Saturday, September 29, 2007

John Whitmire calls for moratorium on executions

Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, is calling for a halt to executions in Texas. In 2001, Whitmire voted for a moratorium in committee and he called for a limited moratorium a few years ago on cases having to do with the HPD crime lab. When we approached him about a moratorium last summer to ask him if he would appear at a press conference with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell his aide told us that a moratorium "does not necessarily reflect his position at this time." Now, he is back to calling for a moratorium. We ask that he clarifies his call to support a moratorium to say that it should last long enough for the Legislature to create a capital punishment study commission that would conduct a comprehensive examination of the entire death penalty system in Texas. The commission's work could be completed within two years.

If there is a de facto moratorium on executions in Texas until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the constitutionality of lethal injection, then Texas should use this time to examine the entire system, especially the risk of executing an innocent person.

According to the Houston Chronicle:

Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, said Perry should issue a moratorium because the Supreme Court likely will grant a stay in every Texas execution until the Kentucky case is decided.

Whitmire noted that Perry, until overturned by the Legislature, attempted to use his executive order power to require teenage girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease.

"If he can tell a state agency to vaccinate people, I think he can tell a state agency not to execute people," Whitmire said.

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