Don’t Mess with Texas’ Executions

Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

As an Illinois resident I was heartened by the fact that a former governor took the politically dangerous action to halt all executions and recently the current Governor of Illinois signed a bill to  end the death penalty in Illinois.   Tribune   With that background, I was saddened to read that since 1976, more than 1/3rd of all executions that took place in our country happened in Texas. Since 1976, Texas has executed 481 people.  Truth Progress  Why does Texas continue to execute people when many experts assert that the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime?  If the Death Penalty was a deterrent to violent crime why would Texas and many other states still have so many prisoners on death row?

Take a look at the attached death penalty map that can be found in the linked Truth Progress article.

 

I can remember the investigations done in Illinois to exonerate several death row prisoners that brought the issue to a head and had a significant impact on then Governor George Ryan.   “The ban comes about 11 years after then-Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after 13 condemned inmates were cleared since Illinois reinstated capital punishment in 1977. Ryan, a Republican, cited a Tribune investigative series that examined each of the state’s nearly 300 capital cases and exposed how bias, error and incompetence undermined many of them.”  Tribune  The State’s experiences since that moratorium led to the recent bill that ended the death penalty in Illinois.

Why would a large state like Illinois end the death penalty while Texas and many states in the South especially, continue to execute people?  Are criminals worse in Texas than they are in Illinois or New York or South Carolina or Florida?  Gov. Quinn in Illinois faced stiff opposition to his signing of the death penalty ban from the Cook County States Attorney and the Illinois Attorney General, both Democrats.  The facts that stared Gov. Quinn in the face made it hard for him to listen to the death penalty advocates.

“The Tribune examination found at least 46 inmates sent to death row in cases where prosecutors used jailhouse informants to convict or condemn the defendants. The investigation also found at least 33 death row inmates had been represented at trial by an attorney who had been disbarred or suspended; at least 35 African-American inmates on death row who had been convicted or condemned by an all-white jury; and about half of the nearly 300 capital cases had been reversed for a new trial or sentencing hearing.”    Tribune   The death penalty discussion is not a partisan issue.  Both Democrats and Republicans find themselves on both sides of the issue.

When you read that 13 death row inmates in Illinois were exonerated after the death penalty moratorium was initiated, how many innocent inmates in other states were later killed by state governments?  How many innocent prisoners were convicted and sentenced to death with faulty or circumstantial evidence or under less than proper circumstances as noted in the Tribune investigation?

The death penalty has been a hot political football for years and will probably continue to be used by politicians on both sides of the aisle.  No politician wants to look soft on crime.  Isn’t it time for the politicians of this country to look beyond the “law and order” mentality and actually look at the facts?  Is it time for a national ban on executions like most of the industrialized democracies in the world? How many of these politicians who are “gung-ho” to continue killing prisoners are also self avowed pro-lifers?  Is there a contradiction in pushing for executions while arguing that abortions should not be allowed?

Is it too much to ask that fairness and the facts control these life and death decisions?  What do you think?

 

 

 

 

67 thoughts on “Don’t Mess with Texas’ Executions”

  1. It’s not that there aren’t people who “deserve to die,” not at all. There are plenty of people who, in my opinion, “deserve to die,” and if I went totally off and lost control of my conscious mind, I could see myself killing one, or two, or three, or…several…of them, but not if I were the STATE with the STATE’s responsibility to represent THE PEOPLE. I don’t think you can get into the place of killing people IN THE STATE’S NAME because you are supposed to be righter, more righteous, less prone to error, less emotional, less wacko, less vengeful, less troubled, less emotionally disturbed, less motivated by wrong motivations, less given to ill considered actions, than individual PERSONS. If you are the conglomerate representative of THE PEOPLE that is a sacred trust. You just can’t do stuff that, if done by an individual person, would be PROBABLY or even QUITE POSSIBLY wrong.

    The same person I would like to see killed, and would even like to kill my-damn-self, would be someone I would oppose the death sentence for. I am sure of that. I am sure of it, and so I feel comfortable with it. You can take my worst enemy on earth, the person I most hate — and I am subject to these feelings, sure I am — and I can more easily see myself killing them than I can see myself supporting the death penalty for them.

