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Texas posts strong showing in death-penalty tourney

Texas didn’t quite make the Final Four this year. It was edged out by China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which, as luck would have it, all executed more people in 2009 than the Lone Star State. Still, Texas accounted for nearly half of America’s executions, which is not nothing and which, given the pluck and determination of its political leaders, can be bettered. China, alas, shows no signs of softening.

Of course, Texas is handicapped by a cumbersome judicial system – all those appeals, all those misguided lawyers – whereas in China, it’s much quicker. Sometimes the trial is skipped entirely. The folks at Amnesty International, who this week issued their annual report on capital punishment, condemn such practices, but those people are notoriously liberal – maybe worse, if you know what I mean. They say China last year executed “thousands” of people.

Far behind the pack is Europe, where capital punishment is banned in all but one country: Belarus, a fetid place that is hardly ever featured in any of the good travel magazines. South America, too, is a whole continent -- mountains and deserts and all -- without capital punishment. Europe and South America say they feel safe anyway. I suppose the Texas school authorities will delete this fact from all textbooks.

In all fairness, Texas is not the only state that contributed to America’s total of 52 executed. Virginia, for one, has pulled its weight over the years, and isn’t resting on its laurels. Last month it electrocuted a convicted murderer, and another execution is scheduled for next month. The death penalty has worked wonders as a deterrent measure in Virginia -- with the occasional exception of campus massacres, Pentagon shootings and ordinary crimes -- as it has in Texas. The Lone Star State’s murder rate is about the same as the nation as a whole, but inexplicably more than double those of some states and even higher than New York’s.

To its credit, Texas isn’t hampered by statistics nor logic from joining Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other advanced states in the execution of the deserving and -- look, that’s why they put erasers on pencils -- the undeserving. And this explains, now that you think about it, why there is always such a fight over evolution in Texas. When Texans look around, they can see for themselves that in the area of common sense, nothing really has evolved.

By Richard Cohen  | April 1, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Cohen  | Tags:  Richard Cohen  
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Comments

Well said.

Posted by: lizgwiz | April 1, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

What is the point here? Texas jokes aren't quite as funny now that Bush is no longer president.

However, I do think it is sad that we still allowed the murder of 52 people under the guise of justice last year and that we allow the murder of thousands of children every year under the guise of choice.

Posted by: BradG | April 1, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

WITH THE SUB-PAR POPULATION OF TEXAS THEY NEED A DEATH PENALTY.

Posted by: ravitchn | April 1, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

The point appears to be that the author is opposed to the death penalty. The same old arguments lie beneath all of this. Capital punishment doesn't work as a deterrent, so we should therefore scrap it. It would work as a deterrent if people were executed within the same decade in which they were convicted, instead of 16, and 19,and 23 years after 400 frivolous appeals and millions upon millions of the tax payers' money. Capital punishment isn't about deterrence, it's about justice and appropriate punishment. Personally I think it should be reserved for the most heinous of crimes, but I am in total favor of executing violent criminals as opposed to housing them forever. Of course the next argument that will come as a response to that is it's cheaper to house someone for life than to execute them. See above: If you didn't let them appeal for decades and fried 'em within a reasonable amount of time, that wouldn't be the case. the author also tries to point out how barbaric and evil VA is because the last person they put to death died in the electric chair. that was his choice, because HE FELT that his crime was so heinous he should be put to death and by that method. this is all the usual b.s. when it comes to the death penalty. Those who have no stomach for it should get outta the way and let those of us who do mete out justice. I've seen cases of more than one criminal where I'd volunteer in a heartbeat to pull the trigger, the switch whatever. I shoot deer, rabbits, squirrels, all kinds of animals. I'd have no problem and would lose no sleep over killing a child killer or some other violent scumbag. They've got it coming.

Posted by: red2million | April 1, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

If you look at executions per capita, Texas surely is in the top four.

Posted by: mthand111 | April 1, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"WITH THE SUB-PAR POPULATION OF TEXAS THEY NEED A DEATH PENALTY."

Really? Sup-par? Guess that's why so many people are moving to Texas from failed liberal states that don't know how to do anything but raise taxes.

Sub-par and proud of it!

Posted by: CheleFernandez | April 1, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

"Guess that's why so many people are moving to Texas"

Yeah their poverty rate is significantly higher than the average for the US.

The average income of a Texan is significantly lower than the average for the US.

Their population density is exactly the same as the US as a whole so they cannot blame their big size or their sparse population for their woes.

Posted by: frantaylor | April 1, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

This blog is being censored.

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | April 1, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Come on down...bring a load of hogs because we got a load of hungry illegals running around here that need to be fed.

Bring your doctors - they need medicals, too.

Bring Spanish-speaking teachers...they can't speak English.

Bring some houses...they have to live somewhere since you won't enforce our laws.

Bring ACORN...I hear they want to vote.

Don't mind the heat we all pack...you never know if it's the head of a drug cartel or just a thug that knocked on your door or trespassed or broke into your home or stole your car.

Just be good when you're here, you hear?

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | April 1, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Why all the sympathy for these heinous criminals? Each and every one of them has committed a crime so heinous and horrible that they should be labeled the worse of the worse. I don't see all these 'liberal bleeding hearts' spending hour upon hour and millions of dollars posting reports, studies and blogs about the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends whose lives have been devasted by the dastardly deeds of these death row boarders.

I for one am not a strong advocate for the death penalty but I don't condemn it either. One thing for certain, the ones put to death won't be out there destroying life and property any more.

I really get teed off when I hear all these 'fantasy world, Lala land, dreamer types' mentioning the justification of killing these people...they don't see the difference and that's bothersome.

Two ways of avoiding the death penalty: 1) Don't commit a heinous crime 2) Stay out of Texas if you do

And, to all you 'big cry babies' that are more concerned about the life of the slugs on death row than the monstrous damage they've left behind...MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND GO TO THE COMMON SENSE STORE AND PICK UP A BRAIN!

Posted by: kmills62 | April 1, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Yea, Texas is really suffering...unemployment rate is about 8% despite an increase in population of close to 4 million over the last 10 years, rated one of the most friendly states toward business, over $1.2 trillion in gross product (12th largest economy in the WORLD),one of the most stable housing markets in the country,one of the most affordable states,a balanced state budget, $9 billion rainy day fund, 5 of the strongest housing markets in the country. Makes sense that an area that is more affordable would have a lower average income because the $1 goes further. Texas also is seen as having one of the most efficient governments anywhere. I could go on and on and on explaining why people are moving to Texas from California, NY,NJ,Michigan, Ohio...they want a place that offers a future for their children, not a politically corrupt, rustbelt economy controlled and ruined by labor unions.

Posted by: kmills62 | April 1, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Cohen foolishly assumes that the point of state killing is to reduce the murder rate. Well, sure, it fails if you take that to be the point. But really the point is vengeance, and for those who find this satisfying, a higher murder rate is even better, so long as it leads to more executions.

Posted by: turningfool | April 1, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I could go on and on and on explaining why people are moving to Texas from California, NY,NJ,Michigan, Ohio...they want a place that offers a future for their children, not a politically corrupt, rustbelt economy controlled and ruined by labor unions.

Posted by: kmills62
-------------------------------------------
Hopefully they don't ruin our state too.

Posted by: kitzdakat | April 1, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I believe what I'm hearing here is.. "Don't mess with Texas." What I not hearing is what those thugs did to deserved to get executed... Cohen i guess gets is panies in a bunch over this but I wonder if he was around for the Nuremberg trials would he have be so against the death penalty for those Nazis responsible for the death of 6 million Jews???

Posted by: sovine08 | April 1, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

People may indeed be moving to Texas, but they ain't coming for the schools. Here are a few numbers from the State Comptroller's report of 2006-

Texas is #49 in verbal SAT scores in the nation (493) and #46 in average math SAT scores (502). Texas is #36 in the nation in high school graduation rates (68%). Texas is #33 in the nation in teacher salaries. Texas was the only state in the nation to cut average per pupil expenditures in fiscal year 2005, resulting in a ranking of #40 nationally; down from #25 in fiscal year 1999.

and bear in mind that this report was made before the 2008 economic crunch.

Posted by: kguy1 | April 1, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Texas is not the only state that contributed to America’s total of 52 executed and Dick-N-Bush are still not on the list now that's crimminal.

Posted by: 1-20-09 | April 1, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Voice in the wilderness.

