Thirty-two years ago today, 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.
All eyes were on Texas that day, much as they were this past week, as our state prepared to carry out the execution of Scott Panetti on December 3rd. Panetti, who has suffered from severe mental illness for more than 30 years, has a fixed delusion that Satan, working through the state, is trying to kill him for preaching the Gospel. His case received an outpouring of support from mental health advocates, conservative leaders, faith leaders, Texas legislators, the American Bar Association, editorial boards, and many others. As a headline on reason.com declared, “Social Pressure Works.”
Less than eight hours before his execution was scheduled to take place, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay in order to consider the “complex legal questions” surrounding Panetti’s competence to be executed. Read this statement in response from Panetti’s incredible legal team, Greg Wiercioch of the University of Wisconsin Law School and Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service, who worked tirelessly to prevent this travesty of justice.
Since December 7, 1982, the State of Texas has executed 518 people; of these, 279 occurred during the administration of Governor Rick Perry, more than any other governor in U.S. history.
Yet Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is moving away from the death penalty. This year, the State of Texas carried out its fewest executions since 1996, putting 10 people to death. New death sentences also remain at much lower levels, largely relegated to a few counties statewide. These trends and other developments in 2014 will appear in TCADP’s year-end report, which will be released later this month.
TCADP is grateful to everyone who joined with us to send the message that the execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line. Let’s hasten the day we mark the anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.