Thirty years ago today, December 7, 1982, the State of Texas officially resumed executions, putting Charlie Brooks to death for the 1976 murder of David Gregory. That was also the nation’s first execution by lethal injection, a new method concocted by a legislator and former chief medical examiner in Oklahoma.
Reverend Carroll Pickett, who served as the chaplain at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, spent all day with Charlie Brooks and stood at the foot of the gurney as he was executed. In his memoir, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, he writes about the immediate aftermath of the execution: “All that remained was an air of stunned silence – testimony to the fact that none of those who had witnessed penal history being made had really been prepared for what they had seen.”
Since 1982, the State of Texas has executed 492 people; 253 of these executions have occurred during the administration of Governor Rick Perry, more than any other governor in U.S. history. This year, the State of Texas carried out 15 executions, a slight increase over last year and nearly three times as many as any other state in the country.
Yet Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is moving away from the death penalty. New death sentences remain near record-low levels, and death-qualified juries have rejected this punishment in at least 18 trials in the past five years.
Use of the death penalty has been relegated to just a few jurisdictions statewide; in fact, only 11 counties in the entire state of Texas imposed new death sentences in the last two years. These trends and other developments in 2012 appear in TCADP’s year-end report, scheduled to be released next week.
With your support, TCADP is educating Texans about the fatal flaws of our state’s death penalty system and equipping our members to serve as powerful citizen advocates for abolition. Together, we are hastening the day that we mark the anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.
Thank you for your support and steadfast commitment to this issue.
p.s. We had the pleasure of meeting Charlie’s son Keith in Dallas on Tuesday. Keith’s family is holding a memorial service today in Fort Worth for Charlie Brooks. The memorial will be held from 12 to 3:00 p.m. at the Riverside Community Center, 3700 Belknap Street, Fort Worth. The program will include lunch and reflections. Everyone is welcome.