« "Confronting Cognitive 'Anchoring Effect' and 'Blind Spot' Biases in Federal Sentencing: A Modest Solution for Reforming a Fundamental Flaw" | Main | "Will Oscar Pistorius serve any prison time for killing Reeva Steenkamp?" »

October 13, 2014

Noting how politicians can be pro-life and pro-death (penalty) in Texas

This local story on modern Texas politics, headlined "Being pro-life in gov's race doesn't extend to death row," highlights what concerns about the sanctity of life real mean in the Lone Star State.  Here are excerpts:

When Attorney General Greg Abbott talks about his opposition to abortion, he often mentions his Catholic faith. Not so when he talks about his support for the death penalty, whose abolition is advocated by Pope Francis.

“Catholic doctrine is not against the death penalty, and so there is no conflict there,” Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, said when asked about that point in a meeting with the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board.  The Catholic catechism doesn't exclude the death penalty as an option if that's the only way to defend human lives from an offender, but it says that given current options, such cases “are very rare, if practically non-existent.”

Pope Francis, in reaffirming the church's call to abolish the death penalty last year, asked that such sentences be commuted to a lesser punishment allowing for the offender's reform, the National Catholic Register reported.  “The difference, of course, is one between innocent life and those who have taken innocent lives,” Abbott said of his position on abortion versus the death penalty.

A different view on capital punishment would itself be seen as tantamount to a political death sentence in Texas.  Abbott's Democratic opponent, Sen. Wendy Davis, also backs the death penalty — even though as a Fort Worth City Council member in 2000 she voted to impose a moratorium on it, and even though the Texas Democratic Party platform calls for substituting life in prison for capital punishment, saying the death penalty is applied disproportionately to the poor and persons of color.

The moratorium didn't pass, and Davis said that the questions prompting her to support it then have largely been answered through such means as advancement in the use of DNA evidence. “Obviously, before we mete out the most serious of punishments, we need to know we've done everything to assure that the person on the receiving end of that punishment is guilty,” Davis told the Express-News Editorial Board in a separate appearance Friday. “We have made some advances in that regard. ... Is there still work to do? Absolutely.”

Both candidates credited work by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, on the issue. Abbott cited his efforts with Ellis on legislation to expand DNA testing in death penalty cases. “I know that the only way the death penalty will work is to ensure its absolute accuracy — that everyone who is given the death penalty is guilty of the crime for which they were accused and convicted of committing,” Abbott said.

Being sure can be difficult.  In 2010, Anthony Graves became the 12th death-row inmate to be exonerated in Texas, absolved of the 1992 Burleson County murder for which he was convicted.  Michael Morton, who served 25 years in his wife's Williamson County murder before being exonerated, told CNN, “I thank God this wasn't a capital case.”...

Abbott and Davis both said if elected, they'll also take care in presiding over executions. “I will ensure that before I ever allow an execution to occur, I will be 100 percent convinced that the person who is being sentenced to the death penalty is guilty of that crime,” Abbott said. Davis said, “As governor, I'll take that very seriously and make sure that before that punishment is meted out that we have done everything we can to answer the questions that need to be answered.”

October 13, 2014 at 04:19 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201bb0797e2b1970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Noting how politicians can be pro-life and pro-death (penalty) in Texas:

Comments

A very great pity he didn't exercise such great care as he claims he will take, if elected Governor, as Attorney General for Texas. In that role he has failed to question the voracity of evidence, failed to recognize the effect of diffident and poor performance of defense attorneys in some cases, accepted junk science as evidence, and shown himself incapable, with other colleagues, of a professional interpretation of dna evidence - relying on headline facts without requesting and listening to the oral interpretion in context from laboratory experts. Let us hope he asserts his new-found concerns more diligently if elected, and requires others to do so also.

Posted by: Peter | Oct 15, 2014 11:33:53 AM

The Texas Attorney General is not the top Criminal Attorney for the State. In fact the only area of criminal law he is even a part of is federal habeas corpus applications. The State is reporesented in criminal proceedings by elected County, District or Criminal Dirstrict Attorney's.

Posted by: Michael | Oct 15, 2014 5:41:28 PM

Prior to that he was a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court and a State District Judge in Harris County.

Posted by: Peter | Oct 17, 2014 7:34:03 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB