One Governor, 250 Executions: 8 Rick Perry Lowlights

Rick Perry

Rick Perry © Scott Olson/Getty Images

This month, the number of executions under Texas Governor Rick Perry is set to hit 250 — more than twice as many as in any other state since the U.S. death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Anthony Haynes and Bobby Hines would be the 249th and 250th Texas prisoners put to death under Gov. Perry, and are set to be executed October 18 and 31 respectively.

250 is a lot of executions. But even a small sample of the state killings under Rick Perry highlights (or lowlights) the depth and variety of serious problems with capital punishment in Texas. The large number of executions merely illustrates how little Texas leaders care about these problems.

Here are just eight of the more egregious, but also representative, examples from Rick Perry’s death penalty legacy.

1. Executing the Innocent:  Cameron Todd Willingham (executed February 17, 2004) was convicted of murdering his 3 young daughters by arson in 1991. In 2011, the Texas Forensic Science commission reopened the case and published in its final report that there was no scientific reason to believe that the fire was arson at all. Governor Perry had information about the flawed arson investigation at the time of the execution and later tried to quash the reopened investigation. The Innocence Project now considers Willingham wrongfully convicted.

2. Inadequate Legal Counsel:  Leonard Uresti Rojas (executed Dec. 4, 2002) was one of many to be executed under Governor Perry despite major questions about the competency of their lawyers — both Bobby Hines and Anthony Haynes are current examples. The appellate attorney appointed to Rojas was on probation with the state bar, had never handled a death penalty appeal, suffered from bipolar disorder, and missed multiple deadlines to file appeals on Rojas’ behalf. Missed appeal deadlines made it impossible for Rojas to challenge his death sentence. Under these circumstances, Rojas should have been granted clemency, but the failure of his lawyers was not enough for Governor Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

3. Killing Teenage Offenders:  Napoleon Beazley (executed May 28, 2002) was only 17 with no prior record when he carjacked and killed John Luttig in 1994. He was one of four juvenile offenders executed under Rick Perry before the Supreme Court outlawed such executions in 2005. Texas continues executing those who committed crimes as teenagers – Bobby Hines, set to be the 250th under Rick Perry, was 19 at the time of his crime.

4. Executing the Mentally Ill — Kelsey Patterson (executed May 18, 2004), despite diagnoses that he was severely mentally ill, was assessed as mentally fit for execution by Dr. James Grigson, nicknamed “Dr. Death” for his willingness to testify against capital murder defendants. Though a decades-long staple in Texas capital hearings, “Dr. Death” was later expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians because of his unethical, unscientific testimony in such cases. Gov. Perry ignored a rare recommendation of clemency from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and allowed Patterson’s execution to proceed. In a 2006 Amnesty International report on mental illness and the death penalty, Patterson is listed as 1 of 9 people executed in Texas between 2001 and 2005 despite severe mental illness.

5. 1 Bullet, 2 Executions: On October 13, 1980, Willie Williams and Joseph Nichols (executed 1995 and March 7, 2007, respectively) robbed a Houston deli, and in the process the store owner was killed with a single bullet. Both men were convicted and executed for firing that one shot – Williams under then Governor Bush, and Nichols in 2007 under Governor Perry.

6. Denying Foreigners Consular Rights:  Humberto Leal Garcia (executed July 7, 2011) was never informed upon arrest that as a Mexican national, he was entitled to legal help from the Mexican consulate. This was a violation of the Vienna Convention of Consular Rights, and may have been the difference between life and death for Mr. Garcia. Since Rick Perry became governor in Dec. 2000, there have been 7 executions of foreign nationals in Texas.

7. Ignoring Survivors:  Mark Stroman (executed July 20, 2011) murdered two people in racially motivated attacks purportedly as vengeance for the attacks of September 11. Rais Bhuiyan, a survivor of that spree of violence sued to stop the execution, arguing that, as a practicing Muslim, he was required to forgive Stroman and that Stroman had been ignorant at the time of his crime spree.  “By executing him now, we are losing everything.” Those words fell on deaf ears, and Mark Stroman was executed anyway in July 2011.

8. Killing Intellectually Disabled:  Marvin Wilson (executed August 7, 2012), with an IQ of 61, well below the normal threshold of 70, should have been ruled “mentally retarded” and thus ineligible for execution.  But by unique and unscientific standards, based on the child-like character Lennie from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Texas courts held that his execution was permissible.  Governor Perry did not intervene.

The Texas death penalty continues to have lots of problems.  The vacuum of leadership on this issue, headed by Gov. Perry, has ensured that executions will keep happening in large numbers, and that blatant miscarriages of justice will continue to be a depressingly regular occurrence.

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13 thoughts on “One Governor, 250 Executions: 8 Rick Perry Lowlights

  1. Cameron Todd was an innocent man I believe. How can this murder continue? Why is this something to be proud of? Executing a 17 year old should not happen in this country! This man's Karma hopefully will catch up with him!

  2. I have made this comment before but it appears that I have to clarify this here again: A 17- year old was not executed; Napoleon Beazley was 17 at the time of his crime but was 25 at time of execution. I am starting to think that some "supporters" here either cannot read or are intent on spinning the facts!

    The Supreme Court in 2004 banned executing those who were under 18 at the time of their crime. Mr. Beazley was convicted under the statutes that existed in 1994 that permitted the death penalty for
    juveniles charged as adults for capital offenses. It should be noted that the Supreme Court denied relief several times through Mr. Bezley's appeals process.

    Marvin Wilson did not meet the definition by AIDD to be intelectually disabled due to missing adaptive functioning issues prior to age 18 and the SCOTUS recognized this when it denied relief. Tell me the reason AIUSA continues to argue discredited findings?

    AIUSA, FYI – it only takes one bullet to murder someone. So what is your point about Willie Willaims and Joseph Nichols?


    • Mr. Rykala:
      Let me assist you a bit with that research and the facts, and why Am Int. and its supporters continue to be appropriately concerned re: this issue. While the supreme court supposedly made it unlawful to execute a “mentally impaired” person, they left it up to individual states to define what that actually meant. (making this ruling basically useless in MY opinion). There are 2 A’s in AAIDD, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and their standards had nothing to do with the decision to execute Mr. Wilson, although their standards were what the supreme court used to roughly define “mental impairment”. Texas and other states, have basically created their own definitions, that allow the mentally impaired to be executed.
      Texas uses what is calls factors called the Briseño factors (named after a Texas defendant), and based, yes, actually yes, on the character Lennie from Jame’s Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”. Not the DMSV (the standard diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders), or any medical reference, but a fiction novel. The Briseño factors are not used by any scientists or clinicians to determine mental capacity and include things such as a defendant being married, having children, working, and lying for in their own self-interest.

      The fact that this can happen — that a court can now practice medicine – and define what is an isn’t an illness, should scare you. I am thankful that there is an Amnesty International, because no one else seems to be bothered by this fact alone. Will Texas courts start defining “diabetes”, and “cancer” and “head injury”? Possibly, if those things could stop them from killing someone first.

      In his final appeal, his lawyers tried to use some “facts” and specific data, his low IQ, because you can’t get experts to testify to standards that “don’t exist” in the real world (the Briseno factors). In denying that appeal, the supreme court did not give an explanation, therefore we could only speculate what their reasoning was.

      One observation I can make is that said supreme court apparently has no problem sitting back and watching person after person who, if they were in the free world, would no doubt be considered “mentally impaired”, and that states are getting more and more brazen in their “redefining” of mental illness for the purpose of killing.
      So in a few days, Florida is set to execute a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, over and over by STATE mds, was committed to a STATE psychiatric hospital, but apparently has been ‘cured” by his stay in their penitentiary.

