Religion, culture behind Texas execution tally
Texas will almost certainly hit the grim total of 400 executions this month, far ahead of any other state, testament to the influence of the state's conservative evangelical Christians and its cultural mix of Old South and Wild West.
"In Texas you have all the elements lined up. Public support, a governor that supports it and supportive courts," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
"If any of those things are hesitant then the process slows down," said Dieter. "With all cylinders working as in Texas it produces a lot of executions."
Texas has executed 398 convicts since it resumed the practice in 1982, six years after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a ban on capital punishment, far exceeding second-place Virginia with 98 executions since the ban was lifted. It has five executions scheduled for August.
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Dudley Sharp - 8/17/2007
How bad can some stories get? Try “Religion, culture behind Texas execution tally” ( Reuters, Aug 12, 2007).
Ed Stoddard, the Reuter's reporter, finds that the Old South- slavery-western cowboy-pro death penalty Christian Governors-large evangelical population culture, combined with friendly judges, makes Texas the leader in execution.
Gee Ed, what about the kitchen sink?
Not surprisingly, Mr. Stoddard combines his interesting opinions with those of Richard Dieter, head of The Death Penalty Information Center, a prime distributor of misinformation for the anti death penalty movement.
Somehow, they left out that Texas has the second lowest rate of overturning death penalty cases. That is, necessarily and by far, the most important fact in having high execution numbers. Couldn't Ed and Richard have figured that out?
The quality of prosecutors and defense counsel and, of course, the opinions of the judges are, collectively, responsible for the overturning and confirmation rates and, therefore, execution rates. Any other factors are very minor, indeed.
What evidence did Stoddard and Dieter present, that their conflagration of cultural characteristics is responsible for Texas' leading execution count? Zero.
At one point, murderers were most likely to be sentenced to death and executed in Delaware. Delaware doesn't seem to be much of a hotbed of the Old South- racist-western cowboy-pro death penalty Christian Governors-large evangelical population culture. But, I might be wrong. Mr. Stoddard?
The majority of citizens, in all states, even non death penalty states, support capital punishment. 85% of Connecticut citizens supported the 2005 execution of Michael Ross. That’s the highest percentage I have ever seen. Connecticut is not quite the hotbed of Old South- racist-western cowboy-pro death penalty Christian Governors-large evangelical population culture. Mr. Dieter?
As for the fundamentalist or evangelical Christian influence on executions, that doesn't seem to be much of a factor in executions. Many southern states have significant evangelical populations, but their execution rates vary, widely, indicating little or no impact. Texas is not near the top rung of the evangelical ladder. However, southern states execute many more murderers than any other region.
But, again, the execution rates are controlled by the appellate courts, not by the Old South- racist-western cowboy-pro death penalty Christian Governors-large evangelical population culture. Right?
Stoddard writes: “Some critics say the South can be seen in the racial bias of death sentences with blacks more likely than whites to be condemned — though Texas is not alone on this score. Over 41 percent of the inmates currently on death row in Texas are black, but they account for only about 12 percent of the state’s population.”
Nice, Ed. Some critics, like you, are wrong. White murderers are twice as likely to be executed as are black murderers. Population count has NOTHING to do with it. It is the crimes committed, not any ethnic or racial groups population count, that put murderers on death row. Black murderers are not more likely to be condemned, on a death sentences per murder rate. White murderers are. White death row inmates are also executed more quickly.
I suspect Texas leads the nation in the sales of pickup trucks. Maybe that's why the state executes as much as it does. Ed? Richard? Nah, it's probably the state and federal appellate judges, in all jurisdictions, who control the execution rates.
NOTE: Some good information on evangelicals.
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, 713-622-5491,
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
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