Texas (USA): AI report on death penalty
Amnistía Internacional (AI) publicou esta semana un informe sobre a pena de morte no Estado de Texas (Estados Unidos). O informe leva por título “United States of America: Too much cruelty, too little clemency. Texas nears 200th execution under current governor”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:
[…] There were 152 executions in Texas during the nearly six years of the Bush governorship (1995-2000). Now looming is the 200thexecution during Rick Perry’s term in office. The combined total of more than 350 executions in Texas under these two governors represents 30 per cent of the national total since executions resumed in the USA in 1977. Virginia is ranked second to Texas in executions. In 30 years, Virginia has killed 103 people in its death chamber, half the number put to death in Texas in eight. This is geographic bias on a grand scale.Texas, where about seven per cent of the population of the USA reside, and where fewer than 10 per cent of its murders occur, accounts for 37 per cent of the country’s executions since 1977, and 41 per cent since 2001. Rid Texas of executions and, in terms of judicial death toll, the country could effectively be almost halfway to a nationwide moratorium.
Not every murder in the USA, or in Texas, is punishable by the death penalty and not every capital murder is punished by execution. Jack Clark, for example, was convicted of one of the 2,000 murders in Texas in 1989, and one of 21,500 murders nationwide that year. He became one of 26 defendants to be sentenced to death in Texas in 1991, and one of 268 nationwide. Under US capital law, only the “worst of the worst” crimes and offenders are subject to execution, resulting in an attrition rate by which only around one per cent of murders result in the death penalty. In the words of the US Supreme Court, the death penalty is “limited to those offenders who commit a narrow category of the most serious crimes and whose extreme culpability makes them the most deserving of execution”. Carefully framed capital statutes, guided prosecutorial discretion, juror consideration of mitigating and aggravating factors, and multiple judicial appeals, ensure consistency, accuracy and fairness in capital justice. And then, in the words of the US Supreme Court’s Chief Justice in 1993, in a Texas death penalty case, because “it is an unalterable fact that our judicial system, like the human beings who administer it, is fallible”, executive clemency provides “the ‘fail-safe’ in our criminal justice system”.
At least that is the theory. Reality is very different. Arbitrariness, discrimination and error mark the death penalty in Texas as elsewhere in the USA, along with the inescapable cruelty of this outdated punishment. Clemency all too often fails to prevent injustice.
International law recognizes that some countries retain the death penalty. However, this acknowledgment of present reality should not be invoked “to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment”, in the words of Article 6.6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. With a view to abolition, international standards require a narrowing of capital punishment and the application of safeguards aimed at minimizing arbitrariness and irrevocable error. Children, the mentally impaired, the inadequately defended, and those whose guilt remains in doubt are among those supposed to be protected from the death penalty. Those executed in Texas since Jack Clark was put to death have included individuals from each of these categories. […]
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