Death row exhibit at BookPeople
Updated: 8/25/2007 2:44:39 PM
By: Tracey Panek
The mug shots of 391 executed prisoners will stare at shoppers at BookPeople for the next week, in a sort of "gallery of death" to promote a new book by a local author.
Author Bill Crawford uses them in his book, Texas Death Row: Executions in the Modern Era. It looks at the life, crimes and last meals of the men and women sentenced to death with photos, personal data, last statements and a summary of the crime.
The entries are listed in chronological order, beginning with Charlie Brooks in 1982 and ending with Farley Charles Matchett in 2006 (when the book went to press.) Machett was convicted of gruesomely murdering three people in 1991 while looking for money to buy crack cocaine. For his last meal, he requested four olives and a bottle of wild-berry flavored water.
The mug shots will be on display this week at BookPeople in downtown Austin, where Crawford spoke on Friday. He says the death penalty raises difficult questions.
"When the state decides to take the ultimate punishment on one of its citizens, it's very important we mark that, and we register that, and we think about that because such power by the state can be abused," Crawford said.
Texas executed its 400th prisoner on Aug. 22. Johnny Ray Conner, 32, asked for forgiveness before he was killed over the 1998 murder of a Houston convenience store clerk.
In his final statement, he also expressed love to his family and his victim's family, who watched him through windows in the death chamber in Huntsville. Conner asked one of his victim's relatives to look at him, but she didn't and remained turned to the side and praying.
"This is destiny. This is life. This is something Allah wants me to do,'' he said in his lengthy statement. "I want you to understand, I'm not mad at you. When I get to the gates of heaven I'm going to be waiting for you. Please forgive me. What is happening to me is unjust and the system is broken.''
Conner was the 21st condemned killer to have his execution carried out this year in Texas. In 2000, Texas broke the record with 40 executions.
There are 379 people are currently on death row, 10 of whom are women. One hundred-fifty-seven are black, 113 are white and 105 are Hispanic.
Gov. Rick Perry doesn't seem to be reconsidering his right to exercise capital punishment. Earlier this week the European Union asked Perry to impose a moratorium on executions in Texas.
Perry's office responded by saying, “Two-hundred thirty years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.”