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Sean Richard Sellers (May 18, 1969 – February 5, 1999) was an American murderer, one of 22 persons in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 to be executed for a crime committed while under the age of 18.[1] He was also the only person during this period to be executed for a crime committed under the age of 17.[1][2] His case drew worldwide attention due to his age as well as his jailhouse conversion to Christianity and his claim that demonic possession made him innocent of his crimes.

Contents

Crimes

On September 8, 1985, 16-year-old Sellers and his then-best friend, Richard Howard, killed Robert Bower, a convenience store clerk in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sellers later admitted on his Web site that he killed Bower because the man had refused to sell him beer and because he wanted to see "what it felt like". He surprised the Circle K convenience store clerk while he was drinking coffee, then pursued the wounded man across the store and shot him again (killing him).

On March 5, 1986, Sellers killed his mother, Vonda Bellofatto, and his stepfather, Lee Bellofatto, while they were asleep in the bedroom of their Oklahoma City home. Sellers tried to disguise his guilt by arranging the crime scene to look as if an intruder had committed the killings.[3]

Avowal of Satanism at trial

At his trial, Sellers claimed he was a practicing Satanist at the time of the murders and that demonic possession made him murder his victims. In later documents, he claimed to have read The Satanic Bible by Anton Lavey "hundreds of times" between the ages of 15 and 16, when the crimes were committed [4], and in a "Confession" letter written from prison, he reflected on this period of his life: "I got very involved in Satanism. I truly thought it was an honest way to live, and the rituals of it would enable me to control my life." [5] His attorneys also argued Sellers was addicted to the game "Dungeons & Dragons".

The jury refused to consider either claim, and Sellers was found guilty of multiple homicides and sentenced to death in 1986. [3][6] At the time, Oklahoma law did not give juries the option of giving a life sentence without the possibility of parole (that choice became available in 1987). One juror later said that the jury felt Sellers would be paroled in 7 to 14 years, and this prison term was not lengthy enough. So the jury opted for the death penalty.[7] Other jurors denied this was part of the deliberations.[8]

Religious conversion to Christianity

Sellers became a Christian while in prison. His friends started a Web site[3] on his behalf, and he campaigned for clemency based on his religious conversion, age and involvement in Satanism. While on death row, Sellers made numerous appearances in the mass media, appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show and on a notorious segment of Geraldo about Satanism.[9][10] He also appeared in documentaries about Satanism and serial killers for 48 Hours, MSNBC and the A&E Network. Sellers married in prison on February 14, 1995, but the marriage was annulled in 1997.[8]

Sellers' step-siblings refused to believe that his conversion to Christianity was a sincere one.[11] Of his many surviving family members, only his step-grandfather believed his conversion to be sincere. Prison officials also refused to believe he had converted, except for the prison chaplain.[12]

Appeals and execution

During his 1999 appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sellers contended he was suffering from a multiple personality disorder. The appellate court ruled that there was "uncontroverted evidence" of Sellers's religious conversion and that he may indeed suffer from multiple personality disorder. The panel of judges concluded that while Sellers might have been insane at the time of his crimes, the claim was made too late to be raised on appeal. Psychiatric experts scoffed at Seller's claim, arguing that any true mental illness would have been diagnosed soon after Sellers' arrest and not seven years later.[13] Prison officials also cast doubt on Sellers' mental illness by saying they saw Sellers rehearsing the evidence of mental illness and receiving coaching from his attorneys.[13] Sellers made the same insanity claim to his clemency board, but the board refused to consider the issue. The board appeared to be swayed by prison officials' statements, the lengthy time delay in diagnosing the illness, and statements by Sellers' accomplice that he had seen no evidence of multiple personality. "The only thing that worried him was getting caught", Richard Howard wrote.[14]

Sellers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court declined his appeal.[6][8]

Two days before his execution, Sellers filed two more appeals. The first appeal, made in federal district court, accused the state Pardon and Parole Board of violating his civil rights. Sellers argued the pardon board's decisions were not impartial and capricious. The appeal was denied, the issue having been considered and rejected by state courts numerous times (and recently as well). A second appeal, filed with the state Court of Criminal Appeals, claimed the state appellate court made a mistake by ruling Sellers had waived his insanity claim at trial. The state appellate court admitted it used the wrong legal justification in deciding Sellers' waiver of mental illness, but nevertheless rejected Sellers' appeal after reconsidering the case on the merits raised by Sellers' defense team.[15]

