. . . the Houston Chronicle's payroll is . . .
. . . Ms. Lisa Falkenberg. In early August she unloaded on all who disagree with progressive orthodoxy on the death penalty. In other words, she unloaded on a majority of the people of Texas.
At issue was the scheduled execution of Marvin Wilson, a convicted murderer with a low IQ. Her position was that Mr. Wilson's IQ was so low that he should have been spared the death penalty under a Supreme Court case -- Atkins v. Virginia -- which holds that execution of the mentally retarded is cruel and unusual punishment and, therefore, unconstitutional.
Fair enough. That means the issue of Mr. Wilson's IQ should have been litigated, and it was. Every court that looked at the question ruled that he was not mentally retarded. On the last day, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively accepted the lower-court holdings and refused to block the execution.
Let's accept that the death penalty is a difficult issue, one fraught with the most profound moral questions. She would not agree, I suspect, that reasonable minds can disagree on the issue. It is received wisdom on the left that the death penalty is neither moral nor effective.
But the fact is, a majority of the people of Texas do disagree with her and her tribe. We believe there is a moral case for taking the life of a murderer and that doing so has deterrent effect.
As for the specific issue in the Wilson case -- where to draw the line that defines retardation for purposes of the Atkins analysis -- no matter where it is set, some defendants will fall just above the line and others just below. It's a difficult problem -- one that must be resolved, ultimately, by our trial and appellate courts, not the punditocracy.
Mr. Wilson's case was fully litigated. He lost. Just as Ms. Falkenberg does not accept the death penalty, generally, so she does not accept that the outcome was just. Her column restates the arguments for Mr. Wilson's mental retardation and, as is her right as an advocate, ignores facts and arguments to the contrary.
Having said all this, she makes her case with hysteria and anger. Those who disagree -- that is to say, the state of Texas acting through its legislative and judicial processes -- are not merely mistaken. We are evil. Listen:
Of course, certain conservative factions in Texas, as usual, fell somewhere outside [the] evolving standards of decency [expressed in a national consensus that executing the mentally retarded is immoral].
"Certain conservative factions" might be read, "a majority of Texans."
The most intemperate words though are "as usual." She is saying, in effect, that those who disagree with her indecent, not only on this issue but "usually."
She accuses the Texas court that wrote the guidelines for applying the Atkins test in Texas of loading it unfairly against defendants: "The goal, of course, is to spare as few as possible."
"Of course" here operates like "as usual" above: To heap scorn on those who disagree with her and her tribe. The court wants to execute more people. Of course.
The most "problematic factor" in the Texas legal test is an invitation for the fact-finder "to look at how the crime was perpetrated," she says, "which introduces emotion into a process that should be solely based on reason."
This is a column constructed almost entirely on the foundation of emotion. A dose of reason might have alerted her to the notion that the complexity and degree of premeditation in a crime might tell us something useful about the mental capacity of the defendant.
Her last sentence should remove any doubt about her contempt for Texas opinion, law, and courts.
Once again we need the nation's highest court to save us from ourselves. To remind us of our humanity. To impose on us the cruel confines of decency.
She's decent. You and I and a majority of our fellow Texans are not.
There you have it.
(Lisa Falkenberg, "Texas view of executing mentally ill based on fiction," Houston Chronicle, August 7, 2012)
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Ms. Falkenberg has taken up the cudgel laid down by the Chronicle's Washington bureau chief Craig Hines, who retired some years ago. His explanation for the Texas death penalty: Texans are "bloodthirsty."
The Houston Chronicle has a perfect right to hire hard-left columnists and editorialists. What I cannot accept is the wisdom of running a newspaper in Houston, Texas, without one single editorialist or columnist -- not one -- who might regularly and openly entertain the notion that Texans are, all things considered, at least as decent as the opinion writers at the newspaper.