200 executions in Texas under Rick Perry
Terry Hankins was executed at the Huntsville, Texas penitentiary on June 2, 2009.
Another killing by lethal injection, the execution was the 200th approved by Rick Perry, who succeeded George W. Bush as governor of Texas.
Texas governors do not have the final word when it comes to executions. The law states that they can grant a 30-day stay on any execution warrant. But longer reprieves or commutations need to be approved by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. However, the governor can give the green light to an execution even if the Board recommended a stay or a commutation.
Within the limited scope of his powers, Rick Perry has always gone for the strictest application of capital punishment.
Number of death sentences halved in five years
Texas is thus the US state with the largest number of executions, although the number of death sentences has gone down by 50% in the last five years, in line with the national trend.
The current governor has also repeatedly defended Texas’s death penalty system, despite its many flaws.
For example, strong arguments have been made that Texas wrongfully executed Cameron Willingham in 2004. His conviction was based on scientific evidence that was later proven to be inaccurate. This information was presented to Governor Perry before the scheduled execution but did not lead to a stay.
Other death row inmates were cleared before their execution when their innocence was proven. Yet Rick Perry insisted in January 2009: “By and large, we have a system that is fair, that works well, that is open to correcting errors that are made.”
He has been rejecting the arguments put forward by international abolitionists, whom he likened to 17th-century European colonists in comments made in 2007.
Mentally ill inmates on death row
According to World Coalition member organization Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP), 12 inmates with strong claims of severe mental illness have been executed since 2001. Yet the US Supreme Court banned the execution of the mentally ill in a 2002 ruling.
TCADP and Amnesty International USA organized a special 200-minute vigil on April 30 (photo above) and have released an organizing packet to help activists multiply activities on June 2. In addition, TCADP’s international branch called a protest on June 3 on Place de la Concorde in Paris, where the US embassy is located.
The organization also calls on citizens to write a letter of protest to the US ambassador in their country.