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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bill Aleshire Urges Travis DA candidates to "refrain from use of the death penalty"

Bill Aleshire, an Austin attorney and former Travis County Judge, has written a post on the Burnt Orange Report that says voters should withhold their endorsements from Travis County District Attorney Candidates who refuse to say they will not use the death penalty.

This is a unique opportunity because the selection of the next District Attorney is practically confined to the Democratic Primary since there is no Republican candidate. Although the death penalty maintains broad support statewide, Democratic voters in Travis County can elect a D.A. who would professionally and competently enforce the law without using the death penalty.

The death penalty is not mandatory. The D.A. decides whether to seek the death penalty or not. Death penalty opponents have been practically beaten into submissive silence by the notion that stopping this inhumane practice is not politically feasible. Instead of debating an end to the death penalty, it has shifted to debating--can you believe it?--whether the death penalty should be administered "humanely." That's the same Orwellian nonsense as making bombs "smart."

Don't give up. The Democratic Primary voters could make a difference in how the next D.A. handles this issue. The criminal justice system, even in this allegedly progressive community, is not perfect, and innocent people can be convicted, particularly if their ultimate fate on appeal is dependent on the likes of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who would close their doors rather than give a death-row inmate 15 minutes extra to file an appeal.
In 2003, at the urging of Texas Moratorium Newtwork, the Travis County Commissioners Court passed a resolution endorsing a moratorium on the death penalty, which made Travis County the first county government in Texas to urge a stop to executions. The next DA has a chance to put that earlier endorsement by the Commissioners into effect by putting into place a policy that at least during the first term in office of the next Travis County DA, there will be no new death sentences sought.

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