Local criminology professor explores lighthearted reactions by suspects facing stiff punishments

Some defendants smirk, smile in the midst of potential life sentences

Local criminology professor explores lighthearted reactions by suspects facing stiff punishments
Local criminology professor explores lighthearted reactions by suspects facing stiff punishments

SAN ANTONIO – When you hear that someone is facing stiff punishments for crimes like rape or murder, you probably wouldn’t expect them to smile, smirk or promote their social media account, but those kinds of reactions happen quite often.

In the midst of being booked on two counts of capital murder, which could yield the death penalty if convicted, Kiernan Christopher Williams chose to promote his social media account.

Anton Harris the now convicted medical center serial rapist indicted on 5 counts, smirked on his way to be booked into jail. Rudy Smith, sentenced to life in prison for murder, flashed a smile after the judge handed down his sentence.

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“It may more or less just be a function of the fact that they know that they’re being watched at that particular moment,” said Texas A&M University San Antonio Associate Criminology Professor Durant Frantzen.

Frantzen said the reactions typically have underlying meanings.

“Maybe (it inspires) other people to do that crime or to show, you know, how whatever crime that they did was successful in some way and that it has a meaning to it,” said Dr. Frantzen.

The nonchalant or self-aggrandizing behavior could also stem from a desire to do something unique or highlight something others can identify with.

“So if they can create that self-identity and reinforce their own self-identity by doing so, then that gives them more satisfaction in their own behavior,” Frantzen said.

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But why commit the crime in the first place? Frantzen said some offenders act out of Hostile Attribution Bias, which is a tendency to get offended at behavior that is not necessarily offensive or aggressive.

“Someone who is more likely to interpret certain behaviors as being aggressive, whereas a normal person wouldn’t necessarily do that,” Frantzen said.

Hostile Attribution Bias can lead to someone committing a serious crime without weighing the long-term consequences of their actions. It’s a possible reason why a suspect could be more concerned about their social media standing, rather than lethal injection.


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