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Willie Horton

Willie Horton

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William R. "Willie" Horton (born August 12, 1951) is an American convicted felon
Felony
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

 who, while serving a life sentence
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

 for murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, without the possibility of parole
Parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

, was the beneficiary of a Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 weekend furlough
Furlough
In the United States a furlough is a temporary unpaid leave of some employees due to special needs of a company, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole...

 program. He did not return from his furlough, and ultimately he committed assault, armed robbery
Robbery
Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear....

 and rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

.

Criminal activity and incarceration


Horton was born in Chesterfield, South Carolina
Chesterfield, South Carolina
Chesterfield is a town in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 1472 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Chesterfield County...

. On October 26, 1974, in Lawrence, Massachusetts
Lawrence, Massachusetts
Lawrence is a city in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States on the Merrimack River. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a total population of 76,377. Surrounding communities include Methuen to the north, Andover to the southwest, and North Andover to the southeast. It and Salem are...

, Horton and two accomplices robbed Joseph Fournier, a 17-year-old gas station attendant, and then fatally stabbed him 19 times after he had cooperated by handing over all of the money in the cash register. His body was dumped in a trash can. Fournier died from blood loss. Horton was convicted of murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, sentenced to life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

 without the possibility of parole, and incarcerated at the Concord Correctional Facility in Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

.

On June 6, 1986, he was released as part of a weekend furlough
Furlough
In the United States a furlough is a temporary unpaid leave of some employees due to special needs of a company, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole...

 program but did not return. On April 3, 1987 in Oxon Hill, Maryland
Oxon Hill, Maryland
Oxon Hill is part of the Oxon Hill-Glassmanor census-designated place in southern Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. Oxon Hill is a suburb of Washington, DC located southeast of the downtown district and east of Alexandria, Virginia...

, Horton twice raped a local woman after pistol-whipping, knifing, binding, and gagging her fiancé. He then stole the car belonging to the man he had assault
Assault
In law, assault is a crime causing a victim to fear violence. The term is often confused with battery, which involves physical contact. The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more...

ed. He was later shot and captured by Corporal Paul J. Lopez of the Prince George's County Police Department after a pursuit. On October 20, Horton was sentenced in Maryland to two consecutive life terms plus 85 years. The sentencing judge, Vincent J. Femia, refused to return Horton to Massachusetts, saying, "I'm not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed or otherwise released. This man should never draw a breath of free air again."

On April 18, 1996, Horton was transferred to the Jessup Correctional Institution (then called the Maryland House of Correction Annex), a maximum security prison in Jessup, Maryland
Jessup, Maryland
Jessup is an unincorporated town and census-designated place in Howard County, Maryland and Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The population was 7,865 at the 2000 census. The center of population of Maryland is located in Jessup. It was the location of Maryland House of Correction, which was one of...

, where he remains.

Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis
Michael Dukakis
Michael Stanley Dukakis served as the 65th and 67th Governor of Massachusetts from 1975–1979 and from 1983–1991, and was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988. He was born to Greek immigrants in Brookline, Massachusetts, also the birthplace of John F. Kennedy, and was the longest serving...

 was the governor of Massachusetts at the time of Horton's release, and while he did not start the furlough program, he had supported it as a method of criminal rehabilitation
Rehabilitation (penology)
Rehabilitation means; To restore to useful life, as through therapy and education or To restore to good condition, operation, or capacity....

