Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Update: Texas announces intent to resume executions hours after Baze is announced

Predictably, Governor Rick Perry announced immediately after the Baze decision that Texas meets the standards announced in that opinion, and would immediately swing the execution process back into action.

I'm not in favor of abolishing the death penalty.

That said, I've been appalled at Gov. Perry's flippant attitude toward the death penalty. I interned one summer in the Governor's legislative office and was privy to the Governor's daily schedule.

I remember being shocked at how brief Perry's final legal briefings from his general counsel were before prison officials executed an inmate. (And in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn't familiar with the cases Perry reviewed and the State executed during my time there, so I'm not sure there were any bona fide legal issues.)

If we're going to put people to death in the name of justice, let's at least make sure we've got the right person.
In Texas the governor has very little control. It is not suprising that the hearings are brief. By the time an execution is set, the meritous legal issues should have been adjudged in a court of law.
2:19-- I disagree with you on both points. The governor has an important role in the decision to delay executions and commute sentences, and your assumption that the legal system gets everything right is... wrong. Sure, the legal system should have addressed all the issues sufficiently, but that is not always true.

It is telling, as well, that you choose to be anonymous. I'm wary of cowards with strong opinions.
I worked as an assistant general counsel in the Office of the Governor and I disagree with Alan and Anon. 2:19.

I'll defer to Prof. Osler as to why 2:19 is wrong. As for Alan, your qualifier is very important. Also, because you interned in the legislative office and not in General Counsel, I doubt you're familiar with the number of hours the lawyers in GC put into vetting the cases of inmates who are to be executed and working with the post-conviction litigation division of the Attorney General's office prior to their date.

Having sat across the desk from him, I would not describe Gov. Perry's attitude as even approaching flippant and I would describe the attitude of the lawyers in General Counsel as anything but. That said, Gov. Perry has made no secret of his position on this issue, for better or worse.
I disagree with 2:19 saying that "In Texas the governor has very little control" over executions. He has unilateral power to delay executions for 30 days, and can commute sentences of death with a recommendation to do so from the Board of Pardon and Parole-- a Board he appoints. That is something very different than having "very little control." I also think that many legal issues are not fully dealt with at the time of that consideration-- our system is imperfect.

As to what Gov. Perry does in making those decisions, I have very little information.
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t.j., perhaps I should have been more clear or refrained from appearing to make an assumption.

I see where my remarks appear to follow the logic that because the legal briefings were temporally short, Perry must be flippant about the death penalty. (Perry's strong position on the death penalty is, as you mentioned, well-documented, which would further any misunderstanding I may have caused.)

I should also be clear that while I worked for the Governor's office, I never sat in on one of these briefings. Nor have I so much as met anyone (that I can recall) from the GC's office or the AG's office.

Further, I don't mean to discount the work done by lawyers in GC or the AG's office. I've always been quite proud of our Texas Attorney General's office in particular. I apologize if my "let's get the right person" remark appeared to include every level of justice system, that was not my intent.

My point is only this. I was privy to the Governor's schedule, which allotted what I remember being a comparatively short time to address the one or two executions which took place while I worked in the office. I'm not telling you anything new, but as Governor, Perry functions as the last systemic check before Texas executes a condemned inmate. I found it disconcerting that the last check took a rather short amount of time.

Granted, I provide impartial, anecdotal evidence gathered over a short time to support my assertions. If Perry is in fact deliberate in his application of the death penalty, I'm glad - and proud - to hear it.

Prof. Osler - I apologize if I hijacked this comment section.
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