[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Sep 8 22:55:59 CDT 2011
Rick Perry's big applause moment: Where's the respect for human life?
It was disturbing to hear people cheer last night when it was announced that
Rick Perry had overseen a record number of executions in the modern era. I have
to remind myself that these people are cheering justice, an abstract principle,
not the ending of human life. On the flip side, though, can you imagine the
same crowd's reaction if people at a liberal event cheered a record number of
abortions? I realize it's apples to oranges, but there is a basic respect for
human life. Even when Americans used to hang people from gallows, they did it
with a basic level of dignity and humanity.
Rick Halperin, Director, Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist
University, had this response: "The fact that in 2011, Americans, or any
audience in a civilized country, would give prolonged and loud applause at the
fact that our governor has presided over 234 executions in one state -- more
than any other governor in the history of a state -- is a disturbing and
disgraceful commentary on America's unwillingness and inability to move beyond
embracing violence as a cure for social problems. Inherent flaws in this state
under Gov. Perry's tenure are well documented, and questions need to arise
about executing those subject to racial prejudice, innocence and mental health
issues. It's disturbing to hear Gov. Perry say he's never struggled with any
case when so many questions continually arise regarding implementing the death
penalty in this state under his tenure. It is well documented that the capital
punishment institution in Texas is inherently flawed and mistakes have indeed
been made in wrongly convicting, incarcerating and executing the innocent."
On a related note, tomorrow night is a special SMU event at 7-9 p.m. in McCord
Auditorium: "Ending the Cycles of Violence: Reflections on Compassion,
Forgiveness and Healing." According to a press release:
The event will feature a diverse gathering of religious and peace leaders,
including 9/11-hate crime survivor Rais Bhuiyan of WorldWithoutHate.org; Mavis
Belisle of the Dallas Peace Center; Bill McElvaney, professor emeritus of SMU's
Perkins School of Theology; SMU Chaplain Stephen Rankin; Acharya Shree Yogeesh
of the Siddhayatan [Hindu-Jain Tirth] Spiritual Retreat Center; Brother
ChiSing, a Thich Nhat Hahn-ordained Buddhist minister and director of the
Dallas Meditation Center; and Hind Jirrah, co-founder of the Texas Muslim
Women's Foundation. The moderator will be Dianne Solis of The Dallas Morning
News. The free event is sponsored by SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program in
Dedman College and the Dallas Peace Center.
(source: Michael Landauer/Editor, Dallas Morning News)
Cheering for state-imposed death
At last night's GOP debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was asked by Brian Williams
about the 234 executions of death row inmates over which Perry has presided --
"more than any Governor in modern times"-- and the mere mention by Williams of
this morose record triggered an outburst of cheering and applause from the
This episode is creepy and disgusting, though as both Ta-Nehisi Coates and
Dahlia Lithwick point out, it's hardly surprising for a country which long
considered public hangings a form of entertainment and in which support for the
death penalty is mandated orthodoxy for national politicians in both parties.
Still, even for those who believe in the death penalty, it should be a very
somber and sober affair for the state, with regimented premeditation, to end
the life of a human being no matter the crimes committed. Wildly cheering the
execution of human beings as though one's favorite football team just scored a
touchdown is primitive, twisted and base.
All of that would be true even if the death penalty were perfectly applied and
only clearly guilty people were killed. But in the U.S., the exact opposite is
true; see here to read about (and act to stop) a horrific though typical
example of a very likely innocent person about to be executed by the State of
Georgia. That Perry in particular likely enabled the execution of an innocent
man -- as well as numerous other highly disturbing killings, of the young and
mentally infirm -- makes the cheering all the more repellent. That the death
penalty in America has long been plagued by a serious racial bias makes it
worse still. That this death-cheering comes from a party that relentlessly
touts itself as "pro-life" and derides the other as The Party of Death -- and
loves to condemn Islam (in contrast to its war-loving self) as a
death-glorifying cult -- only adds a layer of dark irony.
