Texas set to carry out 250th execution under Governor Rick Perry tonight
The US state of Texas is set to carry out its 250th execution under the governorship of Rick Perry. The execution - of 41-year-old Donnie Roberts, convicted of murder in 2004 - is scheduled for 6pm Texas time this evening.
Texas accounts for 38% of executions carried out in the USA since the US Supreme Court – in the case of Gregg v. Georgia in 1976 - allowed executions to resume under revised capital laws. Texas has carried out 11 of the 34 executions so far this year in the USA and is heading for its 500th since the Gregg ruling.
One in six of the prisoners put to death in Texas since January 2001 was aged 17, 18 or 19 at the time of the crime. Since January 2001, there have been about 15,000 murders in Texas and 249 executions.
Amnesty has repeatedly criticised the Texas authorities for failing to lead their state away from the death penalty and has highlighted arbitrariness, discrimination and error in the application of the punishment in this and other states of the USA. In a report to mark the upcoming 250th execution, Amnesty is highlighting the executions in Texas this year of a man with serious mental illness, one with a strong claim that he had “mental retardation”, and another who was 19-years-old at the time of the crime and sentenced to death by a jury which had only a partial picture of the severe abuse, poverty and neglect he had endured as a child.
In his first “State of the State” address on 25 January 2001, a month after becoming Governor, Rick Perry said: “Like most Texans, I am a proponent of capital punishment because it affirms the high value we place on innocent life.” Since then, the exercise of his power of reprieve has been vanishingly rare, and clemency recommendations from his appointees on the state Board of Pardons and Paroles have been few and far between.
In 2004, in the case of a prisoner suffering from serious mental illness, Governor Perry allowed the execution to proceed despite a rare recommendation from the Board. Under a US Supreme Court precedent, the death penalty is supposedly reserved for the “worst of the worst” crimes and offenders.
Amnesty International USA Researcher Rob Freer said:
“After he took office in 2001, Governor Perry acknowledged there was room for improvement in the Texan justice system - a dozen years and 249 executions later, it is still doing its worst.
“All Texans - including authorities at all levels and the electorate - should recognise that the only way to eradicate the discrimination, error, unfairness and cruelty associated with the death penalty is to abolish it.”
Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as being the ultimate cruel and unusual punishment.