The Death Penalty: Wrongfully Executed
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Texas: Capital of The Death Penalty
The state of Texas is known for "big" things. Big horns, big state fairs, big amusement parks and big parties. It is also a very big state. (try driving across Texas, from Beaumont to El Paso) But, the state of Texas is also big on something else. The Death Penalty! From 1976 to the present, the state of Texas has executed 441 people on death row. That means the state of Texas has accounted for more than one-third of all modern-day executions in the United States. There are approximately 340 inmates on death row. In 2008, the state of Texas executed 18 individuals. In 2007, 42 inmates were executed in the United States, 26 of them were in Texas. ( And no, they didn't ship anybody in from another state for Texas to execute.) These are not just numbers, these are statistical facts. Staggering numbers to say the least. What really makes this number look even worse, is the number of people who are being exonerated from prison for crimes they had been wrongfully convicted of.
" It is no secret," says a lawyer from San Antonio. " The state of Texas hands out the death penalty, like candy at a kids party." Texas has earned a reputation as a state that will enforce the death penalty. He said, " If you look from 1990 to the present, you will see some numbers that will amaze you about the executions in Texas during that period." He was right, those numbers are amazing. From 1992 to 1996, there were 65 executions. An average of 13 executions per year. These numbers are not even mentionable if you look at the numbers following those years. The period from 1997-2002 ( 6 years) there were 182 executions in Texas. An average of 30 inmates per year were executed. Those numbers sent a chill up my spine. Then, from 2003 to the present, there have been 152 executed inmates.
I am not a judge, so I have never had to make the decision on whether a man lives or dies for his "accused" crimes. Fortunately, I have never had to serve on a jury that is being pressured to recommend the death penalty. But, with all of the exoneration's, one would have to start second guessing the system. For any judge or jury member who had any doubt about a trial they were involved in that resulted in the death penalty for the defendant, well, imagine how they feel now after this exoneration program has saved some of the wrongfully convicted. Just imagine how it must feel to even think that you have convicted and killed the wrong person.
A Trial of Fire: Executed
Capital punishment has become a controversial issue. The case of Cameron Todd Willingham has only added fuel to the fire when discussing the death penalty. In 1991, Willingham was accused of killing his three young daughters by arson. He was executed for these crimes on Feb. 17, 2004. An arson expert had a report that brought serious questioning about the quality of the arson investigation which convicted Willingham. This report was sent to Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, but he refused to issue a 30-day reprieve for Willingham.
Since the execution, other fire experts have reviewed the evidence in the Willingham case and came to the same conclusion. The fire was a accident. Perry, acting like a criminal, released the chairman and two members of the State Forensic Science Commission. It just so happens that they were to begin holding hearings on the evidence in the case. Seems there is something to hide. Perry will not comment on why they did not issue a reprieve, when requested in the Willingham case. His only responses have been that Willingham is a "monster", he was less than an admirable father and husband. Are those grounds to execute any man? If you can execute a man for being deficient in those departments, then, the divorce and child support courts would not be so over-whelmed with cases.
Perry does a questionable job as Governor. Now he is calling any scientist who refutes the evidence in the Willingham case, " supposed experts". He is the Governor, but, when did being the Governor make you a forensic science expert? The same Governor who turned down stimulus money for the state.( That's another story in itself. )
Gerald Hurst, is a arson expert. His findings have exonerated more than 10 people. Hurst, got Willingham's friend, Ernest Willis exonerated for a similar arson charge. Willis was set free and the attorney general was quoted saying, " I don't turn Killers loose. If Willis was guilty, I'd be trying him right now. And I'd use Hurst as my witness. He is a brilliant scientist." So, It has to make you think, did the Governor feel that he gave them one, now, give him one. As far fetch as that may seem, it is possible. That has always been the rumor amongst those involved in the legal battle.
The Evidence in the End
Experts have reviewed the evidence against Willingham. " The conclusion is unescapable, Willingham was innocent. There can no longer be any doubt that a innocent man has been executed." With mistakes like this, can we continue to use the death penalty? One wrongful death is one too many. The investigations was not efficient. Willingham's trial took two days. Only two days to convict a man of killing his babies by arson. Death by Lethal Injection was his punishment. A man who turned down a plea deal, that would lower his sentence to life in prison. After 13 years of being accused and convicted of killing his daughters, was a 30 day reprieve to much to ask for. If there was any evidence that could probably prove that Willingham was not the "monster" he was made out to be, 30 days should have at least been allowed. Instead we are left with the sour end of the deal, a man executed for being accused of being, " a monster ", " a less than admirable father and husband".
The Final Conclusion
The state of Texas has executed 441 inmates since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. From the year of 1990 to the present, there have been 424 executions in Texas. How many of those executed, were innocent? No, we can't change the past, but, in order to change the "future", we must reflect on the past mistakes. " How do you know where you are going, if you don't know where you have been."
The death penalty is a touchy subject for some. For some it means justice, peace, closure and even payback. Those who have been allowed to witness the executions of someone who have committed a horrible crime against their family have said that it doesn't bring closure. It doesn' satisfy that void that has been left in their life.
One thing is for sure, if the death penalty is going to continue to be used as punishment for "horrible" crimes. Then the sytems needs to be checked, double checked and triple checked, before we start that "lethal drip" down an IV, into the blood stream of a possibly innocent man or woman.
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