Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lethal injections could resume in Texas

KXAN Article
April 16, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN/AP) -- Texas and dozens of other states soon may resume executions after the Supreme Court's rejection of challenges to Kentucky's lethal injection.

Use of the death penalty has been on hold for seven months while the high court considered inmate complaints about Kentucky's three-drug method of execution.

The justices issued their ruling Wednesday. Scott Cobb of the Texas Moratorium Network said the opinion was not unexpected. Cobb said he anticipated at least one district attorney in the state would file the paperwork to reopen the death penalty in Texas by the end of the week.

The Texas Moratorium Network, on the other hand, is pinning more of its hopes on the November general elections. The last time a moratorium on the death penalty seriously was considered in the Legislature was 2001; by no coincidence, that was the last year the Democrats held the majority in the House. Cobb points out Democrats are only five seats away from a majority.

Even a new Speaker of the House could make a difference, Cobb said. Rep. Brian McCall (R-Plano) was the sole Republican in the House to vote in favor of a death penalty moratorium in 2001. Right now, McCall is one of a number of potential candidates who may challenge current Speaker of the House Tom Craddick next session.

The recent exoneration of multiple Dallas County prison inmates -- based on DNA tests requested by new DA Craig Watkins -- may be just the push to encourage lawmakers to take a moratorium and study committee on the death penalty seriously, Cobb said.

The nation's last execution was Sept. 25, when Texas inmate Michael Richard was put to death. Cobb noted the intervening months -- seven -- would have been more than enough time to make seriously inroads on a study committee. Cobb says the months on hold without an execution also prove the sky will not fall if the death penalty is put on hold.

Texas leads the nation in death penalty convictions, and Harris County leads the state in executed inmates. The death penalty was an issue in the recent district attorney's race. Only Rick Reed said he would say "no" to the death penalty. Rosemary Lehmberg won the recent runoff election in the Democratic primary. She faces no opponent in November.

Gov. Rick Perry said the court's ruling affirms Texas' method of execution and that he supports continued use of capital punishment.

"Texas is a law-and-order state, and I stand by the majority of Texans who support the death penalty as it is written in Texas law," Perry said in a released statement. "It is an appropriate response for the most violent crimes against our fellow human beings."

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he is grateful the court rendered the decision it did.

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