Browsing: Death Penalty

texasexecutionchamber_thumb_565x359Texas Department of Criminal Justice

More than a decade ago the U.S. Supreme Court declared executing mentally disabled people unconstitutional. However, the court didn’t define what standards should be used to determine what level of disability precludes execution, so Texas came up with its own standards, derived from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Go figure that these “standards,” based on a fictional character and no scientific evidence, have turned out to be problematic at best. And now the Supreme Court is looking at the consequences.

dayonte-resiles-featureIllustration by Matthew Billington

The blond corpse floats in a blood-filled bathtub.The face bobs just barely above the surface. She wears nothing but a thong. Her hands are tied with a ribbed fabric sash. The feet are bound with a beige electrical cord. Stab wounds dot her body.
Outside, egrets graze next to the canal surrounding Davie’s WestRidge development, where homes typically sell for more than $1 million. It’s one of several virtually identical subdivisions on Nob Hill Road with names such as Ridgeview Lake, Long Lake Estates, and Long Lake Ranches. All are hidden behind tall hedges and fronted by imposing guard towers. None of the residents has reported a break-in or anything else suspicious. It seems like just another serene Monday.Despite the chaos, the family dog is fast asleep.

When police arrive a little after noon, they learn the 59-year-old blonde in the bathtub is Jill Halliburton Su, whose great-uncle, Erle Halliburton, founded the oil company that still bears his name. At the time of his death in 1957, he was one of the ten richest people in the United States.

But nothing is missing from the house, so there’s no explanation for the brutal murder.

The cops have no way of knowing yet that their search for a killer will lead to many dead ends and only two real suspects: Justin Su, the murdered woman’s only son, and Dayonte Resiles, a young man with a history of burglarizing homes. Both 20 years old at the time of the killing, they hadn’t met despite growing up only 15 miles apart. One is the child of an heiress and a renowned termite scientist, the other the son of a Walmart clerk and a Haitian vodou priest. Neither has a clear motive.

On the basis of some questionable DNA evidence, Resiles will be charged with the murder. He will eventually engineer a brilliant courtroom escape, helped by a handful of teenagers with little more than high-school educations. They will somehow outsmart the police for nearly a week while Resiles is on the run.

And now, two years after the suburban housewife’s death, no one knows for sure who killed her or why.