      I would think people who suffer from this awful disease and their health care providers would be all rushing to Florida, begging to be incarcerated to also benefit from the curative effects. Maybe they too have realized that ‘facts” and truth don’t seem to have much to do with deciding who is disposable. And once upon a time a man named Adolph Hitler also thought the "mentally retarded" should be killed, and I don't see much difference here.

  3. Continued rebuttal:

    Mr. Willingham did absolutely nothing to intervene while hiding behind a bush and watching the house go in flames. No one reacts in such manner unless their intention is to cause harm. Circumstantial evidence (coupled with Willingham's actions) was enough here to come to a very clear verdict of guilt.

    Vienna Convention has no jurisdiction on USA soil and the Supreme Court recognized that it takes an act of Congress to change that. Infact, many other nations' criminal justice systems do not abide by the Vienna Convention but their internal laws. Check it out AIUSA.

    Would you consider the input of a survivor and discount the victim's family at the same time? Gov Perry could not have been such partial because Mr. Stroman's victim's family did not share the survivor's wish to spare his life. I would buy your argument here if the survivor's and the victim's family's wishes were aligned and Perry would not have acted regardless. Is AIUSA telling us that the wishes of survirvors take precedence over those of the victims' families?

    I responded to all of your assertion and tender for your rebuttal….

    • Is AIUSA telling us that the wishes of survirvors take precedence over those of the victims' families?



  4. To be against the death penalty is one thing — an opinion you are entitled to. However, you lose all kinds of credibility and you lose any debate when you cherry pick and spin information or when you spread anything but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
    Readers of AIUSA — please do yourself a favor and research the facts and details — not just the "facts" AIUSA spoon feeds you.

    • Brian, I refer you to my above reply for some assistance with the facts, and to reassure you, that these have not been spoon fed to me. I always am suspect of anyone's credibility when they would make such a logical error refer to "readers of AIUSA" as one homogeneous group and in need of your guidance. Kind of like saying "black people are lazy, mexicans are smart, women with blond hair are stupid".
      Making broad sweeping statements like the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth sounds dramatic, but you don't give any FACTS OR DETAILS. So, please, what untruthful information is being spread? Give me some examples of "spin"
      Or, could it be that your real purpose is to stereotype, generalize and attempt to insult a group of people who YOU PERCEIVE to not agree with you? Because you are implying that EVERY reader of aiusa is opposed to the death penalty. And that cannot be known to be a fact. You are replying to a post by someone who campaigns against the death penalty or aiusa. Therefore, it is likely that people who read his posts share that view. But you can in no way say that this blog or the few replies here represent all readers of aiusa. And you have absolutely no information on how these entire group of people does their research and evaluates information.
      I can say that I, as an individual, could make an assumption about how you, as an individual do.

      • and yes, I have some typos, that I'm not going to fix, because I think people will figure it out, and I have a broken keyboard which is driving me batty!

        • Ms. Ellen. No! The victim's voices matter and it is not releveant whether the victim's family has revenge in mind or whatever. Equatibility is of most importance. So in a situation where a survivor wants mercy and victim's family wants execution, the Gov is right not to intervene but allow the legal system to work it out.

          It is unfortunate Ms. Ellen that you think religion has a place in our legal system. Have you ever heard of separation of church and state? Arguing what would Jesus, Mary, Joseph do is not appropriate in a circumstance where the legal system is concerned. We don't even swear on the Bible anymore, FYI. The reason is precisely because we are a nation that is not heterogenous in its make up. Legal system by it's very nature is supposed to be free from influences but rather focus on the appropriate laws.

          Just a side note, Born Again Christians would have a field day with your assessment, no disrespect. In other words, not all religions are equal. LOL…

  5. 250 sounds like a good start… what's the hubbub all about?

    Most of the 8 examples are bogus – a couple only raise some doubt and even there I have doubt the entire story has been told by this tendentious write-up.
    Would you PERSONALLY however pay out of your pocket for room service for life for a bunch of scums for the off chance that justice may have not been served in a couple cases after all the appeals that are in place?
    It's easy to pay for things with other people's money isn't it?

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