Sellers' imminent execution brought condemnation from a wide variety of sources, including the European Union, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the American Bar Association and Bianca Jagger. Nearly all raised issues about his age at the time of the crimes, and many argued that his religious work from prison outweighed the state's need to execute him.[8]

Sellers was executed by lethal injection at 12:17 a.m. on February 5, 1999.[8] He spoke to his step-siblings, saying, "All the people who are hating me right now and are here waiting to see me die, when you wake up in the morning, you aren't going to feel any different." Sellers did not mention his mother or apologize for what he had done. His statement outraged his step-siblings. Noelle Terry, his stepsister, later said, "He basically addressed the fact that we would still feel the same. It is very presumptuous that he would know how we would still feel."[9] His last words were a modern Christian music song: "Set my spirit free that I might praise Thee. Set my spirit free that I might worship Thee."[8]

Aftermath

Sellers was the first and remains the only person executed for a crime committed under the age of 17 since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.[11][8] The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roper v. Simmons, 542 U.S. 551 (2005) later decided it was unconstitutional to execute an individual for a crime committed under the age of 18.[16][9]

While in prison, Sellers authored a book of love stories and poems titled Shuladore. The book was self-published, and sold via his Web site. Under Oklahoma law, a defendant cannot "receive any proceeds or profits from any source" as a direct or indirect result of his crime. An Oklahoma grand jury investigated whether Sellers or his friends received profits from the sale of the book, but no indictment was forthcoming.[17] A Christian book publisher issued Sellers' autobiography, Web of Darkness, in 1999 shortly before his death.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Execution of Juveniles in the U.S. and other Countries
  2. ^ The last person executed in the U.S. for a crime committed while under the age of 18 was Scott Allen Hain in 2003 for a crime committed when he was 17. Coppernoll, "Supreme Court: Penalty Judged Cruel and Unusual", The Daily Oklahoman, March 2, 2005.
  3. ^ a b Dawkins and Higgins, Devil Child, 1989.
  4. ^ Sellers, "Letter to Satanists" [1] accessed December 13, 2008
  5. ^ Sellers, "The Confession of My Crimes," [2] accessed December 13, 2008
  6. ^ a b Greiner, "Sellers Implores Appeals Court To Stay Execution", The Daily Oklahoman, January 30, 1999.
  7. ^ Clay, "Ex-Juror Fails to Sway Board on Clemency Bid", The Daily Oklahoman, January 28, 1999.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Clay and Thornton, "Sellers Executed For 3 Murders", The Daily Oklahoman, February 4, 1999.
  9. ^ a b c "Sean Sellers Executed For Murders as a Teen", Ponca City News, February 4, 1999.
  10. ^ Trostle and Green, "The Devil Made Me Do It: Adolescent Attraction to Satanism", in Society: An Alaskan Perspective, 1996.
  11. ^ a b Thornton, "Facing Death, Inmate Trying to Raise Doubt", The Daily Oklahoman, January 24, 1999.
  12. ^ Clay, "Sellers Hellbound, Family Says", The Daily Oklahoman, February 5, 1999.
  13. ^ a b Thornton, "Condemned Killer's Mental Diagnosis Draws Skeptics", The Daily Oklahoman, January 27, 1999.
  14. ^ Quoted in Thornton, "Board Denies Sellers' Plea For Clemency", The Daily Oklahoman, January 28, 1999. See also Thornton, "Prison Staffers Brand Sellers 'Manipulator'", The Daily Oklahoman, February 3, 1999.
  15. ^ Thornton and Greiner, "Condemned Killer Tries Last-Ditch Appeal", The Daily Oklahoman, February 2, 1999; Parker, "U.S. Judge Denies Bid By Sellers", The Daily Oklahoman, February 4, 1999.
  16. ^ Coppernoll, "Supreme Court: Penalty Judged Cruel and Unusual", The Daily Oklahoman, March 2, 2005.
  17. ^ Ross, "Proceeds From Killer's Book Investigated", The Daily Oklahoman, May 19, 2000.