  2. The case Malisha wrote about- Todd Willingham in Texas- is certainly one that I can’t believe ended in his execution. The junk “science” used to convict the man was just so wrong and yet they wouldn’t allow a new trial or even admit they could have been wrong. I cannot support even the possibility of killing an innocent person. I would rather see the guilty walk free than see even one innocent executed wrongly. When the conviction is based on circumstantial evidence or anything other than cold hard facts, I don’t think the death penalty should be on the table at all.

    There have been cases where I don’t have a big problem with the death penalty being part of the plan- such as the recent conviction of the two men in I believe Connecticut where the husband/father was the only one to survive and the two men raped and killed the mom and daughter by setting the house on fire. I can’t get heartburn over them dying because they know they are the guilty parties, without a doubt.

    Another case I had no problem with the death penalty was the case in north Idaho where the man killed the mother, her boyfriend and the teen boy and kidnapped the younger boy and girl. He sexually abused and tortured both kids at a camp in the woods in Montana, killing the boy in front of his younger sister. He was caught when he took the girl into a Denny’s and the waitress recognized the girl as the missing child. Her manager called police while the waitress stalled the man by giving the girl a sundae. The little girl was able to testify about what he had done and they found her brothers body at the camp in the woods. There was no question that they had the guilty party and I had no problem thinking he deserved to die for what he had done. But as in many cases, they ended up with a plea deal that took the death penalty off the table in exchange for life w/o possibility of parole. I admit I would have no problem with some “prison justice” taking place as long as no one got charged for the act, because I don’t think some people deserve to be breathing anymore. But both of those cases had no doubt about who the guilty were and they were horrific crimes. But some of the other cases where people have ended up on death row should give us all heartburn and we have to rethink how and if it is applied.

    1. MTinMO,

      I can’t disagree with you on the instances you cited. Last night I watched a show called about a man from Katy, Texas, who murdered his 8 month pregnant wife so he could be with his girlfriend. He was convicted of First Degree murder, but received life with the possibility of parole after 30 years. This struck me as odd in Texas given their penchant for executions. Perhaps the fact that the man had been a High School football hero and was well known around town helped, also being white didn’t hurt him either. This shows the problem with Texas “justice”, it is random in its application and has little to do with the facts at hand.

  3. Michael McC, your wishful sentence for Cheney (after he got his fair trial) reminds me a bit of what my argument was during the Eichmann trial. I was young then. I did not think Eichmann should be killed, but he should have to sit in his cell and every day, eight people were allowed to spend one hour telling him anything they wanted to tell him, and he was required to stay awake, stay silent, listen to it and not react. If he felt like saying anything at all, he was to make a small mark on a piece of paper. Long after the particular person had left (and these would be free visits for the people who wanted to speak to him, but they were not allowed to do anything other than speak, no spitting, no hurting) Eichmann would be taken to a small concrete room, without windows, and told to write down what it was he had desired to say. After he wrote it down, it would be taken from him, as would all writing instruments. He would have nothing to read or watch during his 16 hours per day when nobody was “visiting.” He was to have NO VISITS from anyone who knew him or who wanted to say anything to him about HIS LIFE, none whatsoever. His life would be canceled except for those few minutes each day when he was writing what he HAD WANTED TO SAY, if he chose to, and if he remembered.

    Nobody would ever read what he wrote. It would be burned in a public ceremony after he died.

    Since Eichmann was an unimaginative man who valued obedience over all other virtues, he would, of course, have followed these orders to the T.

    When I came up with this, people I knew were horrified. They wanted him destroyed. I kept saying, “ONLY HIS PERSONHOOD should be destroyed.”

  4. Gene,
    your last item number four hit home with me. IMO, Most of the knee-jerk responses to a vicious crime is to kill the bastards, but in reality, capital punishment punishes society more than the putting the killer in jail.

  5. Mike/MMcM,

    I’ve been following this conversation and find it interesting because it covers a lot of ground in re my own internal dialog on the subject of the death penalty. At one time, I was indeed for the death penalty. It does have a utilitarian logic behind the basic idea. However, due to the imperfections of the justice system as you’ve both pointed out and the economics created by the major “safety” placed on the system – the appeals process – I’ve come over time to change my opinion to be that it is simply a better solution to warehouse offenders rather than execute them. 1) It’s cheaper. 2) It allows for reversible error to be corrected. 3) The deterrent value of the death penalty seems to be minimal as those disposed to commit the kind of crimes we set the death penalty as punishment for are unlikely to be deterred by anything. 4) It is true that revenge is a small component of justice, but revenge should not have primacy over equity and equity seems to require a less permanent solution than death. Being a soft rule utilitarian and pragmatist, those points alone inverted my original position.

