Texas Resumes Brisk Death Penalty Schedule, Including Execution of Mentally Retarded Man

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
November 14, 2000 12:00 am

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Statement by Diann Rust-Tierney, Chief Legislative Counsel of the ACLU


WASHINGTON–Following a welcome hiatus during his presidential campaign, tonight Texas Gov. George W. Bush is resuming his brisk execution schedule with the lethal injection of Texas inmate Stacey Lawton, followed by two executions expected to take place on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

On Wednesday, inmate Tony Chambers is scheduled to die and on Thursday, John Paul Penry — a mentally retarded man who said he believes in Santa Claus — is scheduled for execution.

These men will be the 148th, 149th, and 150th people executed since Bush became Governor of Texas in 1995, and would bring to 237 the number of individuals put to death in the state since the Supreme Court lifted a ban on the death penalty in 1976.

The increasingly frequent use of the death penalty in Texas has garnered international attention in the last six months and has brought a renewed focus on the death penalty debate in the United States.

Recent reports and investigations have shown that the Texas death penalty system is rife with problems like prosecutorial misconduct, racial bias, phony experts, and inadequate lawyers for poor defendants. Just two weeks ago, a Texas appeals court ruled that a sleeping defense attorney does not necessarily preclude a death row defendant from adequate representation. As a result, in Texas and elsewhere, even those who support the death penalty are questioning the fairness and accuracy of this irreversibly severe form of punishment.

One would hope that, at a certain point, even the toughest law-and-order adherents would say, enough is enough. If the execution of a man with an I.Q. of 56 who believes in Santa Claus doesn’t bring us to that point, it is hard to imagine what will.

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