Friday, November 03, 2006

Not clear on the point, but thanks for stopping by!

Yesterday we posted an entry about the excellent two-part series in the Austin American Statesman that detailed Texas' broken death penalty appellate system. (Scroll down if you haven't seen our original post.)

Someone named "Anonymous" stopped by to comment. Because their comment seems to reflect the views of many death penalty supporters, we thought it fair to post here and respond to it:

Anonymous wrote:

No legal help? Not being a lawyer, I seem to remember reading about these little laws and rights designed to protect anyone in the legal justice system, we call them 'Miranda Rights' (Ernesto Miranda kidnapped and raped the 18 year old woman in that case BTW, which was later proved in the case retrial), we also call one of these laws the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution (no self incrimination except us military types) and the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) as well as dozens of other like minded laws. Isn't the real question here who is willing to foot the bill for the overwhelming number of GUILTY death row offenders who tie up the legal system ad-nauseam to keep their worthless carcasses alive with appeals submissions. What isn't fair is not that they don't have adequate legal representation, it is that the victims of those who are on death row for a crime don't have the recourse to 'appeal' to the perpetrator to 'un'commit the horrible crime for which the criminal ended up on death row to begin with.

My response:

What is interesting is not so much what Anonymous says but what he doesn't say:

1. He completely ignores the entire Austin American-Statesman series and the issues it raises. No matter; you can read it here and decide for yourself.

2. He fails to acknowledge the more than 100 people who have been released from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged during the habeas appellate process. Perhaps Anonymous does not care that innocent people are sent to death row because, after all, it would never happen to him?

3. He fails to acknowledge that innocent people have been executed. The list starts with Ruben Cantu, Carolos De Luna, Larry Griffin and Cameron Todd Cunningham. Those are the ones we know about.

We said it yesterday and it bears repeating: Habeas a complex, drawn-out process -- exonerations occur as a result of habeas appeals, and if you are innocent and have an incompetent habeas attorney then you will be executed. It's that simple.


Anonymous said...

Report on the 7th Annual March to Stop Executions

Austin marchers say:
‘The system is broken—stop executions!’

By Gloria Rubac
Austin, Texas
Published Nov 2, 2006 8:27 PM

Hundreds of energized people marched down Congress Avenue in downtown Austin Oct. 28, led by the family members of two executed men who have now been proven innocent after investigations by the Chicago Tribune over the last few years.

Chanting “Texas says ‘Death Row,’ We say ‘Hell no!,’” the protesters participated in the seventh annual March to Stop Executions in Texas, the state that accounts for 377 out of the 1,053 U.S. executions that have taken place since the U.S. death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Before the march began, activists surrounded Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s mansion and then gathered for a short rally in front of the house. The mother of Todd Willingham and the sister of Carlos de Luna were warmly welcomed by the crowd as they recounted how their loved ones died despite their innocence. Trying to hold back tears, Mary Arredondo said that her family always knew her brother was innocent but, because they were poor, there was nothing they could do to help him.

Todd Willingham’s family drove from Oklahoma. His mother, Eugenia Willingham, said, “I am so glad we came all this way. For the first time I feel like people are with our family and they support and understand what we have been through.

“For so many years, not only was my son vilified after being accused of burning down his house with his children inside, but I was, too. I was called an unfit mother for raising a monster who could kill his children. Now technology has proven that the fire was an accident, that Todd had nothing to do with it.”

The families of the two men left the governor a letter asking that their loved ones’ cases be reopened and investigated. Armed guards told the families the governor was not home but refused to take the envelopes for him. The families then dropped them inside the wrought iron fence, in front of the guards.

A rally at City Hall featured the mothers of two innocent men now on death row: Sandra Reed, mother of Rodney Reed; and Lee Greenwood, mother of Joseph Nichols-Bey. Both appealed for continued support for their innocent sons and thanked activists for their efforts.

