Friday, December 03, 2004

What's The Matter With Texas?

A friend sent us a link to this story. A woman sentenced to the death penalty in Texas actually got a reprieve. There are a few interesting things to note about this.

First, the woman granted the reprieve, Frances Newton, suffered from the Texas-Typical incompetence of her defense attorney.

Her original defense attorney, Ron Mock, interviewed no witnesses before the trial. He has since been suspended three times by the Texas Bar Assn. and is no longer allowed to take court-appointed capital murder cases.

This is not even the worst Texas can do. Bob Herbert at Common Dreams mentions one Joe Cannon, a defense attorney who slept through significant portions of a trial where his client was convicted and given the death penalty. The Texas Appeals court didn't think this was reason enough to over-turn the death penalty ruling. Read the whole article. It's a good summary of the savagery that passes for justice in Texas.

The second thing to note is that governor Perry felt compelled to announce that he saw no evidence of innocence in reviewing the court papers, and that justice delayed was not justice denied.

The third thing to note is that because Newton's reprieve is so rare, it's considered newsworthy. As Herbert notes, Texas is more or less a death penalty assembly line. And why not, when its previous governor - one incompetent businessman and loser who became President - thought mocking a woman on death row was a perfectly reasonable thing to do?

I'm sure most people are tired of going over this and over this (I know I am), but it still bears repeating. Aside from being a morally criminal (state sanctioned killing outside of war is murder by any other name), it is ineffective as a deterrent. The conflation of thuggery with justice - Texas style clamoring for it, not a last resort - is not rough and tough justice. Now that it's nationwide, it's the real indicator of our decline.

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