If someone raped my 5-year-old granddaughter I would want that S___ ofa B_____ DEAD, Period!

The reality that he could serve time on tax payer dollars, watching TV, using a library, and exercising in the sunlight --- and worst of all ---eventually be released to do it all over again . . . .

In fact, I'd want him executed by Madam Guillotine --- lying face up so he could watch the blade coming down.

Posted by: lufrank1 | April 1, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

"Sub-par and proud of it! "

LOL, that really should be the slogan for Texas...

Posted by: lightgrw | April 1, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

As a life long resident of the Great State of Texas (except for two years in the sad wilderness of DC-though loved the Smithsonians and Mount Vernon), I can say the following about Cohen's tripe, and summarize the Texas attitude, in far less than his long-winded style:

1) Some people just need killin'
2) Don't mess with Texas (cuz we mess back)

Please feel free to keep your highly evolved sentiments and delicate behinds out of here if that bothers you so terribly much.

Posted by: just4_the_facts | April 1, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

A number of posters have correctly pointed out that the death penalty is not about deterrence but rather vengence. For a handful that vengence must be extracted as painfully and irrevocably as they can get bully through.

It must be comforting to live with such certitude and with such a sense of absolute black and white in meting out justice. Ironic that we are writing on the eve of Good Friday - a date that marks the horrific death of a man guilty of things which required torture and cruxifiction to satisfy the bloodlust of his fellow citizens. Vengence was theirs.

Hopefully in our future will come a time when we respond not to the inner thirst for varying forms of death penalty solutions but to punishments that serve justice and humanity.

Posted by: SadHoo | April 1, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

A number of posters have correctly pointed out that the death penalty is not about deterrence but rather vengence. For a handful that vengence must be extracted as painfully and irrevocably as they can get bully through.

It must be comforting to live with such certitude and with such a sense of absolute black and white in meting out justice. Ironic that we are writing on the eve of Good Friday - a date that marks the horrific death of a man guilty of things which required torture and cruxifiction to satisfy the bloodlust of his fellow citizens. Vengence was theirs.

Hopefully in our future will come a time when we respond not to the inner thirst for varying forms of death penalty solutions but to punishments that serve justice and humanity.

Posted by: SadHoo | April 1, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Why don't you write your next article about the number of innocent fetuses executed last year. You show more compassion for convicted murderers. I guess your compassion is selective.

Posted by: lbvanhoy | April 1, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

@just4for_ the_ facts

You left out a couple of things:

(3) don't get caught
(4) don't get convicted by mistake

(4) is really hard; how many people on death row have been released when DNA showed they were innocent?

But who cares how many get fried wrongly just so we get a few who deserve it?

Here's a question fer all you law'n'order freaks: So many of you seem to want smaller government and argue that government can't ever get anything right. Mebbe so. But then how can you be sure that the government is always right when they pull the switch, or the trigger, or drop the noose, plunge the needle, or drop the blade? How about drawn and quartered, or pulled apart by wild horses while you're at it? Boiling oil has its supporters too.

Or would you rather do it yourself? IF so, I have a hood to sell you, freshly laundered.

Why don't you just go and secede already? I'm sure that Mexico will be glad to help you out in a few years.

Posted by: jprfrog | April 1, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

The death penalty is not about deterrence and it is not about vengeance.

It is about JUSTICE.

Posted by: pmendez | April 1, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

it's not vengeance, it's justice, and a MAJORITY of Americans support the death penalty. People who are opposed to captial punishment want us to apply a higher standard to violent vermin than they do to others. If you're sentenced to death and you're guilty, that means you have demonstrated that you have no regard for human life. that you believe human beings, often women and children, are disposable. Use, destroy and discard. but we're supposed to hold their lives sacred? I don't. I think they're pondscum and if they're boiled in oil it's fine by me. and as to those falsely accused, there is once again a very simple solution to the "problem." use the same standard as usual to convict. I.e. beyond a reasonable doubt. When it comes to sentencing in order for the death penatly to be imposed there cannot be one shred of doubt. If there is, life w/out parole instead of death. How hard is that?
the truth is, some people are opposed to cap punishment on moral grounds, because they think all life is sacred. Life of law abiding citizens is sacred. lives of child molesters, rapits, serial killers, etc is not. Kill em all I say.

