Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Killing for Votes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was a moratorium on executions in the United States back in the sixties and early seventies while the Supreme Court studied the constitutionality of the ultimate punishment. The Court bent to the public bloodlust in the mid-1970's, and the greatest, most honorable country in the history of the planet resumed the barbaric practice of executing some people convicted of murder in 1976. Since that time, 1,176 people have been executed in the United States, and over one-third of those have been in the state of Texas.

Texas has executed 441 people during the past thirty-three years, over four times as many as second place Virginia which has killed 103 killers. Oklahoma is third with ninety-one. In fact, over 82% of all executions in America since the moratorium ended have occurred in the south, a region known for its strong fundamentalist Christian belief system.

(If executions were a deterrent, would these numbers be so high?)

Texas has executed over two hundred individuals (nearly half of its total) since December of 2000, the month that the state's current governor, Rick Perry, assumed the office when his predecessor, George W. Bush, resigned and moved off to Washington, DC.

Rick Perry is a vainglorious politician who is constantly preening his image - both physical and political. The late caustic Texas columnist Molly Ivins tagged him "Governor Goodhair." Perry's political instincts told him early on that a good execution generated as many boners among the good ole boys of the Lone Star state as a winning football team.

But now Governor Goodhair is suddenly having to defend his penchant for killing. The governor is locked in a tight Republican party primary fight with Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the senior U.S. Senator from Texas who wants to become governor - and both candidates are slinging dirt faster than a Juarez gravedigger.

The controversy revolves around the 2004 Texas execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, a young man who had allegedly murdered his three small daughters in 1991 by means of arson. Prior to his execution new and credible evidence surfaced that concluded that the house fire in which the little girls perished was not an act of arson. Governor Perry supposedly reviewed the new evidence and chose to ignore it, not wanting to risk the wrath of the voting public during an election year. Willingham went to his death declaring that he was an innocent man.

More evidence has emerged since the execution of Willingham that clearly shows that the fire was not an act of arson. Not only did his children die a brutal, horrible death, but the bereaved father was accused of killing them and then executed. And Rick Perry ran a comb through his great hair and smiled at the cameras!

It is cold comfort for the Willingham family, but the wrongful execution of the girls' father may be the deciding factor in finally removing Rick Perry from the governor's office.

Right now it is a real Texas horse race between Perry and Hutchinson - and those are just the Republicans. There are several Democrats seeking the chance to take on the Republican candidate - hoping that the GOP will be mortally wounded by their rough and rowdy primary. The most colorful Democratic contender is country singer and band leader (and mystery novelist), Kinky Friedman. Mr. Friedman, who runs with the likes of Don Imus and Willie Nelson, describes himself as a "Jew cowboy."

Texas politicians can be a lot of fun - when they aren't out killing for votes.

No comments: