Texas Wesleyan Law Review
A man and a woman each brutally murdered multiple victims. Both experienced difficult childhoods. Both received a fair trial and were sentenced to die by a jury of their peers. Both were convicted in the State of Texas. Both exhausted all viable appeals. While incarcerated, one became a model prisoner and religious leader, the other confessed to killing over 600 people and took great delight in recounting the gruesome details of the crime. Each one attracted national media attention and was scheduled to die in 1998. Both asked the same governor for clemency. One was granted clemency and the other died by lethal injection on February 3, 1998. Some people reading this story would assume that the model prisoner was spared. Others, out of a sense of chivalry, would assume that the woman was spared. Some would hypothesize that the professed killer of over 600 would be the one lethally injected. All would be wrong. The principle of clemency is being misused across the United States and especially in Texas. What started as an act of mercy has evolved into a process whereby the governor substitutes his judgment for the judgment of a jury.' Likewise, the governor may also overrule the opinions of several levels of appellate courts. The appellate courts, not the governor, should remedy any legal error in the guilt/innocence phase. Governor Bush has stated that he will exercise clemency if there are any doubts about a defendant's guilt. Once an individual has been convicted and exhausted all appeals, there should be no doubt about guilt. The governor must abandon his stand on the issue of guilt and innocence and require that clemency be granted only if and when the governor feels mercy is appropriate. If the governor feels that there are extenuating circumstances and the defendant deserves mercy, then, by all means, it is his prerogative to grant clemency, but it should not be done in a veil of second-guessing the judicial process.
Allen L. Williamson,
Clemency in Texas - A Question of Mercy?,
Tex. Wesleyan L. Rev.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.37419/TWLR.V6.I1.6