While most Americans are aware that today, December 7, is Pearl Harbor Day, here in Texas the date holds additional meaning. On this day in 1982, the State of Texas officially resumed executions… six years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld revised state death penalty statutes in the case of Gregg v. Georgia. It is also the date that the nation’s first execution by lethal injection took place, when Charlie Brooks was put to death by a method concocted by a legislator and former chief medical examiner in Oklahoma.
Reverend Carroll Pickett, who served as the chaplain at the Walls Unit, spent all day with Charlie Brooks and stood at the foot of the gurney as he was executed. In his memoir, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, he writes about the immediate aftermath of the execution: “All that remained was an air of stunned silence – testimony to the fact that none of those who had witnessed penal history being made had really been prepared for what they had seen.”
Since 1982, the State of Texas has executed 477 people; 238 of those executions have occurred during the administration of Governor Rick Perry, more than any other governor in U.S. history. This year, the State of Texas carried out 13 executions, the lowest number since 1996 and 50% fewer than in 2007, but still twice as many as any other state in the country.
Yet Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is moving away from the death penalty. New death sentences remain at a record-low level, and death-qualified juries have rejected this punishment in at least 15 cases in the past five years. Use of the death penalty has been relegated to just a few jurisdictions nationwide, and in Texas, only 10 counties (out of 254) in the entire state imposed new death sentences in the last two years. These trends and other developments in 2011 appear in TCADP’s annual report, which will be released next week.
With your support, TCADP is increasing awareness about the realities of the death penalty and equipping you – the heart of our movement – to engage the citizens of Texas and our elected officials in dialogue about this critical issue. We are grateful for the contributions that so many of you have made already this year. We ask for your additional support so that TCADP can continue to spark dialogue on this issue and create the climate for change.
Please join us in these efforts by making a special year-end, tax-deductible donation and hastening the day that we mark the anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.
Thank you for your generosity, and warm wishes for this holiday season.
p.s. Please visit our secure, online donation system to make a special year-end gift in memory or in honor of a friend or loved one. Go to www.tcadp.org/donate today!