Let's push for moratorium on death penalty in Texas
Losing a loved one to death is a tragic, painful experience. The pain is
even more searing when the loved one is an innocent or a bystander whose
life is cut short by a vicious crime.
But, does the death-penalty truly serve as a deterrent?
Statistics resoundingly say no.
Does the death sentence assuage the pain?
Many family members of these crime victims do not receive the "closure"
On this Good Friday, perhaps we should consider the efficacy of the death
We can look at the image of the crucified Christ and see the victims of
horrific murders. But can we see beyond those victims to the prisoner
condemned to death for a heinous crime? Is death the only option?
Since 2005, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has called
for a moratorium on the death penalty, urging the alternative of life
Texas leads the nation in executions. Since its 1976 reinstatement, 1,156
people have been executed in the U.S.; 435 in the state of Texas, 37.6 %
of the national total.
The question of true guilt or innocence is a telling one — 133 people
have been released from death row after exoneration, having spent years in
prison for crimes they did not commit. There have been questions around
the Texas executions of Ruben Cantu, Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna,
who were probably innocent.
Over 69 % of death-row inmates are minorities. There were 22 executions of
juveniles in the U.S. between 1985 and 2005; in Texas, 13 juveniles have
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the executions of those who
were juveniles at the time of their offenses were unconstitutional and 29
death sentences were commuted to life sentences.
Texas has executed 6 people with mental retardation since 1982. In 2001,
Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would have banned these executions. On
June 20, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing people with
mental retardation violates the U.S. Constitution's 8th Amendment
prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment," banning them in every
Despite this, Johnny Penry, suffering from mental retardation, was
sentenced to death on July 3, 2002. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court had
refused to reinstate Penry's death sentence. In 2008, Texas agreed to a
plea bargain and he is serving serve life without parole.
Under the Law of Parties, a person who "should have anticipated" a murder
can receive the death penalty for the actions of another. A person
sentenced to death under the Law of Parties has not killed anyone. They
are accomplices or co-conspirators of 1 felony, such as robbery, during
which another person killed someone. There is currently legislation
pending in the Texas Legislature to prevent this application of the death
On June 17, 2005, Texas juries were given the option of sentencing capital
defendants to life without parole.
On March 18, 2009, New Mexico repealed the death penalty, in favor of life
In all 36 death-penalty states, juries now have the option of sentencing
defendants to life without parole.
The U.S. bishops call us to reflect, saying "The test of whether the death
penalty can be used is whether society has alternative ways to protect
itself, not how terrible the crime was. Life in prison without parole
provides a non-lethal alternative to the death penalty. We cannot tell
whether God has a purpose for a person's life, even one who has committed
a terrible crime and must spend his or her life behind bars."
(source: Opinion; Ouisa D. Davis is an attorney at law in El Paso—-El