When Donnie Roberts received a lethal injection Wednesday night from the state of Texas, he became the 250th prisoner to be executed during Rick Perry’s tenure as governor. Roberts, a former crack addict who murdered his girlfriend in 2003, became another symbol among a list of striking statistics that evidence, as the Guardian put it, Perry’s “continued enthusiasm for punishing murder with death.”
- Perry has presided over more executions than any other governor in U.S. modern history (partly owing to his long tenure of 12 years).
- George W. Bush, Perry’s predecessor, oversaw 152 executions, breaking the record for the highest rate of executions while governor (from 1995 to 2000).
- Perry has granted 31 death row commutations, 28 of them owing to a 2005 Supreme Court decision prohibiting the execution of minors.
- In 2001, Perry vetoed a bill that banned the execution of the mentally disabled. Considerations in Texas of whether someone is incompetent for execution are based on inspiration from the fictional character Lennie from Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” On October 2012, 44-year-old Jonathan Green was given the lethal injection for murder, despite his attorneys’ protests that he was mentally ill and incompetent for execution. In August this year, Texas executed Marvin Wilson despite his having an IQ of 61 and being medically diagnosed as “mentally retarded.”
- In 2011, Texas executed Mexican national Humberto Garcia, despite the fact that he had been denied his right to assistance from the Mexican consulate—a move which many legal experts worried was a violation of international law. “Texas is not bound by a foreign court’s ruling,” Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said when questioned about the matter.
- In 1994, 17-year-old Napoleon Beazley shot John Luttig during an attempted carjacking. The New Republic reported, “John Luttig’s son, Michael Luttig, went on to become a U.S. District Judge. When the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, three justices—Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and David Souter—had to recuse themselves because they had relationships with Michael. The remaining six justices voted 3-3 on Beazley’s appeal, with the tie resulting in a rejection. Beazley was executed in 2002. The Supreme Court later banned executions for offenders under 18 in 2005.”
- In 2004 — in perhaps the Governor’s most controversial execution case — Perry refused to grant a stay of execution to Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for murdering his three children with arson. Although the governor was sent a report by an arson expert casting serious doubt on the evidence against Todd Willingham, Perry allowed the execution to go ahead. (The case became the subject of David Grann’s famous New Yorker investigation.
- There are approximately 285 offenders presently on Texas death row — six of them since the 1970s.