    1. “However, due to the imperfections of the justice system as you’ve both pointed out and the economics created by the major “safety” placed on the system – the appeals process – I’ve come over time to change my opinion to be that it is simply a better solution to warehouse offenders rather than execute them.”

      Gene,

      I the general climate and situation of criminal law in this country that I have to count myself as anti-death penalty. However, were the system to be reformed to make it equally equitable for all, then I can see certain instances where I would be in favor of the penalty. As a lawyer though, you understand far better than I that the system may never get reformed and so capital punishment should not be a option. However, I would sure like to see that SOB in Norway executed rather than have a lifetime of putative martyrdom in which to spew his hate.

  6. Mike:

    I started some thinking, based on our thread etc, and for the first time I am starting to realize why some find such exception to the death penalty especially with regard to killing the innocent and others such as acquaintances I have who cling to the notion that mistaken executions are very rare, myself to be included at least to a degree formerly.

    I think a significant amount of the basic level of support / opposition might have a foundation in the number of executions in the state they reside. We know that Texas has the highest, but let’s look at Mississippi. And my state Washington.

    Washington has according to the graphic 9 (though I believe it is actually 8) men on death row. 5 have been executed since the early 60’s. I belive 78 have been executed total since 1904. There have been no women executed here. The population of executed inmates here has been 66 white, 7 black, 2 asian, 2 Hispanic and 1 person of Native American heritage. Here’s the latest gallery: http://www.doc.wa.gov/offenderinfo/capitalpunishment/sentencedlist.asp

    Now, I look at at the state of Mississippi, one with half the population of Washington. This state has 11 times the number of executions, or about 22 times per capita. So this occurred to me:

    Most of the people where I live don’t believe CP overwhelmintly results in innocents being killed. It takes a real SOB to get a death penalty here. It is very seldom applied and I know of at least two cons who had their sentences commuted to life by the courts (one because he ate like a pig and got so overweight the courts ruled he couldn’t be hanged) See for yourselves here

    http://www.doc.wa.gov/offenderinfo/capitalpunishment/sentencedlist.asp

    The procedures for death penalty are very tight here in addition. So what my theory is now that since we in this state seldom sentence anyone to death, and then only a few are done in, people here belive it is reasonable to proscribe. The penalty is reserved for only the most depraved not the run of the mill murderer.

    Whereas in Mississippi, where 22 times the people are killed, The numbers of people who are innocent and slip through to the gallows are much higher and there is greater risk for mistake, since the bar is much lower to a death sentence. Since there are more opportunites for failure more happen and more people become opposed to the application.

    Perhaps the middle ground might be to reserve the death penalty for only the worst of the worst out there. That way there isn’t this cattle drive to the gallows where the standards and oversight is less by default but would in fact be greater due to the rarety of the penalty.

    I would say that Mike and I might have reached an understanding at least in this matter. Imagine that, two people talked it out and reached an understanding. How sadly foreign these days.

    1. “I would say that Mike and I might have reached an understanding at least in this matter. Imagine that, two people talked it out and reached an understanding. How sadly foreign these days.”

      Darren,

      You’re right, it is sadly foreign. The tendency these days is to demonize anyone expressing a different viewpoint automatically. I believe that we have been conditioned into it by the media, once news became a “profit center”, rather than a important public service requiring some degree of integrity. Years ago for instance, “60 Minutes” had a Point/Counterpoint” segment where a “conservative” and a “liberal” would verbally slug it out. The 24 hour news networks also copied and still do this. The paid commentators won’t be used unless their remarks generate some heat, so there is no possibility of their agreeing with their counterpart. I’ve written here before about the fact that I was involved with the 60’s Movements for Civil Rights, Peace and Labor Justice. I’ve also recounted that in some cases I met people on the “Left”, who were as narrow visioned as those we were protesting against on the “Right”. While I still remain committed to my ideals from back then, my experience taught me that in politics sometimes ones “heroes” are no better than ones foes.

