A recent Gallup poll shows support for the death penalty is at its lowest level since 1972. States like California have plenty of people on death row, but rarely carry out executions. Andrew Sullivan makes the case, "When you have someone locked up forever and can't hurt anyone, the death penalty becomes a form of vengence"
Craig Beyler was ready to testify before a committee reviewing the investigation that led to the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. Writing a report titled "Analysis of the Fire Investigation Methods and Procedures Used in the Criminal Arson Cases Against Ernest Ray Willis and Cameron Todd Willingham" Beyler wrote that the investigators handling the case "had poor understandings of fire science" and that "a finding of arson could not be sustained" based on the way the investigation team had conducted itself. A scathing report in an investigation that had already been called under question.
But then 48 hours before Beyler was scheduled to be heard, Texas Governor Rick Perry removed the head of the review commission and three other panel members canceling the commission's review and Beyler's testimony. The commission has not since reconvened.
caption="Texas Gov. Rick Perry has shaken up a state commission that is probing whether a man executed in 2004 belonged on death row."]
Former Gov. Mark White, who was involved in the executions of 20 condemned criminals, says it may be time for Texas to do away with the death penalty.
The death penalty is no longer a deterrent to murder, and long stays for the condemned on death row shows justice is not swift, White said.
More than anything, he said, he has grown concerned that the system is not administered fairly and that there are too many risks of executing innocent people.
White said the state needs to take a serious look at replacing the death penalty with life without parole.
"There is a very strong case to be made for a review of our death penalty statutes and even look at the possibility of having life without parole so we don't look up one day and determined that we as the state of Texas have executed someone who is in fact innocent,” said White.
Current Gov. Rick Perry is facing national criticism for not granting a 30-day stay in 2004 to Cameron Todd Willingham after an arson expert raised questions about the house fire that killed his three children.
Perry ignited the controversy recently by replacing members of the Texas Forensics Commission that were looking into the science behind the arson investigation in the Willingham case.
Perry responded by calling Willingham a “monster” and saying he has no doubt of his guilt.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/10/11/texas.execution.probe/art.willingham.family.jpg caption="A family photo shows Cameron Todd Willingham with his wife, Stacy, and daughters Kameron, Amber and Karmon."]
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has removed a fourth member of a state commission charged with investigating claims that an innocent man may have been executed, his office said.
The Texas governor has now replaced all of the four members that, under law, he is allowed to appoint to the commission. The remaining five members are appointed by the state's lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Perry's critics say his actions are politically motivated, a charge he denies.
The investigation into claims that faulty evidence led Texas to execute an innocent man in 2004 was at a "crucial point" when the shakeup occurred, one of the replaced members said.
Editor’s Note:You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”
In Session Anchor
Just as our new live trial, New Mexico v. Brandon Craig got underway yesterday, there was even bigger news breaking in the state. Governor Bill Richardson signed into law a repeal of the state’s death penalty.
That makes New Mexico the second state to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. The repeal, which passed a vote in the state senate Friday and was approved by the house a month earlier, will take effect July 1st and will apply to crimes committed after that date. Once in effect, the most severe punishment will be a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Governor Richardson has long been a proponent of capital punishment. But he had the courage to face the fact that our system of justice can never be perfect. He signed the bill because his conscience compelled him to do so. This was the “most difficult decision” of his political life, Richardson said, but “the potential for … Execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings.” And he’s right.
If the innocence movement has taught us anything it is that our justice system is not perfect. We make mistakes. Without the death penalty, New Mexico can avoid the kind of fatal error that is bound to happen elsewhere — if it hasn’t already.
New America Media
From California to New York, dozens of newspapers are declaring that state governments can no longer afford the death penalty.
The Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., recently reported that the death penalty is too costly. Maryland spent $37 million per execution in the past 28 years. In Florida, home to the second largest death row in the country, the cost estimates are $24 million per execution. California’s cost is $250 million per execution, according to a Los Angeles Times article cited in the report. These states are among 36 states that have the death penalty and, like nearly every state, are going through a financial crisis.
The outrageous price that taxpayers bear in order to kill a handful of prisoners has been thrown into sharp relief.
Legislators in New Mexico, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, Montana, New Hampshire, and Colorado are now calling for a repeal of capital punishment, not only to help balance budgets but as a necessary first step in redirecting scarce resources toward genuine public safety measures such as investigating unsolved homicides, community policing, modernizing crime labs, expanding mental health services and other more effective crime prevention programs.