Texas hit the headlines last week for one of the worst crimes seen in the Lone Star State for some time.
A 33-year-old man stands accused of killing six members of his former wife’s family, including four children in a home in suburban Houston.
Reuters reported on an appearance in court by 33-year-old Ronald Lee Haskell on Friday after being charged on the previous day with capital murder in the shooting deaths of his former wife’s sister, her husband and four of their kids, aged 4 to 14.
Haskell is being held without bond. Police said he allegedly got into the home on Wednesday by posing as a delivery man. They claim he looked for his former wife and “methodically executed” family members.
The tragedy raises a number of questions which are pertinent to a defendant who could end up on death row if he is convicted.
Doug Durham, Haskell’s public defender, said Haskell had spent long periods in hospitals in Utah and California due to his history of mental illness and that he was not taking prescribed medication at the time of the killings in Houston. He is likely to face a hearing on his mental capacity.
“A grand jury will decide whether he will be tried for capital murder, which carries the possibility of the death penalty,” reported Reuters.
The killings again raise questions as to how a man with a mental history like Haskell’s obtained a gun.
“To no one’s great surprise, Haskell had been arrested for domestic violence in 2008, and his ex-wife filed a protective order against him in 2013,” reported The Slate.
“All of which leads to the question: Considering the laws put in place, both on federal and state levels, to prevent domestic abusers from getting guns, how did Haskell get one?”
A report in Mother Jones stated a protective order imposed on Haskell should have prohibited him from owning guns. However last year Haskell’s protective order was converted to a “mutual restraining order“ as part of divorce and custody proceedings.
“This crucial step likely meant that Haskell was legally allowed to have guns again, under both state and federal law,” reported Mother Jones.
When a tragedy such as this occurs, it raised many questions as to how loopholes can be closed in the law. Sadly, the criminal justice system often puts more energy into dealing with punishing the offender than into ensuring crimes like this can be prevented in the future.