Gov. Rick Perry’s Death Penalty Dilemma

Photo by Bee Free Photography under Creative Commons

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Despite a significant reduction in capital punishments in the past decade, the United States continues to pour a lot of money into the controversial practice, according to a study by the Death Penalty Information Center. Citing the report, “Smart on Crime,” Jim Ridgeway writes that “this is no small consideration for cash-strapped state governments.”

Tell that to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who proved his fiscally conservative credentials in March when he refused $555 million in stimulus funds that would have covered unemployment benefits. The move backfired four months later, when Perry asked the federal government for a $170 million loan to cover his state’s dwindling unemployment funds.

And by continuing his whole-hearted embrace of capital punishment, Perry continues to misspend Texas’ badly needed cash. As the “Smart on Crime” study proves, Perry could save Texas a bundle by scaling back its execution program. Reducing executions could also divert criticism of Perry spawned by mounting evidence that Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004, was actually innocent.

But the swashbuckling politician—who in April suggested that Texas could secede from the Union—has only reaffirmed his embrace of the death penalty. “Our process works, and I don’t see anything out there that would merit calling for a moratorium on the Texas death penalty,” he said on Tuesday. As Zack Roth notes, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Perry’s top challenger for governor in 2010 and a strong supporter of the death penalty, has criticized Perry on the issue. Still, she hasn’t commented on the death penalty’s economic or ethical dimensions, instead charging that Perry’s handling of the Willingham case is “giving liberals an argument to discredit the death penalty.”

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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