      As to our agreement in principle the devil remains in the details. Take for instance the “Mass Murder” trial in Norway. The guy was caught in the act, boasts of his crimes and feels he could use them as a forum. Without the death penalty and facing perhaps 20 years or so, this scum will have a built-in forum for his hateful views. I would gladly put a bullet in his head, were I a Norwegian, but that is not possible under their law. I think he will have a poisonous effect o their society for many years to come.

      Relating back to the U.S., as you point out there are great disparities in Capital Punishment statistics between States. The “culture” in the South is a much less forgiving one, despite their professions of faith and mixed with a
      patriarchal macho heritage you have a greater incidence of executions. Add to that mix a continuance of pervasive racism, though now thinly disguised, and you have the recipe for injustice we see.

      The other difficulty I see comes from my wife’s and my addiction to “true crime” programs like “48 Hours Mystery”. In perhaps 30% of these programs I am struck by the fact that someone was convicted of Murder One on evidence, at least as presented, that does not meet the test of beyond a reasonable doubt. This worries me when we talk of capital murder because our jury system is imperfect and the resources of the prosecution always outweigh those of the defense. I would be comfortable with the death penalty, in only closely defined incidences, if our country would make the reforms needed to ensure an equal justice system. Essentially though we do agree on this and I enjoy our colloquy.

  7. Mike, good brother,
    “You might be surprised to learn that in one respect we might not be so far apart.”

    Exactly, as a human being, I can only tolerate so much of the violence that is happening in our world and would do anything to deter more of it. When I read or hear about especially sick acts of violence, I want justice at a level that ends their life. Even with certainty though, the question is raised, what about our social contract. What about progeny and the morality they inherit from our immediate choices? Should I reduce life or make an example and preserve live even when I don’t want to.

    Does it really help a “victim’s family” to kill the person they feel responsible for the act. Lets even give them 100% certainty, an…everyone saw it and it was video taped scenario….even then, does it really help them to end the life of that person? My knee jerk reaction says ‘absolutely’ because that person would no be able to write More Harmful History.

    The example of Frankie Parker won’t leave me though…
    Frankie Parker’s story may be a singularity but it still is quite worth knowing. He was in Tucker-Max in Arkansas. By accounts given, he was a bad dude and guilty of his crimes. He walked in piss and vinegar and supposedly, to piss him off even more instead of a ‘bible’ they threw the “dhammapada” or the Pali Buddhist scriptures at him. He had demanded his right to read something.

    Guess what, he read it. According to him, it changed him. Many act suspicious of the “come to the lord” moments…but if they do…then rename the damn system “Arkansas Department of Corrections” because there is no ‘correcting’ going on. Though I can’t imagine doing these worst things in life, I know regret and wanting to do better after growing a bit older and wiser. I don’t want to resign kids in their 20s and 30s to death so carelessly even when they killed someone. It is an utterly useless thing to do after another death precipitated the desire for execution.

    It really is time for our policy to stop backsliding towards these pro-wildwest style macho displays and think 7 generations ahead to what we want from our society. The death penalty is disproportionately aimed at poor and minority people. Dick Cheney and crew killed millions of people yet Solyndra is where the House investigates these days. The more money and power you have, the farther you are from getting a real just day in court.

    The numbers don’t lie, Texas is messed up and so is much of the South. Perhaps it is a growing pain in the evolution of this country that we simply must go through but a tipping point in our consciousness is due and Illinois has done it up here.

  8. Malisha,
    “DEATH should not be a PUNISHMENT.”
    Hard to agree with that knowing some of the people I’ve felt were quit deserving of death.
    The question then becomes meta.
    If we cannot transcend killing someone to control our Selves…then we’re hypocrites. We haven’t figured out how to stop murder and aren’t likely to stop murder any time soon. But we have learned about many signs and indicators when we choose to do so. It is amazing the amount of energy some policy wonks put into justifying killing and torturing people they consider wrong.

    People who are aware I want Dick Cheney to stand for war crimes insist behind it, “death to him!” as a punishment. I’m more sadistic, I want him to sit in a cell and think about his crimes till that heart gives out naturally.

