TX Intends to Continue Executions by Lethal Injection

Yesterday's question -- "Will the Supreme Court's decision to review the constitutionality of the death penalty by lethal injection cause states to postpone scheduled executions?" -- has been answered by Texas. Ain't nobody tellin' Texas that it can't be killin' people, it seems.

A day after the United States Supreme Court halted an execution in Texas at the last minute, Texas officials made clear on Friday that they would nonetheless proceed with more executions in coming months, including one next week.

Constitution? Texas don't need no stinkin' Constitution. Sentencing expert Doug Berman suggests that states outside the United States of Texas might be more hesitant to conduct executions by means of a procedure of dubious constitutionality.

“There is a momentum quality to this,” said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who has a blog, Sentencing Law and Policy. “Not only the Supreme Court granting the stay, but also the Alabama governor doing a reprieve that is likely to lead to other states with executions on the horizon waiting to see what the Supreme Court does. I’ll be surprised if many, and arguably if any states other than Texas, go through with executions this year.”

Let's hope Doug is right.

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    On the merits (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by tnthorpe on Sat Sep 29, 2007 at 07:04:28 PM EST
    Please note how many people Texas has executed in comparison to other states. Are we to assume that that state is awash in crime, or are there other possible explanations for this evidence? This isn't regional bigotry, but the ugly face of injustice.

    USA Executions 2007 (as of 09/25/07)

    2007  Overall   Date        Name        State      Method

     1   1058   01/09/07  Corey Hamilton   OK     Lethal Injection
     2   1059   01/10/07  Carlos Granados  TX     Lethal Injection
     3   1060   01/17/07  Johnathan Moore  TX     Lethal Injection
     4   1061   01/30/07  Chris. Swift     TX     Lethal Injection
     5   1062   02/07/07  James Jackson    TX     Lethal Injection
     6   1063   02/22/07  Newton Anderson  TX     Lethal Injection
     7   1064   02/27/07  Donald Miller    TX     Lethal Injection
     8   1065   03/06/07  Robert Perez     TX     Lethal Injection
     9   1066   03/07/07  Joseph Nichols   TX     Lethal Injection
    10   1067   03/20/07  Charles Nealy    TX     Lethal Injection
    11   1068   03/28/07  Vin Gutierrez    TX     Lethal Injection
    12   1069   03/29/07  Roy Pippin       TX     Lethal Injection
    13   1070   04/11/07  James Clark      TX     Lethal Injection
    14   1071   04/24/07  James Filiaggi   OH     Lethal Injection
    15   1072   04/26/07  Ryan Dickson     TX     Lethal Injection
    16   1073   05/03/07  Aaron Lee Jones  AL     Lethal Injection
    17   1074   05/04/07  David Woods      IN     Lethal Injection
    18   1075   05/09/07  Philip Workman   TN     Lethal Injection
    19   1076   05/16/07  Charles Smith    TX     Lethal Injection
    20   1077   05/22/07  Robert Comer     AZ     Lethal Injection
    21   1078   05/24/07  Chris Newton     OH     Lethal Injection
    22   1079   06/06/07  Michael Griffith TX     Lethal Injection
    23   1080   06/15/07  Michael Lambert  IN     Lethal Injection
    24   1081   06/20/07  Lionell RodriguezTX     Lethal Injection
    25   1082   06/21/07  Gilberto Reyes   TX     Lethal Injection
    26   1083   06/22/07  Calvin Shuler    SC     Lethal Injection
    27   1084   06/26/07  Jimmy Bland      OK     Lethal Injection
    28   1085   06/26/07  Patrick Knight   TX     Lethal Injection
    29   1086   06/26/07  John Hightower   GA     Lethal Injection
    30   1087   07/11/07  Elijah Page      SD     Lethal Injection
    31   1088   07/24/07  Lonnie Johnson   TX     Lethal Injection
    32   1089   07/26/07  Darrell Grayson  AL     Lethal Injection
    33   1090   08/15/07  Kenneth Parr     TX     Lethal Injection
    34   1091   08/21/07  Frank Welch      OK     Lethal Injection
    35   1092   08/22/07  Johnny Conner    TX     Lethal Injection
    36   1093   08/23/07  Luther Williams  AL     Lethal Injection
    37   1094   08/28/07  DaRoyce Mosley   TX     Lethal Injection
    38   1095   08/29/07  John Amador      TX     Lethal Injection
    39   1096   09/05/07  Tony Roach       TX     Lethal Injection
    40   1097   09/12/07  Daryl Holton     TN     Electrocution
    41   1098   09/20/07  Clifford Kimmel  TX     Lethal Injection
    42   1099   09/25/07  Michael Richard  TX     Lethal Injection

    Explanations for the numbers (none / 0) (#9)
    by Beldar on Mon Oct 01, 2007 at 10:22:54 AM EST
    To start with, Texas has the second largest population of any state, including three of the ten largest cities. We also have, by a similarly large statistical margin, the largest gross number of capital defendants acquitted of aggravating factors and spared from the death penalty, for example. And we have large numbers of homicide defendants who are never charged with capital murder to begin with. The state is not "awash" in crime, but it's a very large state, with large urban centers, a non-homogeneous population, and a long and porous border that invites drug and other crime traffic.

