Precinct 333

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

When Will People Get This Straight?

One of the things that has long bothered me is the accusation made against George W. Bush that the number of executions in Texas during his time as governor reflected a lack of compassion. The charge is absurd, and based upon an incorrect assumption that the media is never willing to correct. The charge has shown up lately during discussion of the Schiavo case. Take this excerpt from a story I read today.

Death penalty opponents said Bush did not give the same presumption (in favor of live) to death row inmates in Texas, where he used his power to grant an execution stay only once while governor from 1995 to 2000.

In 2000, the state set a U.S. record with 40 executions, including that of Gary Graham, whose guilt was hotly contested and became an international controversy.

Yeah, they are right. Bush only used his power to grant clemency (not a stay, for he issued several, but actual clemency and commutation of the sentence) once during his time in office. That looks pretty damning, until you look at the Texas Constitution.

(a) The Legislature shall by law establish a Board of Pardons and Paroles and shall require it to keep record of its actions and the reasons for its actions. The Legislature shall have authority to enact parole laws and laws that require or permit courts to inform juries about the effect of good conduct time and eligibility for parole or mandatory supervision on the period of incarceration served by a defendant convicted of a criminal offense.
(b) In all criminal cases, except treason and impeachment, the Governor shall have power, after conviction, on the written signed recommendation and advice of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, or a majority thereof, to grant reprieves and commutations of punishment and pardons; and under such rules as the Legislature may prescribe, and upon the written recommendation and advice of a majority of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, he shall have the power to remit fines and forfeitures. The Governor shall have the power to grant one reprieve in any capital case for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days; and he shall have power to revoke conditional pardons. With the advice and consent of the Legislature, he may grant reprieves, commutations of punishment and pardons in cases of treason. (Texas Constitution, Article IV, Section 11)

Yeah, you read that right. As governor, George W. Bush could not do any thing about a death sentence without the prior consent of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, other than grant a single thirty-day stay of execution. In the Graham case, he lacked even the ability to do that much, vor his prececessor, Ann Richards, had previously granted one to Graham. Without support from the Board, Bush could do nothing. Any attempt to act would have been an impeachable offense under the Texas Constitution.

Now I realize that the Left never lets the facts get in the way of a good meme, but I would hope that honest and fair-minded people would see that the "blood-thirsty butcher Bush" accusation flies in the face of the facts of the matter.


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