death penalty news—-TEXAS

June 26


Prosecutors consider death penalty for man accused of killing a Tulia
woman —- Warrant issued to man who drove into Lubbock home

According to the Amarillo Globe News, prosecutors consider seeking the
death penalty against a man accused of killing a Tulia woman in November.

Roger Duran, 41, was indicted January 22, by a Swisher County grand jury
on a capital murder charge. He is accused of killing Valerie Cross at her
Tulia home.

Swisher County's DA said Duran will be represented by the public
defender's office out of Lubbock. No trial date has been set.

(source: KCBD News)


ON FILM: Death House Door puts penalty on trial—-By Philip Martin

Watching At the Death House Door (Facets, $29.95), a 2008 documentary by
Peter Gilbert and Steve James (best known for Hoop Dreams) released this
week on DVD, I was reminded of the story of Albert Pierrepoint.

Pierrepoint – portrayed by Timothy Spall in the 2005 film The Last Hangman
(also known as Pierrepoint) – served as the United Kingdom's official
hangman from 1932 to 1956 and presided at the executions of more than 400
people (including some 200 Nazi war criminals hanged after World War II).

By all accounts, he was extremely precise and methodical, a true
professional who dispatched his "clients" with as little ado as possible.
He was a mercifully swift worker – rarely did more than 30 seconds elapse
between the condemned's arrival on his gallows and execution. (Having done
some work for the U.S. Army during World War II, he hated the way the
Americans dithered around for 6 or 7 minutes reading lengthy charges while
the condemned waited on the trap door.)

Dealing in officially sanctioned homicide gave Pierrepoint a unique
perspective on capital punishment. In the end, he became if not an
abolitionist at least convinced that the policy had no deterrent effect.

"I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing," he wrote in
his autobiography, "and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire
for revenge which takes the easy way and hands over the responsibility for
revenge to other people."

Pierrepoint's opinion is unlikely to change the minds of
capital-punishment advocates – the issue is an emotional one, highly
resistant to any evidence and all testimony. It may take something more
dramatic than cold numbers to change anyone's mind about whether the state
should have the power of life and death over its citizens.

At the Death House Door starts out as a cinematic portrait of the Rev.
Carroll Pickett, a Presbyterian minister whose views on capital punishment
were shaped by a "hang 'em high" father, the absence of his murdered
grandfather and, years before he worked at the prison, the killing of 2 of
his parishioners – civilian library workers – during a 1974 prison siege.
Pickett, once described by a Texas newspaper as "27 degrees right of Rush
Limbaugh," thought the death penalty was appropriate and effective.

During his 16 years as prison chaplain of the Texas State Penitentiary at
Huntsville, Pickett witnessed 95 executions by lethal injection. Like
Pierrepoint, he was changed by his experience from capital punishment
advocate to opponent.

From the beginning, Pickett was deeply affected by his duties, which
required him to provide solace and counsel while at the same time
pacifying the condemned so they wouldn't struggle at the end. When Gilbert
and James interviewed Pickett, they discovered he had recorded his private
thoughts, impressions, doubts and misgivings (there were at least 15
instances where Pickett believed the condemned prisoner was innocent of
the crime for which he died) immediately after each execution and archived
them on audio cassette tapes. They naturally concluded they had uncovered
a rich vein of material.

But we don't really hear much of the tapes, as the focus shifts to the
possible wrongful execution of 27-year-old Carlos De Luna in 1989. Pickett
was convinced that De Luna was innocent – and, in 2006, Chicago Tribune
reporters Steve Mills and Maurice Possley wrote a 3-part series that
strongly suggested De Luna was the victim of mistaken identity and a
prosecutorial rush to justice.

Gilbert and James had originally set out to document Mills' and Possley's
work on De Luna and only became aware of Pickett pursuant to that thread.
So the shift between the 2 threads – from Pickett to De Luna's family,
from a psychological portrait of amoral evolution to an expose of
governmental misconduct – feels a little disconcerting.

Yet if from a filmmaking standpoint the transposition is less than ideal,
it makes great sense from a journalist's perspective. When he retired from
the prison system in 1995, Pickett announced that capital punishment was
"biblically wrong," which was the official position of the Presbyterian
Church. He said he had kept his opinion to himself for fear of
jeopardizing his job – and forfeiting his chance to minister to the

Since his retirement, Pickett has become a vocal capital-punishment
abolitionist, and as such he is suspect in the eyes of some advocates. But
he has seen up close what executions look like. He's convinced the death
penalty is no deterrent and in fact, contributes to a cycle of violence:
There were 58 prisoners on death row when Texas resumed executions in
1982; now there are more than 400.

(source: Arkansas Online)