Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The Ghosts of Texas

July 4, 2007

The Ghosts of Texas

The Quality of Bush's Mercy


When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, he presided over more than 150
executions. In more than one-third of the cases "57 in all " lawyers
representing condemned inmates asked then-Governor Bush for a commutation of
sentence, so that the inmates would serve life in prison rather than face

Some of these inmates had been represented by lawyers who slept during
trials. Some were mentally retarded. Some were juveniles at the time they
committed the crime for which they were sentenced to death.

In all these cases, Governor Bush refused to commute their sentences, saying
that the inmates had had full access to the judicial system.

I. Lewis Libby Jr. had the best lawyers money can buy. His crime cannot be
attributed to youth or retardation. He has expressed no remorse whatsoever
for lying to a grand jury or participating in the administration,

s effort to
mislead the American people about the war in Iraq. President Bush's
commutation of Mr. Libby's sentence is certainly legal, but it just as
surely offends the fundamental constitutional value of equality.

Because President Bush signed a commutation, a rich and powerful man will
spend not a day in prison, while 57 poor and poorly connected human beings
died because Governor Bush refused to lift a pen for them.


Source : CounterPunch (David R. Dow is a professor at the University of
Houston Law Center who represents death row inmates, including several who
sought commutation from then-Governor Bush)

1 comment:

Dudley Sharp said...

This is fairly typical of David Dow's writings on the death penalty - full of wrong turns and omissions ("The Quality of Bush's Mercy", 7/4/07.

The obvious omissions by Dow:

Juries or judges are responsible for giving death sentences in Texas. Judges sign execution warrants.

Texas Governors cannot commute or grant clemency without a majority vote of the Texas Parole Board supportive of those.

Bush did not grant commutation to 57 murderers who requested it for three reasons.

1) He couldn't. The Parole Board voted against them in all but 1 or two cases.

2) The appellate courts had already found that the murderers had received proper due process. and

3) Bush respected the juries decisions, particularly in light of the appellate courts findings. He did not want to act like the 13th juror, who by himself, overturned the 12 juror, unanimous decision to execute.

Bush preferred the democratic position, as opposed to the totalitarian one of Dow's preference.

I think that many can find reason to condemn the President's decision, with regard to Scooter Libby's commutation - Dow's totalitarian choice being one.

But, then, many liberal and conservative legal thinkers condemned Libby's sentence as excessive.

One can say, with some assurance, that wrongly commuting the sentence of a murderer - which Dow advocates, for all cases - is considerably more worthy of condemnation than the commutation of a convicted liar.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters