During last night’s debate, Perry was asked if he “struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any of those [executed] might have been innocent.” He responded: “No, Sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all.”
Given how difficult it is to apply the death penalty, and given how infrequently this punishment is meted out, I think Perry’s response was entirely justified.
“The state of Texas,” he explained, “has a very thoughtful [and] very clear process in place. When someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing. They go through an appellate process; they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if that’s required.”
(And, he might have added, DNA evidence also is now used to ensure that innocent defendants aren’t executed.)
It’s important that the judicial process be administered in a fair, timely, and efficient manner. Dallas-based criminal defense attorneys Clinton Broden and F.R. “Mick” Mickelsen write that, unfortunately, that’s often not the case:
In most death penalty cases there is little doubt about the guilt of the accused. If there were, it is unlikely the state would seek the death penalty in the first place. Thus the guilt and innocence phase of the trial is usually over in a day or two…
If a defendant finds no success along this lengthy procedural path, it can nevertheless take five to ten years from crime to execution date. If the defendant does meet with some success so that a retrial, or further hearings are conducted the process can drag out for many more years. In Texas, there are inmates who have been on death row for decades.
This is shameful, disgraceful and a true miscarriage of justice. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.
That may be why the GOP debate audience heartily cheered Brian Williams’s claim that Perry had presided over so many executions. They’ve had enough of judges and lawyers overruling their will and making public policy for them.