Excerpts

The mug shot had been taken after Horton was released from a Maryland hospital where he had been treated for gunshot wounds. Playboy Magazine interviewed Horton as he sat in prison in 1989. According to Horton, while he recovered in the hospital, the police guarded him closely for 20 days. During that time he was not allowed to shower or change regularily. This mug shot of a tired, unshaven and scary looking Horton eventually was seen by the masses. Horton would even agree that the mug shot was repelling. In the Playboy interview previously mentioned, Horton commented on the mug shot, saying "Hell, I agree with you, that picture would have scared the shit out of me, too. It was horrible, really horrible. It makes me look incredibly evil."

(pages 99 - 100)

I had become aware of Horton's existence well before the events of 1987 and 1988. It was in my hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1974 that he was arrested for a brutal murder. While serving a life sentence without a chance of parole for the crime, he somehow managed to escape and indulge in other heinous acts of violence. In 1987, Horton was often the center of local press stories because of his new crimes. In 1988, his name was often included in national press stories and presidential campaign ads.

(page 1)

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As a young policeman, I still remember sitting in the roll-call room of the Lawrence Police Department waiting to begin work one autumn evening in 1988. One of the still-active officers who had arrested Horton for murder in 1974 was also present. When asked what he thought about Horton and the intense press coverage, all he could say was, "Who would have thought all this would happen?" All of the officers in the room seemed somewhat intrigued that a criminal from our city was being mentioned virtually every night in the national news. Although I never lost track of the thought he was a cold-blooded murderer, I must admit that such high-profile coverage was fascinating. I wanted to know exactly what happened in 1974 so I could better understand the press coverage of 1987 and 1988.

(page 2)

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The "Weekend Passes" commercial made by Larry McCarthy aired about 600 times across the country. Before it had concluded in early October, it was estimated that 80 million people had viewed it at least once. Mark Gearan, the deputy press secretary for Dukakis, commented on the impact of the commercial and its widespread visibility saying, "I knew the election was over when I returned a phone call to a newspaper and I was told the reporter couldn't take my call because she was talking to Willie Horton."

(page 103)

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It is fascinating to think that the highly publicized actions of a violent felon contributed to the outcome of a presidential election. It is equally fascinating to think that the Horton issue was significant enough on its own to cost Dukakis the election. But that, in fact, may very well be the case.

(page 119)