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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/14/11

Death and Texas

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The fact that capital punishment is no crime deterrent has been well-documented, while statistically,   murder rates among states without the death penalty are generally lower than those of death penalty states. But, while integrity of the capital punishment process has long been questioned over issues of racial prejudice, rarely has that prejudice been exhibited so blatantly in open court as it was during Buck's sentencing phase. Furthermore, it occurred despite the assurances by the state of Texas to the U.S. Supreme Court 20 years ago that:   "no correlation exists between the race or ethnic background of a defendant and the probability that he will be either convicted of capital murder or given the death penalty."  


Buck's execution is scheduled for the 15th of this month.   Through a variety of means including an ACLU-sponsored on-line petition, supporters have urged the Texas Board of Pardons and Gov. Perry to seek clemency for Buck and recommend a new sentencing trial.  

Further background on the Buck case can be found here.   

Texas Death Cheer 

It seems clear that the death penalty, particularly as it is a applied in Rick Perry's Texas --- just like the refusal to accept recognized standards for the treatment of HIV patients in South Africa had been until fairly recently   ---   serves as little more than a pathogen to an enlightened society.   However, if it must be part of society, it's imperative that the integrity of the capital punishment process remain intact.   Otherwise, ours becomes a culture that is less distinguishable from societies considered "primitive" by Perry supporters.

But in fact, the integrity of the system of capital punishment is likely of little matter to that wide chunk of the Republican base completely blissed out by Perry's faith-inspired "Tough Texan" cinema.     For this group, vengeance allows no room for poignancy.   That much seems clear when closely examining the Willingham case, judging from remarks contained in an article published in Salon in August, part of which read:


Multiple former (Texas gubernatorial candidate, Senator Kay Bailey ) Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man -- Cameron Todd Willingham -- and got this response from a primary voter:

"It takes balls to execute an innocent man."


With that, we are provided a further glimpse into the cultural norm of the kind of folks who erupted in lustful applause at the Reagan Library during the recent MSNBC-sponsored Republican debate, as moderator Brian Williams raised a point about the record number of executions in Texas since Perry became governor.    They are among those who've obviously bought into the rhetoric by Perry about Social Security being an illegal "Ponzi scheme;" express no uncertainty about their belief in "intelligent design;" share Perry's disbelief in climate change;   and who respond favorably to the Governor's implied threats about jumping "ugly" with the Chairman of the U. S. Federal Reserve

Indeed they are rugged, 10th amendment individualists, who cross over into full-fledged absolutism on the issue of the death penalty. What they appear to see as essential to their culture is the inclusion of executions as a part of it lest real "justice" be left undone. Like guns and God, the right of the state to put its wayward citizens to death is integral to the cultural norms which define their America.

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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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