Texas: America’s State-Sponsored Execution Capital
by Stephen Lendman
In 1972, the Supreme Court’s Furman v. Georgia ruling banned capital punishment, saying:
“(T)he imposition and carrying out of the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.”
Doing so is “harsh, freakish, and arbitrary.” It’s constitutionally “unacceptable.”
Forty state death penalty statutes were voided. Over 600 death row inmates nationwide were spared.
In Gregg v. Georgia (1976), the High Court reversed its earlier ruling. It called capital punishment not inherently cruel. It’s “an extreme sanction, suitable to the most extreme of crimes.” It said so irresponsibly. More on that below.
It let states resume executions. It ruled new death penalty statutes constitutional. It ignored Eighth Amendment protection. It prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
On December 7, 1982, Texas resumed executions. Charlie Brooks died first. He expired by lethal injection. He was a 40-year old Black man. He never had a chance. Serious doubts of his guilt didn’t save him.
The prosecutor pleading his death sentence be commuted didn’t help. Evidence was lacking. No one knew for sure. Was he guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt or innocent? Was his codefendant involved? It didn’t matter.
He requested a stay. The Supreme Court heard his case. It ruled 6 – 3 against him. The State Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended execution. It did so 2 – 1.
On June 26, Texas executed Kimberly McCarthy. She’s the 500th victim since the state resumed executions in 1982. Another 282 victims await death.
Governor Rick Perry is a modern-day executioner. He’s an assassin. He permitted 263 premeditated executions on his watch. He acted irresponsibly. He did so unapologetically. He can’t wait to kill again.
How many prisoners are innocent? How many are Black or Latino? How many are poor and disadvantaged? How many had inadequate representation? How many never had a chance?
Texas likes to kill. It does more often than any other state. It can’t wait to lethally inject again. Since December 7, 1982, over 1,000 US prisoners nationwide were executed this way.
Health professionals are required to do so or assist. Those involved violate core medical ethics. Med students are taught primum non nocere: First, do no harm. What harms more than painful killing!
Lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. It’s state-sponsored torture. It’s excruciatingly painful. Numerous injections are botched.
Death takes around 20 minutes to over an hour. Prisoners are strapped in gurneys. They’re helpless. They gasp for air, grimace in pain, convulse, and suffer foot-long chemical burns.
Former Texas attorney general Mark White call state justice “very fragile.” Since Utah executed Gary Gilmore by firing squad in 1977, Texas accounted for nearly 40% of over 1,300 executions nationwide.
On average, prisoners die every three weeks. It’s practically an assembly line process. Texas traditionally is tough on killers. Guilt by accusation suffices. Justice is a four-letter word.
Killing McCarthy was just another execution. They’re routine. They go off like clockwork. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said, “We simply carried out the court’s order.”
Maurie Levin represented McCarthy. “Five hundred is 500 too many,” he said.
“I look forward to the day when we recognize that this pointless and barbaric practice, imposed almost exclusively on those who are poor and disproportionately on people of color, has no place in a civilized society.”
Serious doubts of McCarthy’s guilt didn’t matter. She maintained innocence numerous times. Levin tried to halt her execution. Dallas County prosecutors improperly excluded Black jurors.
Levin said there’s a “pervasive influence of race in administration of the death penalty and the inadequacy of counsel – a longstanding issue here.”
People of color don’t have a chance. Things are rigged against them. Guilt by accusation suffices. Innocence doesn’t matter.
Ritual death proceed regularly. They’ve become mundane. Most Texans support them. Who cares if another Black man or woman dies?
McCarthy was a Huntsville Texas State Penitentiary inmate (Huntsville Unit – HV). In 1998, Ponchai Wilkerson became warden. He oversaw 89 executions.
“Here in Texas, another one is coming a fews days later, and you’ve forgotten the one before,” he said. Life is cheap. Ritual murder’s mundane.
Amnesty International’s Brian Evans heads AI’s abolishing capital punishment campaign. In Texas, it’s “arbitrary, biased and prone to error,” he said.
“It is a profound and irreversible injustice. The death penalty is cruel, inhuman and degrading, and a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Mostly people of color are affected. Since January 2012, 13 of 16 victims were Black. Prisoners suffering severe mental illness are executed. Many are intellectually disabled.
Teenagers are treated like adults. Counsel is woefully inadequate. Prisoners are routinely executed. Flawed or questionable evidence doesn’t matter. Sometimes none exists.
The ACLU opposes capital punishment. It does so “on moral, practical, and constitutional grounds. (It) inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law.”
“(T)he state should not give itself the right to kill human beings – especially when it kills with premeditation and ceremony, in the name of the law or in the name of its people, and when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion.”
“Capital punishment is an intolerable denial of civil liberties and is inconsistent with the fundamental values of our democratic system. The death penalty is uncivilized in theory and unfair and inequitable in practice.”
“People of color are far more likely to be executed than white people, especially if the victim is white.”