. The State inmate furlough program was actually signed into law by Republican Governor Francis W. Sargent
Francis W. Sargent
Francis William Sargent was the 64th Governor of Massachusetts from 1969 to 1975. Born in 1915 in Hamilton, Massachusetts, he was known for his sharp wit and self-deprecating manner...

 in 1972. However, under Sargent, convicted first-degree murderers were not eligible for furlough. After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that this right extended to first-degree murderers, the Massachusetts legislature quickly passed a bill prohibiting furloughs for such inmates. However, in 1976, Dukakis veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

ed this bill. The program remained in effect through the intervening term of governor Edward J. King
Edward J. King
Edward Joseph "Ed" King was the 66th Governor of the U.S. state of Massachusetts from 1979 to 1983.Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Boston College and Bentley College, King played professional football as a guard with the All-America Football Conference Buffalo Bisons from 1948 to...

 and was abolished during Dukakis' final term of office on April 28, 1988. This abolition occurred only after the Lawrence Eagle Tribune had run 175 stories about the furlough program and won a Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

. Dukakis continued to argue that the program was 99 percent effective; yet, as the Lawrence Eagle Tribune pointed out, no state outside of Massachusetts, nor any federal program, would grant a furlough to a prisoner serving life without parole.

Horton in the 1988 presidential campaign


The first person to mention the Massachusetts furlough program in the 1988 presidential campaign was Al Gore
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....

. During a debate at the Felt Forum sponsored by the New York Daily News, Gore took issue with the furlough program. However, he did not specifically mention the Horton incident or even his name, instead asking a general question about the Massachusetts furlough program.

Republicans picked up the Horton issue after Dukakis clinched the nomination. In June 1988, Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 candidate George H.W. Bush seized on the Horton case, bringing it up repeatedly in campaign speeches. Bush's campaign manager, Lee Atwater
Lee Atwater
Harvey LeRoy "Lee" Atwater was an American political consultant and strategist to the Republican Party. He was an advisor of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and Chairman of the Republican National Committee.-Childhood and early life:...

, predicted that "by the time this election is over, Willie Horton will be a household name." Media consultant Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes
Roger Eugene Ailes is president of Fox News Channel, chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group. Ailes was a media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W...

 remarked "the only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife
Knife
A knife is a cutting tool with an exposed cutting edge or blade, hand-held or otherwise, with or without a handle. Knives were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools...

 in his hand or without it."

The index card


In April 1988, Lee Atwater asked aide Jim Pinkerton for negative research to defeat Dukakis. Pinkerton returned with reams of material that Atwater told him to reduce to a 3×5 index card, telling him, "I'm giving you one thing. You can use both sides of the 3×5 card." Pinkerton discovered the furlough issue by watching the Felt Forum debate. On May 25, 1988, Republican consultants met in Paramus, New Jersey
Paramus, New Jersey
Paramus is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 26,342. A suburb of New York City, Paramus is located between 15–20 miles northwest of Midtown Manhattan and approximately west of Upper Manhattan.Paramus is one of...

, holding a focus group of Democrats who had voted for Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 in 1984. After giving the focus group the material Pinkerton provided on the index card, most of the voters switched from favoring Dukakis to favoring Bush. These focus groups convinced Atwater and the other Republican consultants that they should 'go negative' against Dukakis. Further information regarding the furlough came from aide Andrew Card
Andrew Card
Andrew Hill Card, Jr. is a Republican American politician, former United States Cabinet member, and head of President George W. Bush's White House Iraq Group. Card served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President George H. W. Bush and the White House Chief of Staff under George W. Bush...

, a Massachusetts native whom President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 later named as his Chief of Staff
White House Chief of Staff
The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States and a senior aide to the President.The current White House Chief of Staff is Bill Daley.-History:...

.

Jumping the gun


Although commercials about Willie Horton were not run until the fall campaign, Bush first mentioned him at the Texas Republican convention on June 9, 1988. The following week at the Illinois Republican convention in Springfield
Springfield, Illinois
Springfield is the third and current capital of the US state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County with a population of 117,400 , making it the sixth most populated city in the state and the second most populated Illinois city outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area...

, Bush began to press the argument against Dukakis by declaring that Dukakis had let Horton loose to 'terrorize innocent people' and continued support of the furlough program until the Massachusetts legislature changed the law. Bush again mentioned Horton at the National Sheriffs Association in Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kentucky, and the county seat of Jefferson County. Since 2003, the city's borders have been coterminous with those of the county because of a city-county merger. The city's population at the 2010 census was 741,096...

 and declared himself in favor of 'life without parole' for convicted murderers.

