A Death In Realtime…

Gallows SilhouetteBy Astra Navigo

Being the Story of a Poorly-Reported Event in a Small Texas Town….

It’s just really tragic after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years we can’t leave behind something as primitive as government sponsored execution.
— Russ Feingold; U.S. Senator

A modest brick building in the small town of Huntsville, Texas (population 35,000) houses an horrific secret – the place where over four-hundred people have died in the past 33 years – and 247 since the current governor, Rick Perry, has taken office.

Last week, while the rest of the country was planning Thanksgiving festivities, Robert Lee Thompson was planning something else -what do to with his corpse, his modest property, and who to invite to the circus which had been planned to mark his passing.

You see, Robert Lee Thompson was about to become the latest in a series of new records in the State of Texas – by signing-off on the execution of Terry Hankins in early June of this year, Governor Perry set a macabre ‘record’ – Hankins became the 200th victim of Texas’ execution-mill since Perry took office; a record previously held by the previous occupant of that office, George W. Bush.

Thompson’s crime?

He fired a pistol over the head of a convenience-store clerk. Thompson’s partner in the holdup, Sammy Butler, was identified as the trigger-man who actually killed the clerk; Butler and Thompson were tried separately. Butler got life in prison; Thompson was sentenced to death.

Thompson, likely insane (in his statement to the police, he told them that ‘god’ had told him to ‘do something’ about Middle Eastern convenience-store clerks who were discriminating against blacks), was sentenced to death for the crime committed 13 years ago when Thompson was 21.

Two days before his execution, Thompson’s attorney pleaded with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, stating that given Thompson’s mental-state the sentence was not fair, and asked that the sentence be commuted to life.

In a rare reversal of what has become policy for the Texas Department of Corrections, the Board voted 5-2 to commute Thompson’s sentence. Perry rejected the recommendation, in effect giving the greenlight to execute Thompson.

Perry, with his value-system firmly on the right-hand side of the radio-dial, has made it clear that he will not change his position on the death penalty (he’s also come out in favor of ‘boy scout values’, and secession).

Texas’ track-record of executing people is consistent – but it’s not without serious controversy. Perry signed off on the execution of a Mexican national rather than return him to Mexico to serve a life sentence (Mexico does not have the death penalty); in the case of Cameron Willingham, Perry fired three members of the Forensics Board when they raised the all-too-real potential that Willingham had been executed while innocent of the crime for which he’d received the death penalty.

(Thompson went to his death peacefully, declaring that ‘Allah would forgive’ him. His mother screamed, cried, and pounded the walls; demanding to be taken away before her son died. Thompson was pronounced dead at 6:19PM; less than ten minutes after receiving the first of three drugs in the lethal-injection process. In addition to the relatives of the victim and Thompson’s mother, there were two reporters. News of this event was a footnote, nationally.There are over 300 people on Texas’ death row. A disproportionate number are persons of color.)

There are no further executions scheduled through the end of the month. They tend to shut things down for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

About astranavigo

Astra is one of the clever monkeys occupying space on the Third Planet From The Sun. While it was an early wish of Astra's to be one of the first to go to Proxima Centauri, he knows this is not to be; instead, you can find him here (some of the time) using simple tools to create communication. Holding up a mirror and saying 'Looky! Mistofer Emperor! Y'ain't wearin' no clothes!" is but one of the services he provides here. Others are subverting prevailing wisdom, peeing in people's Cheerios, trashing on their Imaginary Friends (he does this a lot,) and shifting paradigms without benefit of a clutch. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he hopes he'll never have to learn the true meaning of some of his dystopian fiction.

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11 Comments on “A Death In Realtime…”

  1. Grainne – yes; sadly; this is what we’ve come to.

    (Should have seen some of the comments I received on this piece elsewhere — there was a Fundie fellow who said – without flinching, I believe – that he would ‘throw the switch’ on one of his children, his wife, or his parents if they’d committed a ‘capital crime’.

    Seriously.

    The whole nation is bloody.

    -Will

  2. It seems almost as though the matter of guilt or degree of heinous crime is not the question at all, but that we should have a show and a reason to keep the bloody lions. Two hundred forty seven executions in one governorship is a lot. They could hold a Saturday matinee on that number, sell tickets, hotdogs, popcorn and soda pop. Think about the enormous publicity it would bring, the patriotic drumming of heart beats if a man should pull the executioner’s switch for one of his children, his wife or a parent. Here is a man who upholds the law, whatever the law might be. Beat the drums, applaud him, place him in front of the cameras.

