Wednesday :: Dec 26, 2007

A Hint of Light

by Turkana

At first, the New York Times headline seems ripe for a comment about the sub-human barbarianism of Texas. While the rest of the world is moving against the death penalty:

At 60% of Total, Texas Is Bucking Execution Trend

Sixty percent of this nation's executions, that is. Which is up from their usual 37%. Disgusting and despicable. But there's a hint of good news, beneath this ugly statistic, and fans of state-sanctioned killing will not be happy. The percentage of the nation's executions taking place in Texas has risen not because they're executing more people in Texas, but because the rest of the country is executing fewer! The number executed in Texas is holding steady. But that's because they have a backlog. Gruesome, but there's a hint of good news, even in that!

Texas has followed the rest of the country in one respect: the number of death sentences there has dropped sharply.


There is reason to think that the number of death sentences in the state will fall farther, given the introduction of life without the possibility of parole as a sentencing option in capital cases in Texas in 2005. While a substantial majority of the public supports the death penalty, that support drops significantly when life without parole is included as an alternative.

Because, even in Texas, people are fundamentally humane. They don't lust for blood. They just want to be certain that there will be justice, and that they will be protected from violent criminals. Life without the possibility of parole satisfies that. It's a trend that's captivating national attitudes about crime and punishment. In fact, as explained by David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has defended death-row inmates, Texas in on the way to being the only state that executes people!

“The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions,” he said, “is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have.”

Good for every other state!

“Any sane prosecutor who is involved in capital litigation will really be ambivalent about it,” said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Clatsop County, Ore., and a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. He said the families of murder victims suffered needless anguish during what could be decades of litigation and multiple retrials.

“We’re seeing fewer executions,” Mr. Marquis added. “We’re seeing fewer people sentenced to death. People really do question capital punishment. The whole idea of exoneration has really penetrated popular culture.”

And Richard C. Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says that has resulted in the death penalty not being in regular use, around the country. And even in Texas, attitudes are changing! The number of death sentences has dropped sharply, and is expected to continue dropping!

The bad news is that Americans still execute other Americans. The good news is that, even in Texas, that moral outrage will be on the wane!

Turkana :: 3:44 AM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!