Posted by: red2million | April 1, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Like the great comedian Ron White once said" "If you come to Texas and kill someone, we'll kill you back!"

Posted by: gmfletcher12 | April 1, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Conservative 'C Street House' Residents Face Ethics Complaints For Below-Market Rent


The bevy of conservative members of Congress who've resided at the notorious "C Street House" may have violated Congressional gift rules by accepting steeply-discounted lodging, new ethics complaints allege.

The watchdog organization CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) filed complaints Thursday charging Republican Sens. Sam Brownback (Kan.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.) and John Ensign (Nev.), as well as Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.), Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), with accepting "improper gifts" from C Street in the form of way-below-market rent.

Other residents past and present did not make the list -- most notably trail-hiking Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who lived in the C Street House while in Congress and helped make the place famous by seeking counseling there in the wake of his affair.

According to reports cited in the CREW complaints, the members of Congress residing at C Street pay $950 per month for rent and housekeeping, versus a minimum of $1,700 per month for nearby one-bedroom apartments, $2,400 per month for adjacent hotels or $4,000 for corporate housing. The CREW data piggybacks in part on similar charges filed earlier this week against the house itself by a clergy group, which complained to the IRS that C Street was improperly using its privileged tax status.

"This situation cries out for an immediate ethics inquiry," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. "At a time when so many Americans are losing their housing, it is surprising to discover that some members of Congress are lucky enough to have a landlord that charges below market rent for fairly luxurious accommodations ... you can't help but wonder exactly what these members may be doing in return for all of this largess.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/01/c-street-house-ethics_n_521672.html


It seems the Washington Post will report all the news, except the news in Washington DC

Posted by: austininc4 | April 1, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Conservative 'C Street House' Residents Face Ethics Complaints For Below-Market Rent


The bevy of conservative members of Congress who've resided at the notorious "C Street House" may have violated Congressional gift rules by accepting steeply-discounted lodging, new ethics complaints allege.

The watchdog organization CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) filed complaints Thursday charging Republican Sens. Sam Brownback (Kan.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.) and John Ensign (Nev.), as well as Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.), Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), with accepting "improper gifts" from C Street in the form of way-below-market rent.

Other residents past and present did not make the list -- most notably trail-hiking Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who lived in the C Street House while in Congress and helped make the place famous by seeking counseling there in the wake of his affair.

According to reports cited in the CREW complaints, the members of Congress residing at C Street pay $950 per month for rent and housekeeping, versus a minimum of $1,700 per month for nearby one-bedroom apartments, $2,400 per month for adjacent hotels or $4,000 for corporate housing. The CREW data piggybacks in part on similar charges filed earlier this week against the house itself by a clergy group, which complained to the IRS that C Street was improperly using its privileged tax status.

"This situation cries out for an immediate ethics inquiry," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. "At a time when so many Americans are losing their housing, it is surprising to discover that some members of Congress are lucky enough to have a landlord that charges below market rent for fairly luxurious accommodations ... you can't help but wonder exactly what these members may be doing in return for all of this largess.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/01/c-street-house-ethics_n_521672.html


It seems the Washington Post will report all the news, except the news in Washington DC

Posted by: austininc4 | April 1, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

For all those against the death penalty google Wichita Massacre read about it and then tell me the Carr brothers don't deserve the death penalty??? Look it's simple they aren't HUMAN.. and for the crime they committed nothing short of death would be... JUSTICE!!!

Posted by: sovine08 | April 1, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Amen sovine08! I'm not going to google the Wichita massacre because reading about the evil things people do makes my blood boil. but for the rest of you, you can also google john couey. Kidnapped, raped, strangled a 9 year old girl till she was almost dead and then buried her alive. i would be extremely happy if I could have some time alone with that scumbag. His life is not sacred, it is sh*t and he should be tortured first, then killed. The cons, the state, can do whatever they want to him and you won't hear me cry. he should die slow just like that precious little child did. she was inncoent of any wrong doing. he is vermin. but according to some here, we should regard his life as worth more than hers. sorry, can't get wilth that.