This happened at a GOP debate, involving the current GOP front-runner, and
progressives are thus rushing forth to condemn it (condemnations with which I
largely agree). The Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch called it "utterly
sickening" and "a pathetic new low in American politics." Bunch added: "What
you heard echoing in the Reagan Library last night was not reason. It was
bloodlust, pure and simple, and it was repulsive." That's because "the cheering
of executions is the hallmark of a sick society -- one that's incapable of
tackling its real demons and looking for vengeance on whomever happens to be
I agree with all of that, and that's why this morning's orgy of progressive
condemnation made me think of very similar death-celebrations that erupted at
the news that the U.S. military had pumped bullets into Osama bin Laden's skull
and then dumped his corpse into the ocean. Those of us back then who expressed
serious reservations about the boisterous public chanting and celebratory
cheering of executions were accused by Good Democrats of all manner of
Yes, the 9/11 attack was an atrocious act of slaughter; so were many of the
violent, horrendous crimes which executed convicts unquestionably (sometimes by
their own confession) committed. In all cases, performing giddy dances over
state-produced corpses is odious and wrong.
Now that this issue has been vested with a partisan angle, and many Good
Progressives are marching forward to condemn the act of ecstatically cheering
for executions, perhaps the reservations many of us had over the joyous,
chest-beating street celebrations over bin Laden's corpse can be better
understood. Like drenching a citizenry with fear and keeping them in a state of
Endless War for more than a decade, training them to publicly rejoice when the
Government puts bullets into people's heads or injects poison into their veins
-- even if that act is justifiable -- inevitably degrades the citizenry and the
character of their nation.
Brian Williams Shocked and Appalled That GOP Debate Audience Supports Death
In next year's presidential election, the toughest opponent the eventual
Republican nominee will face will be the liberal press. As a political neophyte
who had not even completed a single term in the U.S. Senate prior to his
election, Barack Obama was and is a creature of the media. Without the
iron-clad grip that liberals hold on public discourse at the national level,
there's simply no way that he ever would have been elected in 2008. His
numerous subsequent failures have made it all the more necessary that liberal
journalists come forward to obfuscate his failures and shift attention to
attacks on Republicans. Fear and loathing is the new hope-a-dope.
There's a growing sense of this reality on the right which is why the focus in
the primary season has increasingly turned to the self-proclaimed objective
press, particularly during last night's debate hosted by NBC News and the
I blogged earlier about Newt Gingrich's attack on co-moderator John F. Harris
but another moment of note last night was when Harris's colleague, NBC anchor
Brian Williams, haughtily attacked the audience after it sarcastically cheered
against his question to Texas governor Rick Perry about capital punishment.
"What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the
execution of 234 people drew applause?" he asked. Perry responded easily to the
question and got another round of applause, surely to the continued
befuddlement of Williams.
As someone who makes his living by trying to appeal, at least in some fashion,
to the emotions of crowds, Williams's inability to understand the audience's
spontaneous outbreak of applause response to his declaration that Texas "has
executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times"
is a classic case of a liberal elitist being unable to compute that his smugly
held opinions are not shared by others. It was the media analog of 1988
Democratic presidential nominee's Michael Dukakis's anodyne response when asked
in a debate about whether he would want a hypothetical murderer of his wife
But perhaps I'm selling Williams's perspicacity short. One suspects he would
likely have understood a similar audience reaction were it to applaud
enthusiastically a Democratic candidate's firm support for abortion
legalization. Such a response could equally be perceived as grisly but it seems
unlikely that Williams would entertain such a thought.
Far from being the celebration of death and killing that the contemptuous
Williams implied it was, the audience’s reaction was more of spontaneous
protest vote against the holier-than-thou anti-execution crowd which has for
decades tried to shove its minority viewpoint onto the vast majority of
Americans who disagree. The fact that many of the same crowd doing this shoving
also is fond of insisting that conservatives should refrain from “legislating
morality” on other issues such as abortion or gay rights makes the audience
response all the more understandable.
Despite their best attempts, death penalty opponents have been unable to
eradicate capital punishment. This perpetual failure has enraged them as one
can see in the vituperative responses to Perry and the audience collected by
the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto who notes that “whatever one thinks of
the death penalty or the audience's behavior last night, the harshness,
self-righteousness and simple-mindedness of these responses belie the left's
self-image as intellectually sophisticated and tolerant of other viewpoints.”
Last night, Brian Williams provided a technicolor version of that contempt.
