Newsweek is reporting in this week’s issue that 58 percent of Americans now support a moratorium on executions because of “growing concerns about making sure the innocent aren’t sentenced to death”. Here in Texas, there have been reports in the last two years that three people have been executed in Texas who were probably innocent, Ruben Cantu, Cameron Willingham and Carlos De Luna.
Despite rising concern about innocence and the death penalty, the last session of the Texas Legislature failed to create an Innocence Commission. Most commentators, including the San Antonio Express-News, blamed House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chair Aaron Peña for the death of the Innocence Commission bill. Peña should speak to his constituents about the issue. He will likely discover that a majority of them support the death penalty, but they are also worried about innocent people being executed. Peña had the power to reduce the risk of an innocent person being executed, but he failed to act. We can only hope that another innocent person is not executed before the Legislature convenes again in 2009.
The most recent probable execution of an innocent person in Texas was in 2004, so this is an ongoing problem that should have been dealt with in the last session. Shame on you, Mr Peña.