That's the title of a powerful Texas Monthly essay written by Tim Cole, a Texas prosecutor who served four terms as an elected district attorney. It's subtitled, "During my years as a district attorney, I have sought the death penalty. But does the state need to take a life to make a point?"
Here's the beginning:
I remember feeling a little nervous when the heavy door leading to Death Row clanged shut behind me. I didn’t really know what I would see. Having never walked the concrete corridors of a Texas prison, or any other for that matter, I didn't know at the time that it was very much the same as any other cell block. Inmates stepped aside as we passed, eyes down, in their place behind a yellow line painted along the edge of the floor. I assumed it was prison protocol for any "suits” on the unit—outsiders important enough to be escorted through the cell block by an assistant warden. But I never asked.
It was the fall of 1990. Barely two years after graduating from law school I fell into a position as criminal law advisor and counsel to Governor William Clements as he neared the end of his last term in the office. Even though I never met the governor during the six months of my employment, I thought the position would fit nicely into my plan to return to my North Texas hometown in Montague County to run for district attorney. I was 31—and ambitious. I had been sent to Huntsville as the governor’s representative to witness a scheduled execution, but it was delayed. As we waited, the warden was more than pleased to show me around. I was “with the governor’s office.” Technically, almost his boss. Or close enough to make him very accommodating. The red carpet treatment was a bit heady. The respect was more for the office than me, but it had its perks. Visiting the country’s—maybe the world’s—most active death chamber was one. It should have been a solemn occasion, but to be honest I recall very little of it. Except the part where I visited Death Row.
Near the end of the tour I mentioned to the warden that I actually knew someone on the Row: Clifford Holt Boggess, who was condemned to death for the murder of Frank Collier in July, 1986. I grew up in Saint Jo, a small North Texas town close to the Oklahoma border where Collier ran an old-fashioned family grocery store. It’s one of those places where everyone knows each other, and though I was a few years older than Boggess, I knew him. I knew his family. He knew mine. I probably had been in his home at some point as a child. At one point Boggess had worked a part-time high school job at the local newspaper owned and operated by my family. I never thought much about him after that. Until he murdered Collier and another man in nearby Grayson County in a three-week span of violence and became the only person in the modern era of the state's death penalty from Montague County to be sentenced to die.