What If A Texas Judge Cleaned Guns During Jury Selection?

September 26, 2012

cleaning gunsAnthony Haynes was only 19.  An African American with no prior criminal record, he was under the influence of crystal meth and mental health problems when he killed an off-duty police officer in Houston, Texas in May 1998.

At jury selection for his trial, the judge cleaned guns while African Americans were peremptorily removed from the jury pool.  What kind of message did that send?

A jury with 11 white members convicted Haynes. His defense lawyer then made little effort to stave off a death sentence – witnesses who could have testified that Anthony Haynes’ crime was totally out of character were not called.  The jury heard nothing about this, or about Haynes’ mental health issues, and promptly sentenced him to die.

Since his death sentence was handed down in 1999, Anthony Haynes has been a model prisoner, disproving the jury’s conclusion that he would be a continuing threat to society (a requirement in Texas for passing a death sentence).

Yet Texas has scheduled Anthony Haynes for execution anyway, on October 18. The neglectful way that racial bias was allowed to seep into this case, and indifference of all concerned (including, first, his defense, and then the courts that thought it was ok for a judge to clean guns in front of potential jurors) are all too typical of death penalty cases.

A system that cavalier toward matters of life and death should be stripped of its power to impose the ultimate penalty.  If Texas authorities want to show that they do take capital cases seriously, they can start by granting clemency to Anthony Haynes.