    It’s sad that we have so many who would rather look good than be good, who would rather dismiss problems than resolve them. Even without the question of guilt in the equation, or the disproportionate numbers for people of color, there are many reasons for killing. If you can’t perceive of a reason for a person to kill, than you have no place as a judge or on a jury that decides the extent of guilt and whether or not it should be punishable by death. Your pronouncement of death not only places you in the same bed as the murderer and executioner, if your lips have proclaimed, “murdering is against the law and punishable by death,” you are a hypocrite. You have just enabled a body of people to commit murder and sanctified it by calling it law. The government should not be above the law, and the law should not turn us into automatons, willing to destroy family members and turn our backs on our homes in the interest of serving it.

  3. Indeed I would definately put this Govenor in the same categories as murderer, particularly since this individual did not even kill anyone, he shot a gun over someone’s head. I personally am undecided on capital punishment but not when the case is so clearly for spectacle and numbers. If there were that mythical place, “Hell” this govenor would surely have his seat saved.

  4. @ grainnerhuad

    Actually he DID kill someone. He and his partner, the one that killed that particular clerk, had been on a crime spree where 3 people were killed and Thompson admitted to being the gunman in the other two killings. Astra, and most media that covered Thompson’s execution, conveniently fail to mention that fact. He deserved his punishment.

  5. @ Matthew,
    funny how Americans will stuff their faces with popcorn and cheer at the latest Quintin Tarrentino installation of mayhem, havock and gunslinging, passing high fives and congratulating themselves on the gore-fest of a killing spree in big screen action, but entirely miss the tongue in cheek of the presentment. The satire of humanity, and our own duplicity of expectations.

  6. No one deserves to die at the hands of another person. Texas is so out of bounds on this particular point that the Supreme Court should re-consider a ban on all executions. The death penalty is immoral, just like so much else we have de-sensitized ourselves into believing is some kind of “public good” policy. DNA evidence has shown that there are many on death row who did not commit the crimes they were found guilty of .. if there is a chance that just ONE innocent person could be put to death, the death penalty cannot/should not be imposed. The fact is that people of color and the poor are more likely to receive the sentence than White people .. we all know this is true. Any Christian who supports the death penalty cannot have read and understood the Bible … no civilized nation still has the death penalty, just us and China and Saudia Arabia …. I just hate this story and any argument that can justify this barbaric political behavior … For years the death penalty was supposed to be a deterrent to “capital” crimes, except that Americans came out in droves and held a carnival to witness the events. It was so politically and nationally embarrassing that there have been no public executions since 1937. Vengeance is MINE sayth the Lord. Merry Christmas Texas.

  7. It’s sickening to have to realise that we live in such a closed-minded, unhealthy theocracy that imagines it makes ANY sense to kill someone for killing someone to “teach them” (and others) that killing someone is wrong.

    Sickening and disgraceful.

    They can keep their vengeful gods, created in their own petty images.

    Namaste!

  8. “It’s sickening to have to realise that we live in such a closed-minded, unhealthy theocracy that imagines it makes ANY sense to kill someone for killing someone to “teach them” (and others) that killing someone is wrong.”

    I expect the emphasis should be on the “others” part since killing someone doesn’t actually teach them much, at least as far as I know however I could be wrong about that.

    What would you do instead? Beat them with a stick? Make them watch bad TV? AS long as you sign up to the idea of teaching, you sign up to the idea of punishment as a method.

  9. Scott:

    Sorry I don’t follow any reasonable logic in the idea that “(a)s long as you sign up to [sic] the idea of teaching, you sign up to [sic] the idea of punishment as a method.”

    Perhaps you don’t understand the difference between punishment and corrections, but I do. One can imprison someone for murder, if that is prescribed by law. One could exile them to a remote island, if that is the local law. But there is never, in my opinion (whether you like it or not), a valid reason to inflict violence and murder another person as an imbecilic response to their having done the same thing. Disrespect for human life is disrespect for human life. Either ALL life is sacred or none is.

    What I would personally do is imprison them, train them, TEACH them, and work with them from a psycho-social perspective, until they were truly rehabilitated. I would NOT then release them from prison, but would imprison them in a lower-security “prison” of sorts, where they would have to work and produce “something” of value to pay for their imprisonment (including previous years’ of imprisonment).

    The only time such brutal acts of violence may be justified is in the case of self-defense, in which case I don’t believe the act is intended as violence.

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