November 21, 2005

Death Penalty Kills Another Innocent

Here is yet one more example of an innocent man being put to death under our hideous, anti-deluvian death penalty laws. I am certain that the good Christian people of Texas thought they were dishing out the justice he deserved, but the problem is, he was innocent, and they can't take it back.

Texas is not, of course, the only state in this country where people are being executed, but it is the state that seems to take the most credit for government killings, and I mean credit in the cheerleading, we-do-it-best kind of way. For instance, between 1993 and 2003, 38% of all executions in the United States were carried out in the state of Texas.

Because of the way government is structured in Texas, because there is a dispersal of executive power among several members of the executive branch, the Governor of Texas has relatively fewer executive powers than many other state chief executives. When George Bush was Governor, 134 inmates were put to death. If there was ever any doubt in his mind that any of them might possibly be innocent, he never spoke up. Whatever evidence he was shown, he obviously did not think it was sufficient. All 134 are dead. And even though the Governor of Texas cannot commute a sentence, if he has doubts, he can speak up, and delay a sentence for 30 days and take the case to the appropriate authorities. He never did that.

Here is Bush during the 2000 debates:

Q: Are you proud of the fact that Texas is number one in executions?

BUSH: No, I’m not proud of that. The death penalty is very serious business. It’s an issue that good people obviously disagree on. I take my job seriously, and if you think I was proud of it, I think you misread me, I do.
I was sworn to uphold the laws of my state. I do believe that if the death penalty is administered swiftly, justly and fairly, it saves lives. My job is to ask two questions. Is the person guilty of the crime? And did the person have full access to the courts of law? And I can tell you, in all cases those answers were affirmative. I’m not proud of any record. I’m proud of the fact that violent crime is down in the state of Texas. I’m proud of the fact that we hold people accountable. But I’m not proud of any record, no.

Is that conflicted, confused and double-edged?

"...if you think I was proud of it, I think you misread me, I do?" My take on that is that he was proud of it.

He's proud that crime is down, and that he holds people accountable, but not proud of any record. Bush is trying to have it both ways.

Bush believes that the death penalty serves as a deterrent despite the fact that only 12% of criminologists believe it serves that purpose. In addition, chiefs of police around the country rank it at the absolute bottom of deterrents to violent crime.

There have been 122 exonerations of death row inmates since 1973. In Texas, alone, there have been 8 exonerations while in Florida there have been 22. Death penalty advocates claim that this shows the system works. The innocent are freed by a justice system that works, and the guilty get what they deserve. Of course, that is the faultiest kind of self-serving logic, not supported by any evidence.

The number of people who have been executed but who were probably innocent will never be known. As the Death Penalty Information Center points out, after they are dead, most people, especially the attorneys involved in any appeals, move on to other cases, and no one really takes up the cause. But here are a few examples of people executed who were probably innocent. Another important source of information is the Innocence Project which has the figure of 163 exonerations on the front page of its website.

According to Amnesty International, the United States is among the leading countries as a practitioner of the death penalty. In 2004, 97 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Viet Nam and the USA. Executions are known to have been carried out in the following countries in 2004:AFGHANISTAN, BANGLADESH, BELARUS, CHINA, EGYPT, INDIA, INDONESIA, IRAN, JAPAN, JORDAN, KOREA (NORTH), KUWAIT, LEBANON, PAKISTAN, SAUDI ARABIA, SINGAPORE, SOMALIA, SUDAN, SYRIA, TAIWAN, TAJIKISTAN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, UZBEKISTAN, VIET NAM, YEMEN.

What good company we are in!!

Around the world, executions have been carried out by the following methods since 2000:- Beheading (in Saudi Arabia, Iraq)- Electrocution (in USA)- Hanging (in Egypt, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan, Singapore and other countries)- Lethal injection (in China, Guatemala, Philippines, Thailand, USA)- Shooting (in Belarus, China, Somalia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam and other countries)- Stoning (in Afghanistan, Iran).

Perhaps we might consider other forms of death in the US? We might be able to increase our deterrent effect if we began stoning people to death. How about public firing squads? Maybe we should, like the Taliban, open up stadiums around the country on special days, and provide popcorn for sale.

Another disturbing fact about the death penalty in this country is that 34% of those who have been executed since 1976 have been black. And worse, almost 42% of those currently on death row are black. An Amnesty International report paints a stark picture:

Even though blacks and whites are murder victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, 80% of people executed since the death penalty was reinstated have been executed for murders involving white victims.
More than 20% of black defendants who have been executed were convicted by all-white juries.

It is time for Americans to join the the majority of countries in banning the death penalty, to join all of the industrialized democracies (except Japan) in making the death penalty a thing of the past.

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