Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Texas' ex-Governor White on the Death Penalty

The Dallas Morning News reports.

A former Texas governor says it's time for the state to rethink the death penalty.

Mark White was involved with 20 executions as a state attorney general and governor. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, the veteran Democrat says the death penalty no longer deters murder.

He says the long delays between convictions and executions means there is no swift justice. He also says he's increasingly concerned that the law isn't administered fairly and that the risk of putting innocent people to death is too great.

His comment come at a time when Texas Gov. Rick Perry is under criticism for replacing member of the Texas Forensics Commission. That delayed consideration of a report questioning the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

Now it's official. When someone like this comes out questioning the death penalty, things are definitely moving in the right direction - against capital punishment.

What's your opinion? Is the former governor saying that we need to rethink the policy because it's not longer a deterrent? He does mention that little problem of executing innocent people, but I had the impression if "swift justice" could be had he'd still be in favor of it. He is from Texas, after all.

What's your opinion? Does this put additional pressure in the current governor? Where's this leading?

Please leave a comment.


  1. Maybe he is against it as is and is suggesting they put in an express lane.

  2. Death penalty cases have the higest error rate of any kind of case and, consequently, they are reversed at higher rates than any other kind of case. Putting death cases on an express lane would be disastrous when combined with our demonstrated inability to get it right the first time.

  3. Actually, I am not a fan of the death penalty. I believe that it is an important deterrent, especially for kidnapping or other such crime where the criminal would receive the max sentence anyway and a dead victim can't testify. However, with it taking 20 years to put someone to death, that is not working out as much of a deterrent.

    Further, the way our "justice" system is, it costs far more to actually execute someone than to keep them in jail for life.

    I guess my biggest reason to ever oppose it is that there do seem to be an incredible number of criminals later cleared by DNA or other evidence.

    I'm not opposed morally to the state executing people. In fact, I think it is their duty with some of these whackos. However, administratively, capital punishment has become more of a burden than a deterrent or means of punishment.

    Still, you have to wonder about the case of Timothy McVeigh. They sure didn't waste years with him on death row. I wonder why sometimes.

  4. I think there were some unanswered questions about McVeigh. Is that what you're referring to, FWM?

  5. I believe McVeigh volunteered for death. Plus, his was a federal case. Those cases do reach finality quicker because you're taking out two entire levels of appeal: the direct appeal to the state court and the state habeas.