Sunday, November 16, 2008

TEXAS: Dallas County district attorney reconciles opposition to death penalty with the law (UPDATED)

Posted on Sun, Nov. 16, 2008

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins created a conviction integrity unit. He invited law students into his office to help probe for wrongful convictions. And there is at least one other way Watkins differs from most other prosecutors: He is personally opposed to capital punishment. In recent interviews, Watkins discussed those feelings and how he reconciles them with Texas law and the policies of his office.

Q: Why are you opposed to capital punishment?

I’m a human being, and as a human being, I will not kill anybody. I don’t want to use my position to take a life, even though you may go out and do a heinous crime. I may be even worse than you because I have the full weight of the government behind me. For me to use the full weight of the government to do the same thing that you did, is that justifiable?

We just agreed to seek the death penalty against a guy that raped a 3-year-old girl and strangled her and left her under a bed. When I see that, the human side of me says, "Yeah, that guy should be killed." But then the government is the supreme being, right? You’re in a supreme position. You’re higher than human existence and you should carry yourself as such.

Q: Given your feelings, when your office seeks the death penalty, do you personally sign off on that?

Professionally that’s something I have to do...for the citizens I represent...It’s the law and I have to implement it. I can’t let my personal views get in the way of what the public wants.

Q: Will your feelings about the death penalty ever affect the policy of your office?

I would like to think that I have the courage to stand up and say no [to capital punishment]. But I’m not at that point. I don’t know if I ever will be. It’s so early in my career as DA. I don’t have any seniority. I don’t have any credibility.  ...That might be a fight that I should fight, but at this point it’s too early.

Q: Do decisions on capital cases cause you any sleepless nights?

All the time. Not just the ones that I make the decision on. Every time I read in the newspaper that someone is going to the death chamber, I don’t sleep...They just did one last week with one of the Texas Seven. I pay attention to that. That’s something I struggle with, even though the person did something really bad.

Q: Are you concerned your position on capital punishment will hurt you politically?

I think it will, obviously. I can foresee the attacks that will come my way. But at the end of the day, the public wants honesty and openness. The fact that I am publicly trying to come to a conclusion on this is good for the system, and it’s good for politics. I don’t think politicians are honest enough. — Tim Madigan

UPDATE: since there've been so many executions in Texas, I decided to place this list here. This is bare-bones info as the calls & fax may be the most effective way to act this late into the winter months? Yet, for more info contact abe at ncadp dot org (get on the toll-bells list for ongoing info & the longer schedulre)- also go to Rick Halperin's Death Penalty News and Updates site (see lower right column on the the JOH weblog) There are many other groups doing these kind of updates regularly and we can't keep up with them here - nor is there any need for us to "reinvent" the wheel...still there are simply such a ghastly number of state killings that we need to go ahead and post these...Thanx Abe Bonowitz, Rick Halperin and all the other groups for keeping us posted! If there is no contact info for the state, simply get the appropriate number for the Governor's Public phone and fax line.

18 - Texas
7:00 PM EST
Eric Cathey is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of Christina Castillo.

19 - Texas
7:00 PM EST
Rogelio Cannaday is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of Leovigildo Bonal.

19 - Ohio
10:00 AM EST
Gregory Bryant-Bey is scheduled to be killed by the people of Ohio in
revenge for the murder of Dale Pinkelman.

20 - Texas
7:00 PM EST
Robert Hudson is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of an individual to be named in the next

21 Kentucky
Marco Chapman is scheduled to have his suicide assisted by the people
of Kentucky in revenge for the murders of Chelbi and Cody Sharon.


3 - Washington
Darold Stenson is scheduled to be killed by the people of Washington
in revenge for the murder of Frank Hoerner.

8 - Louisiana
7:00 PM EST
Antoinette Frank is scheduled to be killed by the people of Louisiana
in revenge for the murders of Officer Ronald A. Williams II, and Ha
and Cuong Vu.


Governor Ted Strickland
Governor's Office
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6108
Phone/General Info: (614) 466-3555
Fax: (614) 466-9354

Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Citizen's Opinion Hotline: (800) 252-9600 [for Texas callers]
Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline: (512) 463-1782 [for
Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers]
Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: (512) 463-2000 [office hours
are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST]
Fax: (512) 463-1849


Anonymous said...


CN said...

Amen, Mr. Gilles, we need many more who are willing to show such integrity regardless of the pressures they receive in their public roles...

Connie, one of the JOH bloggers