Today's Sacramento Bee editorial, one of a series in support of Prop. 34, is, "Death penalty Texas style? No, thank you." It's a must-read for Texas. Here's the top:
California never will emulate Texas' system of capital punishment. Nor should Californians want to.
There have been 1,304 executions across the country since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment. Texas has accounted for 484 state-sanctioned killings, 37 percent. California has executed 13, less than 1 percent. Both numbers raise fundamental questions about equity and equal protection nationally.
California's capital punishment system clearly is broken, one reason why The Bee reversed its long-held support for the ultimate punishment for the most heinous crimes.
Texas' system is troubled, too, but for very different reasons.
Texas has a record of taking shortcuts with the law. It has executed individuals who had poor legal representation and has disproportionately meted death sentences to African Americans and other people of color. As we noted in the first installment of this series, there is strong evidence that in 1989 Texas executed a man who may have been innocent, Carlos DeLuna.
In California, judges are nonpartisan and avoid partisan activities. Texas judges run in partisan elections for the highest criminal appellate court in the state, the Court of Criminal Appeals. Not surprisingly, they don't hide their tough-on-crime bias.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals shrugged off the appeal of another death row inmate who was tried by a judge who was having a romantic affair with the prosecutor. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, effectively upholding the sentence.
In 2007, Sharon Keller, the Texas court's presiding judge, ordered the courthouse doors locked at 5 p.m. sharp, denying attorneys for a death row inmate time to file a last-minute appeal. The man was executed later that evening.
Earlier coverage of Prop. 34, the SAFE California ballot initiative, begins at the link. Tomorrow's SacBee editorial will be, "Why voters should support Proposition 34, which would end the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole."
More from California in the next post.