Chicken Dickens never had much of a life, says the Dallas Morning News. Its peak probably came when he met Dallas J. Moore, an ex-con whose air of small-time danger and depravity suggested a rural-route Charles Manson. Moore, of Amarillo, sold drugs to children when he needed to pay for his cocaine habit. Justin Wiley Dickens, 14, regarded him as a hero. In a series about juveniles on death row–the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court argument today–the Morning News quotes Dickens as saying of Moore, “He was a drug-dealing tattoo artist who used LSD. I just wanted to be like him. I was like his dog, you know. Dallas accepted me. He accepted me.”
The dealer and the kid enjoyed fun times until Dickens shot a high school teacher between the eyes. Moore was free to move on to other states and felonies. Dickens went to prison under a death sentence. His age at the time of the murder – 17 – placed him among the 73 condemned men hoping for what amounts to a mass commutation from the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices will hear arguments on the constitutionality of capital punishment for crimes committed under the age of 18. But for that, Dickens’ 10-year-old case would long ago have faded from attention, just another West Texas armed robbery with a bloody and tragic ending.