    Death Penalty is so unimaginative as a society. It is especially soulless in Texas. There is a sickness in that state. This was a state who didn’t tell slaves for 2 years, “you’re free”. Now it argues against DOJ on race. It claims to have a justice system, which is a joke if you consider the records of Tarrant and Harris County. East Texas justice is especially suspect.

    Work your way up to the 5th District Oil Judges and the system is simply malignant at this point.
    The tort system in Texas was gutted in favor of big business. The example of the forensic board being shuffled by Perry should send the DOJ in to make sure he’s not doing so with malicious intent. Obviously he and others have no desire to admit killing an innocent person.

    They have killed many innocent people. And yet, nothing here in DC will change that in the next election cycles. It will take more states converting to the Illinois example first.

  9. “Applying the same logic, why do you put someone in jail / prison to begin with when the same possibility exists (and more likely so) that the person you incarcerate might actually be innocent. ”

    Because death is final.
    Incarceration while innocent is wrong but can be fixed.

  10. There’s another, separate, almost non-legalistic argument against the death penalty that I often speak of, but haven’t actually written about (except on petition sites when trying to get some governor to commute someone’s sentence). DEATH should not be a PUNISHMENT. Death comes to us all, and we cannot change that, and it does not come to us with any “sense” of fairness or justice. Young kids with not a harmful bone in their body get cancer and die, while their families and loved ones and friends stand by helplessly trying to fight a wall of sadness and grief with messages of strength and love. Heroes get killed in all kinds of horrible circumstances and leave devastation in their wake — and honor in their memories. All of our parents die, most of them before we do. Some of our best friends and most treasured public figures die. Our friends die; our enemies die; the guilty and the innocent, they all die.

    When my mother was dying of cancer, at the age of 62 and still confused about the “why” of things because she was a young mother (Jewish) and a good person during the Holocaust and she couldn’t wrap her mind around what had happened, she kept falling into confused states because her lungs (she never smoked a single cigarette) could not convey enough oxygen to her blood to refresh her brain cells for proper cognition (although she was brilliant, beyond comparison, when younger, healthier and still breathing well). Her confusion was horribly painful to watch. But she fell inevitably into a form of primary chaos thinking that she was being punished for something. She could NOT get that out of her mind; it was the theme of everything that happened to her mentally and emotionally during her last two living months. What a horror!

    Her death was not a punishment. I don’t care what kind of deity anybody believes in; some people who knew and loved her (and were Christians) tried to flip the coin and say that she had never done anything wrong in her life so God was taking her early, bringing her home to him to be one of the “flowers in his garden” — I did not want to irritate these people because they wanted to be good to my mother. I held my tongue, but I wanted to say, “Death is not a reward and it is not a punishment; it is a fact of life; will you PLEASE STOP THAT!”

    Well, I’m glad I didn’t say that to them. But I do say, to anyone who backs the “death penalty” as punishment for crime: you are perverting something that you have no right to pervert. Death is not a punishment.

    I am one of those bizarre Jews who was not glad to see Eichmann hanged by the State. If someone private had killed him, so be it; I’m not sure I would have wanted them prosecuted, but haven’t actually thought about it much. I just can’t get past the point of saying it should not be a function of the state to kill, and it should, furthermore, not be a job that the state pays someone to do, to administer death.

  11. M.S. said:

    “I believe it increases the probability of more murder of potential witnesses to cover up guilt”

    That’s what I was thinking..

    Thirdly, I think that life without parole is a far worse punishment.”

    Disagree. Might well result in more murders — nothing to lose. Also suggests a belief that people who kill, can’t be rehabilitated/change.