Prisoner Howard Guidry spoke to the crowd via a recording. His capital murder conviction was thrown out and he is currently in the Houston county jail awaiting a new trial. Guidry thanked the crowd for being there, saying, “I can hear the pounding of your feet on the pavement. Your voices pierce the walls of my confinement. Your determination to end the death penalty strengthens my resolve and gives me hope that one day I will be free.

“Please support the hunger strike by death row prisoners Steve Moody and the others to protest the inhumane conditions on death row. Stand up for Rob Will, Kenneth Foster and the others in the D.R.I.V.E. Movement whose activism is a constant on death row. Continue to fight. Keep your fist in the air. We will win!”

Other speakers included European activist Sandrine Ageorges, who visits men on Texas death row several times a year.

At the rally, Texas Moratorium Network member Allison Deiter organized the signing of holiday cards for the men and women on death row that the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement sends every year. The cards were taken back to Houston for more signatures to be added later.

Njeri Shakur, a Houston activist with the Abolition Movement, summed up the event: “The day was exhilarating for the young and the experienced activists alike. There were sad stories of innocents being executed and of pending executions, yet there was such an air of optimism and energy, that most left feeling ready for another year of battle against state killing. With the families of those on death row and the dedicated activists in the community working together, I know we will win.”

For information on the death row hunger strike, go to For other information, see, or

Anonymous said...

More than 100 people innocent and released from death row. Some of those people were guilty and got away with it. To suggest otherwise is abolitionist propaganda. One of your "innocents", Timothy Hennis, was linked to the murder he was charged with through DNA recently. But he's "innocent". And so was Jeremy Sheets?

That DPIC propaganda may be good enough to convince idiots like David Souter and Patrick Leahy, but people who look at the issue closely know it's BS.

And don't forget, guys, Coleman did it. So did Kevin Cooper. And so did Mumia. Yeah, that's right Mumia worshipers, he killed a cop--not that you really care.

Diane Perretto said...

The Killing of a Killer

People are talking and silently thinking about the impending hanging death of the dictator, Saddam Huessin. It is a gruesome thought, and one that deserves some contemplation, in regards to the death penalty.

The only way I ever answer anyone when they ask if I ‘believe’ in the death penalty, no matter what the crime, is to say “I couldn’t personally pull the trigger, pull the platform, the lever, or insert the needle.” So, I’ve decided if I can’t do it, then I suppose you could say I don’t ‘believe’ in it or support it. After all, I can’t condone, believe or support doing something I couldn’t do. That would be like saying I believe in not being a liar, and then hoping everyone else I ‘believe’ in doesn’t lie!

And one might come back at me, as so often they do, with ‘Well, what if they murdered your child?” People love to personally assault those who have decided to remove themselves from the need to get revenge or justice. They must feel that somehow we are just not ‘getting’ it and so need to slap us across the face with nasty rhetoric of the most personal sort. But, still, I say, I could not pull the trigger, the lever or the needle, and so, no, I don’t believe in the death penalty.

And then, when that does not convince my questioner of my own conviction and lack of need to kill another human being to be vindicated or to satisfy my anger and sadness, he will most likely then take the ‘high’ road and suggest it is for the good of all mankind to execute a criminal in the name of protecting citizens and eliminating the necessary money needed to keep him in prison.

Here, again, I take the turn toward anti-society and personal conviction. I don’t like our rules of condemnation any more than I like the lunatics that murder. And so, one cannot attract me to either side of the argument. Prison is horrible, murder is horrible, murderers are sad, and executioners, the same.

And so, we come to the real reason of why capitol punishment, in my view, is useless. The world we choose to see when we choose killing to vindicate, is a sad, sad world of hate and more murder. It is not fixed by killing the killer. In fact I think that until we each decide to see past the sinner, past the executioner, past the need for earthly justice, and adhere only to one law; that of Love and its abiding partner, Forgiveness, we cannot see any other world, but a self destructing one.

The law of Love has nothing to do with the ego’s laws of ‘righteousness,’ ‘evil’ and ‘goodness’ but one of knowledge of our Inner Innocence and the desire to spread only that, regardless of what murderers are doing or are not doing, regardless of the world out there at all. Just keep the eyes on Love and the spreading of it. All else will fall into place. Continually reminding each other of our vow to hear Love’s call, we simply keep the criminals removed from society, and all the while, reaching out to them as well, as equal brothers in the Inner Innocence of man.

