Texas Does It By The Numbers


Barring a legal miracle, Kimberly McCarthy will die tonight in the execution chamber of the Texas State Prison in Huntsville.  Her death will be a macabre milestone: the 500th execution in a state that leads the nation in the capital punishment sweepstakes.

Texas has come by its leadership the old-fashioned way — one death at a time, an average recently of one every three weeks.  The Huntsville staff conducts each execution in a drill so well-practiced that it has become routine. “In another state you live with that for a long time,” said Jim Willett, who became warden at the Huntsville Unit in 1998 and oversaw 89 executions. “Here in Texas, another one is coming a few days later and you’ve forgotten that one before,”  Willett told the Associated Press.

McCarthy will die for the 1997 brutal stabbing death of a retired college professor.  McCarthy is black; her victim was white, as were all but one of the 12 jurors who condemned her.  Appeals based upon jury selection have failed; in fact, all of McCarthy’s  legal options are apparently exhausted.  “If there was something to appeal, I would,” said McCarthy’s attorney, Maurie Levin.

Nationally, the death penalty seems to be losing ground; in May, Maryland became the 18th state to ban it.  But in Texas, polls show it has overwhelming public support.  And Governor Rick Perry, under whom more than half of the state’s executions have been carried out, is fiercely unapologetic about the pace.  “I think our process works just fine,” Perry said last year. “You may not agree with them, but we believe in our form of justice.”

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