by Dave Atwood, published Sep. 16, 2021 in the Houston Chronicle
Those of us who work against the death penalty in Texas are happy that the execution of John Ramirez was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, we are also very aware that these stays are often temporary. Texas leads the nation with 572 executions since 1977, the “current era” of the death penalty.
In 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in the United States when it declared it was being applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner. However, in 1976 it reinstated this form of punishment after a number of states changed their laws to improve how this punishment was being implemented. Forty-five years later, in 2021, evidence strongly suggests that the death penalty is still being applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Who does and does not get the death penalty depends not only on the crime, but also the economic status and race of the defendant and where the crime was committed. Over 180 people who were sent to death row have been exonerated and released from prison in the current era. And there is strong evidence that we have executed people who were actually innocent.
Twenty-two states — plus Washington D.C. — have already abolished the death penalty and another three states have declared a moratorium on its use. There is a worldwide trend among nations to abolish the death penalty. The U.S. should do the same.