Posted by: red2million | April 1, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Prisons are filled with people where nothing was a deterrent to their decision to take an innocent life. The thought of life in prison doesn't seem to have prevented any of these child molesters from killing children recently. I do not take the use of the death penalty lightly as you do Mr. Cohen. You speak from no higher moral ground in your disdain for it's use. It's use, however effective as a deterrent, is proper punishment for certain crimes. The Left has never understood human nature why should they understand justice.

Posted by: bobbo2 | April 1, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Will this state secede already? I'm tired of being held hostage to the band of states populated by the American Taliban. Enough already. Please. Secede. Now.

Posted by: theodorebrown | April 1, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

the best argument against the death penalty is the same one being used against health reform. the government doesn't do a great job of anything, and it does a perfect job of nothing.

of course we can point to people about whom there is no doubt of guilt, that we all can "agree" deserve to die. but I can't accept the notion that it's acceptable to execute a few innocent folks just so we can make sure we fry the clearly guilty and not just lock them up forever.

too many imperfect cops, politically motivated prosecutors, elected judges, you get my point, to be sure only the guilty are on death row, and even among the clearly guilty, too much capriciousness over who gets life and who gets death. if we can't do it uniformly and at least nearly flawlessly, we should be content with life without parole.

Posted by: JoeT1 | April 1, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

It should up to the victim as to whether or not the offender is executed. If capital is all about justice and vengeance, then why should what you or I think make any difference?

If the offender is not executed, they should be put to work, and receive wages comparable to their skill levels. However, prison would no longer be funded entirely with taxpayer dollars. Convicts would have to pay for their clothes, food, rent etc.

I'm fine with my tax dollars going towards the basic requirements of a prison - whatever is necessary to keep them locked up and make sure they are not a danger to the public. Beyond that though, they are on their own.

Posted by: legendarypunk | April 1, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Will this state secede already? I'm tired of being held hostage to the band of states populated by the American Taliban. Enough already. Please. Secede. Now.

Posted by: theodorebrown |
-------------------------------------------

I wish we would, our economy is a lot better than the rest of the country's.

Posted by: kitzdakat | April 1, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The death penalty is not about Justice.

"Justice" is removing the offender from society so they do not do it again.

You don't have to put people to death to accomplish this goal.

"Deserve" is a bizarre Calvinist religious notion that has no place in law.

We are a nation of laws, not men.

Our laws exist to allow society to function, not to act as a vengeance proxy.

Posted by: frantaylor | April 1, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I consider it an act of mercy to put people who never acquired a conscience and cannot live with other people without killing some of them, out of their misery, and ours. It's not about deterrance or punishment. It's merciful to execute such miserable souls.

Posted by: curtb | April 1, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse


The only moral issue about the death penalty is if you put the wrong person to death!

Posted by: bcarte1 | April 1, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

The death penalty is a savage perversion of justice.
It is not justice.

Posted by: bertram2 | April 1, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Free to any tee shirt vendor:

Texas, The Death Star State

Posted by: mathman2 | April 1, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm for the death penalty. I don't want to pay taxes for them to be in prison. America is too soft on crime. If ya steal then a hand is cut off that would be all of Corporate America, Wall Street, Health Ins. an Big Oil an of course Gongress. If you rape well then your privates are cut off, if you kill then you will be killed. Our laws , what laws? are to suite those who do commit crimes. Justice in our country is for those with money an who are they? They are your very own Goverment!

Posted by: JWTX | April 1, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Governor Perry won't release the number of INNOCENT PEOPLE the State of Texas have put to DEATH. There is now a Law Suit demanding that information, but as expected the State and the Governor are fighting it Tooth and Nail.

Posted by: austininc4 | April 1, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be nice if Texas could somehow execute itself out of existence?

Posted by: Scrumble | April 1, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but I don't buy it. Forcing someone into prison FOR LIFE is just as morally judgmental as putting them to death. They are both horrible, horrible penalties.

What is the moral justification for prison, if you intend on jailing someone for life? You can't say it's rehabilitative; he's never leaving and going back out into society.

That leaves Justice as the moral justification. The root of Justice is the concept of fairness: the prisoner took away someone's life, therefore society must take away his life. Even if society isn't taking his literal life, it is certainly taking away the equivalent of that life: he can never move, never be freed, ever, ever. He is certainly "dead" to anything like a normal life.

