It is sad to record that a Mexican, Ramiro Hernandes Llanas  has been executed in #Texas.  This is despite many misgivings about the mental capacity of Ramiro.  It is Governor Rick Perry’s 275th execution in the state which must be some kind of a record.

Most cities, towns and states promote their location as an ideal place to live.  They say how attractive it is, how well connected it is to the highway or rail network, they talk about the culture and leisure activities on offer and so on.  The governor of Texas by contrast promotes the use of the death penalty.  In an article in the New Yorker in February, following a decision by the governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, to suspend the death penalty there, Rick Perry was quoted as saying ‘vote with your feet and move to Texas, where the death penalty is thriving.’   Thriving?  In what was described as an emotional speech, he added ‘Come to Texas, the death penalty is alive and well here.’  ‘We believe in the sanctity of death.’  It is truly extraordinary to be promoting this barbaric penalty as an encouragement to move to your state.

There appear to be several reasons to explain why Texas executes more than any other state in the Union.  One is that judges are elected and accordingly have to respond to the wishes of those who elected them.  Presumably, there are many who see a benefit to executions and hence elect those who campaign for it to be used.  It is suggested that the quality of judges appointed by this method is lower than in other states as evidenced by the failure by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to publish most of its death penalty decisions.

A frequent problem in the cases we have asked you to write about, is the poor quality of the lawyers representing the accused many of whom do not have any relevant experience of murder trials.

Although Texas does not sentence more people to death than other states, it does execute more because it has speeded up the process from conviction to execution.

But where does this desire to use the penalty come from?  In his book The American Future, a History (Bodley Head), Simon Schama describes the violent history and founding of the state.  It essentially involved the removal of the indigent Mexican population and the introduction of slaves.  Following the near liquidation of the native Indians, then the expulsion of the Mexicans and the introduction of slavery, it is a state where there is a ‘cultural tradition of dehumanising certain groups of people’ (Ned Walpin, Frontline, Online).  This applies to all the states of the former Confederacy and accounts for the fact that 90% of all executions are carried out within them (ibid).  It is further argued that there is a link between executions and lynching, both of which go to show ‘who’s boss’ and as a means to exclude certain groups from society.  It is no coincidence that this latest appeal is for Ramiro a Mexican.  Gradually, executions replaced the illegal lynchings but served the same purpose of satisfying the predominantly white population’s desire to exclude black and Mexican people from society.

There is a lot of debate in America surrounding Rick Perry’s faith which is said to be strong and genuine.  He started life as a Methodist but has recently become an Evangelical and moved away from GW Bush’s church in Austin to support a mega church at Lake Hill.  He is in favour of teaching creationism and intelligent design and regards evolution as ‘just a theory’.

All this matters because he wants to run for president of the USA and so his attitude to execution and what that says about his political and liberal beliefs could be important.

Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all cases and it is unsettling to see it being promoted, not as some kind of necessary evil, but as though it is a thriving industry to be encouraged and lauded.  Poor quality advocacy, packed juries and a dismissal of proper analysis by the appeals process results in many unnecessary deaths.


Frontline, Online; http://www.pbs.org

The American Spectator

The New Yorker

Texas April 14

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