Only in Texas?

TX Dept CJ

The great state of Texas seems to be generating it’s fair share of not-so-great-news. A few hours prior to me writing this blog post, a shooting occurred near the Texas A&M campus. Three people were killed, a constable, the shooter, and a bystander. Several were injured. All this occurred in a residential area and classes begin in two weeks. No matter what people say about guns, it seems fairly clear that the outcome might have been different if the shooter did not have a gun!

Last week a man with an I.Q. of 61 was executed. The dispute wasn’t about if Mr. Wilson was developmentally disabled, but that he wasn’t disabled enough to avoid the death penalty. Instead of citing scientific data, the judge cited John Steinbeck’s classic, Of Mice and Men in defining parameters for mental retardation … much to the disgust of Steinbeck’s son, Thomas Steinbeck.

Here’s something I didn’t know: Texas keeps and shares the last words of executed offenders.  The Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains a website (not unusual) with death row information and links, and a web page of executed offenders, including their last wordsExecuted offender information begins December 7, 1982 and, 484 executions later, was updated August 8, 2012 with Marvin Wilson’s August 7 execution.

There have been seven executions already in 2012 and there are nine more scheduled before the end of the year. If all goes according to schedule – and Texas is not known for stays of execution nor people languishing on death row – that is an average of 16.4 executions per year for the last 30 years!

I probably have more than the average pastor’s experiences of penal systems and have certainly heard my share of innocence stories, some I’m sure were probably true. I had regular rounds at The California Men’s Colony, Atascadero State Hospital (where all sex offenders were sent in my day), San Quentin, Vacaville, and Soledad prisons. I was called out weekly to the Main Jail in San Jose, California. I was “the jail chaplain” at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. It was heart-breaking and terrifying. Yes, there are truly evil people in this world and no, I have never supported the death penalty.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Texas publishes the last words of those executed. After all, social media has pretty much blurred the lines of what is decent and private. Apparently executed criminals have waived their rights to any privacy in the great state of Texas.


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