Is Bush shooting for the world execution record?
opinion by Sean Carter
With the recent executions of Timothy McVeigh and Juan Raul Garza, the
federal government has now executed more prisoners in a two-week
period than it had in the previous 38 years. And considering
that George W. Bush is now the President, this number can only be
expected to skyrocket during the next four years.
As Governor of Texas, George “The Texecutioner” Bush held the proud
distinction of being the deadliest governor in US history. In five
years of “compassionate conservatism,” Texas executed 152 inmates,
including a record-breaking 40 executions in 2000 alone.
During this peak year, Bush averaged an execution every nine days.
Furthermore, he racked up a whopping seven executions in both January
and May. And in August, he accomplished a “daily double” by executing
two prisoners on the same day in the same prison.
In fact, if Texas were a country, it would have ranked fifth in
executions during Bush’s reign. Of course, as President, fifth place
will no longer be good enough. During his term, he will do his best to
make sure that America is Number One.
Unfortunately for the Texecutioner, his path to the record books will
not be free of obstacles. In 21st- century America, the only inmates
on death row are the mentally retarded, insane or innocent. After
all, everyone else had the good sense to plead out to life without
parole. However, recent events within and outside of the legal system,
are further shrinking the number of possible “executees.”
For one, the US Supreme Court recently overturned the death sentence
of John Paul Penry, a mentally retarded Texas inmate. As governor,
Bush denied Penry’s requests for clemency despite the fact that Penry
has the mind of a seven-year old as he likes to play with coloring
books and still believes in Santa Claus.
The Penry case was decided on procedural issues and does not ban all
executions of mentally retarded inmates. In the fall, the Supreme
Court will rule on this issue in a case involving a North Carolina
inmate believed to have the mind of a 10-year-old.
Nevertheless, the Penry case has thrust the issue of executing
mentally retarded inmates into the spotlight. In response, the
legislatures of Florida and Texas have joined 12 other states and
recently passed laws banning such executions. Perhaps surprisingly,
Jeb Bush, the Governor of Florida and First Brother, signed the
Florida bill into law.
Furthermore, the recent execution of a schizophrenic inmate in Ohio
has caused an international uproar. Amnesty International and the
European Union both decried the Ohio execution.
Lastly, continuing advances in forensic science are threatening to
diminish the last class of death row inmates—the innocent. Each year,
DNA evidence and other new technologies are being used to free more
and more wrongfully convicted death row inmates. This will further
reduce Bush’s pool of potential “executees.”
However, no one should underestimate Bush’s ability to “get things
done,”—especially when it comes to executions.
Sean Carter is an attorney. He can be reached by e-mail at