  12. Mike:

    With respect I belive the logic is the same. You are completely correct in that the punishment is irreversable if applied and I don’t want any collateral damage of innocents being killed. My problem with the system in this respect is that it if it has or ever does become so broken that the uninvolved are killed or incarcerated it is a systemic problem and not a punishment one. To me it should be just as unacceptable that a person is wrongly convicted whatever the punishment would be but we cannot abandon completely the system we have now because it might fail. It should be made better, constantly. My view on capital punishment as is probably obvious for better or worse, if it really matters what I think, is that those who have clearly and unmistakenly committed the most heionous crimes death can be an option. If it stood that someone would get a life punishment for killing one, is there really any disincentive to go out and kill 50 people? Many believe there has to be a form of ultimate consequence for the lives of subsequent victims to be relevant. But if someone had proven to me a necessary step of getting the better system required banning capital punishment it would be obviously worth doing. Additionally, I find it also unacceptable that a person lingers in prison for 19 years because the courts would not allow a re-hearing of evidence that might have exonerated the person. What is one more hearing? It is nothing compared to the thousands that march through every year. Why should they have to wait more than a couple weeks for a court date? (even with practicality taken into account)

    This comes to a question of philosophy, and like some issues both sides can be right and it comes down to philosophy as to which is the victorious side. Yes, I would not want anyone, myself, friend or foe to be done in despite innocence. One could take the complete faith in the system and cast themselves to their death beds like the story of Socrates’ demise. But it is certainly a differnt story when you / or I were the ones slated for the hemlock.

    Looking at this in a broader sense, killing might be justified and it might not be. But does it really satisfy the victim when he or she is a minute away from dying and they think “I’m glad I was put to death for a worthwhile cause.” Dying is always horrible, no matter if it was through accident, crime, execution, military force, repression, starvation, preventable disease, or other means. And, to a level that is exceptionally close to those known to the deceased.

    Regretfully, you and I had this misfortune of being born in a time where life is still held at different levels of value or importance. The criminal element is often the most visible, but we at the same time look at other forms of killing as being in some respects revered. For example take Thomas Ferebee, the bombadier on the Enola Gay. With one press of a button by him 80,000 died horribly, and 140k more later. Could he had just jettisoned the bomb in the Pacific and refused to follow orders? Certainly would have been at least excusable in my book. Should he be imprisoned also? It’s because of rules on paper that there is a distinction. but it doesn’t distintush how the victim feels.

    I am sure we are in agreement that it would be vastly better if the causes of terrible war and calamity was identified and addressed successfully. Then there would be no need for gallows, chairs, bombs or military forces. We are not there yet sadly. But we should just not give up.

    I don’t write such a long posting to criticize you Mike but to compliment you. Keep up with your advocacy. It would be good in just someone hearing the debate might think twice and realize that life is more valuable than they realize.

    1. “My view on capital punishment as is probably obvious for better or worse, if it really matters what I think, is that those who have clearly and unmistakenly committed the most heionous crimes death can be an option.”

      Darren,

      You might be surprised to learn that in one respect we might not be so far apart. If I could be 100% certain that a heinous murderer was guilty, then I have no moral qualms about them being put to death. The problem is that I so distrust our criminal justice system that their are only a handful of cases, over many decades where guilt was unassailable. Secondarily, as has been mentioned by others, I don’t believe that capital punishment serves as a deterrent. I believe it increases the probability of more murder of potential witnesses to cover up guilt. Thirdly, I think that life without parole is a far worse punishment. Finally, in America our legal system is currently very biased against the poor and against people of color, particularly Black people.

      As a taste of what I base my opinions on please see this blog I posted here months ago: http://jonathanturley.org/2011/11/26/the-incarceration-of-black-men-in-america/

  13. So we don’t have a death penalty because there is a possibility of executing the wrong person. That’s fine. The abhorence of an innocent person receiving the penalty is intolerable enough we don’t proscribe it as a punishment.

    Applying the same logic, why do you put someone in jail / prison to begin with when the same possibility exists (and more likely so) that the person you incarcerate might actually be innocent. Should no one go to jail because there is a possiblity of a mistake? Why even have a criminal justice system?

    Interestingly so much heated debate was vented here about how quickly Mr. Zimmerman should have been locked up because he “obviously was guilty” All speculation, and yet on the same blog come around and declare nobody should get the death penalty because there is there is, in my view an exaggerated, belief that there is this epidemic of innocent people being executed.

    The problem lies in the system if this is the case. If there was such a condition where innocent people were being killed despite all the scrutiny and review a death penalty case involves imagine what is going on with lesser crimes with less review. Perhaps some serious overhaul is in order.

    1. “Applying the same logic, why do you put someone in jail / prison to begin with when the same possibility exists (and more likely so) that the person you incarcerate might actually be innocent.”

