16 March 2007

Hope Springs . . . that Texas will choose life over death.

To be really pro-life you must be anti-death-penalty. Texas has a reputation for executing more people than any other state. That just might change if the bills listed below become law (or in the case of HJR25 & SJR21 a voter approved amendment to the Texas State Constitution). I pray that they do. I pray that the Texas Legislature and the voters of Texas choose life over death.

SB249 (Ellis) Support relates to the restriction of the execution of the mentally retarded convicted of a capital offense and establishes pretrial determination of mental retardation. If either the judge or jury finds the defendant to be mentally retarded at the time of the offense and is convicted of the offense the sentencing option would be life without parole. A jury would not be informed that a judge or jury had determined that a defendant was not a person with mental retardation. The bill also calls for an appeal process to be given priority to review the appeal under this article over other cases before the court. Bill filed on January 19, 2007. Was referred to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on January 30, 2007.

SB208 (Ellis) Support relates to the hearing of the Board of Pardons and Parole regarding clemency matters. The bill calls for the presiding officer of the board to publicly announce each member’s decision regarding whether to recommend clemency and that each member shall sign the member’s name with the member’s written recommendation and reasons, if any for the recommendation. Bill filed on January 11, 2007. Referred to Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Jan. 30, 2007.

HB745 (Dutton) Support calls for the abolition of the death penalty. The change in law would only apply to an offense committed on or after the effective date of the Act. Any offense committed prior to the effective date would be subjected to the law in effect when the offense was committed. Bill filed on January 24, 2007. Was referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on February 7, 2007.

HJR23 (Naishtat) Support calls for a moratorium on the execution of persons convicted of a capital offense. The bill would grant the governor the power to issue an order to prohibit the Department of Criminal Justice from performing executions on or after the effective date and until the order is revoked. In addition we would like to see added to this bill a study of the capital punishment system conducted by the state. Referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on February 6, 2007.

SJR21 (Shapeleigh) Support is the companion resolution to HJR 23 calling for a moratorium on executions of person convicted of a capital offense. The joint resolutions if passed in both houses would require that the issue be placed on the November, 2007 ballot. This bill was filed on February 2, 2007. Referred to Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Feb. 21, 2007.

HB 809 (Dutton) Support calls for the creation of the Texas Capital Punishment Commission that would study capital punishment in this state. The commission would concentrate particularly on issues of legal representation, certainty of guilt, and the sufficiency of appellate review of convictions in capital cases. The bill calls for the establishment of a moratorium. This bill was introduced on January 24, 2007 and was referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence committee on February 7, 2007.
Source: League of Women Voters' Legislative Newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 5
Links added.

I once had the honor of meeting and speaking with Sister Helen Prejean and I would like to close with this prayer that she has written:

God of Compassion You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.  Expand and deepen our hearts so that we may love as You love, even those among us who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.  For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance as we fill up death row and kill the killers in the name of justice, in the name of peace.  Jesus, our brother, You suffered execution at the hands of the state but You did not let hatred overcome You, help us to reach out to victims of violence so that our enduring love may help them heal.  Holy Spirit of God, You strengthen us in the struggle for justice, help us to work tirelessly for the abolition of state-sanctioned death and to renew our society in its very heart so that violence will be no more.
Amen.
Additional Links: Sister Helen's Blog, The Campaign to Save Cathy Henderson, & The League of Women Voters of Texas

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