death penalty news—-TEXAS

May 7


Critics say Texas parole board pick lacks experience in criminal justice

One of Gov. Rick Perry's nominees to the state Board of Pardons and
Paroles is facing opposition from critics who say she has no criminal
justice experience and is best known as a Republican campaigner and
crusader against the sale of sex toys in Texas.

At a Senate nomination hearing Wednesday, Shanda Perkins discussed her
experience counseling women and children with family members in prison.
Shanda Perkins, a retired banker from Burleson, was appointed by Perry in
February to serve on the board that has the power to grant or revoke
parole and to recommend when the governor should grant clemency or a

If approved by the Senate, she would serve a term that expires in 2015.

Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, say she
is unqualified to serve on the board that sometimes makes life and death

Perkins' banking expertise includes marketing, business trusts and
retirement accounts. She is also a past ambassador of the Burleson Chamber
of Commerce and has been a youth pastor and Sunday school teacher.

Appearing before the Senate nominations committee Wednesday, Perkins said
she is qualified to serve on the parole board because she has often
counseled youth and women who have been through drug and physical abuse
and had family members in prison.

"I can bring empathy to the situation as well as uphold the law," Perkins
said before her nomination was sent to the full Senate on a 4-1 vote. Sen.
Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, cast the only no vote.

The panel also approved the re-nomination of board member Juanita Gonzalez
and chairwoman Rissie Owens and the nomination of new member Thomas

The ACLU sent Perry's office a letter Wednesday saying Perkins has "no
relevant qualifications for the position and no identifiable experience in
the area of corrections policy" and her nomination should be withdrawn.

Perkins' approval "will fail to promote fairness on the parole board or
confidence in the criminal justice system," the letter said.

No one testified against Perkins' appointment in the hearing.

Shapleigh questioned Perkins about her role in a 2004 case in Burleson
where police arrested a woman who was selling sex toys in apparent
violation of a city ordinance and what was Texas law at the time.

Perkins said she informed city officers about the city ordinance that
prohibited the sale of sex toys as a business or near a school.

Perkins said she did not file a criminal complaint that led to the arrest.
The state law banning the sale of sex toys was ultimately ruled
unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in 2008.

In February, Perkins distributed fliers linking U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey
Hutchison to President Barack Obama and abortion rights. Perry, who is
running for re-election, is expected to face a tough battle with Hutchison
in the Republican primary.

Perkins said her appointment was not political.

Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter, who testified in support of her nomination,
said the sex toy case isn't relevant to the work of the parole board.

"To bring it up today, with all due respect, misses many larger points …
and focuses on one small event that she had little to do with," Shetter

Shapleigh also asked how she would vote if there was new evidence that
could show a death row inmate may be mentally disabled, which would
prevent them from being executed.

"I would vote against" execution, Perkins said.

(source: Associated Press)