A View of Opposition from East Texas

Will someone not stop these people?

by
Annette M. Lamoreaux
East Texas Regional Director
ACLU OF TEXAS


HOUSTON (March 15, 2002) -- And so the media is leaving town – packing up their laptops and satellite dishes and cell phones. We in East Texas haven’t seen such a circus since the Karla Faye Tucker execution. But on Monday morning, we will still be here. Along with the next capital defendant who is sentenced to death, but not on live streaming video. Along with the 455 people who are already on death row. Which brings me to a question: if you get tried for capital murder and it’s not covered live by CNN, MSNBC and Slate Magazine, did it really happen?

My phone has been ringing off the hook this week. Sometimes it was my phone and cell phone at the same time. MSNBC was going to “send a car” for me, but then changed their mind. I’ve talked to reporters from exotic locales and local venues, who before last week could have cared less about why Harris County is responsible for a third of all those on Death Row in Texas. Next week, they will be on to something else. Andrea Yates will be settling into the knowledge that she will probably never see a sunset again, smell fresh baked cookies coming out of the oven, or wear anything but a prison jump suit for the rest of her life.

Let’s not be blasé about this – Ms. Yates is going to prison for the next 40 years, which given her age, means she will most likely die there. Did the fact that she received a life sentence show that the system worked? Yes, in a matter of speaking. If ever there was a defendant who had shown a jury mitigating evidence that she should not be put to death, it was this one. Evidently, the jury never even got that far because they decided she was not a future danger and that was the end. Well, not really.

It isn’t the end because the system here in Harris County, Texas is still terribly, horribly broken. Because Andrea Yates should never have been put on trial for capital murder in the first place. Ironically, the horrific facts of her crime garnered so much attention from outside the state that unlike most capital defendants here she got good lawyers and focused the Eyes of the World upon the courthouse and that jury room. If she had only killed two children, would the outcome have been different? Three? Four? Who knows?

At the trial, the prosecution and the defense agreed Ms. Yates was mentally ill. Yet, the lead prosecutor told the jury that he was proud to be asking them to sentence the tragic figure behind him to die. Proud? What an odd choice of words. Proud to send a sick, pathetic, grief-stricken woman to a small green room in Huntsville where she would be strapped to a gurney and chemicals made to course through her veins until her life would leave her body with a soft breath? How could anybody be proud of that? Do we need anything more to know that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is the self-appointed avenging angel of death? That their prosecutorial discretion has spiraled so out of control that they are the ones who don’t know right from wrong? Will someone not stop these people? Please.




Death Penalty Issues
Cases in the News
Truth in Justice