(source: About the Author----Matthew Sheffield is the creator of NewsBusters)
On the same day that a ghoulish "gladiator" forum crowd at the Reagan Library
cheered the announcement that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had executed 234 people, a
man appointed by Perry to chair the Texas Forensic Science Commission, Sam
Bassett, accused the governor of covering up the state killing of a likely
The executed prisoner, Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted and sentenced on
what was likely faulty forensic evidence. Bassett was fired as chairman of the
commission, as previously reported in BuzzFlash at Truthout, just before the
Forensic Science Commission was about to formally issue a scathing report about
the highly flawed "arson" investigation that led to Willingham's conviction.
Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Daily News commented about the rousing approval
of putting people to death - innocent or not - at the GOP debate: "What you
heard echoing in the Reagan Library last night was not reason. It was
bloodlust, pure and simple, and it was repulsive."
"It was utterly sickening to watch," Bunch reflects. "When Perry - who recently
vetoed a bill that would halt the execution of the mentally ill - told the
audience that anyone convicted of murder in the Lone Star State faces 'the
ultimate justice,' the applause grew even louder."
As for Perry, he was asked by Brian Williams, the moderator of the NBC/Politico
sponsored September 7 debate, "Have you struggled to sleep at night with the
idea that any one of those might have been innocent?"
Perry adamantly responded, "no, sir. I've never struggled with that at all."
Basset calls the Willingham execution and cover-up of the botched evidence
indicative of Perry's character and decision making.
But as BuzzFlash at Truthout pointed out in its previous commentary on the
Willingham execution, Perry and his advisers may know exactly what they were
doing. In a focus group run by a 2010 Republican primary opponent of Perry, a
Texan voter spoke admiringly of Perry going ahead and executing Willingham,
saying: "It takes balls to execute an innocent man."
Given the response of the GOP faithful at the Reagan Library to Perry having
surpassed George W. Bush's record-setting rate of executions when he was Texas
governor, it's clear that Perry is going to get the cojones vote, because no
"liberal wimp" is going to murder someone who is probably not guilty.
(source: Mark Karlin----Editor, BuzzFlash at Truthout)
Execution By Race
When the United States Supreme Court approved death penalty statutes, it did so
on the promise that race would play no role in the decision to execute a
person. That, of course, mirrors society's moral stance. Some people believe
capital punishment is just. Some don't. But we can all agree that deciding who
lives and who dies must not be determined by the color of their skin.
Despite this broad agreement, our nation has failed to rid race from the
decision to execute — take, for instance, the case of Marcus Robinson in North
Carolina. And now, shockingly, Texas appears poised next week to execute Duane
Edward Buck based on the fact that he is black.
In Texas, imposing the death penalty in capital cases comes down to one
question: is the defendant going to be a "future danger" if he or she is not
executed? Mr. Buck was sentenced to die based on testimony by Dr. Walter
Quijano, who told jurors that Mr. Buck was more likely to pose a future danger
to society because he is black. Dr. Quijano's testimony came in 1997, more than
20 years after Texas promised the Supreme Court that "no correlation exists
between the race/ethnic background of a defendant and the probability that he
will be either convicted of capital murder or given the death penalty."
The same psychologist gave similar testimony in a total of seven Texas cases.
In 2000, then-Attorney General John Cornyn did something highly unusual for a
prosecutor: he called for the retrial of all seven men who had been sentenced
to death based on Dr. Quijano's testimony that their race or ethnic background
made them more dangerous. This list of seven included Duane Edward Buck.
Courts granted new sentencing trials to six of those inmates, but upheld Mr.
Buck's unconstitutional death sentence on technical procedural grounds (which
we have previously noted often lead to unjust results based on form over
substance). Mr. Buck was therefore not granted an opportunity to have a new
sentencing hearing unbiased by race. He is scheduled to be executed by the
State of Texas on September 15, 2011.
Attorney General Cornyn was a vigorous defender of the death penalty in Texas,
but made it clear that he wanted no part of calling for executions that were
based on this kind of racism: "The people of Texas want and deserve a system
that affords the same fairness to everyone." It remains to be seen if the
We must not allow the execution of a man on the basis of his race. You can help
to prevent this injustice: go here to urge Texas Governor Rick Perry and to the
board of pardons and parole to intervene before it's too late.
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