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Justifying the death penalty in Texas for even the most heinous of crimes has become impossible.
The latest posthumous exoneration comes from research at Columbia University and makes the convincing case that mistaken eyewitness identity sent Carlos DeLuna to his death at the hands of the state. The Texas Tribune reported on the case and noted that this wasn’t the first time an investigation of DeLuna’s execution ascertained he was most likely innocent. And “most likely” is key here, because, as we know, the standard for conviction in a criminal trial is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Texas has witnessed 41 exonerations, although not all of them were capital cases. Nevertheless, any time a citizen is denied life or liberty by the state, the standard must be the highest possible.
The bloodthirstiness of the Texas legal system is in part the culprit in the desire for the death penalty. And it drives one of the biggest flaws in the so-called justice system: The prosecutors’ will to win at any cost to buttress a won-lost record for election or re-election. Treating case records like a ball game demeans the judicial process. And it would cause the death of an innocent inmate, just as Gray County District Attorney Lynn Switzer would like to do. The psychology of this process must change.
Then, of course, we have politicians who clearly believe it’s acceptable to kill people in order to shore up their “law and order” credentials. Rick Perry, for whom my personal disdain knows no bounds, is an example. Here is a politician who sells himself as an über-Christian. And yet when questions arose about Cameron Todd Willingham’s guilt, Perry sent Willingham to the death chamber, refused to consider a stay to consider bad evidence and then, worst of all, clearly subverted an investigation that might have exonerated Willingham. This is inexcusable to me and makes Perry an individual accomplice to murder. But more importantly, it tells us about Perry’s character — or lack thereof — and begs the question of how real a Christian Perry is.
Executions cannot be overturned. They cannot be undone. Humans will never be perfect and neither will our judicial system. The death penalty must end in Texas as soon as possible.