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Killer in Chief

Posted on Aug 18, 2011
AP / David J. Phillip

The “death bed” in the execution chamber is separated by bars, foreground, from the witness viewing room at the Walls Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville, as seen here in 1995.

By Bill Boyarsky

Gov. Rick Perry is a happy executioner, having presided over 230 executions in Texas. That’s more, reported The Texas Tribune, “than any other modern governor of any state.”

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Perry’s energetic support of capital punishment and his blind refusal to consider any mitigating evidence in the cases of death row inmates, no matter how scientific, shows what a danger he would be if placed in charge of the federal government’s huge law enforcement system.

President Perry would have control of the Justice Department, which can reach into almost every aspect of our lives. He would appoint justices to the Supreme Court and other federal courts. In addition, the federal government has great influence over state courts and law enforcement, both indirectly and through grants and frequent state-federal cooperation in criminal investigations. Federal power reaches down to the cop on the beat.

Perry’s presidential campaign is occurring amid changing attitudes toward the death penalty. These have not influenced him or, apparently, his state.

“Almost all recent executions have been in one region of the country—the south—and most of those in one state—Texas,” the Death Penalty Information Center reported in its 2009 report “Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis.”


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The center polled 500 randomly selected police chiefs around the country and found few who believed the death penalty was a deterrent to crime. Instead, they cited a shortage of resources and the effects of drugs and alcohol as factors that made law enforcement harder. Insufficient use of the death penalty was at the bottom of the list.

Another telling argument against the death penalty is scientific: the number of inmates—alleged murderers and others—who have been exonerated through DNA testing. A 2010 report by the Innocence Project, famed for freeing the falsely accused, said 250 convicts have been exonerated through DNA testing and they “are the tip of the iceberg.”

Perry has been unmoved by the importance of scientific evidence. Rather, he seems to reflect the approach U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took in a 2005 opinion, that there was not “a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit.”

Perry has commuted the death sentences of 31 inmates, but 28 of them were juveniles at the time of their crimes, and the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled states could not execute those who were under 18 when the crime occurred. The Texas Tribune said Perry lifted the sentences “grudgingly” and quoted him as saying, “While these individuals were convicted by juries of brutal murders and sentenced to die for their heinous crimes, I have no choice but to commute these sentences to life in prison.” The other two cases involved mentally retarded convicts, also excluded from execution by the Supreme Court.

The case that sheds the most light on Perry’s attitude is that of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in 2004 after being convicted of setting a house fire that killed his three small daughters. As reported in extensive detail by the Chicago Tribune in 2004 and The New Yorker in 2009, arson experts from around the country, plus the newspaper’s reporting, found that the investigation was badly flawed. Well-respected arson experts said the fire might well have been an accident. The conclusion was backed up by a report from four fire scientists for the Innocence Project. Perry, The Texas Tribune said, dismissed such findings and called Willingham a guilty “monster.”

A state agency, the Texas Forensic Science Commission, began an investigation of the scientific criticisms. Shortly before a scientist—one of the critics—was about to testify, Perry told three commission members they would not be reappointed and he replaced the chairman with one of his allies, a hard-line pro-death-penalty district attorney. The commission moved away from an investigation of the Willingham case. This was in 2009, a year before Perry’s re-election campaign when the Willingham case was becoming the subject of greater scrutiny in criminal justice circles in Texas and around the country.

This is just one case, but a revealing one, involving all aspects of the Texas criminal justice system over which Rick Perry presided. Whether Texas had executed an innocent man seemed to mean little to him. No part of government is more important to individual rights than the criminal justice system and its components, courts and cops. Giving Perry control of them would be a real threat to democracy.

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By Wally Wolf, August 23, 2011 at 10:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris, you mean the only time we’re blessed to have a president with intelligence, and one who can actually read, write and speak correct English, is when he’s there to keep the lights on and the seats warm?  To imagine the mean-spirited Republicans regrouping sends terror through my heart.  Do people’s attention span allow them to remember all the damage that they inflicted on us?  Since the U.S. had a very faint heartbeat when they left, are they planning to come back and finish us off?  They are giving us an excellent preview of their intentions right now.

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By Chris Herz, August 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obama’s assignment in 2008 was to keep the lights on and the chairs warm in the White House until the Republicans could regroup. 
Perry will be a perfect leader for what the USA has become.

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By Lilith, August 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

@eric1071517 - “Lilith, for the sake of argument,what do you consider the word unique to mean when applied to human beings.”

I would say that the usual definition of that word means when taken in context of how I used it: “only one of its kind”,“matchless”, and so forth, all without judgmental evaluation of any kind. Thus, just stating that each individual has unique circumstances, and can not be tucked nicely into a box with a generalized label. People are not widgets, which is why the justice systems of old were brought down. To imprison someone for stealing a loaf of bread because he or she was starving, should not be put into the same generalized box “thief” as someone who burgled a house or bank. Generalized boxes have the ultimate and most sever punishment applied to them so that no one in that box is under punished, but as history has shown, what ends up happening is that the vast majority of people in the “box” are over punished or are mistakenly punished because of the nature of such judicial devises.

