Former Texas Governor Changes His Mind on the Death Penalty

As I was driving to Memphis on Thursday for the Voices on the Death Penalty panel, I was listening to NPR. The topic was Texas Governor Rick Perry’s decision to replace members of a state commission investigating the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 though national arson experts prior to his execution and more since, have stated that there was no arson in this case and that Willingham was wrongfully convicted and executed.

A surprising guest on the program was former Texas Governor and strong supporter of the death penalty, Mark White, who now has serious reservations about the continued use of the death penalty as a public policy. He stated, “There is a very strong case to be made for a review of our death penalty statutes and even look at the possibility of having life without parole so we don’t look up one day and determine that we as the State of Texas have executed someone who is in fact innocent.” Governor White said that the Willingham case is one example “of why I think the system is so unreliable.”

I am encouraged by Governor White’s acknowledgement that the system cannot be trusted to always get it right and that with less costly alternatives available, we do not need the death penalty. I hope other lawmakers are listening.

Listen to the story here.

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