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Being labeled and institutionalized as a social deviant proves to be stigmatizing in life. In Dina Temple-Rastons A Death in Texas, she chronicles the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas during the summer of 1998. The author suggests in Chapters 1-4 that suspected murder Billy King is more than a case study of abnormal psychology and that his actions may be explained as a career criminal who has been marginalized by society. While most authors fixate on the psychology within killers, she also includes the town’s historical background and the social context in which the murder took place. Sociologist, Kai Erikson would applaud his style as he postulates that deviant behavior becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Erikson states that once a person commits an act, they are labeled and treated as deviant and they have little opportunity to act any differently.
Billy King was labeled and treated as a deviant this maltreatment had the greatest influence on King. On page 44 of the text, Kylies mother refers to King as “an ex-con” and does not want her daughter to hang around with someone “like that.” When labeled as a deviant, people are suspicious of you and begin treating you with a lack of respect and see you as different. Even though “he had kept his nose clear, Sheriff Rowles made a mental note when he saw the picture of Bill King” (Pg. 45).
The prison where Bill King was remanded was at the end of a wooded road and hidden behind shabby homes and a trailer park. Billy was a man of small stature and had to act with bravado to not be injured while in prison. He was jammed into a facility with “3,00 young toughs” (pg 70) who “wielded a lethal combination of intimidation and one upmanship.” The men were segregated and survived by making (like) racial alliances. King was called a peckerwoods – he would fight but he was not tough enough to fit into the prisons many gangs for protection” (pg 71). The author suggests that Kings nose was broken and that he may have been sodomized.
On page 77, the author states that Billy was the adored center of a dysfunctional family and that his step-mother may not of held him accountable for his actions. It may be that Billy felt traumatized by his real mother abandoning him and it put him “off stride for life” (pg 77).

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