Mr. Death

Sully links to this analysis of Bush’s record on executions. Incidentally, this exposes another lie of the Right Wing Echosphere. Bush did have the power to grant clemency.

In general, while I have my doubts about the death penalty, I’m not terribly sympathetic to a lot of the arguments in the article. It’s basically a religious screed about how Karla Fay Tucker repented of murdering two people and how awful it was that Bush didn’t grant her clemency. The line about Tucker’s “beautiful face” is particularly nauseating.

I think the biggest problem with the anti-death-peantly crowd is their tendency to bark up the wrong tree. They tell us about murderers who suffered from abuse and drug addiction — as if humans were behaviorist automatons with no free will. If their argument is valid, it’s an argument in favor of execution — because they are saying that these people can’t help killing. (Incidentally, it’s amazing how often these horrible pasts surface after conviction.)

I’m also not terribly sold on death row conversions. It’s easy to have Jesus in your heart when you’re about to die. It’s a little more difficult when you’re poised over two people about to kill them. It’s also a catch-22. You can’t execute someone who hasn’t repented because they might. You can’t execute someone who has repented because they’re not a murderer anymore.

Besides, if someone truly repented and is right with the Lord, wouldn’t they want justice done to them? Wouldn’t they want the chance to go the heaven before the urges they can’t control because of childhood abuse make them kill again?

Perhaps if Karla Fay Tucker’s victims could have forgiven her, I’d be more sympathetic. But if your argument is that she’s gotten right with the Lord, then he’ll forgive her no matter what is done to her on Earth.

This is also, incidentally, an illustration of the Religious Left in this country. Jailhouse conversions have ceased to be about saving the souls of the condemned and become advocacy.

The best argument against the death penalty, IMHO, is the danger of executing the innocent. There was never any doubt that Tucker was guilty.

However, I will agree that the portrait this paints of President Bush is disturbing. To quote from a document that’s been on my mind recently, it is behaviour totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation. Returning to the religious theme, Bush claims to be a Christian. So what is he going to do if he goes to heaven and God asks him why he executed an innocent man? National Review might buy the “it was Al’s briefing” defense, but God won’t.

I often think about the difficult clemency decisions that face the governors of our nation. To have a human life in your hands is an awesome responsibility. I couldn’t sign a death warrant easily. I would, at the least, want a personal meeting with the defense lawyers to hear their side.

But to regard this, as Bush appears to have, as an inconvenience (and we have plenty of evidence of this, aside from Prejean’s martyrology) is mind-boggling. This is the great moral and spiritual leader of the nation? Pshaaw.

2 thoughts on “Mr. Death”

  1. There seems to be some confusion, here.

    Texas governors don’t sign death warrants, judges do.

    Texas Governors cannot commute or grant clemency without a majority vote of the Texas Pardons and Parole Board, supportive of those decisions.

    The Board voted against commutation in those 57 cases, where it was requested. The Governor appoints the Board.

    Then Governor Bush stated two reason for upholding death sentences.

    1) The appellate courts had already found that the murderers had received proper due process; and

    2) Bush respected the juries decisions, particularly in light of the appellate courts findings. He did not want to act like the 13th juror, who by himself, would overturn the 12 juror, unanimous decision to execute.

    Bush preferred the democratic position.

    I’ll add a third reason. The murderers didn’t deserve commutation.

    I think that many can find reason to condemn President Bush’s decision, with regard to Scooter Libby’s commutation.

    One can say, with some assurance, that wrongly commuting the sentence of a murderer – which death penalty opponents desire for all cases – is considerably more worthy of condemnation than the commutation of a convicted liar.

    additional point:

    Juries or judges, not governors, are responsible for giving death sentences in Texas.

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail, 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-Span, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

  2. I agree with a lot of your points, but you’re forgetting something. Bush worked very hard behind the scenes to get Henry Lee Lucas off. He appointed all 18 members of Board of Pardons and Paroles.

    I’m not very moved by the “the jury has made their decision” reponse. Juries can be wrong, especially when you have — as is the case in many death penalty cases — incompetent lawyers, mistaken witnesses or with-held evidence.

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