Over the Fourth of July
Independence Day (United States)
Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain...

 weekend in 1988, Atwater attended a motorcyclists' convention in Luray, Virginia
Luray, Virginia
Luray is a town in Page County, Virginia, United States, in the Shenandoah Valley of the northern part of the state. It is also the county seat...

. Two couples were talking about the Horton story as featured in the July issue of Reader's Digest
Reader's Digest
Reader's Digest is a general interest family magazine, published ten times annually. Formerly based in Chappaqua, New York, its headquarters is now in New York City. It was founded in 1922, by DeWitt Wallace and Lila Bell Wallace...

. Atwater joined them without mentioning who he was. Later that night, a focus group in Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

 had turned completely against Dukakis when presented the information about Horton's furlough. Atwater used this occurrence to argue the necessity of pounding Dukakis about the furlough issue.

The fall campaign


Beginning on September 21, 1988, the Americans for Bush arm of the National Security Political Action Committee
Political action committee
In the United States, a political action committee, or PAC, is the name commonly given to a private group, regardless of size, organized to elect political candidates or to advance the outcome of a political issue or legislation. Legally, what constitutes a "PAC" for purposes of regulation is a...

 (NSPAC), under the auspices of Floyd Brown
Floyd Brown
Floyd Gregory Brown is an American author, speaker and media commentator. He is president of Excellentia Inc., a consulting company specializing in non-profit organizational strategy, development and marketing. Brown has also worked as a political consultant and conducted opposition research for...

, began running a campaign ad
Campaign advertising
'In politics, campaign advertising is the use of an advertising campaign through newspapers, radio commercials, television commercials, etc.) to influence the decisions made for and by groups. These ads are designed by political consultants and the political campaign staff...

 entitled "Weekend Passes", using the Horton case to attack Dukakis. The ad was produced by media consultant Larry McCarthy, who had previously worked for Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes
Roger Eugene Ailes is president of Fox News Channel, chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group. Ailes was a media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W...

. After clearing the ad with television station
Television station
A television station is a business, organisation or other such as an amateur television operator that transmits content over terrestrial television. A television transmission can be by analog television signals or, more recently, by digital television. Broadcast television systems standards are...

s, McCarthy added a menacing mug shot of Horton, who is African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

. The ad was run as an independent expenditure
Independent expenditure
-Definition:In elections in the United States, an independent expenditure is a political campaign communication which expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation or concert with or at the request or suggestion of a...

, separate from the Bush campaign, which claimed not to have had any role in its production.

On October 5, 1988, a day after the "Weekend Passes" ad was taken off the airwaves, was the date of the Bentsen
Lloyd Bentsen
Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr. was a four-term United States senator from Texas and the Democratic Party nominee for Vice President in 1988 on the Michael Dukakis ticket. He also served in the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1955. In his later political life, he was Chairman of the Senate...

-Quayle
Dan Quayle
James Danforth "Dan" Quayle served as the 44th Vice President of the United States, serving with President George H. W. Bush . He served as a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from the state of Indiana....

 debate, the Bush campaign ran its own ad, "Revolving Door
Revolving Door (television advertisement)
"Revolving Door" is a famous negative television commercial made for the 1988 United States Presidential Campaign. Along with the Willie Horton "Weekend Passes" advertisement, it is considered to be a prime factor in George H.W. Bush's defeat of Michael Dukakis The ad was produced by political...

", which also attacked Dukakis over the weekend furlough program. While the advertisement did not mention Horton or feature his photograph, it depicted a variety of intimidating-looking men walking in and out of prison through a revolving door. The commercial was filmed at an actual state prison
Prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

 in Draper, Utah
Draper, Utah
Draper is a city in Salt Lake and Utah Counties in the U.S. state of Utah, located about south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatch Front. Between 1990 and 2000 Draper was Utah's fastest-growing city over 5,000 people . Its population in 1990 was 7,143 and had grown to 25,220 by the 2000 census...

