder, but more than ten robberies, all carried out at knifepoint. He got a fifty-three year sentence, but he only served nine (and you wonder why people get cynical about the criminal justice system).

After the jury delivered its guilty verdict, Williams asked for a chance to speak, and after calling his public defender everything but a precious child of God, he felt the need to comment on one aspect of the prosecution’s case. Williams had multiple, visible tattoos, and the prosecutor had repeatedly pointed out that after the murder, Williams had purchased a new tattoo of a bloody knife on his arm. Mr. Williams just couldn’t help himself: he denounced the prosecutor for mentioning the tattoo, and added, “Besides, it looks nothing like the knife that killed him!” I don’t know how his defender managed to keep himself from banging his head on the counsel table.

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