[DP] Fwd: [TCADP-BOARD01]Executing the mentally ill
Marie des Neiges Leonard
mariesnows99 at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 7 10:03:19 CDT 2003
Rick Halperin <rhalperi at mail.smu.edu> wrote:To: TCADP-BOARD01
From: Rick Halperin
Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2003 22:35:37 -0500 (Central Daylight Time)
Subject: [TCADP-BOARD01] death penalty news---TEXAS
Executing the mentally ill
Among the 3 people the state of Texas executed in March, one suffered from
The execution of James Colburn, a convicted murderer who even prosecutors
agreed suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, is proof of the inherent
brokenness of the death penalty system in Texas.
Colburn was convicted of fatally stabbing a woman as she resisted a rape
While Colburn's illness cannot excuse him from a horrible crime, how can
the execution of a person who was delusional and suffered from a
well-documented, lifelong battle with mental illness be anything other
than cruel and unusual punishment?
Last year the U.S. Supreme Court banned executions of criminals with
Such constitutional protection only makes sense, and should be extended to
the mentally ill.
In the 1st 3 months of the year, Texas executed 12 people. 3 more are
scheduled to die in April.
It makes no sense for Texas to continue this rapid pace of executing
criminals when the system is in such desperate need of reform.
State must find way for execution pause
The overwhelming evidence is that the death penalty system in Texas is
seriously flawed. Until it is fixed, the state should adopt an immediate
moratorium on all executions.
This newspaper has supported such a moratorium for several years. However,
every week new, more damaging evidence surfaces that makes the case for a
moratorium more compelling.
Even ardent supporters of the death penalty are now convinced that death
row defendants in Texas do not have adequate defense counsel. Moreover,
new advances in technology, including DNA testing, have not been offered
to death row inmates, and some scientific crime labs have done shoddy
work. Finally, too many jury verdicts appear tainted by racial bias.
At a practical level, a moratorium on the death penalty faces many
obstacles obstacles proving that support for such a moratorium will not
come from the politicians in Austin. If it comes, it will have to come
from the grassroots level, and support for reform will have to be
There are 3 possible ways that a moratorium could happen.
One way is a constitutional amendment that would give the governor of
Texas the power to suspend death penalties until the problems within the
system are resolved. Right now, the governor does not have that power. A
constitutional amendment requires a 2/3 vote in the House and the Senate
and is not subject to a gubernatorial veto.
The problem with this mechanism is that the probability of getting 100
votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate for a moratorium are
miniscule. Even if such a bill did pass and was approved by voters in the
November election, the current governor Rick Perry has said he wouldn't
issue a moratorium. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Perry believes
the capital sentencing system in Texas works.
The second way is for the Legislature itself to pass a bill that would put
a moratorium on the death penalty until a special commission could be
convened to review the process and make recommendations for reform. State
Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr., D-Houston, is pushing such a bill, but whether
the Legislature could force the executive branch of the government to
iimpose a moratorium is a technical legal question that has thus far not
The third option is that Perry could change his mind if he hears from
enough voters and suspend the death penalty, appoint a special commission
himself, and charge it with giving Texas not only the busiest death
chamber in the United States but also the fairest. That would be the most
Admittedly, as things now stand, Perry seems unlikely to change his mind.
However, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, was once as
enthusiastic about the death penalty as Perry is. But Ryan changed his
mind when 13 people on death row in his state were found innocent.
Perry could change his mind as well if he hears from enough ordinary
For now, the issue is so important that we believe all 3 routes to a
moratorium should be tried. Texans must do all that they can to make sure
that only the guilty are put to death.
(source for both: Editorial, San Antonio Express-Mews)
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