Phil Graham on 10 Aug 2000 15:16:18 -0000

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<nettime> Double header on Texas death row

"Compassionate conservatism" strikes again. Mass executions will no doubt
prove to be far more economically expedient in the long run. Far cheaper
than bombing, and much more surgically precise than old-fashioned


Texas Executes Two Murderers One-Half Hour Apart

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - Two convicted murderers, onesaid to be
mentally retarded, were put to death in Texas on Wednesday in a rare
double execution that sparked fresh criticism of the death penalty
policies of Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential nominee. 

Brian Roberson, 36, and Oliver Cruz, 33, died by lethal injection in
back-to-back executions 33 minutes apart at a state prison in Huntsville.
They were the 27th and 28th inmates put to death this year in Texas, the
nation's leader in capital punishment. 

The double execution was the fourth in Texas in the last 50 years and the
third since Bush took office five years ago. 

Execution dates are set by judges and occur on the same day only by

Roberson was condemned for the 1986 murder of an elderly couple during a
Dallas burglary and Cruz for the rape and murder of an Air Force enlisted
woman in San Antonio in 1988. 

Both men admitted to the crimes but blamed them on drug use. 

A defiant Roberson was the first to go. While strapped to a gurney in the
Texas death chamber, he said, ``To all the racist white folks in America
... and to all the black folks in America that hate themselves ... kiss my
black ass.''

CONDEMNED MAN WEEPS Cruz, whose attorney said he was mentally retarded,
wept when he was placed on the same gurney half an hour later. 

``I want to apologize to the family of Kelly Elizabeth Donovan. I am sorry
for what I did to her 12 years ago,'' he said, referring to the woman he
killed. ``Jesus forgive me.''

Roberson was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m. CDT and Cruz at 6:50 p.m

Jeffrey Pokorak, Cruz's attorney, tried to stop his client's execution on
the grounds that he had scored in the retarded range in some intelligence
tests. Of the 38 states that permit capital punishment, 13 have laws
forbidding execution of the retarded, but Texas is not among them. 

``The mentally retarded ... are childlike in behavior and understanding
,and there is widespread feeling around the country and here in Texas that
we shouldn't be executing them,'' Pokorak said. 

Several groups, including the American Bar Association, the European
Union, the Council of Europe and the Arc of the United States, which
fights for the rights of the mentally retarded, urged Bush to spare Cruz's

But prosecutors said Cruz scored normally on prison intelligence tests and
deserved to die. After the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles rejected requests for clemency, his fate was sealed
when Texas Lt. Gov.  Rick Perry, filling in for Bush while he was out of
state campaigning, refused to grant a reprieve. 


Bush, who has not supported past attempts to pass a law banning executions
for the retarded in Texas, agreed with Perry's decision, spokeswoman Linda
Edwards said.

``Texas law has numerous protections to prevent mentally incompetent
offenders from being executed. The jury heard extensive evidence regarding
the mental capacity of Cruz and agreed that his vicious and calculated
crime warranted a sentence of death,'' she said in a statement.

Wednesday's executions outraged death penalty opponents, who said they
showed that Bush was not the ``compassionate conservative'' he claims to

``Bush's embrace of the machinery of death indicates he is morally unfit
to be president of the U.S. or even governor of Texas,'' Dave Atwood, head
of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said in a statement.

Because of the high number of executions in Texas, Bush has weathered a
series of death penalty controversies. Wednesday's was much milder than
some in previous cases, including the June execution of Gary Graham, which
drew hundreds of protesters because of doubts that he had received a fair

Texas has performed 227 executions since 1982, when the state resumed
capital punishment, six years after the Supreme Court lifted a national

Opinions expressed in this email are my own unless otherwise stated.
Phil Graham
Lecturer (Communication)
Graduate School of Management
University of Queensland
617 3381 1083

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