OUTRAGEOUS!


THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS!

Compiled by Anne Good

CRUNCH THESE FIGURES!

The state of Texas, under the leadership of Governor George W. Bush, is ranked:

50th in spending for teachers' salaries

49th in spending on the environment

48th in per-capita funding for public health

47th in delivery of social services

42nd in child-support collections

41st in per-capita spending on public education and...

5th in percentage of population living in poverty

1st in air and water pollution

1st in percentage of poor working parents without insurance

1st in percentage of children without health insurance

1st in executions (avg. 1 every 2 weeks for Bush's 5 years)

STRAPPED TO A GURNEY AND INNOCENT IN TEXAS?

In a recent interview, Governor George W. Bush emphatically claimed "I do not believe we have ever executed an innocent person in Texas." This response came hours after Governor Ryan (IL) issued a temporary halt on all executions due to the undeniable error rate. In Illinois alone, 50% of death row inmates have been exonerated through DNA in the past few years. Read the last words of just a few men in The Lone Star State who have claimed innocence right up until the lethal cocktail was flowing through their veins, and see if you agree with the leader of the largest and fastest growing execution industry in the free world.

Charles Rector on March 25, 1999: "I want you to know I'm not guilty," Rector said in a final statement while strapped to the death chamber gurney. "And I'll say this to the family -- I did not kill your daughter. Take it the way you want. I'm sorry for the pain." He ended his statement by reciting the words to a song he wrote, called "God Living With Us 24 Hours."

Frank Basil McFarland on April 29, 1998: "I owe no apology for a crime I did not commit," he said. "Those who lied and fabricated evidence against me will have to answer for what they have done." Before dying, he invoked the spirit of his ancestors, "the land, the sea and the sky," and told them "to clear a path, I'm coming home." He ended his final statement with the Scottish phrase, "loch sloy," which his family said was the battle cry for the McFarland clan in Scotland.

Pedro Cruz Muniz on May 19, 1998: "All I want you to know is that I didn't kill your sister," he said. "If you want to know the truth, hire an investigator. ... That's all I have to say." And, in a written statement, half in Spanish and half in English, he asked friends to "keep walking forward, because Chicanos like us do not have another alternative."

David Castillo on Sept. 23, 1998: "We all know what really happened, but there are some things you just can't fight. Little people always seem to get squashed," he said. "It's all part of life..."Tell my wife I love her and I'll keep an eye on everybody." "I love y'all. Take care. I'm ready."

Martin Vega on Jan. 26, 1999: Vega maintained his innocence and complained that he was a victim of a conspiracy by authorities. "So what does that make this great state? A very high priced prostitute that sells justice to the highest bidder."

With words like these and an irrefutable error rate throughout the nation, it befuddles one's mind as to how the Governor of Texas could make such a statement with a straight face.

1997 -- On April 3, less than 24 hours before he was due to be executed for beating three people to death with a bowling pin in 1991, Phillip Wilkinson was taken off North Carolina's death row and sent for mental evaluation because guards found two suicide notes in his cell. (Apparently, prison officials believe that a person scheduled to die the next day but who wants to kill himself the night before might be insane and therefore cannot be executed.) And on April 1 in Texas, convicted murderer David Lee Herman slashed his throat a day before his scheduled execution, but he was patched up and, a day later, given his lethal injection.

MOST OUTAGEOUS QUOTES OF THE MONTH

"What I hope is that we become like Texas," Brad Thomas, a policy adviser to Florida Governor Jeb Bush, said when the new state law on appeals was passed.

"Put them on a gurney and let's rock and roll." Thomas later apologized for the remark.

"Like many...I have sought guidance through prayer. I have concluded [that] judgment about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority."

George W. Bush, Governor of Texas

Sources:

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The San Antonio Express

The Death Penalty News

Universal Press Syndicate

UPI

CNN

(Justice Denied Magazine has relied on the sources and agencies listed above for accurate information.)


Previous Outrageous Stories


A Sleeping Defense?

By Kira Caywood, Justice Denied Staff Writer

Calvin Jerold Burdine, 46, who spent the last 15 years on Texas' death row, was granted a retrial. U.S. District judge David Hittner threw out Burdine's conviction and death sentence for the 1983 murder of Burdine's roommate, W.T. Wise. During Burdine's original trial, his attorney, Joe Cannon, was seen by both jurors and court staff to be dozing off frequently. Cannon denied sleeping, claiming he had closed his eyes to concentrate on a pending cross-examination.

On appeal, the state court eliminated the conviction and death sentence, finding that Burdine's constitutional right to representation had been violated. Later, this decision was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which held that, in Texas, unlike other U.S. jurisdictions, an unconscious defense attorney does not qualify as "ineffective assistance of legal counsel" unless the sleeping occurred during a "substantial portion of the trial."

Calvin Burdine is not the first Texan prisoner facing a capital murder charge to be represented by an attorney who slept during the trial. George McFarland, sentenced to death in 1992, was defended by a lawyer who confessed to sleeping. Carl Johnson, who was executed in Texas on September 19, 1995, also accused Joe Cannon of falling asleep during his trial.

The Texas standard for lawyers -- that they need not be awake for important parts of a trial -- may help explain why Texas executes so many people.

"Asleep at the switch" takes on a whole new meaning.

Justice Denied