Former Gov. Wants Texas to Rethink Death Penalty

Monday, Oct 19, 2009  |  Updated 9:35 AM CDT
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Former Gov. Wants Texas to Rethink Death Penalty

AP

Execution gurney in death chamber at Huntsville, Texas.

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Former Texas Gov. Mark White said he believes it's time that the state reconsider its use of capital punishment because -- among other reasons -- the risk of putting innocent people to death is too great.

In an interview published in Monday's editions of the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, White said the death penalty no longer deters murder, long delays between convictions and executions show there is no swift justice and he's increasingly concerned that the law isn't administered fairly.

"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 in fact was innocent," he said.

White was the state attorney general in 1979-1983 and governor in 1983-1987 and was involved with 20 executions in both capacities.

His comments come at a time when Texas Gov. Rick Perry is under criticism for replacing member of the Texas Forensics Commission.That delayed consideration of a report questioning the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

In response, Perry has called Willingham a "monster" and he was certain of Willingham's guilt.

White said he did not intend his comments to be critical of Perry's handling of the Willingham case. He also cited the case of Michael Blair, who was sent to death row for the 1993 Plano playground abduction and killing of Ashley Estell. DNA testing later cleared Blair in the slaying.

"That's two examples of why I think the system is so unreliable. It creases an unnecessary possibility that an innocent person would be executed in Texas. And I don't think anybody in Texas wants that to happen," he said.

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