Friday, October 29, 2004

In our name

On the Abolish listserv, I stumbled across this interesting morsel from a newspaper editor in Houston:

In thy name----Bulletin of a life taken

About once a fortnight, I receive on my computer screen a bulletin from The Associated Press that another Texas death row inmate has been executed. The news bulletins arrive about 6:30 p.m., just as I'm starting to think of finishing up and going home.

The death notices dampen any happy anticipation of the evening, yet I don't resent them. Any time a life is taken in my name and in the name of every Texas citizen, I want to know. I wonder how many citizens would take the same principled satisfaction in capital punishment if someone called them up or sent them an e-mail in the instant following every execution.

On Tuesday the bulletin came late, not until 8:04 p.m. Dominique Green, the 18th person Texas has executed this year, was put to death for a murder that took place 12 years ago. Green went to his death denying he was the triggerman.

Around midday Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas granted Green a reprieve after his attorneys asked for time to make sure no evidence relevant to Green's case was to be found in 280 boxes of misplaced and mishandled evidence discovered in August at the Houston Police Department.
The reprieve caused a short delay in Green's execution, but was quickly overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Some supporters of capital punishment argue that executions are necessary to give "closure" to the family of the murder victim. In Green's case, the victim's family objected to the execution of a man who might be innocent of murder and who apparently had found on death row redemption for a short, misspent life.

A Harris County prosecutor said of the family's concern for Green's humanity, "Legally, it doesn't mean anything." Shouldn't it?

Some people who defend executions say the killer didn't offer his victim mercy, so society should show no mercy. They don't explain why society's behavior should depressingly ape that of a conscienceless killer.

(source: Opinion, Houston Chronicle, JAMES HOWARD GIBBONS, interim editor)

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