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Texas Governor Perry Executes Another Innocent Man

Texas Governor Perry Executes Another Innocent Man

There must be something in the Texas water that encourages overreaching by those coming up the ranks of the executive branch.  Take current Governor Rick Perry for example.  The dust swirling around his decision to move forward with the execution of a man many believe was innocent has not yet even settled and now the Governor has blood on his hands.  Again.

In an extremely unusual move the Texas Governor rejected a rare clemency recommendation from the state Board of Pardons and Paroles for Robert Lee Thompson and moved forward with his execution.  Thompson was an accomplice in a 1996 Houston convenience store robbery that turned deadly.  Thompson admitted firing his gun at the clerk, but it was Thompson’s accomplice Sammy Butler who fired the fatal shot.  The two men were charged together but tried separately.  Butler was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parol.  A different jury sentenced Thompson to death.

The sentencing disparity is a result of a particularly harsh Texas statute known as the Law of Parties.  The statute allows multiple parties to be found guilty of the same crime, even if they did not directly participate in the crime charged.  Think of it as an overreach of the legal concepts of accomplice and conspirator liability.  Many other states have similar statutes, sometimes also known as felony murder statutes.  According to the Texas statute, “if, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed, though having no intent to commit it.”

These kinds of laws pose all sorts of theoretical problems for legal scholars, as the bedrock of substantive criminal law holds that, in cases other than “status” offenses like underage drinking, a person cannot and should not be held legally accountable for crimes unless they have both a guilty mind (intent to commit the crime) and guilty actions (steps taken in furtherance of that intent). 

The Texas Legislature has made efforts to roll back the Law of Parties, but so far those efforts have proven mostly futile.  The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill to ban executions of people convicted under the Law of Parties who did not actually kill anyone.  Unfortunately the legislation never made it out of the Senate.  Hence the Thompson case.

No other Texas Governor has executed as many citizens as Governor Perry.  This summer he signed off on his 200th execution.  It is a position Perry brags about.  His critics accuse the Governor of playing politics with the death penalty, and one would be hard pressed for evidence from Perry himself to rebut such a claim.

According to AP reports, Thomas was executed at 6:00 p.m. on November 19th as his mother cried uncontrollably, stomped her feet, and demanded to be taken from the witness area before her son was pronounced dead.

You’ve got to wonder just how far a re-election campaign can run on the blood of Texas citizens.  Looks like Governor Perry is giving us a chance to find out.

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photo courtesy of megananne via Flickr

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69 comments

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3:14AM PDT on Sep 26, 2011

Death Penalty NEVER proved to be a deterrent.
If the state kills then it's a murder too.
Why being a murder for nothing? Is it ethical?
How can you be a christian and approve death penalty?

3:54PM PDT on Sep 23, 2011

It disgusts me that in the United States, three times the people will go to protest an execution then will go to the victims funeral. How can people care this much about these scum bags. Every person in Texas knows that if they kill someone, they may receive the death penalty. It is no surprise. So if they know it and still are involved in a murder, I don't see how anyone can feel sorry for them.

10:05AM PDT on Sep 19, 2011

Lisa, I am bothered by the actual killer getting off lighter than the one who imagined himself to be only robbing. However, if that robber had threatened to kill, then he should be taken at his word (whether or not it was merely intimidation), and hence eligible for execution where such is the law.

5:23AM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

I know this is an old topic, but I was sent here through another current discussion.

I really do wish that the care2 writers would stick to fact in their stories and titles and not try to sway emotions. This was not an innocent man. I am not saying he should or should not have been executed, but to call him innocent is a lie.

10:49AM PDT on Sep 16, 2011

I fail to see how putting someone to death as punishment for a crime can teach that person any lesson. They don't suffer once they are dead because they are dead. More expensive to kill someone than to keep him imprisoned too. I would think if someone wanted a criminal to be punished effectively then that prisoner should be sentenced to the term of their natural life in prison, with no parole. Then at least they have a long time to think about their crime and learn their lesson. As stated previously, if there is ANY doubt as to the total guilt of a person, then there is enough reason NOT to take their life. I also fail to see how murdering someone for murdering someone is any less of a crime than the original murder. After all, two 'wrongs' do not make a 'right'.

5:53PM PST on Jan 11, 2010

When I saw the title of this article, i thought I was about to read about a huge injustice; however, how are you innocent when you attempted to murder an innocent clerk? I'm not saying this man should have been put to death, but... I don't know. He went out of his way to fire a gun at a stranger. If that's innocent, I'd really hate to see how guilty people act.

5:32PM PST on Dec 13, 2009

Why is everyone always feeling sorry for the murderer, and not the murdered? I get so sick of reading about their "rights", and not wanting to put them to death. What about their victims? Their right to life was brutally taken away, with no regards to them wanting to live. They didn't get a last meal, and usually had to beg for their lives. We are so overpopulated as it is, and that makes the prisons overpopulated too. Thin them out as often as needed. Just wait til one of you is a victim, or a family member. You might change your tune.

10:50AM PST on Dec 5, 2009

Craig, how about 5: It doesn't deter crime.If it did,there wouldn't be so many people on death row in the USA. (number 1 in yet another thing we shouldn't be!)

8:59PM PST on Nov 27, 2009

Everything is bigger in Texas!

7:39AM PST on Nov 26, 2009

Craig, you have some good points but I do think anyone who is around this area an read all the original articles on this case regardless of where they stood on the decision were appalled at how it was presented here. He was definately guily of cold blooded murder an the only reason with this particular man he shot repeatedly wasn't guilty of his murder was a crap shoot [no pun intended] of whose bullet did what, I never would want an innocent person to be excecuted and feel the justice system does need to be majorly overhauled but there are cases where i do feel capital punishment is acceptable. If the system made it a point of going after violent criminals an sentencing appropriately an keeping them in jail I would agree with you, instead they seem to spend too much time in allot of areas setting people up into situations that are drug related an sentencing them harder than the murderers in allot of the cases allowing people who should never get out to do so early

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