Innocent man to be murdered by state of Texas today
... please, send a letter, make a phone call, do SOMETHING to try and stop this.
I would do a cartoon about this, but it wouldn't be published until Delma, Banks Jr.'s body was long cold. So in case you didn't read Bob Herbert's column yesterday ("Countdown to Execution No. 300"):
The war trumps all other issues, so insufficient attention will be paid to the planned demise of Delma Banks Jr., a 43-year-old man who is scheduled in about 48 hours to become the 300th person executed in Texas since the resumption of capital punishment in 1982.Now, I am completely against the death penalty in all cases, guilty or no. But I particularly cannot understand how those who are pro-death-penalty justify the murder of possibly innocent men--isn't their whole argument that murder is so serious a crime, it deserves serious punishment? Oh, and if you guessed racism was involved in this case, you were right. Mr. Herbert again:
Mr. Banks, a man with no prior criminal record, is most likely innocent of the charge that put him on death row. Fearing a tragic miscarriage of justice, three former federal judges (including William Sessions, a former director of the F.B.I.) have urged the U.S. Supreme Court to block Wednesday's execution.
So far, no one seems to be listening.
"The prosecutors in this case concealed important impeachment material from the defense," said Mr. Sessions and the other former judges, John J. Gibbons and Timothy K. Lewis, in an extraordinary friend-of-the court brief.
They said the questions raised by the Banks case "directly implicate the integrity of the administration of the death penalty in this country."
Most reasonable people would be highly disturbed to have the execution of a possibly innocent man on their conscience or their record. But this is Texas we're talking about, a state that prefers to shoot first and ask no questions at all. Fairness and justice have never found a comfortable niche in the Texas criminal justice system, and the fact that the accused might be innocent is not considered sufficient reason to call off his execution.
Delma Banks was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 16-year-old Richard Whitehead, who was shot to death in 1980 in a town called Nash, not far from Texarkana. There was little chance that this would have been a capital case if both the accused and the victim had been of the same race. Or if the accused had been white and the victim black.So what can you do about this? The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty suggests you e-mail, phone, or fax the Governor of Texas and the Board of Pardons and Paroles (at this point, regular mail would arrive too late)
But Mr. Banks is black and Mr. Whitehead was white, and that's the jackpot combination when it comes to the death penalty. Blacks convicted of killing whites are the ones most likely to end up in the execution chamber. In Texas this principle has been reinforced for years by the ruthless exclusion of jurors who are black.
Just two weeks ago the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that criticized courts in Texas for ignoring evidence of racial bias in a death penalty case. Lawyers in the case noted that up until the mid-1970's prosecutors in Dallas actually had a manual that said, "Do not take Jews, Negroes, Dagos, Mexicans or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or well-educated."
The significant evidence against Mr. Banks was the testimony of two hard-core drug addicts. One was a paid informant. The other was a career felon facing a long prison term who was told that a pending arson charge would be dismissed if he performed "well" while testifying against Mr. Banks.
The prosecution deliberately suppressed information about its arrangements with these witnesses — information that it was obliged by law to turn over to the defense.
And prosecutors made sure that all the jurors at Mr. Banks's trial were white. That was routine. Lawyers handling Mr. Banks's appeal have shown that from 1975 through 1980 prosecutors in Bowie County, where Mr. Banks was tried, accepted more than 80 percent of qualified white jurors in felony cases, while peremptorily removing more than 90 percent of qualified black jurors.
The strongest evidence pointing to Mr. Banks's innocence was physical. He was in Dallas, more than three hours away from Texarkana, when Mr. Whitehead was killed, according to the best estimates of the time of death, based on the autopsy results.
Prosecutorial misconduct. Racial bias. Drug-addicted informants. "This is one-stop shopping for what's wrong with the administration of the death penalty," said George Kendall, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund who is handling Mr. Banks's appeal.
If, despite all that is known about this case, the authorities walk Mr. Banks into the execution chamber on Wednesday, and strap him to a gurney, and inject the lethal poison into his veins, we will be taking another Texas-sized step away from a reasonably fair and just society, and back toward the state-sanctioned barbarism we should be trying to flee.
Governor Rick PerryThe Nation also has a Death Row Roll Call set up on their website, where you can automatically send an email (suggested text provided) about Delma Banks, Jr. to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Office of the Governor
PO Box 12428
Austin, TX 787112418
Phone: (512) 463 2000
Fax: (512) 463 1849
Board of Pardons and Paroles
Attn: Gerald Garret
Executive Clemency Section
PO Box 13401, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
Phone: (512) 406 5852
Fax: (512) 467 0945