Supporting life imprisonment over the death penalty isn't taking the moral high ground. There's just a fig leaf's difference between the two. Society is still responsible for the judgments it passes.

Posted by: dmarney | April 1, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm still waiting for my point to be addressed: Execution is irreversible; so how can you be so sure that you're offing the right guy? If you're wrong and find out 10 or 20 years later, what can you do?

Cover up, or deny, which is what I think Perry is doing now. Ins't wrongful execution judicial murder, and everyone complicit, from the prosecutor on up to the Governor who signed the order, is guilty as an accompice before the fact? What about justice in this case? Let's heR an answer, not an evasion. Come'on all you hairy-chested manly Texas men --- step up to the plate and deal!

OR STFU.

Or just go away and brag about how tough you all are to each other. I'm f***g sick of hearing it from you.

signed

New Jersey Liberal Wimp

PS My state pays more into the Fed than we get back. Yours doesn't. So also you can get your sticky hand off my wallet.

Posted by: jprfrog | April 1, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

When I lived there, more than decade after it started again, there were two ways to avoid execution
1. Be Rich, so you would avoid execution no matter who you killed, even when you were convicted.
2. Don't kill a white person, this method only decreases your chance of being executed by a factor of 2 to 1 or so.

and then there is
3. Make sure your court appointed lawyer stays awake during the trial, because the appeals court thinks a sleeping lawyer is as good as any.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | April 1, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Texas - home of cowards, drunks, and paranoid lunatics.

Posted by: irkulyen | April 1, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

What a god-forsaken place.

Posted by: RobRoy1 | April 1, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

The death penalty is not about Justice.

"Justice" is removing the offender from society so they do not do it again.

You don't have to put people to death to accomplish this goal.

"Deserve" is a bizarre Calvinist religious notion that has no place in law.

We are a nation of laws, not men.

Our laws exist to allow society to function, not to act as a vengeance proxy.

