Next week, Texas will be breaking out the champagne. The ‘grim reaper’ state is poised to execute its 500th person. Texans love two things, their guns, and killing people.
The death penalty was reinstated 37 years ago in 1976. Since that time, Texas has put to death more inmates than any other state. The average is over 13 and one-half executions per year.
Kimberly McCarthy, 52, will face lethal injection next Wednesday for the 1997 murder of her neighbor. This will be the third time in the last five months she has faced death.
“She is a very spiritual person. She believes what’s meant to be is meant to be, and it’s all in God’s hands,” said Maurie Levin, McCarthy’s legal counsel since January.
Levin is filing an appeal based on two issues which continually surface in Texas death penalty cases.
“As it turns out, Kimberly McCarthy is an African American woman scheduled to be the 500th person to be executed in Texas. Her case raises two of the most typical issues in the administration of the death penalty: race discrimination and the quality of counsel,” Levin told the Guardian.
Levin claims that the jury in the 2002 trial was selected on a racial basis. McCarthy is an African-American woman, and the neighbor she killed, Dorothy Booth, was a 71-year-old white woman.
Her trial was held in Dallas County. The population is 69% white and 23% black. Only one African-American was on the jury of 13.
Out of an initial pool of 64 prospective jurors, only four non-whites made it through to the final selection. Of those four, three were ejected from the actual jury through peremptory strikes by prosecution lawyers.
Texas has a history of excluding black men and women from their juries. In 1963, a Texas training manual instructed prosecutors not to “take Jews, negroes, dagos, Mexicans, or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or how well educated”. A similar manual published in 1986 carried the memorable advice that it was “not advisable to select potential jurors with multiple gold chains around their necks or those who appear to be ‘free thinkers’.”
In 2005, three years after McCarthy was placed on death row, and investigation revealed that prosecutors were continuing their efforts to exclude non-white jurors.
Levin has also asked two members of the appeals board to recuse themselves because they were assistant district attorneys in Dallas County at the time of Ms. McCarthy’s unfair jury selection.
A second part of the appeal centers around a Supreme Court decision that says appeals after conviction must be heard. Levin says McCarthy was given inadequate council after she was placed on death row. Levin said that none of McCarthy’s appointed attorney’s challenged what was obviously a racially biased jury.
As Texas prepares to execute its 500th victim, we once again are certain about two things. Texans love their guns, and killing people.
The Guardian Express