, but the individuals depicted – thirty in all, including three African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

s and two Hispanic
Hispanic
Hispanic is a term that originally denoted a relationship to Hispania, which is to say the Iberian Peninsula: Andorra, Gibraltar, Portugal and Spain. During the Modern Era, Hispanic sometimes takes on a more limited meaning, particularly in the United States, where the term means a person of ...

s, were all paid actors.

Attempting to counter-attack, Dukakis' campaign ran an ad about a convicted heroin dealer named Angel Medrano who raped and killed a pregnant mother of two after escaping from a federal correctional halfway house. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter argues this case was less relevant since Medrano had no criminal history of violent behavior and Bush was not running based on his work in the federal justice system. The controversy escalated when Vice Presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen
Lloyd Bentsen
Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr. was a four-term United States senator from Texas and the Democratic Party nominee for Vice President in 1988 on the Michael Dukakis ticket. He also served in the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1955. In his later political life, he was Chairman of the Senate...

 and former Democratic presidential candidate and civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 leader Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson
Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. is an African-American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as shadow senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997. He was the founder of both entities that merged to...

 called the "Revolving Door" ad racist
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 – a charge which was denied by Bush.

In 1990, the Ohio Democratic Party
Ohio Democratic Party
The Ohio Democratic Party is the Ohio affiliate to the United States Democratic Party. Former Ohio House Minority Leader Chris Redfern is the Ohio Democratic Party chairman. Redfern was elected to office in December 2005...

 and a group called "Black Elected Democrats of Ohio" filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission
Federal Election Commission
The Federal Election Commission is an independent regulatory agency that was founded in 1975 by the United States Congress to regulate the campaign finance legislation in the United States. It was created in a provision of the 1975 amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act...

 alleging that NSPAC had coordinated or cooperated with the Bush campaign in airing the ad, which would make it an illegal in-kind
Payment in kind
Payment in kind refers to payment for goods or services with a medium other than legal tender ....

 campaign contribution. Investigation by the FEC, including deposition of officials from both organizations, revealed indirect connections between McCarthy and the Bush campaign (such as his having previously worked for Ailes), but found no direct evidence of wrongdoing, and the investigation reached an impasse and was eventually closed with no finding of any violation of campaign finance
Campaign finance
Campaign finance refers to all funds that are raised and spent in order to promote candidates, parties or policies in some sort of electoral contest. In modern democracies such funds are not necessarily devoted to election campaigns. Issue campaigns in referendums, party activities and party...

 laws.

In the documentary film Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story is a 2008 U.S. documentary on the campaign tactics used by Lee Atwater while working on the George H.W. Bush 1988 presidential campaign, and how those tactics have transformed presidential campaigns in the United States....

longtime Republican operative Roger Stone
Roger Stone
Roger J. Stone, Jr. is an American political consultant and lobbyist who specializes in opposition research for the Republican National Committee in the United States....

 charges that Lee Atwater
Lee Atwater
Harvey LeRoy "Lee" Atwater was an American political consultant and strategist to the Republican Party. He was an advisor of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and Chairman of the Republican National Committee.-Childhood and early life:...

, working for the Bush ‘88 campaign, funneled millions of dollars into the “Willie Horton” ad, in violation of campaign finance laws. No investigation into this has been opened, and no evidence other than Stone's testimony has been presented to substantiate the charge.

See also


  • Revolving Door (advertisement)
  • Daisy (advertisement)
  • Wayne DuMond
    Wayne DuMond
    Wayne Eugene DuMond was an American criminal convicted of murder and rape. He was born in De Witt, Arkansas, and is buried in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery of Ethel, Arkansas.DuMond had six children and three wives...



External links