Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mark White on State-Sanctioned Killing

Former Governor Mark White has now weighed in on the use of the death penalty as an ultimate form of punishment of criminals in Texas. Coming on the heels of the little blow up between Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry, this looks like a smackdown from the former Democratic governor.

Something that White denies.

Something I can’t really fathom.

Because as an issue, this divides us like no other issue except maybe abortion. True, there are lots of Texas Democrats who favor the death penalty but I believe that tide is starting to turn. And I believe that evidence of this is right there in Mark White’s pronouncement as quoted in this AP article.

Progressive Democrats in Texas are for the most part opposed to the death penalty, but for reasons that range far and wide all the way from “it’s immoral” to “a preponderance of minorities are put to death” to “innocent people have been executed.”

That last one being my point of view and rationale for opposing the death penalty.

And apparently this point of view is shared by Mark White, citing the case of Todd Willingham – the one that got Kay Bailey and Rick Perry in an argument – but also the case of Michael Blair, whose innocence was proved with DNA forensic evidence – after he was executed:

“That's two examples of why I think the system is so unreliable. It creates an unnecessary possibility that an innocent person would be executed in Texas. And I don't think anybody in Texas wants that to happen.”
Well and good. But the issue is still hotly debated even within the Democratic Party. An issue we need to settle so it can be used as an issue to oust Republicans from statewide offices.

Because Republicans are very single-mindedly in favor of having the death penalty, and having it often.

Mark White, who has, in one capacity or another, overseen the executions of 20 individuals has come far in making this case – a progressive case. But we need to work on this some more to get the center left and independents on board with opposition to the death penalty.

And I can’t think of a better way to do that then point out this very important fact about the death penalty. A fact that will appeal to the sensibilities of economic conservatives in the center.

The death penalty costs more.


“The death penalty is much more expensive than its closest alternative -- life imprisonment with no parole. Capital trials are longer and more expensive at every step than other murder trials. Pre-trial motions, expert witness investigations, jury selection, and the necessity for two trials -- one on guilt and one on sentencing -- make capital cases extremely costly, even before the appeals process begins. Guilty pleas are almost unheard of when the punishment is death. In addition, many of these trials result in a life sentence rather than the death penalty, so the state pays the cost of life imprisonment on top of the expensive trial.”
That is, if you can’t appeal to a person’s sense of morality, or their sense of fairness, or their sense of outrage, you can always appeal to their sense of thrift.

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