Sometime this month, Texas will execute its 400th killer since 1982, when it resumed executions. Five Death Row inmates are scheduled to die in August, and that's OK by me.
Now, depending on your view of capital punishment, 400 dead men walking might seem like a senseless massacre or merely a good start. The second most aggressive state, Virginia, has "only" executed 98.
A lot of folks will get their panties in a bunch about this milestone, but I wonder: How many Texas victims of murders and capital rape could be counted in that same 25 years? More than 400? Easily. Who will be outraged for them?
A news report by Reuters (following on a similar PBS report) chalks up Texas' Death Row sensibilities to the state's huge population of evangelical Christians, a legacy of racism, and its Southern and Old West roots, "with a cowboy sense of rough justice."
It also reports that 41% of Texas' Death Row population is black, even though the state is only 12% black. The article does not report, however, the percentage of black population where the condemned inmates' murders and rapes happened, nor whether accused whites, Asians and Hispanics really have higher rates of dismissed cases or not-guilty verdicts. Didn't the myth that race played a superseding role in murder prosecutions end with O.J. and Clara Harris?
Every so often, a killing comes along that must certainly challenge the beliefs of the most die-hard death-penalty opponents. If not, please make a case for the rehabilitation of the two thugs who invaded, robbed, raped and killed a Connecticut doctor's family -- then burned down their house. Or Paul Hill, who gleefully admitted killing an abortion doctor and, shortly before his 2003 execution, said if he were free, he'd kill more.
My feelings about executions are deep-seated and I make no apologies. In 1973, I was 16 when two thugs randomly abducted two young girls who lived next door to me, terrorized them through the night, raped one and dumped them alive from a 12-story bridge into a rocky, remote canyon. Miraculously, one lived, and she identified the killers. They were sentenced to die, but in the national spasm of debate over the death penalty, their death sentences were commuted to life ... with the possibility of parole.
That possibility so obsessed the survivor of their crime that her life cratered. She went back to that same bridge 19 years later and leaped to her death. One of the killers died in prison in 1998, but the other, now age 60, survives today and still hopes to be paroled in the near future. Who will speak for my friend when it comes time to deny his parole?
It's all laid out in my new book, "FALL: The Rape and Murder of Innocence in a Small Town."
I believe executions have a deterrent effect. I don't know about other would-be murderers, but nothing stops a killer from doing it again like a lethal injection. Plus, I don't kid myself about retribution. A 2006 Gallup poll showed that 67 percent of Americans favored the death penalty, 28 percent opposed it, and 5 percent had no opinion ... who has no opinion about killing another person?
I have an opinion. We made a promise to my friends' killers, to Ted Bundy, to John Wayne Gacy, to the more than 3,300 inmates now on America's Death Rows. Those promises should be kept. At least Texas is doing its part.