    Continuously since Gregg v. Georgia reauthorized the use of the death penalty in 1976, the voting public of Texas, through elected local and state officials, has supported its use in appropriate cases.  Over that period of time, the number of genuinely new and unique challenges to the death penalty have declined; appeals from death sentences remain mandatory and automatic, so there are always challenges based at least on the specific facts and circumstances of each trial, but the across-the-board challenges have generally all been tried and have either succeeded (as with challenges to executions of capital murderers who were less than age 18 when they committed their crimes) or failed.

    The comparatively large volume of death penalty cases in Texas, each of them tested repeatedly through direct and collateral attacks in the state and federal courts, has also resulted in very competent and professional state trial judges and prosecutors, especially in places like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, who are less likely to make reversible errors.

    The Texas appellate courts don't sit on death penalty appeals for years at a time. Neither does the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. This is in marked contrast to the situation in the most populous state, California, which nominally has a death penalty but which, as a practical matter, makes no serious effort to enforce it systematically — with the result that decades universally pass between sentence and execution of sentence, and the few executions that actually are carried out seem, comparatively, almost entirely arbitrary. Texans who support the death penalty prefer that it not be a merely abstract or hypothetical deterrent, and indeed, there is widespread understanding throughout every stratum of Texas society that one's commission of a capital murder today is indeed altogether likely to result in one's execution in something on the order of five years, perhaps less. You may not like the results, but our system is, comparatively, predictable, meaning it's comparatively less arbitrary.

    To the extent, then, that there are statistical disparities between Texas and other states with respect to their administration of the capital punishment statutes on the books, we here in Texas who support the death penalty tend to suspect that those other states either aren't as serious, or aren't very professional. But obviously, if one's looking at the numbers from the standpoint of a death penalty opponent, you'd view them as alarming precisely because they indicate an efficiency and effectiveness in the operation of a criminal punishment system with which you fundamentally disagree.


    "Comparatively less arbitrary" (none / 0) (#11)
    by tnthorpe on Mon Oct 01, 2007 at 10:52:32 AM EST
    Not much to hang one's hat on as an argument. 26 executions out of 42 nationwide is more than efficiency and statistical disparity. For example, the recent case of Kenneth Foster comes to mind. That case shows how arbitrarily extended the death penalty is in Texas.

    That someone is doing something wrong efficiently isn't an argument in that practice's favor. That the good people of Texas choose to see deterrence where none in fact exists is of course their prerogative, but again, that's not much of an argument.

    The disparities between Texas and the rest of the nation call for a national policy on the issue (preferably one that does away with the death penalty )so that an accident of location isn't the determining factor in a death penalty prosecution.


    Have you READ Furman & Gregg? (none / 0) (#12)
    by Beldar on Mon Oct 01, 2007 at 04:58:49 PM EST
    Actually, "comparatively less arbitrary" emphatically is an argument to hang one's hat on — as anyone familiar with the Supreme Court's death penalty jurisprudence surely should know. Arbitrariness — the fact that the petitioners were, in Justice Stewart's words, "a capriciously selected random handful upon whom the sentence of death has in fact been imposed" — was the basis for the Court's 1972 decisions in Furman v. Georgia and its companion cases, on the basis of which most then-existing death penalty convictions were invalidated and virtually all states employing the death penalty had to completely re-write their capital murder statutes.

    Gregg v. Georgia in 1976 marked the beginning of the modern era of death penalty jurisprudence precisely because it represented the Court's confirmation that some (but not all) of the new schemes had been successful in curing the arbitrariness problems that had prompted Furman.

    And surely, surely you jest in using Kenneth Foster's case as a data point to condemn Texas' system. Are you not aware that Foster's death sentence was commuted by Gov. Rick Perry on the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles?  I respectfully suggest that one indicator of someone acting out of regional bigotry, rather than logic or reason, is when he continues to condemn a state even for acting in the manner in which he claims the state should act, i.e., for making true the proverb that "no good deed goes unpunished."


    The fact that (none / 0) (#13)
    by tnthorpe on Mon Oct 01, 2007 at 05:12:45 PM EST
    the Foster case EVEN involved the death penalty ought to give a rational person pause. The commutation came, as you surely know, after a concerted international effort to stop the execution.

    The arbitrariness of location remains a fatal impediment to the death penalty, that's the view I put forward. I didn't say it was the S.C. view. In my experience, the S.C. is frequently wrong and on the matter of public killing, the standard of "comparatively less arbitrary" is itself pretty arbitrary.

    This doesn't make me a regional bigot and your and the S.C.'s arguments don't make judicial killing right. It is simply permitted.


    Yep (none / 0) (#16)
    by tnthorpe on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:57:34 PM EST
    your whole argument about professionalism looks pretty good about now. Nope, nothing arbitrary (or stupid, your own word despite the retraction) happening in Texas concerning the death penalty.

    You ready to apologize for calling people who oppose the death penalty regional bigots now?


    Reconsider your regional bigotry? (1.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Beldar on Sat Sep 29, 2007 at 06:03:15 PM EST
    Regional bigotry is as offensive as any other kind. Within Texas, there are people who both support and oppose the death penalty on principled grounds. Lines like "Texas don't need no stinkin' Constitution" and "Ain't nobody tellin' Texas that it can't be killin' people" mark you as a regional bigot, TChris. It's ugly and cowardly, and it offends people from Texas who might otherwise be sympathetic, or at least receptive, to your arguments on the merits.

    On the merits: There is no court order presently preventing Texas from proceeding with scheduled executions. There are arguments about the constitutionality of a similar lethal injection system from another state that are being heard by the Supreme Court; and there doubtless are applications, based on the Supreme Court's grant of that cert petition, asking for it and the lower federal courts, to stay executions in Texas. Perhaps stays will be granted; perhaps not. As an individual blogger, you, of course, are not bound to follow federal court decisions about what is or is not constitutional, and you may express an opinion that Texas' practices are unconstitutional even if the federal courts disagree with you (either on an interim or permanent basis).  The Texas prison system, however, is likely to continue to defer to the instructions of duly elected state officials, subject to rulings of state and federal courts that actually have authority.

    on the merits beldar, (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by cpinva on Sat Sep 29, 2007 at 07:37:31 PM EST
    there aren't any. texas, along with va and fl, has consistently shown itself to be a pretty bloodthirsty state, where the death penalty is concerned. given its popularity there, it's not unreasonable to conclude that the state legislature, gov. and judiciary speak the will of the majority of the state's voting population.

    take your offense elsewhere, to a place someone might actually assume you're serious. that, and 50 cents, might get you a small coffee at 7/11.


    Not lawless (none / 0) (#10)
    by Beldar on Mon Oct 01, 2007 at 10:34:25 AM EST
    What's offensive is not the argument that a majority of Texans support the death penalty and the manner in which it's employed in Texas. That's true.

    What's offensive is the suggestion that it's done in a lawless fashion without regard to the requirements of the Constitution.  That's not true.

    The "blood-thirsty" comment is also somewhat offensive. Retribution is a legitimate goal and underpinning principle of all schemes of penal punishment, and is not limited to capital punishment. Isolation and prevention are other legitimate goals, again not limited to capital defendants. There's no joy involved in capital punishment, no glee, and no bloodlust. It is an exceedingly grim topic, and must always so remain precisely because of the context — the worst sort of murders — from which the cases arise.


    A decorum queen... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 08:48:07 AM EST
    Reconsider the bigotry in your region... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 11:50:02 AM EST
    Why not pure heroin? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Sat Sep 29, 2007 at 01:59:11 PM EST
    I'm opposed to any version of the death penalty, but why doesn't anyone just shoot up the condemned with lethal doses of heroin.

    I presume that the cruel and unusual punishment comes from the different medications causing someone pain prior to death, but would high doses of some opiate obviate the pain? A dose of something to render the condemned unconscious and then a second dose to stop the heart. Wouldn't that satisfy the court questions? Or am I missing something?

    Maybe someone can explain this to me, but it seems as if the current system hopes to allow a final dose of pain to the condemned.

    Well Bob: (1.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Wile ECoyote on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 06:14:19 AM EST
    I have been advocating getting a heroine of the left, Dr. Pou, to use her concoction for executions.    Ithe people she executed had to go out pain free.  

    the problem with that, (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sat Sep 29, 2007 at 05:35:52 PM EST
    is that they might become addicted to heroin. the DEA takes a dim view of this. anything that might alleviate pain is suspect in their view, just ask any dr. attempting help a patient with chronic pain.

    nope, the only effective, quick method for execution, is the guillotine. takes about 1/270th of a second to sever the head from the body. not to mention, it makes embalming that much easier; all the blood pretty much drains right out of the body.

    one caveat: the blade needs to be kept sharp.

    the only real drawback i can see is it might be tough getting the legally required number of witnesses.

    Your guess turned out to be wrong, TChris (none / 0) (#14)
    by Beldar on Wed Oct 03, 2007 at 02:32:47 AM EST
    From the Fort Worth Star Telegram (h/t DRJ at Patterico's Pontifications):

    Heliberto Chi, condemned for the 2001 killing of an Arlington clothing store manager during an after-hours robbery that left another man wounded, won a stay of execution Tuesday when Texas' highest criminal appeals court ordered a hearing on whether the use of lethal injection inflicts undue suffering.

    The ruling was handed down without a formal vote just after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Chi's plea for clemency. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to review claims that lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

    "I think we can now have a substantive debate on the manner in which we execute people in Texas," said Houston attorney David Dow, one of the lawyers seeking to spare Chi from the execution that had been scheduled for Wednesday evening in Huntsville.

    So will you bump this post, with your apology to the people and courts of Texas? Or are your dials all stuck at 11?

    And the answer is ... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Beldar on Wed Oct 03, 2007 at 08:02:21 PM EST
    Apparently, your dials are stuck on 11, TChris, and admitting you were wrong is a low priority.