That's the title of an editorial published in today's Dallas Morning News.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins wants to make sure Texas executions are not carried out if racial bias played an unfair role in a defendant’s death sentence.
No argument. Good goal, in general.
Now comes the hard part — getting there.
Watkins said this week that he is preparing a proposal, the Racial Justice Act, that would allow a death row inmate to bring up the issue of race in state appeals. North Carolina has a measure like that on the books, and three death-row inmates — two of whom killed law enforcement officers — used it to overturn their sentences in favor of life in prison last month. Their lawyers argued that racial bias affected the sentencing and jury selection in the three emotionally charged cases.
Whether Texas defense lawyers need or should have that tool is an important debate to have in the state Capitol among legal experts and lawmakers.
This newspaper opposes the death penalty on grounds that it can never be immune from human error and is unevenly applied. More than half of Texas’ 254 counties have never sent a single person to death row in the modern era, and studies have indicated that the races of the killer and the victim affect decisions, from prosecutors to juries, on whether to apply capital punishment.
This session should be the one to get the discussion started, and time’s already slipping away.