Tag Archives: death penalty

Does capital punishment deter capital crime?

So, the federal government is restoring the death penalty for federal crimes. The Justice Department is bringing back this form of punishment that’s been on the shelf for two decades, through presidential administrations of both parties.

I have to ask: What crime will it deter? Where is the deterrence that this punishment is supposed to create? Do criminals really think of the punishment when they commit these heinous acts?

Capital punishment gives me considerable heartburn as I grapple with how I feel about it. I have declared my opposition to the death penalty as a punishment handed out by states and, now, the federal government.

We kill criminals at a break-neck pace in Texas, although the pace has slowed considerably in recent years. There once was a time when we were executing ’em with stunning regularity. There were tacky, crass jokes about setting up a “drive-through window” at the state’s execution chamber in Livingston.

Did the frequency of those executions stem the crime tide? Did it prevent killers from doing what they did to deserve the ultimate punishment? I fear not.

Which makes the DOJ’s decision to return the death penalty so problematic for me.

I don’t want to “coddle” these individuals. They should serve hard time. I do not oppose “administrative segregation,” which is a euphemism for “solitary confinement.” If they’re going to spend the rest of their lives in prison, make them pay deeply for the crime that put them behind bars.

I am acutely aware that life sentences don’t deter criminals, either.

The notion of deterring criminal acts requires a lot more thought and nuance than just killing the individuals who commit them.

Abbott takes the correct course with commutation

Thomas Whitaker is still alive.

He will remain so apparently for as long as his heart keeps ticking. He won’t be free, however. He will remain in prison for as long as draws breath.

Whitaker was supposed to die in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice death chamber this week. Then the state’s Board of Pardons and Parole recommended that his death sentence be commuted. It was a rare event by the parole board.

Then came the kicker: Gov. Greg Abbott could have rejected the recommendation. He didn’t. He accepted it and within minutes of Whitaker’s scheduled execution, Abbott commuted his sentence.

Whitaker is a bad dude. Make no mistake about that. He is not imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. He did conspire in 2003 to kill his mother and brother in Fort Bend County. However, the trigger men in the crime got lighter sentences than what Whitaker got initially. The man’s father argued for his life, even though his own wife and son had died in the heinous act.

“The murders of Mr. Whitaker’s mother and brother are reprehensible,” Abbott said. “The recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and my action on it, ensures Mr. Whitaker will never be released from prison.”

This decision is the correct one, to my mind, as a matter of principle. I oppose capital punishment. Accordingly, I am glad to see that Gov. Abbott has decided to stand by the Board of Pardons and Parole, even though he said he remains a staunch supporter of the death penalty.

However … Thomas Whitaker will suffer plenty while he spends the rest of his life behind bars.

This conviction tests anti-death penalty resolve


We can stop calling the shooter in that horrific massacre at a Charleston, S.C., church an “alleged” perpetrator.

A jury today convicted the young man accused of killing nine parishioners on June 17, 2015.

Jurors heard the killer confess to the massacre. They heard testimony from others about how the young man prayed with the parishioners, read from Scripture with them … and then shot them to death in cold blood.

The killer, who is white, is a known racist. He’s a hater. The victims were black. He wrote in his diary that he had intended to provoke a race war.

What now?

The killer’s lawyer is known to be good at avoiding death sentences for his clients. That will be the lawyer’s task now that the killer has been convicted of this hideous hate crime.


Some of us out here oppose the death penalty. I’m one of them. This case will test my resolve, much like the Timothy McVeigh execution over his bombing of the Oklahoma City federal courthouse did.

I will remain opposed to killing someone as punishment. But I recognize it’s hard, given what this hate-filled young man has done.


Just so you know, I am refusing to mention the shooter’s name. I did so early on when the case broke, but then decided “nope, I won’t give him any publicity.”

You know to whom I will refer.

May he rot in hell.

Tim Kaine: serious about the oath he takes


Tim Kaine’s selection as Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential running mate is bringing forth the expected public vetting of the U.S. senator’s public policy record.

One item that’s been drawing some attention has involved capital punishment.

A New York Times story Sunday notes that although Kaine is vehemently opposed to executing people for capital crimes he was able to carry out executions while serving as governor of Virginia.

My reaction: Well, duuuhhh?


Kaine has moved on to the Senate, where he gets to vote on laws that affect all Americans. But while serving as governor, he took a solemn oath to do one thing essentially: to follow the law as prescribed and written by the legislative assembly of his state.

Governors really have little leeway as it regards capital punishment. Sure, they can commute sentences, which Kaine did while serving as Virginia governor, and which he was empowered to do under the state constitution.

