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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Blood on His Hands

If anyone caught tonight's episode of "Boston Legal" it might have made you think about President Bush waiting in the wings to sacrifice the life of Terri Schiavo.

The program featured the story of a man whose intelligence was only slightly above the level considered competent. He received a hasty trial on a murder charge, represented by a defense attorney who later admitted  he was addicted to cocaine. The accused man himself was a drug abuser who said he couldn't remember whether he had committed the crime or not. In fact, he couldn't remember anything about the night in question. Somehow, in the face of murky evidence (DNA evidence suggested another person was at the scene, a lead the investigators failed to pursue) -- and bucking the presumption of innocence unless guilt is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt -- the Texas justice system doomed him to death and denied every appeal and request for a mistrial.

In doing a quick Internet search, I learned the fictional case on the program closely resembled one during the time when George Bush was the governor of Texas. In tonight's show, a last minute pardon from the governor would have saved the man's life. It never came. The show closed with a brutal scene of the man being administered a lethal injection to kill him.

Ironic, isn't it? The man who, while he was governor of Texas, turned a blind eye while the state actively made it easier to sentence people to death, now feels the arbitrary impulse to protect Terry Shiavo's life. Bush is commonly referred to as the "chief executive officer of the Texas death industry" because he has signed more death warrants than any other elected official alive today in America.

The web site commondreams.com reports:

"The Chicago Tribune published a compelling report on an investigation of all 131 death cases in Governor Bush's time. It made chilling reading.

"In one-third of those cases, the report showed, the lawyer who represented the death penalty defendant at trial or on appeal had been or was later disbarred or otherwise sanctioned. In 40 cases the lawyers presented no evidence at all or only one witness at the sentencing phase of the trial.

"In 29 cases, the prosecution used testimony from a psychiatrist who -- based on a hypothetical question about the defendant's past -- predicted he would commit future violence. Most of those psychiatrists testified without having examined the defendant: a practice condemned professionally as unethical (ed: and grounds for a mistrial in other, more rational states).

"Other witnesses included one who was temporarily released from a psychiatric ward to testify, a pathologist who had admitted faking autopsies and a judge who had been reprimanded for lying about his credentials."

Despite these damning facts, Bush has maintained: "Every person that has been put to death in Texas under my watch has been guilty of the crime charged, and has had full access to the courts."

Just this weekend, U.S. Catholic bishops announced they will launch a campaign to denounce the death penalty. One wonders exactly what is going to give way when the Republican's zeal for killing meets the desire of their base for mercy.

The cause and effect here should put to rest any question about Bush's real motive in getting involved with the Schiavo issue. The man doesn't value life. He doesn't extend compassion or mercy. It's not in his toolbox. It's not even in his vocabulary.

Rather, if someone's life is going to be taken, he wants to be the one to swagger in, Texas-style, and pull the switch himself. Because there's nothing to be gained here for his friends who are in the executing business, why let this one die? Bush is now -- for one day, at least -- a proponent of life.

George W. Bush: The Death Penalty Governor --> http://www.commondreams.org/views/020900-105.htm

Texas Executions: GW Bush Has Defined Himself, Unforgettably, As Shallow And Callous --> http://www.commondreams.org/views/061700-102.htm

U.S. Catholic Bishops to Launch Campaign Denouncing Death Penalty --> http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/nation/11188063.htm


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