On Friday, August 11, we met with the Democratic nominee for governor, Chris Bell, in his campaign headquarters in Austin. We discussed the problems in the death penalty system for an entire hour. Some of the topics we covered were the cases of Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos De Luna. There have been reports in the media that all three of them were probably innocent of the crimes for which they were executed by Texas.
Chris expressed strong concern that innocent people could be at risk of execution in Texas. He said he would like to see an Innocence Commission created in the next session of the Texas Legislature.
We then asked him if he supported a moratorium on executions and if were the governor, if he would sign a moratorium bill if it came to his desk. He said, "Yes, I would".
We think Chris Bell should be the next governor of Texas. He supports capital punishment, as do the vast majority of Texas voters. He also understands that there are problems in the Texas system of capital punishment. We expect that if he wins the election on Tuesday and becomes Governor, he will keep his word and sign a moratorium bill, if one is passed by the Texas Legislature.
Some of you may wonder why not support Kinky Friedman. Like Bell, Kinky supports capital punishment, but also supports a moratorium. Part of the answer is that Kinky has no chance of winning. He is running fourth in the polls, ahead of only the Libertarian candidate. The best chance to enact a moratorium during the next four years is to elect Chris Bell governor. Kinky also has some strange positions on other issues that make it difficult for many people to support him. For instance, Kinky has said he would support declaring martial law in border cities to control immigration. That's a little over the top.
Chris Bell is also the best candidate for voters concerned about the education system in Texas. If you have ever looked over the backgrounds of people executed in Texas, one thing that jumps out at you is that so many of them dropped out of school - often as early as the 8th or 9th grade. Chris Bell's education proposals would probably reduce the drop out rate. Reducing the number of drop outs would reduce the number of people who end up in the prison system for violent crimes.
While you are at the polls, don't forget to vote for J.R. Molina in his race against Sharon Keller for presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Under Keller, the CCA has become a "national laughingstock", according to one of the other judges on the CCA.