Texas, Still Doing Its Worst: 250th Execution Under Gov. Rick Perry Imminent

Texas Governor Rick Perry (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
October 30, 2012

Texas, Still Doing Its Worst: 250th Execution Under Gov. Rick Perry Imminent

"Texans know that the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the land that we inhabit, they are all a reflection of the majesty and the beauty of our wonderful Creator. We must preserve His image. Like most Texans, I am a proponent of capital punishment because it affirms the high value we place on innocent life. We have a good system of justice in Texas, but it can be better."
Texas Governor Rick Perry, State of the State address, January 25, 2001

If Governor Rick Perry really meant to put the death penalty on a par with the life-giving necessities of air and water in his 2001 State of the State address, and to place his support for executions directly alongside his religious beliefs, perhaps it helps to explain why the State of Texas remains in a world of its own when it comes to judicial killing. In under a dozen years, Texas has killed more than twice as many people in its lethal injection chamber as any other state in the USA has put to death in the three and a half decades since the US Supreme Court allowed executions to resume under new capital laws. Texas is now set to carry out its 250th execution under Governor Perry.  The next two most active death chambers – in Virginia and Oklahoma, combined – have seen 209 executions in the past 35 years. More people have been executed in Texas who were convicted in one of its jurisdictions, Harris County, than have been executed in either one of these two other states.

Geographic disparity on a grand scale – tilted heavily towards the southern states – is just one hallmark of the USA’s death penalty. Others include discrimination and error, along with the inescapable cruelty and incompatibility with human dignity that defines this punishment wherever and whenever it occurs. In 2008, after more than 30 years on the US Supreme Court, its then most senior Justice described the death penalty as “patently excessive and cruel” and executions as the “pointless and needless extinction of life”.  Until a majority of the Justices reach such a conclusion, however, we look for principled human rights leadership from elected officials. In the Texas governor’s office, such leadership has been sadly lacking and the quality of mercy emanating from there and from the Governor’s appointees on the state Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) remains particularly strained.

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