Yes, even Saddam Huessin

All I can say about his impending hanging death, is blessings to his soul; goodwill to his heart and may he know peace and joy as he feels the healing Love of all who send it.

William S. Wilson said...

The penalty of death for a convicted criminal has become unconstitutional because an execution is a religious event. Killing a person violates the separations between secular government and religion, those widening separations which have become constitutional. If "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," then legislatures shall make no laws establishing the penalty of death because capital punishment is religious.

In Euro-American societies a purpose in life has included making a good death, as with a death-bed conversion, a death-bed confession, or a dying declaration. Many guides to life were written to teach how to make a good death in order to achieve salvation and Eternal Life in God. A bad death was to be dreaded, as with the murder of the late King Hamlet, whose ghost laments that he died:

Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! Most horrible!

A purpose of an execution has been to send a soul toward eternal punishment, or at least to throw the salvation of the soul into doubt, surely a cruel punishment to a person under penalty of death. An execution within a religion may be usual, for the execution has a religious meaning consistent with the values of that religion. But an execution is "unusual" in a government which is not an elaboration of religious values, structures, functions and meanings. An execution threatens a bad death, in spite of the presence of a chaplain. Thus an execution can torture a person with turbulent fear for his or her soul, an anxiety that has nothing to do with a secular punishment which should not have religious implications. Now, in 2006, a penalty of death is a religious penalty which nevertheless is applied within a secular government which must have no legal interest in the relations of a soul with heaven or with hell. These themes overlap euthanasia, abortion and suicide, none mentioned in the Constitution, all of them, in some religions, pertaining to the eternal existence of an immortal soul, rather than to the finite and temporal citizen. A finite and temporal government is legally justified in punishing a citizen within the finite and the temporal world. But a person in government who decrees something or someone to be evil, hence to be destroyed, has abandoned secular government for the religious government of souls. On this plane, a judgment of spiritual evil authorizes religious torture and a religious penalty of death. But even in some Christian theology, a human judgment of evil can be a demonstration of pride, and of the sin of presumption, as in presuming to know the judgment and will of God. Such presumption of knowledge of the will of God over-reaches human powers, hence manifests a pride not consistent with religious faith, punishable in religious but not in secular terms. A secular execution commits the religious sin of presumption. In its wisdom, Christianity as a system has sometimes sought truth and justice with a trial always open to a re-trial, where a retrial may come closer to the mysterious judgments of God. In religions, posthumous retrials can continue, with the trial and execution of Joan of Arc in time corrected by the re-trial of Joan of Arc in eternity. In contrast, a civil execution prevents a civil retrial.

The announcement of a penalty of death, followed by the execution of a person, is a religious act which is unconstitutional in a secular democracy. Without knowing the scholarship on the penalty of death, I can at least quote Herman Melville describing the execution in "Billy Budd." Sentenced to die by Captain Vere, Billy offers a blessing: "God bless Captain Vere!" Because Billy is being negated, he qualifies as a mediator between God and humans: "At the same moment it chanced that the vapory fleece hanging low in the East, was shot thro' with a soft glory as of the fleece of the Lamb of God seen in mystical vision, and simultaneously therewith, watched by the wedged mass of upturned faces, Billy ascended; and, ascending, took the full rose of the dawn." In "Benito Cereno," the body of a man who has been executed is burned to interfere with his resurrection in the flesh: "Some months after, dragged to the gibbet at the tail of a mule, the black met his voiceless end. The body was burned to ashes; but for many days, the head, that hive of subtlety, fixed on a pole in the Plaza, met, unabashed, the gaze of the whites; and across the Plaza looked toward St. Bartholomew's church, in whose vaults slept then, as now, the recovered bones of Aranda; and across the Rimac bridge looked toward the monastery, on Mount Agonia..." So again, if "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," then legislatures shall make no laws establishing the penalty of death because capital punishment is religious.