I believe that Gov. Rick Perry has peaked in the polls too soon. I think that Mitt Romney will eventually be the front-runner for the GOP nomination a year from now. Having said that, here’s one of the reasons why…
The amount of executions held in Texas during Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) 11 years in office has come under scrutiny in the early stages of his presidential campaign, most notably for the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of murdering his three daughters and put to death despite evidence showing that he was likely innocent of the crimes. But even as the Willingham case receives the most notice, many of Perry’s decisions regarding execution have begun to garner attention.
Texas has held 234 executions on Perry’s watch, more than the next two states combined have executed since the death penalty was restored 35 years ago. While Perry can only grant clemency from death sentences if it is recommended by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, he has rarely used that power. According to the Texas Tribune, Perry has commutedonly 31 death sentences, and 28 of those resulted from a 2005 Supreme Court case outlawing the execution of juveniles. Meanwhile, he has allowed a host of controversial executions to go forward, the Tribune reported today:
JUVENILES: According to the Tribune, three people who were juveniles at the time of their crime were executed between 2000, when Perry took office, and 2005, when the Supreme Court banned the execution of juveniles. Before Napoleon Beazley, who committed a murder at 17, was executed, 18 state legislators wrote Perry asking him to grant clemency, and the trial judge who eventually had to sign his execution order asked Perry to commute the sentence to life in prison. Perry’s response: “To delay his punishment is to delay justice.”
MENTALLY DISABLED: Ten executions during Perry’s tenure have involved serious questions about the prisoner’s mental health and stability. One was Kelsey Patterson, who was judged as mentally fit by a doctor known as “Dr. Death” because he rarely found patients mentally unfit for trial. During his trial, Patterson testified about having devices planted in his head by the military, and once in prison, he sent incoherent letters to courts. The Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended to Perry that he grant clemency, but Perry rejected the recommendation. Another was James Clark, whose final statement was, “Howdy.” Two Texas prisoners with mental health concerns have been executedin 2011.
INADEQUATE COUNSEL: Five men executed since 2000 have had major questions about the adequacy of their legal counsel, including Leonard Uresti Rojas. The appellate attorney appointed to Rojas was on probation with the state bar, suffered from mental illness and missed multiple deadlines to file appeals on Rojas’ behalf. New attorneys took Rojas’ case before the Court of Appeals asked Perry to stay the execution but were denied. After the execution, an appeals court judge wrote a dissenting opinion against the court, saying Rojas’ attorney had “neglected his duties.”
- Scrutinizing Perry’s Extensive Execution Record – New York Times (news.google.com)
- Beyond Willingham (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Rick Perry Deserves Scrutiny For His Role In The Execution Of Cameron Todd Willingham (huffingtonpost.com)
- Rick Perry’s Big Death Penalty Decision – Mother Jones (news.google.com)
- Rick Perry’s Criminal Justice Record (reason.com)
- Perry’s role in the Texas execution machine (americablog.com)
- The Death Penalty and the Innocent Man (maboulette.wordpress.com)
- Rick Perry set to carry out one or two more questionable executions as candidate (salon.com)