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the small society by Brickman I GUESS THE DEATH PENALTY IS ALL RIGHT… Ir’ JUST 1:49-6N’T Go FAR ENOUGH 6-26 Igt.4 1-A4Acr1 Ronnie Dugger Rep. Neil Caldwell of Alvin complained that now is no time to be bringing back the death penalty. “Do you realize how much energy that electric chair eats?” he inquired plaintively. “It causes a brownout in Huntsville every time they use it.” But neither the energy crisis nor the United States Constitution deterred the Lege, as both the House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly on the last day of the session to reinstitute the death penalty. The death penalty is one of Dolph Briscoe’s pet causes and he is expected to sign H.B. 200, creating the crime of capital murder punishable by death or life imprisonment, almost immediately. Capital murder consists of: Knowingly killing an on-duty policeman or fireman Killing while committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, forcible rape or arson Killing for pay or hiring someone else to kill Killing during an escape from prison or killing an employee of a penal institution while incarcerated therein. After convicting a person of capital 12 The Texas Observer Ad paid for by Debt to Yarborough Fund Mrs. Joyce Shaw, Yarborough P.O. Box 12823 Austin, Texas 78 711 murder, a jury would be asked three questions: Was the murder committed deliberately and with the reasonable expectation that the death of another would result? Is there a probability that the defendant would constitute a continuing threat to society? Was the defendant’s conduct in killing the deceased unreasonable in response to provocation, if any, by the deceased? If all of the questions are answered “yes” by all 12 jurors, the penalty is death. If any one of the questions is answered “no” by 10 of the 12 jurors, the penalty is life imprisonment. If fewer than 10 jurors agree on any of the answers, the result is a hung jury and a new trial. Both those opposed to the death penalty and those in favor of it joined in calling the proposal unconstitutional. Rep. Craig Washington of Houston said the bill offered “too much latitude. People who can afford to hire the rich lawyers, the prominent lawyers will never meet their death under H.B. 200. Those with court-appointed attorneys will. Give me assurance that the color of a man’s skin or the length of his hair won’t make any difference.” ************* Rep. Joe Spurlock of Fort Worth, who strongly favors the death penalty, argued that the bill was “patently unconstitutional, allowing too many “ors” and “ifs,” too much discretion in choice of punishment. He argued that only a mandatory death sentence will pass the Supreme Court requirements set down in its opinion last year ruling the Texas death penalty unconstitutional. Several of the justices argued in individual decisions on that case that the old Texas death penalty fell disproportionately .on blacks and browns. Washington raised several points of order in an effort to stave off the bill, two of which had the unflappable parliamentarian Bob Johnson scratching for a reason to overrule. He found some. The House passed it 114-30. Senators didn’t debate for one minute on it: they passed it 27-4. The law will undoubtedly be attacked in the courts. “How many dollars will be spent on this fiasco before this law can be tested in the U.S. Supreme Court?” inquired Washington. We’ll find out. M.I. Schools out Austin You remember school financing. It made everybody’s list as one of the major issues to be confronted in this session of the Legislature. Even after the Supreme Court overturned the Rodriguez decision in early March, taking the judicial heat off, there were pious assurances from various officials about “a responsibility, not a reprieve,” and so forth. After which one sat cynically back, waiting to see if the Legislature would do anything without a court order at its back. It came down, of course, to the last day. Even better, it came down to a dead heat in the House, a 70-70 tie. The adoption or defeat of the conference committee version of HB 946, already passed by the Senate, was a matter for House Speaker Price Daniel, Jr., to decide. The speaker who had all along insisted that his primary job was to preside fairly was, in effect, given the opportunity to vote for the entire House. After five minutes of deliberation, Daniel officially announced that the vote would remain tied. The motion to adopt the report failed. Rep. John Poerner, D-Hondo, who had been conducting the governor’s school financing business in the House, moved to reconsider. “You can’t do that!” someone howled. Poerner, not being on the prevailing side as the rules require, had to withdraw his motion. Neil Caldwell, who was, made the motion for him \(after asking, “Would I be in a tacky position if I moved to reconsider and then voted against Now It’s Your Turn Some people owe a debt to society, but society owes a debt to some people. Society owes Ralph Yarborough a debt. After years of leading the political reform movement in Texas, he fought valiantly for the public interest in the United States Senate from 1957 through 1970 and accomplished much of lasting benefit in the lives of the people. Yet now, an attorney in Austin, he still faces a $60,000 debt from the 1972 campaign in which he offered himself again for public service and was defeated. I propose those of us who care about this form a Debt to Yarborough Fund. I have not asked him if we can do this; I propose we just do it. Last year I made a speech about him at appreciation banquets in Bryan and Houston. Bill McAfee has printed this speech into a pamphlet at no charge. For $5 made out to the Debt to Yarborough Fund, we will see that you are mailed a copy. For $10, I’ll sign it. For $100, I’ll see if I can get Yarborough to sign it. All the net proceeds go to the Fund. Mrs. Joyce Shaw, formerly of Houston, now of Austin, has agreed to handle the money and be the chairperson. I don’t know how we’ll get the things mailed, but we will.