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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/14/11

Death and Texas

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But it's not necessarily the volume that some find troubling; it's the wanton callousness that has been injected into the process by the "pro-life" Perry for whom the execution of human beings appears to be a religious experience.   The pro-execution culture of Perry's Texas seems the polar opposite of that found in a state like Illinois, where the capital punishment process became so corrupt that at the urging of its governor, that state's legislature simply abolished it in March of this year.   Little along those lines is bound to happen neither in Texas nor under any circumstance in which Perry holds such power.   The record of death penalty cases in which the governor has played a role seems a story of the kind of callous indifference which many of Perry supporters would assume describes Satan-worshippers, paid assassins, and, of course, Islamic fundamentalists.

It wouldn't be fair to fail at acknowledging that in Texas, unlike many states, it's no simple matter for the governor to unilaterally stop or delay an execution. In order to grant clemency, a Texas governor requires a recommendation from the state Board of Paroles. Nevertheless, whenever Perry's been presented with such a recommendation, his has been the reaction expected of a glutton for punishment.   Taking from the Nancy Reagan playbook, he routinely just says no.  


However a Texas governor may, without an outside recommendation, delay an execution by issuing a one-time 30-day stay, but with regard to that option, Perry has been beyond parsimonious, granted just a single reprieve. Overall, the majority of Perry's interventions in capital punishment cases involve juveniles.   Twenty-eight of his 31 death row commutations went to juveniles. But one shouldn't read too much into that ratio. The only apparent reason he's ever intervened to spare the life of a condemned juvenile was because he had no choice; in 2005, the Supreme Court banned the execution of minors.   


Indeed, it's hard to fathom how an individual so caught up in the personification of faith as Perry could seem so oblivious to his own impiety.   Perhaps the starkest example of this is the now-infamous 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texan widely considered to have been wrongly convicted.   It was this murder case about which the Governor famously stated: "justice delayed is justice denied"   -- after being made aware of potential exculpatory information -- in his refusal to delay Willingham's execution.


Justice denied?   Really?   Even in cases, like Willingham's, where there is considerable doubt as to whether even the most elementary standard for justice had been met?  


Indeed, notwithstanding the specter of a moralistic, faith-spouting, self-proclaimed "pro-lifer" exhibiting an apparent relish for putting people to death, his absurdly paradoxical handling of the Willingham case seems furthered considering that someone as anti-science as Perry would accept the use by Texas prosecutors of what's been called "junk science" as the basis for moving forward with Willingham's eventual execution.   After all, if science is essentially table d'hôte and not a la carte, wouldn't an anti-science point of view also include the rejection of junk science?  


Folklore and myths


Willingham was convicted of deliberately starting a fire in 1991 that resulted in deaths of his three children.   Gov. Perry, aware of questions about the accuracy of the state's arson investigation of the fire refused to intervene and Willingham went to his death still insisting on his innocence.   His case has been the subject of a Frontline documentary and a meticulously detailed feature published in the New Yorker magazine.

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Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to (more...)
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