Editorial: Death penalty on the wane Published: 29 December 2011 08:03 PM
Use of the death penalty is losing favor with more and more Americans, and for good reasons, those undeniably being (a) shaken confidence in the system and (b) the alternative of life-without-parole sentencing.
Lethal punishment is also being sought less often by Texas prosecutors and handed out less often by Texas juries, probably for the same reasons.
The year-end snapshot of Death Row, USA, offers more upsides, from the perspective of this newspaper’s opposition to the death penalty.
The number of executions continued to slide nationwide, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. And one more state, Illinois, joined the list of 16 non-death-penalty states and became the fourth to repeal the punishment since 2004.
The number of executions continued to wane in Texas, but this state held on to its position of ignominious prominence: Texas executed, by far, the most people of the 13 states that used the death penalty this year. Thirteen prisoners were put to death in Texas, 30 percent of the 43 who died in the nation’s death chambers in 2011.
Texas’ distinction as the No. 1 death-penalty state remains in unseemly juxtaposition to the embarrassing developments throughout our criminal justice system.
For a second straight year, a Texas murder case unraveled in spectacular fashion, this one freeing Michael Morton of Williamson County, who spent almost 25 years in prison of a life sentence for his wife’s bludgeoning murder. The case against Morton ignored evidence that pointed elsewhere and, it appears from DNA tests, allowed the real killer to roam and kill again. Morton’s exoneration produced serious charges of prosecutorial misconduct this month.
The year before — when Texas executed 17 of the 46 nationwide — the Anthony Graves murder case unraveled, freeing a man who was sent to death row in another instance of alleged prosecutorial mischief.
Add to that the continuing parade of DNA exonerations across the state, and it’s evident why people have become squeamish about the death penalty. Supporters attest to the certainty of the court system, with its many steps of review, but it so often has taken volunteer lawyers and university workshops to pry free the truth.
Are there cases where innocent people have slipped through that sieve and gone to their deaths in Texas? None have been proven, but there’s no justification for taking the chance. The justice system will never be foolproof, and, therefore, use of the death penalty is never justified.
That sentiment seems to be taking hold nationally, with a Gallup Poll showing the lowest level of support in almost 40 years, with 61 percent in favor. That compares with 80 percent in 1994. A CNN poll found more support for life without parole than death for murderers.
Qualms about how the death penalty is applied caused the governor of Oregon to call a moratorium and the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court to convene a study commission.
In Texas, there are ample arguments for both of the above.
This article is just plain idiocy. No one wants "someone" to pay. We want "the guilty party" to pay. If the evidence finds that DA, now, Judge Anderson, intentionally witheld the evidence, as it... more
Board dismisses complaint against Bradley in Morton case By Chuck Lindell | Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 11:20 AM An appeals board has dismissed a complaint alleging that Williamson County District... more
February hearing set in Morton case By Chuck Lindell | Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 03:59 PM District Judge Sid Harle has scheduled a Feb. 10 hearing on Michael Morton’s request for a special court to... more
March 26, 2012 On "60 Minutes," Exoneree Seeks Accountability by Brandi Grissom Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in prison wrongfully convicted of his wife's murder, told Lara Logan of CBS's 60... more
Video is at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57403923/evidence-of-innocence-the-case-of-michael-morton/?tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel March 25, 2012 7:22 PM Evidence of Innocence: The case of... more
Rusty Hardin Picked For Prosecutor In Morton Case • by Morgan Smith March 13, 2012 Houston criminal defense lawyer Rusty Hardin will be the special prosecutor in the court of inquiry looking into... more
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 Anderson inquiry in Williamson County slowed until June By Chuck Lindell | AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF The court of inquiry examining former Williamson County prosecutor Ken... more
Did prosecutors suppress evidence in Morton case? Copyright 2012: Houston Chronicle Published 07:46 p.m., Friday, January 13, 2012 Opinion Texas has the distinction of having more convicts exonerated ... more
Bar dismisses Bradley complaint in Morton case By Chuck Lindell | Tuesday, January 3, 2012, 11:39 AM The State Bar of Texas has dismissed a complaint alleging that Williamson County District Attorney ... more
Monday, March 26, 2012 | Houston Chronicle Retrials offer some a path off death row By Brian Rogers Death penalty trials, beginning with weeks of hand-picking jurors, continuing through relentless... more
Hundreds of cases to be reviewed because of errors by crime lab worker By Brian Rogers and Anita Hassan Published 01:47 p.m., Tuesday, May 1, 2012 Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos has asked... more