Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Commentary, Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 10:18 am by wcnews

Recent developments surrounding the Williamson County justice system, and an appellate decision, should bring a heightened sense of awareness to all when Texas politicians talk about the criminal justice system. That’s the reason to highlight this part of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s response to a question about the death penalty during the GOP Presidential debate last night. This is what he said about anyone who get’s convicted of a crime in Texas.

They get a fair hearing. They go through an appellate process. They go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if that’s required.

That does not appear to be correct in the case of Michael Morton. A man convicted over 25 years ago of killing his wife, which appears to be a false conviction and the actual murderer is still running free. Not to mention this, Perry’s pride and the Willingham case.

And this was surreal, Cheering death: A pathetic new low in American politics.

I watched all of last night’s rather predictable and not particularly game changing GOP presidential last night. As the dust settles, I honestly couldn’t tell you who the “winner” was. I can tell you who lost, though:

Basic human decency. Not to mention America’s reputation as a nation built on virtues like justice and fairness.

This shocking new low came near the end of the debate when moderator Brian Williams of NBC News asked Texas Gov. Rick Perry to defend his record of executions — 234, more than any other governor in modern history — during his tenure in Austin.

The mere mention that Perry had made what was once considered a solemn decision to sign off on the state-sanction deaths of 234 human beings caused the audience to break into sustained applause. Just watch the video below.

It was utterly sickening to watch. When Perry — who recently vetoed a bill that would halt the execution of the mentally ill — told the audience that anyone convicted of murder in the Lone Star State faces “the ultimate justice,” the applause grew even louder.

Here’s the video:

From Sister Helen Prejean, Would Jesus pull the switch?

People ask me all the time, “What are you, a nun, doing getting involved with these murderers?” You know how people have these stereotypical ideas about nuns: nuns teach; nuns nurse the sick.

I tell people to go back to the gospel. Look at who Jesus hung out with: lepers, prostitutes, thieves—the throwaways of his day. If we call ourselves Jesus’ disciples, we too have to keep ministering to the marginated, the throwaways, the lepers of today. And there are no more marginated, thrown-away, and leprous people in our society than death-row inmates.

There’s a lot of what I call “biblical quarterbacking” going on in death-penalty debates: people toss in quotes from the Bible to back up what they’ve already decided anyway. People want to not only practice vengeance but also have God agree with them. The same thing happened in this country in the slavery debates and in the debates over women’s suffrage.

Religion is tricky business. Quote that Bible. God said torture. God said kill. God said get even.

Even the Pauline injunction “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay” (Rom. 12:19) can be interpreted as a command and a promise—the command to restrain individual impulses toward revenge in exchange for the assurance that God will be only too pleased to handle the grievance in spades.

That God wants to “get even” like the rest of us does not seem to be in question.

One intractable problem, however, is that divine vengeance (barring natural disasters, so-called acts of God) can only be interpreted and exacted by human beings, very human beings.

I can’t accept that.

Jesus Christ, whose way of life I try to follow, refused to meet hate with hate and violence with violence. I pray for the strength to be like him.

I cannot believe in a God who metes out hurt for hurt, pain for pain, torture for torture. Nor do I believe that God invests human representatives with such power to torture and kill. The paths of history are stained with the blood of those who have fallen victim to “God’s Avengers.” Kings, popes, military generals, and heads of state have killed, claiming God’s authority and God’s blessing. I do not believe in such a God.

The problem everyone should have with the death penalty, and our criminal justice system in general, is how many innocent people have been convicted of crimes in Texas. No one is for killing, or locking up, innocent people.

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