A former Ku Klux Klan leader is up for parole in North Carolina, in connection with a life sentence he received for the 1992 racially motivated murder of a 16-year old Black girl in Monroe.
The man, Russell Hinson, was sent to prison for the crime, which took place three days after Christmas, as the Charlotte Observer reported. Hinson—who was reportedly angry after a Black drug dealer from whom he tried to buy crack cocaine ripped him off for $70—wanted payback. And he wanted someone to pay, any Black person, and it didn’t matter who that was.
“I’m going to shoot a n—– through the heart,” Hinson said, according to testimony.
On December 28, 1992, Hinson, his friend and co-worker Guy Brown drove around in a red Chevy truck, drinking and cruising around the black apartment complex where Hinson had been ripped off. With Brown driving, Hinson used a crossbow and razor-tipped arrows—described by prosecutors as “a weapon out of the Middle Ages”—intending to use Black folks for target practice. He first tried to use the crossbow on a man he thought was a drug dealer, but he missed. After circling the apartment complex four times, he spotted Felicia Houston, 16, with her 16- and 12-year old cousins.
Brown reportedly told Hinson not to shoot because they were only girls.
“I don’t care,” Hinson said. “One of them is going to pay.”
The man struck Felicia, who fell and according to her cousin yelled, “I’m shot, I’m hurt! I’m shot, I’m hurt!”
Felicia was a good student who wanted to become a nurse and take care of the elderly. Hinson, on the other hand was by no means a stranger to the law. In 1987, according to the Observer, Hinson obtained a permit for the Ku Klux Klan to march in Monroe, which is in Union County. He called himself the “Exalted Cyclops” of the group, which was active through the middle of the last century but had witnessed a decline. And that year, Hinson pleaded guilty to assault on a Black man he claimed liked white girls and had a white roommate. Hinson was convicted on federal charges of intimidation and given five years probation.
Meanwhile, an all-white jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Felicia Houston, after deliberating for two-and-a-half hours. However, the jury was deadlocked on whether to give him the death penalty, resulting in life instead. Now 56 years old, he is eligible for parole, and his family and supporters claim he is a changed man who became a Christian in prison and has Black friends. This is Hinson’s second opportunity for parole.
“During twenty-two years of confinement (as of January 2015) Russell has matured emotionally and spiritually. While he was attending Bible classes he found God and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior,” read a petition started by his supporters. “He harbors no animosity toward anyone for their actions and influences or lack of same upon his arrest and trial,” the petition continues, adding that he has attended Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. “Russell is ready to rejoin society as a law abiding productive citizen,” the petition claims, noting he has completed trade classes, and arguing there is no reason for him to be a burden on the taxpayers because he served his time.
Meanwhile, a petition on Change.org seeks a denial of parole for Hinson.
“Please DO NOT grant a parole date to convicted murderer, Russell B. Hinson ID# 0185129. In December of 1992, Russell Hinson murdered Felicia Houston with a crossbow for no other reason than the color of her skin. In modern days, this would be considered a hate crime. Because of his complete disregard for human life and lack of conscience and remorse, justice demands that this convicted murderer be denied parole,” the petition reads. “Felicia Houston does not get a second chance to live; she is gone forever. Therefore, Russell Hinson does not deserve a second chance or the privilege of freedom.”
Under North Carolina law, when people convicted of first-degree murder are up for parole, they are subject to review every three years. Of 217 cases last year, only four were approved, according to the Observer. Even if the state granted Hinson parole, he would be placed in federal custody, where he would serve five years for violating probation in 1987. The North Carolina Parole Commission is expected to make a decision soon.
“It was a cruel, pitiless murder that was based on the race of the victim and it was just gruesome, and he does not deserve to be free,” said Union County District Attorney Trey Robinson, opposing parole for Hinson.
According to the Times-News, Houston’s father, Eugene Houston, said Hinson should not be released, though he has forgiven his daughter’s killer.