However, if the state executed someone who had been sentenced to death by a jury, then it follows that the governor — barring some extraordinary circumstance — is obligated to do what the law tells him to do.

Virginia is No.2 in the nation in executing capital criminals. No. 1? Oh, yeah … that would be Texas!

The two hats Kaine wears — as one who opposes certain public policy but who must adhere to the law –aren’t the least bit confusing, to me at least.

He struggles as well with abortion. Kaine is a devoted Catholic who believes in the doctrine of his church, which opposes abortion for any reason. However, abortion is legal in this country and, therefore, Kaine must follow the law.

Indeed, he also remains pro-choice on that issue, regardless of his personal opposition to the practice based on his own moral compass and the teachings of his church — believing, apparently, that the government should allow women to make that gut-wrenching decision for themselves.

Sen. Kaine is a serious man who now has been given a serious task, which is to run alongside the Democrats’ presidential candidate. His executive government experience owing to his days as a governor demonstrates he also is a serious public servant.


Suspect’s ‘character’ being revealed

Dylann Roof is a vicious young man.

He’s accused of killing nine people in a Bible study at a Charleston, S.C. church. The victims were black; Roof is white. Now we hear that he’d planned for months to carry out an attack like what occurred at the church.

He is angry that African-Americans are seeking to “take over the world,” said his roommate.


What on God’s Earth do we think of this fellow?

Just as important, what on Earth does this individual’s deep-seated hatred symbolize in the world at large?

I won’t for a moment believe he speaks for many others. He does, though, allegedly speak to some terrible, dark instincts that do exist. That one man has acted on them must suggest that he is not totally alone.

I happen to be frightened at what the shooter exhibited in that house of worship.

Now we ask: How does this individual face justice? Do the feds try him for committing a hate crime or do we let the state of South Carolina prosecute Roof for murder?

Whether he committed a hate crime really doesn’t matter as much as some folks believe it does. The individual who did this horrible deed killed nine victims in a brutal attack. He will qualify for the death penalty if a jury — either state or federal — convicts him.

My hope at this moment is to pray for the men and women who died at the hands of one whose anger twisted out of control.

I’d say we should pray for the shooter as well … except that I can’t go there. Maybe one day. Just not now.


Tsarnaev is going down

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should die for killing those people during the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, a federal court jury ruled today.

I know a lot of Americans are cheering the decision. I’m not one of them, but perhaps not for the usual reasons.


I oppose capital punishment on principle. I’ve noted that already on this blog and I stand by my belief.

However, if there ever was a case that challenged that principle, the Tsarnaev case stands out as a serious test. The testimony as I understand it was riveting in the extreme. The pictures of the victims, including the young boy who died in the blast, were gut-wrenching.

I don’t pity Tsarnaev in the least and my desire to see him live has nothing to do with wanting to spare his life because of some sense of grace. He needs to seek that himself, which he is not likely to do.

Death for this young man, though, is going to be seen as a “victory.” Tsarnaev’s perverted view of his Muslim faith means he’ll be welcomed into the after-life as a hero. Do we want that for him? Of course not.

I crueler fate would have been to lock the young man up in a super-max prison, keep him in solitary confinement for 23 hours every single day and let him ponder for the remainder of his time on Earth precisely what he did to those innocent victims.

As a non-Muslim, I do not want to give Tsarnaev the satisfaction of obtaining that so-called “victory” by sticking a needle in his arm and watching him die.

The death sentence means a probable lengthy appeals process. Civil liberties groups will intervene on his behalf. Perhaps his legal team will think it can get the death sentence reversed. Every court hearing is going to dredge up more misery for the loved ones of those who died and for the victims who were injured — some of them grievously — by the terrorists’ blast. They do not deserve the endure more pain.

Then again, perhaps Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will waive his appeals and await his fate.

Whatever. If we want to punish this man to the hilt, he would suffer more by rotting in prison for the rest of his miserable life.


Tsarnaev likely to go down

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now a convicted murderer.

A Boston jury convicted him of all counts of first-degree murder in the April 15, 2013 bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

The U.S. Justice Department will seek the death penalty once the sentencing phase of the trial begins next week.

Based on what I understand occurred in the courtroom during the trial, the young killer is likely to be put down.

He didn’t show remorse. He didn’t exhibit any emotion. He didn’t even flinch, blink or look away when prosecutors produced graphic autopsy photographs of the three people killed in the blast; meanwhile, the jurors wept as they looked at the pictures.

