Outrage at Texas’s 400th execution


on 27 August 2007

The execution of Johnny Ray Conner, the 400th inmate put to death in Texas since the US reinstated capital punishment 31 years ago, has attracted heavy criticism from abolitionist activists and political institutions.

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) organised a vigil in front the Capitol, the seat of democratic power in the state, while the inmate was executed in Huntsville prison on August 22. Around 50 people attended the vigil, which the organisation considers a good showing in a state where opinion polls return over 70% of answers in support of the death penalty.
During the vigil, a bell rang at 6 pm and a candle was lit. The bell rang again and the candle was extinguished 20 minutes later, after Johnny Ray Conner’s death. “Within seconds, the sky opened up and poured – it was difficult not to connect the two, said TCADP Program Coordinator Vicki McCuistion.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which represents abolitionist organisations across the US, highlighted the inexplicably huge number of executions carried out in the country, and in Texas in particular. It said in a statement: “We are out of step with our allies and the countries with which we share history and culture. In fact, it is mostly the southern United States, and Texas in particular, that is out of step. The top 11 states in number of executions are all southern and border states. Well over one-third of those executions have been carried out by Texas.”

EU calls on Rick Perry to stop executions

Outside the US, the European Union also published a statement immediately before the execution. It called on Texas governor Rick Perry to “halt all upcoming executions and to consider the introduction of a moratorium in the State of Texas”. “The European Union therefore takes this opportunity to renew its call for a moratorium to be placed on the application of the death penalty, by both the US federal and state authorities, in anticipation of its legal abolition”, the statement added.
But Rick Perry’s answer left little room for dialogue: “230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.”

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