The Dallas Morning News ran an editorial and blog post on Tuesday praising the Texas Democratic Party’s platform position on the death penalty and the need for a moratorium on executions and the creation of a “Capital Punishment Commission” to study the death penalty system, saying “a moratorium and other reforms adopted in the Democrats’ state platform may help prevent a fatal error.”
Usually, the Dallas Morning News endorses the Republican in elections for Texas governor. This year may be different. I would think that if the Dallas Morning News decides to endorse Bill White this Fall, one of the reasons will be that they will expect him and the Democrats in the Legislature to enact the death penalty reforms listed in the TDP platform.
The blog post entitled “Texas Democrats strike right tone on death penalty” written by Assistant Editorial Page Editor Michael Landauer says:
“In its platform adopted last week, the Texas Democratic Party seems to have it right on capital punishment. The party does not go as far as we do. We want to abolish the death penalty in Texas. Democrats want to win elections. I get that. But the plank in the platform on Capital Punishment is a good place to start for lawmakers considering common-sense reforms that people on both sides could agree on”.
Consider that the courts have gotten it wrong – awfully wrong – in several cases. Men have walked off death row because they were able to show bogus charges, thin evidence, junk forensic work or shaky witnesses. It’s still an open question whether an innocent person has died on the executioner’s gurney.
A list of reforms to help safeguard against that possibility was included in the platform adopted last week by the Texas Democratic Party. Most should make sense even to Texans who support capital punishment but who are troubled by the ghastly thought of taking a life in error.
Thank you to all the Democrats who worked on the 2010 platform as members of the Platform Committee at the State Convention or in an advisory capacity. Special thanks to Tom Blackwell, who was on the chair’s advisory committee on the platform as well as elected to represent SD 16 on the Platform Committee at the convention. He was responsible for adding two new reforms to the capital punishment section this year, the one having to do with the Law of Parties and the line saying “when the imposition of the death penalty is before the Parole Board or the Governor we urge consideration of all reasonably certain scientific or factual evidence that has become known since the trial”.
The Texas Democratic Party first endorsed a moratorium on executions in 2004 after Texas Moratorium Network’s Scott Cobb was elected to the Platform Committee and wrote the language adding a section on death penalty reforms to the platform. At the convention last week, TMN organized a meeting of an anti-death penalty caucus with a special guest speaker who spent 17 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. Juan Melendez, the guest speaker, also was allowed to address the meeting of the TDP Resolutions Committee when they were considering the moratorium issue.