While a death row prisoner awaits his fate, Texas justice under Governor Rick Perry has become more dangerous than air travel.
In 1995 Duane Buck murdered two people and shot and injured a third, a crime to which he has since confessed. The evidence against Buck was strong from the beginning, but things started to look even bleaker for him when psychologist Walter Quijano testified that black criminals like Buck are likelier than others to kill again. When Buck was found guilty and sentenced to death, his defense attorneys argued that Quijano's racial allegations tainted the court's decision, even though they're the ones who put Quijano on the stand in the first place.
Because of this argument, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled at the 11th hour yesterday to temporarily stay Buck's execution, which was supposed to take place last night. The Court will now review Buck's petition more fully and decide whether to allow the state to reschedule Buck's death or prohibit it from going forward.
If past is prologue, Buck will be executed despite the protestations of his supporters. When Brian Williams asked Perry about the death penalty during last week's Republican presidential debate, a sickening cheer rose from the audience when Williams noted that Perry has presided over a record 234 executions. Perry kept cool and responded saying that he's "never struggled" with the thought that an innocent person was killed on his watch, and that the death penalty in Texas is "fair." But while Perry's not losing sleep over how many people have been snuffed by the state while he's been at the helm, Texans themselves might want to sit up and take note: According to some so-called "napkin math"published by AlterNet editor Joshua Holland, under Governor Perry, Texans are likelier to be executed by the state than die in a plane crash. "For TX residents, the odds are: plane crash 5.85*10^-5%, Perry execution: 8.33*10^-5%," writes Holland.
Exacerbating everything is how wildly biased Texas' death penalty is. In general, blacks and Latinos make up 42 percent of the people killed under capital punishment in the United States. In Texas, however, that number jumps to 70 percent. And that's in a state that's more than 70 percent white. People executed in Texas are also wildly uneducated: Of the last 100 people killed by Texas, not a single one had a college education. The average had dropped out at around eighth grade.
Even if Holland's math is right, both the odds of dying in a plane crash and at the hands of the state remain wildly unlikely. Still, that our governments are now dispatching us more efficiently than Mother Nature is disconcerting at best. Hopefully that's something all involved will consider when deciding whether Buck lives or dies.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons