A Cold-Blooded Killer

"Compassionate" Gov. Bush Orders 100 Executions

By: Lily Hughes

On September 10, Texas executed Willis Barnes, the 100th person to be murdered by the state since Gov. George W. Bush started his term in 1995. At a demonstration held that day, 80 people protested against Bush's bloody record on the death penalty. More recently, at a Live From Death Row forum in Austin, the audience of 120 gasped when a speaker pointed out that more than 100 executions had taken place under Bush's watch.

And no wonder. Roughly one-third of all executions since 1976 have happened in Texas, and well more than half of those have taken place in the five years of Bush's term.

Bush is running for president in the 2000 elections. As his campaign gathers steam, his stance on the death penalty should be examined closely.

Bush has chosen to ignore pleas for clemency in every case presented to him.

One of the most notable was that of Karla Faye Tucker, whose execution in February 1998 received national media attention. She was the first woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War. Because of her religious conversion and rehabilitation while inside prison, there were calls for clemency from around the world, even from some normally pro-death penalty groups. Bush ignored those appeals and let her execution go forward.

Her case brought out questions about the clemency process in Texas, which is anything but fair. There are 18 members of the parole board, and they are spread out across Texas. They never meet to discuss cases and fax in their recommendations regarding clemency. In 1998, a U.S. District Judge called the clemency process in Texas "appalling."

During Bush's term, Texas executed Joseph Cannon, a juvenile at the time of his crime with a history of severe mental problems. More recently, the governor said that he wouldn't intervene in the case of Larry Robison, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. Robison's family tried to get him help, but he was turned away for lack of health insurance, even though doctors warned that he would become violent.

Also, there is the case of Gary Graham, an innocent man who has yet to have a fair trial and has been up for execution several times in the last 17 years. Gary was almost executed a year ago before he received a last-minute stay from a federal court. But he will likely face an execution date again this fall.

Despite what politicians like Bush say, support for the death penalty is only skin deep in Texas. Activists are highlighting the injustices in these cases and continuing to demonstrate against this barbaric system.

Bush has said that what most concerns him in death penalty cases are issues of innocence and whether the accused receive a fair trial. If this were true, he would have halted a number executions in the last five years.

This so-called "compassionate conservative" knows nothing of compassion. He should be known as the cold-blooded killer that he is.