      Darren,
      You’re not applying logic here although you probably think you are. An innocent person put in jail can be released if their innocence is discovered and some compensation can be given. An innocent person put to death cannot have the same redress. Do you believe that the need for a death penalty is so compelling, that if a “few” innocent people die that is excusable collateral damage? Especially when so many cases have been uncovered of innocent people being on Death Row, or even executed. What if that innocent person was you, a loved one, or a friend?

  14. Mike Spindell, you nailed it.
    Man, you nailed it DOWN!

    I’ve been on the anti-death-sentence list serves for years, and each time I come through one of the horror stories, I find myself sunk for a few weeks in these “why why why why” things — they feel like faint lingering nausea, really, and the word “why” doesn’t actually appear in my subvocalized monologue at all (maybe Otteray Scribe has a name for this; I don’t).

    Anyway, your explanation is actually comprehensive and right. It probably won’t help with the nausea, but I appreciate it.

  15. I have to respond to one of the worst old tropes used up there in this thread. “It may not deter crime but the executed won’t kill again”. Thats not even true given the number of innocent people we KNOW have been executed for crimes they did not commit. Add in a percentage of those that there is reasonable doubt for and you start building a pretty good case that there will be many more crimes committed by those who escaped because the law executed the wrong person.

    Quite often the death penalty does not even stop the future crimes of the real perp.

  16. “What makes Texas so bloodthirsty”
    Raff,
    The cowboy myth.
    Patriarchal/Macho society.
    Legend of the Alamo.
    Politically corrupt via monied classes.
    Right-wing Christianity.
    Racism.
    Large guns/Small penises and lack of knowledge what to do with them.

  17. Texas is a state that is so sunk in corruption in the criminal law division that they do things publicly that would make others — even others who are politically sympathetic to them — wince and cringe. Take the case of Todd Willingham, who has been executed, in spite of massive efforts to free him because of ACTUAL INNOCENCE. First, there’s a fire in his house and the fire goes out of control in a few minutes and he cannot re-enter to pull out his little children; this takes place a few days before Christmas. His wife and all his neighbors state and believe that he had nothing to do with the fire and that he loved his kids and had no motive to kill them. Then he gets charged with murder by arson and his wife still stands by him but a few neighbors turn and begin to remember things about him including bad manners, inappropriate reactions, and general no-goodness. One neighbor who owns a bar kind of spearheads an all-out attack on him and predictably a grand jury indicts him for three capital murders. His defense counsel is more prosecution than almost anybody else in the courtroom. The evidence of arson is so thin that it’s laughable, except for the fact that Willingham gets convicted and sentenced to death. AFTER his conviction some arson experts come forward with free analyses that show that the fire was NOT the result of arson and then there is a series of appeals and NONE of the new evidence is allowed in. Willingham’s wife then turns against him and gives comments to the press damning him, but they are not related to arson or any knowledge of arson or motive. Finally, in spite of the entire web being lit up with petitions to save his life, Willingham gets executed. He made a last request that his body be buried by his children, and his wife denied it. As he walked into the execution chamber he said to her: “I hope you rot in Hell, you f*cking bitch.” A documentary is made by the anti-death-sentence folks, showing everything, including the fact that Texas refused to allow a blue chip panel to present its evidence to an inquest into the case. People were fired over trying to get this evaluated properly by the state. In the documentary, the attorney who had defended Willingham was asked if he felt sorry for his client. He responded, “No I don’t; I feel sorry for those three poor little kids he killed.” Talk about ineffective assistance of counsel, anybody? The Governor (may his name be erased from memory) gave a statement saying that Willingham’s last words proved what a criminal he was — as if his rage at the woman who had turned on him and refused his last request — while he was obviously innocent and being killed anyway — was proof of his guilt of any crime!

    If there is a state that can do that, publicly, and not just be struck by lightning and demolished by the greatest flood since Noah’s Ark, then there is nothing you can tell me about Texas that I won’t believe, and I am sorry to say that I have actually been there.

  18. Pete,

    There used to be moderate republicans that today would be so far off the mark that they’d be considered too liberal for Obama…. It’s crazy….. Yes I understand about Alabama politics….. I had an aunt and uncle that were heavily involved….. He brought the unions to the merchant marines…. He once showed me where he had been shot in the back…..

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