Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time for Travis County to End Another Old South Legacy

CNN's headline says "Executions drop in '07 as states rethink death penalty". According to the article, 42 people were executed in 2007, a 13 year low. The drop is in part due due to the Baze decision that was accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. There was only one execution after the Court accepted that case, Michael Richard was the last person executed this year on Sept 25, although his execution likely could have been halted as well, if Sharon Keller had not said "We close at 5".

"Texas continues to lead the nation, with 62 percent of executions nationwide this year. Overall, 86 percent this year were in the South", says the report.

The question for Travis County voters in the upcoming election for District Attorney is whether they are ready to turn the page on this legacy of the Old South and elect a District Attorney who will pledge not to seek the death penalty. Texas Moratorium Network has submitted a Public Information Request to Ronnie Earle's office asking for the number of death penalty prosecutions and convictions during his tenure. I expect to see a similar pattern to the national numbers showing a decline. The next district attorney should pledge to reduce the number of new death sentences from Travis County to zero and instead use life without the possibility of parole as an alternative.

In other death penalty news:

In 2007, the Texas Legislature expanded the death penalty to apply to second offenses of child sexual assault. Many people said that bill would probably be found to be unconstitutional. We will soon find out if they were right. "The U.S. Supreme Court on January 4 will decide whether to review an appeal from Louisiana inmate Patrick Kennedy, sentenced to death in 2003 for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter." says CNN.

The people of Texas are probably tired of seeing Texas legislators expand capital punishment while refusing to expand access to health care or higher education. Executing more people may have been high on the agenda of the Republicans who took control of the Texas House in 2003, but if the Democrats take back control in 2008, you can expect to see more action on health care and education and no more time wasted passing unconstitutional bills expanding the death penalty.

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