death penalty news—-TEXAS x

May 15


Cop killer gets death penalty—-Athens jury hands down verdict in murder
of deputy

Randall Wayne Mays on Tuesday was sentenced to die for the May 17, 2007,
fatal shooting of Henderson County Sheriffs Deputy Tony Ogburn.

Ogburn, 61, was 1 of 2 HCSD officers killed after responding to a domestic
disturbance at Mays' Payne Springs residence that day. The other was HCSD
Investigator Paul Habelt, 63. A 3rd deputy, Kevin Harris, Suffered a leg
wound in the shootout.

Mays is the 1st Henderson County defendant to be sentenced to death since
Betty Lou Beets in 1985. His attorney, Bobby Mims of Tyler, said a
different lawyer has been appointed to handle Mays' automatic appeal to
the death sentence.

Family and friends of Ogburn and Habelt hugged and congratulated each
other moments after the sentence was handed down by 392nd District Court
Judge Carter Tarrance. Ogburn's son, Tony Ogburn Jr., gave a statement
outside the courtroom, saying he can't yet find a way to forgive Mays for
the death of his father.

"I know I'm going to have to," Ogburn Jr. said, "but not now."

Mays was found guilty of the capital murder of Ogburn last Friday.

(source: Corsicana Daily Sun)


Reversal Builds Case for Moratorium

Ironically, Thomas Clifford McGowan Jr. became a free man the same day the
U.S. Supreme Court freed states to resume executions.

McGowan's case illustrates why Texas and other states should maintain a
moratorium on capital punishment.

McGowan was a 26-year-old day laborer in 1985, when a 19-year-old rape
victim picked his picture out of a police lineup. Tentative at first, when
pressed for a decision by a police officer, the young woman said McGowan
was the man who raped her.

So, McGowan went to prison for more than 22 years — almost 1/2 his life.
This spring, DNA tests proved McGowan did not commit the crime. Judge
Susan Hawk recommended McGowan go free, and he's out of jail while the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals considers Hawk's decision. He became the
16th Dallas County inmate to be exonorated by DNA tests during the past 7

The same day McGowan walked free, the Supreme Court ruled the 3-step
process Kentucky uses to administer capital punishment does not violate
the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." The ruling
virtually freed states to move forward with lethal injection as a method
of execution.

Fortunately, McGowan's wrongful conviction couldn't earn him the death
penalty. He might have died an innocent man.

Strong advocates of the death penalty might counter that McGowan was not
sentenced to execution, so his case has no bearing on capital punishment.
Of course, they would be wrong.

McGowan's case illustrates the fallibility of the U.S. justice system,
which is fallible simply because human beings are fallible. Problem is, a
mistake that takes a person's life is irreversible. And courtroom mistakes
do happen.

Nationwide, 215 people convicted of crimes have been exonerated by DNA
evidence, according to The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to
reversing wrongful convictions. 16 of the people who have been exonerated
spent time on death row. Without intervention, they could have been
executed for crimes they did not commit.

32 states have exonerated convicts. Texas leads the way, with 31
reversals. As science improves, the pace of exonerations increases. In the
first 11 years DNA-based exonerations were possible, 63 people were set
free. In the past 8 years, 152 wrongful convictions were overturned.

The Innocence Project identifies at least 7 causes of wrongful conviction.
Those causes and the number of cases involving Texans are eyewitness
identification, 24; unreliable/limited science, 9; false confessions, 3;
forensic science misconduct, 4; government misconduct, 3;
informants/snitches, 2; and bad lawyering, 0. (The number totals more than
31, because some cases involved multiple causes.) While many Christians —
for theological reasons — are among the strongest advocates of capital
punishment, the McGowan case should prompt Christians and other citizens
of goodwill to promote a moratorium on capital punishment. Several reasons
stand out:

"We seek justice. Justice for murderers is one of the strongest arguments
for capital punishment. But in light of so many wrongful convictions,
justice should be an equally strong argument for refraining. Putting an
innocent person to death is the ultimate act of injustice that can be
imposed by the state.

"Life is precious. Set aside whatever you think about actual murderers and
rapists, we cannot contend anything but that the lives of people who are
wrongfully convicted are precious and should be protected, even if the
guilty die in prison of old age instead of on a gurney by lethal

"We say we love others and want them to go to heaven. Then how can we
consider the possibility of wrongfully sending an innocent person to
eternity in hell?

(source: Editorial, Baptist Standard)