Posted by: frantaylor | April 1, 2010 4:15

~~~~~~~~~~~

You're correct - it is a nation of laws. In many states, we have laws that state that if you commit specific versions of murder, your punishment is the loss of your life.

It's quite simple - if you come to Texas and commit violent murder, expect to be sentenced to death. You will be given an attorney and the protection of a number of appeals. If you fail to win an appeal, you will be put to death.

Texas is a huge state - 265,000 square miles with 25 million people. It's a very diverse state, and it has its share of violent criminals. A majority of those 25 million people agree that the death penalty is appropriate when a child is raped and murdered, a cop is killed, or a family is murdered by a thief.

If you don't like the laws in Texas, feel free to not move here. Be careful, though - 34 other states also have the death penalty.

Posted by: anna_78750 | April 1, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Richard Cohen has every right to his opinion on capital punishment. That being said, this article is bereft of any argument, serious or otherwise, against it. More painfully, he seems to imagine that he is something of a wit. This is obviously not true. Iterations of "I hate Texas" are not witty nor are they persuasive.

On another point, dmarney, above, states that executions are irreversible, as if that is an argument against them. On the contrary, that is the strongest of the arguments for them.

Posted by: JamesCurrin | April 1, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Great piece Mr. Cohen. The death penalty should be abolished.

Posted by: squier13 | April 1, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

This is the same state that wants a christian-based government. Would Christ support capitol punishment? I don't think so.

But Texans believe whatever suits their ideology. To a Texan, christ would kill a criminal, hate illegal immigrants, let the poor suffer, etc.

And the only reason TX didn't get hit by the economy, is that TX has oil. When high gas prices sent the rest of the nation into a tailspin, TX was fat dumb and happy. TX doesn't have unions, it has Maquiladora (sweat shops in Mexico).

Posted by: thisnametaken | April 1, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Nice Cohen. When was the last time you wrote an article about the countless victims of murderers? What shall we write about them, the victims? Oh, what a tragedy? My God, this article is exactly what is wrong with this country. Cohen and others like him have no understanding of justice.

Posted by: SiIvfm | April 1, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

It is depressing to read such articles. Cohen has no idea what he is talking about.

Americans have been in favor of the death penalty since the 1960s.

Secondly, deterrence is not the only reason we sentence offenders in the U.S. There are four main reasons for the criminal sanction. Retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation are the four reasons. Do the research! It is the goal that a sentence serve one or more of the four main goals. In the case of capital punishment, it serves retribution and incapacitation. Two of the four, which is more than most other sentences do for most other crimes. You can be guaranteed that, once put to death, the offender will never do it again; therefore, incapacitation is served. One recent writer said life in prison accomplishes the same at a lesser price to the taxpayer. Wrong on both counts. Life in prison does not incapacitate a killer. It merely narrows the target range. Cohen is fine with it because he is safe, but how about the people who work in prisons? They remain a target and die every year at the hands of killers sentenced to life instead of death. I stood over the dead body of a correctional officer killed by a killer sentenced to life in prison. Cohen shows lack of research and his lack of compasion for those who work in the criminal justice system. Writers should refrain from writing about things they know nothing about. Writing for a newspaper is not exactly the right place for one to be venting their liberal rage and lack of any understanding of the U.S. legal and criminal justice system.

Posted by: dchapman | April 1, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

"we have laws that state that if you commit specific versions of murder, your punishment is the loss of your life."

Every state has had unjust laws that have been repealed when they were found to be unjust.

"Americans have been in favor of the death penalty since the 1960s."

Since when do we decide matters of civil rights by popular vote in this country? Slavery, and preventing women from voting, were also the majority opinion at times in our history. That did not make theses things "right" or even morally defensible.

"Retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation are the four reasons."

Retribution is another of those Christian notions that should be completely absent from law. The law serves to protect the citizenry, not to serve the selfish interests of victims.

"rehabilitation" Wow I want to see you rehabilitate a corpse.

"Writing for a newspaper is not exactly the right place for one to be venting their liberal rage"

Well you are venting your conservative death-rage in this newspaper, how is that any different?

Posted by: frantaylor | April 1, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the death penalty has nothing to do with the people being executed. The problem is it appeals to our least human instincts. I guess that explains why it is so popular among the Texans commenting today.

Posted by: kermit5 | April 1, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

So for all those who see execution as the way to go for violent murderers-certainly, an understandable position-what do you say to the family of the person that is erroneously convicted and executed. (Please do not say it does not happen. Too many people sitting on death row, with appeals at an end, have been exonerated by DNA and other evidence. Mistakes can and do happen.) So what do you tell the family? Too bad, so sad?

Posted by: kermit5 | April 1, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Of course Texas is strong on the death penalty whether is a judicial verdict or some good ol' southern white boys just poking fun with their black neighbors. They have a long history interleaved with death.

From the Roman Catholic Church, these good ol' Southern Baptist white boys adopted a beautiful white robe based on the same one that the Roman Catholic Pope wears. Nice and pure white complete with a white monastic hood to cover their head. They developed a very special torch to brightly illuminate their altar when they went out late at night to pray to Jesus and proselytize their black neighbors to bring them to Christ. In memory of Jesus' crucifixion, they designed their torch in the shape of a cross. Sad, but some of their black neighbors were leery about converting to Southern Baptist Christianity at that time, so they carried rope with them when they climbed trees trying to escape the proselytizers while hoping to be out of sight and out of mind. These black neighbors of the good ol' southern white boys did not understand the dangers involved with carrying rope up into a tree, so they were found the next day, intertwined in that rope dangling from the tree they tried to escape into. Sad accidents like this happened very frequently in Texas.