What does that say about Tsarnaev? To me, it says he carried out a premeditated attack against innocent victims to prove some political point. The last person to be executed by the federal government, Timothy McVeigh, did the same thing when he detonated the truck bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City nearly 20 years ago this month.

I’ve noted already my opposition to capital punishment. Tsarnaev’s cold response is testing that opposition to the max.

Although I oppose this punishment on principle, I won’t grieve if the jury sends this young man to his death.

Hard to oppose death penalty on this one

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is making it difficult for a capital punishment opponent — such as myself — to remain true to principle.

He’s the young man accused of killing three people and injuring several others April 15, 2013 at the end of the Boston Marathon.

The federal government has ended its case against Tsarnaev, turning it over to the defense team, which is going to argue that his life should be spared.


Tsarnaev’s guilt actually isn’t being questioned by his defense team. His lawyers are going to make the case that the feds shouldn’t execute him, which the Justice Department wants to do if he’s convicted of this terrible crime.

The case to keep him alive seems a bit shaky. Lead defense counsel Judy Clark said Dzhokhar was under the spell of his radicalized older brother, Tamerlan, who died when Dzhokhar ran over him with their getaway vehicle.

I remain opposed to capital punishment, but reporters covering the trial in Boston keep referring to the defendant’s lack of emotion, how he slouches in his chair and how seems utterly detached from what’s happening around him.

Any parent of a young man can relate to Dzhokhar’s outward demonstration of disinterest. It’s what teenagers and young adults do when they’re facing discipline — even when it threatens to end their life.

Tsarnaev is going down. That much is virtually without question. Whether he dies for his crime remains in the hands of the jury.

The family members of those who died deserve justice. They’ll get it with a conviction. To them, at least, justice won’t be delivered fully until Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is executed. While I disagree with that form of punishment, I certainly understand the loved ones’ desire to see justice administered in its entirety.


Now the judge opposes death penalty

So, we’re supposed to sing high praise because a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge has declared his opposition to the death penalty.

Is that what we’re supposed to do?

I would, except that Judge Tom Price is about to leave the state’s highest criminal appellate court in January, which makes his declaration a mere symbolic act.


Price, who’s being replaced by Bert Richardson — the judge presiding over Gov. Rick Perry’s abuse of power court proceedings — wrote this, according to the Texas Tribune: “Given a substantial amount of consideration to the propriety of the death penalty as a form of punishment for those who commit capital murder, and I now believe that it should be abolished.”

Price’s statement came as he was one of three dissenting votes rejecting an appeal for clemency for death row inmate Scott Panetti, who’s scheduled to die by lethal injection in just a few days. Panetti’s been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia and death penalty foes have sought to have his death sentence commuted.

Price now is on board with them.

But he’s leaving the court.

So what good is his declaration … now?

Perhaps he can carry his opposition into the private sector and try to talk some reason into his former CCA colleagues who continue to reject other appeals on similar grounds.

“My conclusion is not reached hastily,” Price wrote in his dissent. “Rather, it is the result of my deliberative thought process from having presided over three death-penalty trials as a trial court judge and having decided countless issues related to capital murder and the death penalty as a judge on this court.”

Price didn’t seek re-election this year. He’s served on the all-Republican CCA since being elected in 1996. I applaud his coming out against capital punishment. I now hope he carries the campaign forward.


Panetti deserves to be executed? No way!

Some time back, I declared my opposition to capital punishment.

Scott Louis Panetti offers a textbook example of why the punishment as applied in Texas is barbaric.

Panetti committed an awful crime in the early 1990s. He shot his in-laws to death. His guilt is beyond doubt.

But it gets a whole lot trickier from there.


He represented himself during his 1995 trial and during testimony he sought to call — get ready for this — John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ as witnesses.

Panetti, you see, is a lunatic. He suffers from acute schizophrenia. He’s nuts. Panetti doesn’t deserve to die for this crime because he quite likely didn’t know what on God’s Earth he was doing when he killed his mother- and father-in-law.

He’s set to die in Dec. 3 in the death chamber in Livingston, Texas.

Some officials, including former Gov. Mark White, have written a letter asking for clemency. “We are deeply troubled that a capital sentence was the result of a trial where a man with schizophrenia represented himself, dressed in a costume,” the letter stated. “We come together from across the partisan and ideological divide and are united in our belief that, irrespective of whether we support or oppose the death penalty, this is not an appropriate case for execution.”

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, however, isn’t known for exhibiting compassion regarding capital punishment cases. My guess is that the court will dismiss the request, perhaps suggesting that Panetti was faking his lunacy.

Panetti’s craziness appears real to me. He shouldn’t die for the crime he committed.