References

  • Clay, Nolan. "Ex-Juror Fails to Sway Board on Clemency Bid". The Daily Oklahoman. January 28, 1999.
  • Clay, Nolan. "Sellers Hellbound, Family Says". The Daily Oklahoman. February 5, 1999.
  • Clay, Nolan and Thornton, Anthony. "Sellers Executed For 3 Murders". The Daily Oklahoman. February 4, 1999.
  • Coppernoll, Carrie. "Supreme Court: Penalty Judged Cruel and Unusual". The Daily Oklahoman. March 2, 2005.
  • Dawkins, Vickie L. and Higgins, Nina Downey. Devil Child. Paperback ed. New York: St. Martins Press, 1989. ISBN 0312915330.
  • Greiner, John. "Sellers Implores Appeals Court To Stay Execution". The Daily Oklahoman. January 30, 1999.
  • Parker, John. "U.S. Judge Denies Bid By Sellers". The Daily Oklahoman. February 4, 1999.
  • Ross Jr., Bobby. "Proceeds From Killer's Book Investigated". The Daily Oklahoman. May 19, 2000.
  • "Sean Sellers Executed For Murders as a Teen". Ponca City News. February 4, 1999.
  • Sellers, Sean. Web of Darkness. 2nd ed. Tulsa, Okla.: Victory House Publishers, 1990. ISBN 0932081266.
  • Thornton, Anthony. "Board Denies Sellers' Plea For Clemency". The Daily Oklahoman. January 28, 1999.
  • Thornton, Anthony. "Condemned Killer's Mental Diagnosis Draws Skeptics". The Daily Oklahoman. January 27, 1999.
  • Thornton, Anthony. "Facing Death, Inmate Trying to Raise Doubt". The Daily Oklahoman. January 24, 1999.
  • Thornton, Anthony. "Prison Staffers Brand Sellers 'Manipulator'". The Daily Oklahoman. February 3, 1999.
  • Thornton, Anthony and Greiner, John. "Condemned Killer Tries Last-Ditch Appeal". The Daily Oklahoman. February 2, 1999.
  • Trostle, Lawrence C. and Green, Melissa S. "The Devil Made Me Do It: Adolescent Attraction to Satanism". In Society: An Alaskan Perspective. Rev. ed. Sharon Araji, ed. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1996. ISBN 0840391722.
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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

All the people who are hating me right now and are here waiting to see me die, when you wake up in the morning you aren't going to feel any different. You are going to hate me as much tomorrow as you do tonight.
Reach out to God and he will hear you. Let him touch your hearts. Don't hate all your lives.

Sean Richard Sellers (May 18, 1969February 5, 1999) was a young American murderer and an ex-Satanist, who converted to Christianity while in prison. He was executed by lethal injection in 1999.

Contents

Sourced

The fact is nearly everyone forces God to fit into his own perception. Even Christians serve a God they perceive rather than the God who truly is. They limit Him according to those special needs of their own psyche. It's actually hard not to do that, but every time we do, it has consequences.
  • All the people who are hating me right now and are here waiting to see me die, when you wake up in the morning you aren't going to feel any different. You are going to hate me as much tomorrow as you do tonight.
    Reach out to God and he will hear you. Let him touch your hearts. Don't hate all your lives.

