In Texas, we "value all life."
This is what Rick Perry proclaimed in his speech yesterday at the National Right to Life convention before he oversaw Texas' 500th execution. Kimberly McCarthy, aged 52, received lethal injection at 6pm last night, making Rick Perry's record on executions the highest of any other governor since 1976.
So while Rick Perry was campaigning for life, he was also sentencing his 261st inmate to death.
Wednesday's capital punishment case, just like many others, was hotly debated and highly controversial. According to International Business Times, racial bias allegations were "successfully argued" by the defense and frankly aren't new to Dallas County, where the woman's court case was heard. Despite the area being predominately populated by African Americans, the jury was almost all Caucasian. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, out of the 64 potential jurors, only four who made it to final selection were non-white. Three of them were "eliminated by prosecutors using peremptory strikes". An eerily similar incident took place during Miller-El v. Dretke back in 2005 in Dallas County. McCarthy also faced a severe addiction to crack cocaine, had serious mental health issues and lacked adequate representation in the case. Lincoln Caplan at The New York Times explains that her case embodies the systemic failures of the Texan justice system.
"Texas’s death penalty system is notorious for its high tolerance of ineffective counsel for defendants, overly zealous prosecutors, and racial discrimination in jury selection. The case of Kimberly McCarthy, the woman scheduled for execution, seems tainted by all three," he said in his op-ed.
While Texas has executes more inmates than any other state, it also struggles to protect the innocent. According to The Innocent Project, "more people have been freed through DNA testing in Texas than in any other state in the country, and these exonerations have revealed deep flaws in the state’s criminal justice system." One of the most infamous cases was the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the murder of his three daughters. Having maintained his innocence throughout, corroborated by forensic experts who doubted the validity of the evidence against him, Willingham’s appeal was “squashed” by Governor Perry, who signed-off on his execution.
Furthermore, the executed minors and mentally incapacitated under Governor Perry also elicited much controversy. Finally, it stands to note that most inmates on death row are African-American; research shows that their likelihood of being executed increases dramatically when their victims were white.
The graph below shows Texas' record on executions since Rick Perry has been in power.
Source: Texas Tribune
Granted, a majority of Texans support the death penalty. Despite the fact that most of his constituents agree with his actions when it comes to these executions, there's an inherent contradiction in his position. Governor Perry is labelling himself as a protector of human rights in the abortion debate, while showing no remorse for any innocent lives lost due to his policies on the death penalty. If he wants to be taken serious as a proponent of "life", he should protect it for all, not just for some. Many are having trouble believing that the governor believes that "Every life matters," and at this point, I really don't blame em'.
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