Many times after the sun rose, the good ol' Texas white boys had to go out and cut down these unfortunate people who accidentally got intertwined in their rope, and in doing so became totally insensitized to death. This insensitization is reflected in their indiscriminate use of the death penalty to this day.

Posted by: MrZ2 | April 1, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

"PS My state [NJ] pays more into the Fed than we get back. Yours doesn't. So also you can get your sticky hand off my wallet."
Posted by: jprfrog
=========================================
Wrong. Texas is also a "donor state", receiving only $0.92 back for every $1.00 sent to D.C.
New Jersey does get hit even harder than us, mainly due to the higher cost of living requiring higher salaries, which result in higher federal tax rates.
Unlike New Jersey, Texas has no income tax,
and a $9B "rainy day" fund, along with a balanced budget.

Posted by: OttoDog | April 1, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

@ MrZ2:

The Klan's roots were in Kentucky, Tennesee, Northern Mississppi, Alabama, Georgia, and east Louisiana, not Texas.
Get your B.S. straight.

As to the debate on whether the Death Penalty is vengance, justice, or punishment, I'd have to say it's a little of all three. It definitely makes a dent, albeit small, in recidivism.

Posted by: OttoDog | April 1, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

It would work as a deterrent if people were executed within the same decade in which they were convicted, instead of 16, and 19,and 23 years after 400 frivolous appeals and millions upon millions of the tax payers' money. Capital punishment isn't about deterrence, it's about justice and appropriate punishment.

So many contradictions. In third world countries the sentence is carried out quickly. Yet, they continue to execute more people every year. So how is it a deterrence? Then you say it is not about deterrence but justice. I guess the people freed from death row by DNA evidence would be better off if they had been denied appeals and executed quickly? Execution has no remedy, when errors are realized.

Posted by: rcvinson64 | April 2, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

"The only moral issue about the death penalty is if you put the wrong person to death!
Posted by: bcarte1"

Not much of a moral issue. We accept that doctors will eventually kill people by mistake. But have decided the good outweighs the 95,000 people a year killed by doctors or other medical misadventures.
We always have friendlies or non-combatants we thought were combatants whacked in war.
Both medical killing and war killing of improper targets are necessary and unavoidable.
With all the reviews killers and monsters get, death penalty foes soooooo much want that One Mistake which they think will end the death penalty and haven't found it.
But even if they do, it is unlikely to change many minds.
If you are in the military, do you want the air power above you that will save hundreds of Army lives and thousand of casualties...but at the slight risk of being there knowing with certainty that some A-10 or Longbow gunship or even a disoriented Corporal on a SAW will take out 3-6 in friendly fire? Yes you do. You accept lethal mistakes as part of overall benefit of saving many more lives.
Some studies have shown the death penalty deterrent saves 80-90 lives for each person executed. It also saves time and money as thugs will plead to life, to avoid death.

There is also the matter of a need for society to maintain a scale..of reprisal that punishes offenses significantly more heinous than others with harder penalties. A person who kills a store clerk in an armed robbery can claim he got nervous so he shot w/o premeditation. But that thug still gets life without parole. We all seem to want that if the thug with a gun is guilty. But - How just&fair is it that death penalty foes want two thugs that invaded a home, raped the wife and a 15 year old, terrorized the doctor dad and the 17 year old then killed 3 of 4 of them by dousing the house with gasoline gets not death, but the same life w/o parole?? Same benefits and privileges as the store robber?
Death maintains a distinction between a 3-time loser or a one-mistake robber sitting in the same cell as a man who invaded a home terrorised people, raped a 15 year old and set them on fire.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | April 2, 2010 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Many states spend millions seeking an international reputation. Texas has acquired one by being the death penalty capital of the democratic world, thanks to Gov. Gov. Rick Perry and former Gov. George W. Bush, who each year presided over roughly half of the executions in a country that stands alone as the sole democracy using capital punishment.

Even more disturbing is the image Texas has acquired from cases like that of Henry Skinner, who came within an hour of being executed last week despite untested evidence that could prove his innocence. An 11th-hour stay by the U.S. Supreme Court has spared Skinner's life, so far. Less lucky was Todd Willingham, whose execution in 2004 for arson murder has since been condemned by experts as based on junk science.

There are others whose probable innocence continues to trouble even those who had a hand in their executions, like Ruben Cantu and Carlos de Luna.

Until the Lone Star State either pursues justice more rigorously than executions or does away with its death penalty as too expensive, ineffective and error-prone, it must live with a new, emerging image: that of its titular head beside a white gurney occupied by a prone individual.

An inadvertently symbolic picture from an official website of Gov. Perry depicts just such a scenario. It is reproduced at the website executionwatch-dot-org > Blog. Blur the face of the occupant and put a hypodermic in Perry's hand. You'll have the ghastly new image of Texas.

Posted by: bShane | April 2, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

What is the point here?

Well, proponents of the death penalty keep insisting that it keeps the crime rate down. It is a necessary measure.

But if Texas' crime rate is higher than New York's, which is very reluctant to execute anyone, the conclusion is ...

(this is not a trick question by the way).

Posted by: AMviennaVA | April 2, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

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