I hope that clarifies the issue.

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By Wally Wolf, August 22, 2011 at 11:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oops, left out info on New Yorker article.

Trial by Fire by David Grann (Cameron Todd Willingham case)

Aside from being very informative about the Texas justice system, it’s also a good read.

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By Wally Wolf, August 22, 2011 at 9:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you want a good example on how Texas is run, check out this excellent article in the New Yorker.  Perry actually makes Bush look good in comparison.  I never thought I’d see the day.

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By Marian Griffith, August 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

—Lilith, for the sake of argument,what do you consider the word unique to mean when applied to human beings.—

I am not Lillith, but you must be trolling now if you try to force an argument over the meaning of unique. Go look up a dictionary, the word is explained there and I dare say it applies.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, August 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm Link to this comment

Silly me.

An article about Governor Perry being the Killer in Chief.

Obama is the Killer in Chief. Just do not expect to see a plethora of articles about just how evil Obama is. Maybe an article about how liberals are “dissapointed” in their Killer in Chief. Instead the bad, evil Republicans is the meme of articles allowed here.

Ques I will not get that Truthteller of the Week Award, eh?

Invisible donor problem anyone?

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By eric1071517, August 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment

Lilith, for the sake of argument,what do you consider the
word unique to mean when applied to human beings.

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By Lilith, August 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm Link to this comment

@eric1071517 Your suggestions of who should also be executed sounds like the anger and pain of a sex crime survivor who has yet gone through recovery. It is your extremist attitude, with the black and white view of life and justice that I am speaking about. I say this in order to put what you are promoting in perspective, not as an insult or a taunt. I am a survivor, so I know of what I speak of.

As to your belief that we all start out equal in this country is plainly laughable. So many things give us an unequal start in life, as well as shaping our lives and ability to function in the world as we grow up. Poverty, generational abuse, birth defects and damage at birth, crime, death of loved ones, violence in the home & the community, accidents, and so forth, all make each of us unique with unique circumstances. Your zero tolerance attitude takes none of that into consideration, and in the end the innocent get hurt as much or more often then the guilty. No one is on a level playing field in this world.

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By kdan59, August 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment

I have no problem with Truthdig publishing such stories, but you guys are preaching to the choir. I hope that the Democrats and their associated institutions, other progressives, and even moderate Republicans pick up on such stories and spread the word. The readers of Truthdig are already not likely to vote for Perry. To keep this guy out of the Whitehouse, the word must get out to the vast independent middle that Perry is a really bad guy.

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By eric1071517, August 20, 2011 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

Most people lack the courage to do the right thing in
their homes, on their jobs, and in the public at large.
A President’s job is not to satisfy anyone’s opinion or
make simpleton’s feel good; the President’s job is to run
the country through foreign policy, economic policy, and
domestic policy. I doubt anyone one of you have the knowledge
to make an educated argument on this matter. In closing,
anyone in the position to run this country must have the
courage to do the right thing for its citizens even when
its not the popular thing to do.

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By Gary Belcher, August 20, 2011 at 8:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rick Perry, “Texacutioner”

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By Marian Griffith, August 20, 2011 at 4:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I guess you think it is a good idea to execute four year olds for dropping their pants in kindergarten (yes, in our insane time and age that might get you registered as a sex offender for life), not to mention fifteen year old girls for taking topless pictures of themselves and emailing them to their boyfriends (not realising they are facing up to twenty years in prison for creating, publishing and possessing child pornography).

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By Marian Griffith, August 20, 2011 at 4:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, it is asking too much of them.
Personally I can not think of any justification for the death penalty, but I have come to realise that I will have more chance to convince a tea party activist that Obama is actually doing a reasonably decent job than the proponents of the death penalty that they are wrong in their enthusiasm.

And now here people are advocating not only murdering convicted criminals (never mind that dna tests and more independent forensic investigations show that as much as 14pct of the convictions has been of innocent men) but for slowly torturing them to death.

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By Archie1954, August 19, 2011 at 9:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The man is a monster and is not eligible to be a president.

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By eric1071517, August 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment

We all start off equal in the modern era in American
history, yet as we live our lives our equality suffers
because of the choices we make.I am not only an advocate
of the capital penalty, I am also an advocate of extending
capital punishment to sex crimes,( no matter how someone
twists the truth, every sex crime is premeditated and
deserving of the death penalty). Secondly, I would appreciate someone defining the difference between a hate-
crime and terrorism. I venture to ask because I, myself,
see little or no difference between the two crimes and if
convicted of terrorism I advocate beheading without

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By Lilith, August 19, 2011 at 5:40 pm Link to this comment

@hark, and all of you who blithely say how “good” it is to kill those convicted, regardless if they are guilty or not. Yes, that is what you are saying when you support what Perry did and is doing. Now, if you were one of those innocent, yet convicted people, you would not be so off the cuff with your execution nor with comparing your death as being less important then the death of others, who are supposedly worthy of more concern, effort and money. You would be screaming bloody murder .... yap, pun intended .... sheesh people, use the brains you were born with .... or is that asking to much ....

