THIS ISSUE DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorial 3 Death Watch Goes National by Michael King Left Field 4 The Bush Beat, Office Despot, and the Hasty Papers Molly Ivins 6 The Real Crime Wave Jim Hightower 7 Cruel Drug War, Cyber Bimbo, & Boss Hog EDITORIAL The Waiting Room Art Preview by Judith Coburn Imperial Tales Film Comment by Michael King Salt of the Earth 24 26 28 FEATURES The Hidden Cost of For-Profit Care by Eyal Press and Jennifer Washburn There are millions of dollars in mental health care and thousands of helpless patients. Acting Out by Lucius Lomax A boy died last fall, in the care of the state of Texas. 9 14 BOOKS AND THE CULTURE The Unending War 18 Book essay by Rahul Mahajan Photos by Alan Pogue Poetry 23 by Grace Schulman James K. Galbraith 8 Treachery at the Bay of Pigs? Political Intelligence 16 Texas Bulletin Board 22 Book Review by Steven G. Kellman The Desert Remembers 30 by John A. Peterson The Back Page 32 Poppy Tells a Whopper Cover Art by Gail Woods Death Watch Goes National Several months ago in this space we wrote that one mixed blessing of the Bush presidential campaign would be to cast a harsh but welcome light on the justice system in Texas, in particular the . state’s grim devotion to the death penalty. A few months ago, the national press recognized the design of Governor Jeb Bush to emulate his brother’s acceleration of executions, as he persuaded the Florida Legislature to use the attack on the electric chair as a lever to circumscribe the appeal rights of condemned inmates. Now both the Washington Post and The New York Times taken a close look at capital punishment under Bush, and what they have found should surprise no Texan who has watched the administration of capital punishment in the state. Paul Duggan of the Post and Sara Rimer and Raymond Bonner of the Times readily discovered capital cases marked by prosecutorial misconduct and institutionally inadequate legal defense; an appeals process that makes it virtually impossible for the condemned to prepare an effective appeal; a clemency procedure that is structurally unjust and was deemed “certainly minimal” last year by a federal court. Reporting independently on various cases, the two papers didn’t even need to overlap in their work. The Post focused on several cases of woefully inadequate defense in Harris County, where sleeping lawyer synappeared endemic to court-appointed attorneys. The Times examined a half-dozen dubious cases from around the state in which it seems beyond a reasonable doubt that innocent men were executed. These were careful, circumspect reports, and they were largely confined to rather narrow and objective questions of suspect evidence and inadequate defense in a handful of cases. In the case of James ample, the Times noted that there was no physical evidence to connect Beathard to the crime, and that the prosecution convicted him on the testimony of an obviously tainted witness who later admitted he committed the crime. There was apparently no space to report that B eathard’ s original lawyer also admitted acting against his client’s best interests, and that the local prosecutor was so determined to execute Beathard he was still inventing evidence against him on the eve of the man’s death. Similar exculpatory details could be added to several of the cases described in these stories, and to others that didn’t make the reports. Neither story addressed the fact that Texas executes the mentally retarded, the mentally ill, and those who were juveniles at the time of their crimes. And neither story even mentioned the influence of racial bias in Texas prosecutions, which still heavily influences the history and practice of capital punishment. But these reports are more than welcome, in that they were specifically aimed at testing Governor Bush’s often reiterated assertion that he is confident everyone executed on his watch was guilty as charged and had “full access” to the courts. The Governor’s assurances ignore the fact that the clemency procedure is by definition distinct from the question of guilt or innocence. He was also shameless enough to claim he “didn’t remember” vetoing an indigent defense bill on which he was heavily and publicly lobbied by judges who want to maintain direct control of courtappointed attorneys. /n brief, these detailed national reports confirm that the Governor’s confidence in Texas justice rests largely upon a de termination to avoid looking too closely at the truth. But the disgrace of capital punishment in Texas and throughout the country is not a partisan issue. The Clinton/Gore administration shares shameful responsibility for undermining the federal appeals process, and it was the Republican Governor of Illinois, George Ryan, who declared an execution moratorium when it became apparent that his state was almost certainly executing innocent men. That discovery was the result of a crusading Northwestern University journalism professor and his students, as well as some determined, responsible reporting from the Chicago Tribune. Now the Times and the Post have joined the national march. Where are the newspapers of Texas? M.K. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3 MAY 26, 2000
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