Open Letter To Satanists

Full text online
  • In prison, I found out who God really was, who He is, and that too took some time. I had seen God as an arbitrary rule maker. He made His rules the same way my parents did. The reason was "Because I said so!". But that was a false image of God. The way Anton LaVey saw God also affected his view of Satan.
  • Satanism to Anton LaVey was the celebration of that part of ourselves. His rituals were parodies of Catholic rituals. His philosophy was to embrace that "darkness" within ourselves, since it led to pleasure and pleasure was the real aim of life; after life there was nothing. No Heaven, no Hell, just the grave. We cease to exist.
  • The fact is nearly everyone forces God to fit into his own perception. Even Christians serve a God they perceive rather than the God who truly is. They limit Him according to those special needs of their own psyche. It's actually hard not to do that, but every time we do, it has consequences. Seeing God for who He truly is takes effort and always has one inevitable result that many people cannot accept: our understanding will always fall short.
  • It's so much easier to create our own gods; gods that are fully knowable. Those are the gods of atheism, occultism, religion and sometimes even Christianity. Then, of course, there are those prejudices that we demand of our gods. Women who take offense at a "male" God create for themselves a female or neuter god. There, we have all the racial gods, the black gods, white gods, and cultural gods, the Spanish gods, African gods, Indian gods and so on. All of them called god. And yet none of them are truly Him. Some may be tiny glimpses of Him. Maybe His big toe or little finger, but nothing more. Others are not even that. They’re only delusions from our prejudices.
  • I've watched closely and I believe most people who turn from God do so for one of two basic reasons. One, they mistake some aspect of religion as God (like Anton LaVey did). Or two, they are unable to overcome their need to understand what can not be understood. I honestly don't think it's easy to turn from God if we see Him as He really is. Every Satanist I've ever encountered has fallen into one of those two categories. They either have a warped, distorted perception of God, based on what they were taught by some idiot, or they don’t believe in the goodness or even the existence of God because of the injustice of the world. The first is a problem of perception. The second is a problem of pride. Both are hard to get past.
  • To be a Satanist is not to be liberated. It is to be bonded to death. The freedom it offers is an illusion. And this is something I know every Satanist knows, because I was there. In the dark and quiet, all alone, without the buzz of alcohol or drugs, or the rhythm of music to drown out the sounds, there is an empty echo inside us. A vacancy. A feeling of loss and cold and turmoil and hunger. That emptiness gnaws and hurts worse than anything else in life; we take up knives to carve our skin just to escape it, or run into the arms of a lover to smother it, but it doesn't go away. It grows. It is death at work, emptiness causing decay. No matter how much we feed it SIN, it will never fill up.

The Confession of My Crimes

I was mad and the idea of controlling my life to get what I wanted was like candy to me.
Full text online
  • I'm not in any way trying to pass blame to any other person. There are reasons why I did what I did, but I'm still the one who did it, and the responsibility, no matter the reasons, is still mine.
  • I was not a cruel person. I didn't commit murder because I enjoyed causing pain. I had pets all my life and I wanted to be a veterinarian. I never was a bully, or provoked fights, or picked on people weaker than I was.
  • I was mad at God, I didn’t LIKE God because of how I perceived Him, and the stuff I read on Satanism said two things that appealed to me. #1 — it offered freedom, and #2 — it promised power to control my life, and others. I’d been carted all around the state and Colorado all my life, slapped, smacked, hit, and had whatever I wanted ignored. I was mad and the idea of controlling my life to get what I wanted was like candy to me. Plus I looked at the way everyone around me lived and the stuff I read in the Satanic Bible in principle was lived out in lifestyle by Mom and Dad and everyone else I knew. No one was a real Christian. We didn’t go to church. We didn’t talk about God. ... What was the point of pretending to serve God when we lived like Satanists? Satanism taught me that I should make my own rules to live by in life, and that’s just what everyone I’d grown up around did, so I got very involved in Satanism. I truly thought it was an honest way to live, and the rituals of it would enable me to control my life. Even then I didn’t want to kill anyone. That desire didn’t start until later.
  • These are the ghosts I live with and I hate myself for all I became and did. I am not just sorry, I am haunted. I think of all the people I hurt, of all the moments I stole from your lives, and I know I deserve to die.
  • Please, know that for as long as I live I will be haunted with the sorrow for what I did and when I die I will have counted it more mercy than I deserved to have lived the life I did. Until that day, I want you to also know, I will spend my life trying to do things that will touch the world in a good way, to give back for all I took from you. That’s the only thing I can offer with my hands and my heart. It’s simply all I have.

Quotes About Sean Sellers

  • He was quite a thinker ... I think if his life had been different, if he'd zigged instead of zagged, I could see him growing up to become a college professor — at a Christian college, probably, though the administration would no doubt have bitten their nails to the quick more than once over some of his ways. I have several letters from him where he expounded on the oddities of life. The joys and the quirks. He might have been a sociologist, even. People fascinated him. Life fascinated him, since he had squandered his chances of living a normal one. But he made the most of it, more so than anyone I've ever met.

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