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By PatrickHenry, August 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment

Why does this country have such elaborate death methods for capital crimes?  It cost the taxpayers a mint.  Much more than tormenting the non-convicted at Guantanamo.

China, I’ve heard, uses a bullet which is then charged to the family of the deseased.

I favor the gallows or firing squad although the firing squad is too good a death for much of the scum which inhabit our prisons.

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By christian96, August 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm Link to this comment

WallyWolf—-I’m not sure people in Texas deserve
what they got.  You can bet a dollar to a donut
that the people in Texas were deceived and manipulated into voting for Perry, Bush II, Bush I,
etc., etc.,...... Who deceived and manipulated them?
Those in Texas who worship money and control the
media and others.  Take it to the bank. My aunt
never got married.  Worked most of her life as a
nurse at the VA Hospital in Big Spring, Texas. One
day my mother was at my house in Ohio to rest before
we traveled the next day to The Cleveland Clinic
to see if they could help her aortic aneurism. They
couldn’t because of her emphysema from smoking. While
at my house in Ohio I said, “Ma, let’s call aunt
Naomi in Texas.”  When I did I discovered that aunt
Naomi had dementia.  Her neighbor, Mr. Wise, brought
a lawyer to aunt Naomi’s house and had her sign
papers giving Mr. Wise aunt Naomi’s house and possessions.  I told my dad I was going to Texas.
He said, “You better not go down there or you’ll
get shot.”  After all, President Kennedy was killed
in Texas.  I decided against it.  Years later, when
mom’s other sister, aunt Janet, got Alzheimer’s
disease in Riverside, California, I went to California to help her.  I had to fight through an
unscrupulous lawyer and real estate agent to get
custody of her but I did it.

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By Wally Wolf, August 19, 2011 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

They kill retarded prisoners in Texas.  Guns and killing are the answers to everything here.  Anything else would require mental agility.  I think maybe many people in Texas have IQs similar to the retarded.  Why else would Perry be elected three times.  It’s embarrassing living in Texas during these times.  We just get rid of Bush and now comes Perry.  If the people elect Perry, they deserve exactly what they get.

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By BobBarnett, August 19, 2011 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

This clown w the voices in his head not only killed more prisoners than any Gov,
but more than all the other Govs combined.
Not that that’s a bad thing

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By tropicgirl, August 19, 2011 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

There is no evidence that he would be any worse than O-Ridiculous regarding violence against the world or torture or wedding drone bombers or child-starving sanctions or invasions or DU or permanent detentions. Nothing could be worse than BushObama.

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By christian96, August 19, 2011 at 2:41 am Link to this comment

President Perry would not only have control over
the Justice Department, he would also have control
over the Pentagon.  THAT IS REAL SCARY!

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By Jorge X Rodriguez, August 18, 2011 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As above, so below.  The great is shown in the small.  If Perry has killed 230, the office of the presidency will enable him to kill many, many more.

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By hark, August 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Liberals can’t understand why no one listens to them.  This is one reason.  Of all the crises facing humankind throughout the world, saving the lives of a couple hundred of the most brutal sociopathic monsters and murderers on earth is hardly worth a million man march on Washington D.C., or Austin, Texas, for that matter.

We might, for example, start protesting the deaths of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of civilians slaughtered or maimed irrevocably in our useless wars of aggression that we seem to wage willy-nilly. 

Or perhaps the millions of starving children around the world that we ignore.

Or even the millions living in poverty in our own country, or the victims of the dying middle class that we want to cut off funding for.

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By Billy Pilgrim, August 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm Link to this comment

Perry must be a sociopath. For that matter, so is
Scalia. It’s chilling how our government and judicial
system is controlled by these cretins.

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By Jimnp72, August 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm Link to this comment

You are right they are evil; but they are also short sighted, greedy and stupid. If you dont believed me take a few mins to see how they have royally f—ked up our militocracy.

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By Marian Griffith, August 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Apparently giving Perry control over the justice department would be a threat to democracy.
But it would be a great boon to his theocracy and cleptocracy…

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By kwagmyre, August 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Perry, the “Peri"lous Pugilist and a menace to commonsense morality if there ever was someone worthy of the title!

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By rob, August 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

re micheal aboma is all corporate money wake up

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By Michael Cavlan RN, August 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment

Oh look

Another article that talks about evil Republicans.

Evil evil Republicans. Could this be a talking point for the Democrats and the corporate money that owns them?

Invisible donor issues arise again, eh?

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