Good day ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank all of you for coming out today and hope you are all enjoying the croissants and Starbuck’s coffee provided as a courtesy of your great state. Please allow me to introduce myself before we get started. My name is Slick Perry and if you didn’t already know, I am the state governor of Texas.
You are all aware that we are reviewing our recidivism rate to various crimes and reviewing our stance regarding the death penalty as we approach 2009. Everyone here understands that capital punishment is a very controversial topic in the United States. In Texas, from December 1982 through August 2008, only 361 criminals of the millions of Texans in our good state were executed for the wickedest of crimes. We would all like to think more people would think twice before committing murder, knowing that they had to sit in jail for the rest of their lives with a life surrounded by complete boredom and misery. Unfortunately, this is not the case nor is it our desire to place people on death row matter-of-factly just because it’s an option available to us. We continually strive to make our judicial system fairer anticipating that the best verdicts are handed down based on the sound judgment of your peers. Anyone who has sat on a jury panel with the death penalty as a choice of punishment knows this can be a very difficult thing to do, is one of our most difficult decisions but, inevitably, will be decided again.
When European settlers came to the new world, they brought the practice of capital punishment with them. The first recorded implementation of the death penalty was Captain George Kendall which occurred in the Jamestown colony of Virginia, 1608. George Kendall was executed for being a spy for Spain. In 1612, Virginia Governor Sir Thomas Dale enacted the Divine, Moral and Martial Laws, where executions were not as humane as today and the death penalty was carried out by crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement. Thankfully we have evolved more humanitarian methods.
In Texas, after sentencing, if the death penalty is handed down by the judge, most cases are appealed giving the vile defendant a chance to circumvent the just desserts. Many death penalty cases are appealed by a writ of habeas corpus action to determine whether the person in the custody of legal authorities is lawfully detained in accordance with the constitutional rules. It is at this point that the Eighth Amendment from the U.S. Constitution protects those Texas inmates where, ‘excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.’ Since, by some, the death penalty is considered ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ this has become a popular appeal. Yes, it is true that Texas leads the nation in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, but it is our ethical legal moralism, our law enforcement officers and the duty of our fellow Texans doing what we should be doing – stopping the evil scourge of society! Your society!
In the 1958 the Supreme Court ruled in Trop v. Dulles (356 U.S. 86), which itself is not a death penalty case; the Eighth Amendment contained an “evolving standard of decency that marked the progress of a maturing society.” Death penalty opponents used this case as a basis for their argument that the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment because the U.S. had evolved to a point that its “standard of decency” no longer tolerated the death penalty. This is not the case my good people and the decency we offer convicted murderers is a painless alternative to those methods used in the 1600s.
The practice of using the death penalty continued until it was suspended in the early 1970’s. On June 29, 1972, in the case of Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. This was due in part to the fact that juries had complete sentencing discretion which could result in arbitrary sentencing, and the Courts deemed it was also a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s “Due Process”. Keep in my mind that in Texas only the most vial and cruel criminals are placed on death row, and, who are the most deserving. The consequences of the Supreme Court’s 1972 ruling voided 40 death penalty statutes, thereby commuting the sentences of 629 death row inmates around the country, 45 from Texas and suspending the death penalty because existing statutes were no longer valid. However, this ruling went against the U.S. public majority where, in fact, over 55% of U.S. citizens were in favor of the death penalty.
Some states rewrote their death penalty laws to address the unconstitutionality of giving juries complete discretion in sentencing by setting a mandated capital punishment for those convicted of capital crimes. The Supreme Court ruled in Woodson v. North Carolina (1976) this was also unconstitutional.
A different approach by some states was to introduce mitigating and aggravating factors when determining sentencing where, in 1976, the Supreme Court ultimately approved. The Supreme Court also held that the death penalty itself was once again constitutional under the Eighth Amendment allowing states a new dawn for a better society.
On January 17, 1977, the suspension of the death penalty officially ended with the execution of Gary Gilmore in Utah, by firing squad, and that same year the introduction and use of the new kinder gentler lethal injection was administered by Oklahoma. In 1977, after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, over 65% of U.S. citizens were in favored of it.
Since the reinstatement of the death penalty the Supreme Court has further defined the Eighth Amendment’s relationship to the death Penalty. In the same year it was reinstated the Courts ruled that it was deemed to harsh for instances of kidnapping, rape, being mentally incompetent and juveniles younger that 15. However it was determined in Stanford v. Kentucky that the constitution does not prohibit the death penalty for 16-year olds who commit murder.
Since 1977 our state has focused every effort to save your taxpaying money and kept Texans protected from paying a state sales tax. Unlike other states we’ve done this by managing inmate total cost and making executions cost effective as possible with renowned success. We’ve even managed to redirect that extra money towards repairing our roads and funding school programs for our kids. You! The Texas taxpayer, paid an average of 43% lower cost than the other states to house inmates and less than one-hundred dollars to rid the state of each of its worst offenders.
My fellow Texans, I know the death penalty is a very touchy subject to a few of you and the views of individuals who either favor or oppose the action are coupled with not only moral values and ethical beliefs, but are as personally diverse emotionally regarding race, abortion, religion and if McCain or Obama should be the next president. The most popular alternative of death penalty opponents is life in prison with no possibility of parole and the additional penalty of restitution compensation to victim’s families. Unfortunately, there is no effect of this swaying proponents of the death penalty nor is there any substantial evidence of its effectiveness to reduce the number murders committed nationwide.
Currently, over 65% of the U.S. is in favor of the death penalty. In our great state of Texas we have become a kinder gentler state where we, Texans, have implemented the use of lethal injection as means of execution. We started this in 1977, used it for the first time in 1982 and continue to use it to this day. I have two promises for you my friends. My first promise to you and my personal guarantee is that we will keep capital punishment as it is and continue to reevaluate its effectiveness and use; continually reviewing its pros and cons. If a majority of Texans agree that there are better restorative justice methods or positive retribution alternatives we will change our stance to how we administer capital punishment. My second promise and guarantee is for as long as the death penalty is still practiced, the malevolent and immoral death row inmates who make it to execution will never hurt you, your family, your friends or your children ever again. Death row inmates are fulfilling the appropriate punishment handed down to them by our Texas due process of law. Only God is left for them to answer to in their final judgment.
My fellow Texans, I hope ya’ll stick around to enjoy the free lunch sponsored by Chili’s and remember to vote for me for reelection. Thank you.