Texas Has A New "Governor Death"

Perry Opposes Legislation To Reform The Death Penalty

By: Mike de Brauw

During the 2001 Texas legislative session, abolitionists made progress towards slowing the state’s pace of executions. Unfortunately, we also learned that Gov. Rick Perry, who took over from George W. Bush, is the new Governor Death.

Two important reform bills are now law: post-conviction DNA testing and improved legal defense for poor defendants. These improvements will help keep innocent people off death row.

Other bills didn’t become law, but generated a lot of debate and drew national attention to Texas’ killing machine. These included bills to provide a life-without-parole option for juries; improve the operations of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles; ban the execution of juvenile offenders; ban the execution of the mentally retarded; and, most importantly, establish a moratorium on executions.

Activists fought especially hard for the moratorium bill, and the progress was dramatic. Seven major Texas newspapers endorsed the moratorium, and 57 legislators voted in support of it. "All this would have seemed impossible a year ago," said Campaign member Lee Ann Cameron.

The legislature passed a bill that would have made Texas the 16th state in the U.S. to ban execution of the mentally retarded, but Gov. Perry vetoed it at the last minute. He acted like a two-faced sleaze. On Saturday, Perry participated in a conference call with state religious and community leaders, who explained that execution of the mentally retarded was senseless, barbaric and -- according to opinion polls -- opposed by a majority of Texans. One caller said Perry sounded "receptive."

But you can bet it was an act. He had probably already planned his press conference the next day, where, flanked by bloodthirsty prosecutors and members of a so-called "victims’ rights group," he offered confused and contradictory reasons for vetoing the bill. As Campaign member Bill Vaught noted, "Perry should just admit he likes killing people."

The mental retardation bill was not the first time that Perry fought to protect Texas’ killing machine. The legislature almost passed a bill banning the execution of juvenile offenders, but Perry quietly threatened a veto, and it died.

Now, Napoleon Beazly, a juvenile offender, is scheduled to be executed in Texas on August 15. Texas abolitionists will fight for Napoleon--and against a new Governor Death.