Here's what our readers have to say:

Death Penalty: Why or Why Not?

In our first September newsletter, we asked our readers if they were for or against the death penalty.

We received phenomenal responses and wanted to share the best ones

"Growing up in Texas, a death-penalty state, I didn’t think much about the pros/cons of the death penalty. I thought that during a trial, the jury heard all the FACTS, and that they were therefore qualified to decide whether the death penalty was warranted for someone convicted of murder.  My opinion changed completely in 1999 when I saw firsthand what a death penalty trial actually looks like. The person on trial was our 27-year-old son.

The lead prosecutor was Joe Owmby, who had a reputation among defense lawyers as one of the most ruthless and unscrupulous prosecutors in Harris County.  During the two weeks of voir dire, we watched from the back of the room as Mr. Owmby and his assistant DA, stood right beside our son again and again, put his hand on the back of his chair and asked each prospective juror if they would be willing to give the death penalty if our son was convicted of the charges against him. They acted like it was no big deal at all for them to invite the jurors to work with them to help put this young man sitting in front of them to death. They were callous, calculating, and merciless in the pursuit of selecting only the jurors who were willing to give someone the death penalty. Then, during their breaks that laughed and chatted with the judge about their families, the birthday party for their kid, and the delicious dessert they had for lunch. Yet, here they were planning the death of our son. And in fact had been planning the death of our son since the very day he was arrested. Everything they did during those long months leading up to the trial was for the purpose of obtaining the death penalty and putting our son to death.

Why? I asked myself this question over and over. Our lawyer pointed out the political issues surrounding judges and prosecutors. They campaign for office for the most part on promises of being tough on crime. As a Texas citizen, I have voted for these tough on crime judges in the past. But I had no idea that tough on crime meant that they consider someone GUILTY until proven innocent, rather than INNOCENT until proven guilty. And the judges control what evidence is allowed to be presented to the jury. And also the prosecutors have personal relationships with the judges. They are coworkers. And the defense lawyer is the “odd man out” when it comes time for trial. The defense lawyer is viewed as someone soft on crime because his/her job is to defend the accused.

I came to the conclusion that very few death penalty trials in Texas are fair – that there are too many human elements and emotions at work in the courtroom – that judges are human and they make mistakes, and so do prosecutors. Defense lawyers are human as well. And they make mistakes. No trial is without a myriad of mistakes on both sides. And the jury does not see the WHOLE TRUTH. They only see what the judge allows them to see. Thus, the jury is never privy to all the facts behind the cases, even if all the facts are known. And truthfully, there has probably never been a murder trial anywhere in which all the FACTS are known and presented. 

The whole death penalty system in Texas and across the US is twisted and corrupted by courts that are influenced by prosecutors who stake their careers on how many people they can give the death penalty. And it begins at the point of arrest, where the police and investigators also stake their careers on obtaining a conviction and death penalty. Everyone wants to win because it furthers their careers. And that makes the whole death penalty system rotten to the core.

Our son was convicted of a lesser charge and the jury gave him a life sentence instead of the death penalty. I was told that Mr. Owmby was so angry afterwards that he went in his office and kicked the walls, cursing and yelling because he “lost” his death penalty conviction. It wasn’t enough for him to put our son in prison for the rest of his life. He wanted the death penalty. That’s all he wanted.

Our son passed away on January 12, 2020 as an inmate at Ramsey Unit in Rosharon, Texas. I saw him on Sunday and the next day he got the flu. And he died 6 days later.

Glad you are working on this project. 

B.D. 

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On the death penalty, under the Levitical Law God said "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," which we do not live under that law anymore. But in the New Testament, he gave authroity over to the civil government. So if that state decides it is for the death penalty then that's the law. Why it's very important to vote and decide who you want in office making laws. Maybe this isn't a real good argument, but I BELIEVE I believe in the death penalty.

M.G.

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I disagree with the death penalty because of learning of death penalty cases and the person being exonerated through DNA. We could be putting a human life to death that is actually innocent.

No different than the guards at the Michael Unit not giving inmates water and ice for several hours in extreme heat with no AC. Also locking them in their cells for several hours in extreme heat stating they are understaffed. This is no different than what happened to George Floyd. Those over the prisons in Texas and the guards doing this need to be charged for murder. The Texas prisons are no more than concentration camps.

E.

 

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Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.