Since 1973, over 140 prisoners in 26 states got death sentences commuted. Innocence saved them. At least one person nationwide is exonerated for every 10 executed.
Many innocent victims die. Capital punishment is imposed irresponsibly. It’s done without probable cause providing a reasonable certainty of guilt based on verifiable facts.
Beyond a reasonable doubt isn’t applied. The term requires an inviolable standard be met. Prosecutors, jurors and judges must have no doubt of guilt. It involves the highest standard of proof.
In civil litigation, convincing or preponderance of evidence suffices. It’s a lesser standard to satisfy. Capital cases require the highest. Clear and convincing evidence based on verifiable facts is essential. Anything less demands exoneration.
Kimberly McCarthy should have been spared. She never should have been convicted in the first place. She was accused of a 1997 robbery/murder.
Trials are rigged to convict. Evidence is manufactured out of whole cloth. White prosecutors, judges and jurors try Black and Latino victims. Most are among society’s most disadvantaged.
They can’t afford proper representation. Texas and other states don’t provide it. Systemic injustice follows. Dozens of wrongful convictions explain.
David Protess headed Northwestern University’s Medill Innocence Project. He now heads the Chicago Innocence Project.
ChIP is non-profit. It “investigates cases in which prisoners may have been convicted of crimes they did not commit, with priority to murder cases that resulted in sentences of death or life without parole.”
It “involve(s) college students, community residents, private investigators and journalists in the reporting process.”
It doesn’t “represent clients in criminal cases, but after (its) investigation is completed, outside counsel may bring new evidence of innocence to court.”
Its “fundamental goal is to expose and remedy wrongdoing by the criminal justice system.” There’s more than enough there to expose. It’s a cancer needing expunging.
Protess spent decades exposing wrongful convictions. He showed duplicitous tactics were used. It’s done to frame victims.
His work got former Illinois Governor George Ryan to clear death row.
He did so calling capital punishment “arbitrary, capricious, and therefore immoral.” He ended his tenure by pardoning four men.
He issued a blanket death row commutation. He said “(t)he legislature couldn’t reform it, lawmakers won’t repeal it, and I won’t stand for it – I must act.”
In March 2011, Illinois officially abolished it. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia prohibit capital punishment. Perhaps a future Supreme Court will end it nationwide.
It’s unlikely Texas will any other way. Over two-thirds of countries worldwide abolished it. Only a handful of countries use it often.
America uses it abusively. It’s racially biased. Over three-fourths of US death row prisoners were executed for killing whites. Over half of all homicide victims were African-American.
FBI data show states without capital punishment have lower homicide rates than overall nationally.
Capital punishment disregards mental illness. Imposing it violates international law.
America executed more juveniles than all other nations combined. Doing so is universally called barbaric and uncivilized.
Foreign nationals are executed without being informed of their right to communicate with consular representatives.
Capital punishment is premeditated murder. Ending life irresponsibly is the highest form of injustice. America does arbitrarily, often, extrajudicially, and vengefully.
It does so against society’s least protected. It denies due process and judicial fairness. It violates constitutionally guaranteed equal protection.
It’s cruel and unusual punishment. It’s barbarism writ large. It doesn’t control crime. It wastes limited resources. Societies that respect life don’t kill.
America does it retail and wholesale. It does it at home and abroad. Indiscriminately shedding blood assures more. It reflects disdain for justice for all.
It reveals madness, not sanity. It shows contempt for international law. It kills innocent victims deserving better. It denies them due process irresponsibly. It’s irreversible. Lost lives don’t revive.
Texas reflects the worst of state-sponsored murder. Carlos DeLuna was one of many horrific cases. In 1989, state authorities executed him. They did so knowing another man was guilty.
In May, Columbia University Law School released a study titled “Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution.” Professor James Liebman and 12 student spent seven years compiling evidence.
They did so firsthand. They interviewed about 100 witnesses exhaustively. DeLuna was wrongfully executed for Wanda Lopez’s stabbing death. He steadfastly maintained innocence.
He had every right to do so. He had no involvement. He identified Lopez’s killer. He named Carlos Hernandez. Prosecutors wrongfully said he didn’t exist.
They lied. Liebman’s team proved it. He was an alcoholic. He was arrested 39 times. His rap sheet included numerous violent crimes.
Two months before DeLuna’s execution, he got 10 years for assaulting a woman with a knife. The same weapon killed Lopez. Hernandez admitted doing it. Corpus Christie police knew. They did nothing.
The night she died, Lopez asked police for protection. She did so twice. They could have saved her. They ignored her.
They arrested DeLuna straightaway. Liebman said it was to “overcome embarrassment.” Doing so framed an innocent man. No evidence connected him.
It’s true in many other wrongful convictions like his. Innocent victims died. They still do. State lawlessness bears full responsibility. Texas is more guilty than other states.
It institutionalized assembly line executions. Odds are more innocent prisoners died than guilty ones. Killing them reflects premeditated state-sponsored murder. It continues with disturbing regularity.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.