Commentary: Rick Perry's Vile Execution Record

The Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate says executions in his state are fair. That's dead wrong.

Posted: 09/09/2011 04:13 PM EDT
Rick Perry

If you watched the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, you may remember the moment when the audience cheered when Perry faced a question about the hundreds of executions that have happened on his watch. The audience wasn’t cheering for the question, which asked if Perry struggled with the idea that one of the condemned may have been innocent, they were cheering for the executions themselves, and Perry’s answer did not disappoint.

 

“No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all,” he said. “The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which, when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing.” He later added: "In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children…you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."

 

If you believe that killing people in order to teach the lesson that killing people is wrong, Perry’s answer might be all well and good. However, there’s one clear inaccuracy in what the Texas governor had to say: Executions in the state of Texas, or anywhere for that matter, are anything but fair.

 

Under Gov. Perry 234 people have been executed in the state of Texas. And while some people would argue that the death penalty is in and of itself a bad institution, some of the executions under Perry were worse than usual.

 

Under Gov. Perry, juveniles were killed, like Napoleon Beazley, a Black man who was sentenced to death for a crime he committed when he was 17. Perry has also watched over 10 executions in which the mental health of the condemned was called into serious question. ThinkProgress describes one:

 

"One was Kelsey Patterson, who was judged as mentally fit by a doctor known as 'Dr. Death' because he rarely found patients mentally unfit for trial. During his trial, Patterson testified about having devices planted in his head by the military, and once in prison, he sent incoherent letters to courts."

 

Like Beazley, Patterson was also a Black man.

 

If you’re noticing a pattern, that’s because experts have known for years that the death penalty is a racially biased institution. Black criminals die of capital punishment at a wildly disproportionate rate, so much so that one expert told Time magazine, “I tell people that if you're going to commit murder, you want to be white, and you want to be wealthy — so that you can hire a first-class lawyer — and you want to kill a Black person. And if [you are], the odds of your being sentenced to death are basically zero.”

 

In other words, Perry can call his executions any number of things: controversial, vengeful, angry. But what he should never call them is “fair.”

 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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