On April 11, James Clark is scheduled to be executed for a rape and murder committed in June 1993. This would be the 12th execution in Texas this year; there has been only one execution outside the State of Texas. This would also be the 152nd execution in Texas since Rick Perry became Governor, tying the record set by his predecessor, George W. Bush.
While executions continue at a high level in Texas, citizens and governments outside of Texas have begun to demonstrate serious reservations about the death penalty:
*Outside of Texas, the number of executions in 2006 (29) declined to the lowest it has been since 1994 (17). (Texas executed 24 in 2006, and has averaged just over 23 for the previous five years, 2001-2005)
*Several large states now have de facto or actual moratoriums on executions, including California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York
*According to a 2006 national Gallup poll, 48% or respondents preferred life without parole compared to just 47% who favored death penalty
*Juries in the U.S. passed only 144 death sentences in 2006, representing a steady decline from late 1990s when there were usually about twice as many
The scheduled execution of James Clark is emblematic of Texas’ single-minded, and increasingly isolated, obsession with pursuing executions.
*After the U.S. Supreme Court declared executing people with mental retardation to be unconstitutional, a psychologist hired by the State of Texas and nationally renowned for his work in the area of mental retardation determined that James Clark had an IQ of 65 and was indeed unfit for execution. Instead of accepting this assessment, the prosecutor shopped around and found a second psychologist, with no background in mental retardation, to conclude that James Clark was faking his mental retardation. The judge favored this assessment over the assessment of the nationally renowned expert hired by the State.
*At trial, the victim’s family urged the prosecution not to seek a sentence of death (the victim was opposed to capital punishment and it was out of respect for her wishes that the family made this request). For the State of Texas, pursuing the death penalty was more important than respecting this family’s wishes.