Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2011

Degree Type



On the morning of April 4, 1987, Maryland police apprehended a convict by the name of William R. Horton.1 Horton was a Massachusetts inmate participating in the state's furlough program. Horton had received ten furloughs. On his tenth furlough, Horton failed to return to prison, instead heading to Maryland.2 There, Horton assaulted a man by the name of Clifford Barnes, tying up Barnes in the basement of his home.3 When Barnes' fiancée Angela Miller arrived, Horton proceeded to assault the woman, raping her twice.4 Horton then fled the home in Barnes' Z28 Camaro, as was captured shortly after.5 Horton was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for his actions, and sent to a maxim security penitentiary in Maryland, where he resides to this day.6 William R Horton probably would have faded into obscurity following his conviction. Instead, Horton became an unwitting player in the 1988 Presidential Election. The story was used by the Right to undermine the political aspirations of Michael S. Dukakis. Dukakis was the Democratic candidate for president during the election, and governor of Massachusetts at the time Horton committed his crime. William R. Horton came to be known as "Willie" Horton, his face becoming just as recognizable to the American public as those of George Bush and Michael Dukakis.