GOP Audience Cheers Gov. Rick Perry’s Execution Record

Republican voters at the Republican presidential debate gave Rick Perry’s record on executions some of the loudest applause of the debate, even though Perry’s execution record includes juveniles and mentally disabled people.

“Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times,” NBC’s Brian Williams told Perry as the conservative audience broke into cheers and applause. “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”

“No, sir, I’ve never struggled with that at all,” Perry flatly stated. “In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.”

According to the Texas Tribune, three people who were juveniles at the time of their crime were executed between 2000, when Perry took office, and 2005, when the Supreme Court banned the execution of juveniles. Before Napoleon Beazley, who committed a murder at 17, was executed, 18 state legislators wrote Perry asking him to grant clemency, and the trial judge who eventually had to sign his execution order asked Perry to commute the sentence to life in prison. Perry’s response: “To delay his punishment is to delay justice.”

Ten executions during Perry’s tenure have involved serious questions about the prisoner’s mental health and stability. One was Kelsey Patterson, who was judged as mentally fit by a doctor known as “Dr. Death” because he rarely found patients mentally unfit for trial. During his trial, Patterson testified about having devices planted in his head by the military, and once in prison, he sent incoherent letters to courts. The Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended to Perry that he grant clemency, but Perry rejected the recommendation. Another was James Clark, whose final statement was, “Howdy.” Two Texas prisoners with mental health concerns have been executed in 2011.

(Source: RawStory and ThinkProgress.org)