Worse Than Death

The Dallas Nightclub Murders and the Texas Multiple Murder Law

978-1-57441-167-6 Cloth
6 x 9. 288 pp. 25 illus. Notes.
Pub Date: 09/16/2003
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In 1984, a Moroccan national named Abdelkrim Belachheb walked into Ianni’s Restaurant, a trendy Dallas nightclub, and gunned down seven people. Six died. Despite the fact that the crimes occurred in a state that prides itself on being tough on criminals, the death penalty was not an option for the Belachheb jury. Even though he had committed six murders, and his guilt was never in question (despite his insanity defense), his crimes were not capital murders under 1984 statutes. As a direct result of this crime, during the 1985 regular session the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 8—the “multiple murder” statute—to make serial killing and mass murder capital crimes.

Belachheb’s case serves as an excellent example to explore capital punishment and the insanity defense. Furthermore, Belachheb’s easy entry into the United States (despite his violent record in Europe) highlights our contemporary fear over lax immigration screening and subsequent terrorism. The case is unique in that debate usually arises from an execution. Belachheb was given life imprisonment and is currently under maximum security—a fate some would argue is “worse than death.” He is scheduled to have his first parole hearing in 2004, the twentieth anniversary of his crime.

North Texas Crime and Criminal Justice Series

Published by University of North Texas Press