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Last night, I watched the latest episode of ID’s series, Facing Evil, and wasn’t a bit surprised to see a face I knew. What did surprise me is that Former FBI agent Candice DeLong, the show’s host actually heard him out and seemed to entertain the notion that he might be innocent.

Hank Skinner is one of the “innocent awaiting execution”, of which I wrote in my previous blog entry. His story is all too familiar to anyone who even loosely follows the Lone Star State’s machinations, regarding the imposition and execution of death sentences.

He has made a very convincing case for his evidence, and even won a civil suit which allowed him to have his jacket tested for DNA evidence. I won’t bore you with the particulars of the case, because if you give a damn about the truth, you’ll look it up. Read everything about the case!

Funny thing, that; the jacket had disappeared. The District Attorney can’t seem to find the damn thing anywhere. (***wink, nudge, nod***) What the D.A. couldn’t lose—and Ms. DeLong took pains to point out—is that his blood tested three times the legal limit for alcohol. In other words, he was “triple-drunk”. He also had the LD50 dose of codeine. The LD50 is the official lethal dose, the amount—based upon mg/kg—required to kill fifty percent of people or animals ingesting it.

Amazingly, a judge refused to grant him a new trial, or interfere in any manner with his potential execution, ruling that the blood-evidence would not have significantly changed matters, had it been available at Skinner’s trial.

Which brings me to this morning’s question; in what benighted universe does someone being unconscious to the brink of death from a prodigious amount of alcohol and the LD50 dose of codeine not impact his or her defense at trial?

Are you kidding me? Next, the State of Texas will convict a zombie of murder. Better pour concrete over your grandparents’ graves, lest they appear on the Monday-morning docket.

As a regular viewer, I know that the evil which Candice DeLong normally faces is through a mesh screen or Plexiglas window and intercom, but last night, the evil appears to have been the Texas Criminal Justice system.

So long as chicanery, skulduggery and under-the-table dealings abound, there must be no death penalty. The death penalty must die in Texas, lest more innocents do so.


For nearly the first forty-five years of my life, I believed in the death penalty.

Some things—child rape, premeditated murder, terrorism, serial rape and the trafficking of certain drugs in massive quantities—were simply so horrible and corrosive to society that only death was a fitting punishment.

In fact, it’s only been a few months since is circulated a petition to replace lethal injection with nitrogen suffocation or a firing-squad.

This was, of course, predicated upon the notion of a fair system, clean policing and the absence of any Augustinian sins on the part of anyone involved in the legal process. That is to say, total shit. A steaming truckload of it, to be blunt.

I had realized that problems existed within certain states’ legal systems, in the Lone Star State’s. I had even been aware that an innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, had been executed, but believed it to be a good-faith error based on faulty techniques and scientific “knowledge”.

At the beginning of June, Lester Bower was executed for a murder of which he was factually innocent. Upon reading more about the case and the circumstances surrounding it, I learned that Federal and state authorities knew of his innocence at the time of his trial, which was literally a circus. (Read the articles. People in clown make-up literally drifted in from a carnival on the courthouse lawn and then left when they desired something more entertaining.)

Having become aware of at least three executions by the State of Texas and the plight of two other innocent individuals awaiting the same fate, I realized that I could not trust people.

It is impossible to remove the “human element” from a capital case, and therefore the death penalty is untenable. There are no bedrock guarantees that the case won’t be figuratively folded, spindled and mutilated, I therefore withdraw in perpetuity my support for any death sentence.

I understand about Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Yes, he does deserve it; however, that one in a million case cannot be enough to keep the option of death available. If someone killed six people on a bus, there would be a hue and a cry to kill the terrorists, but if those same people died as a result of prosecutorial or investigative avarice, no one would speak. Not enough to matter, anyway.

I’ll speak. We’re in the second decade of the twenty-first century and still relying on a horribly error-prone system to kill people we believe need to die.

As the saying goes; Killing to punish murder is like fucking for chastity, raping rapists, fighting for peace or remaining silent to make your voice heard. It’s an oxymoron…emphasis on the moron.

To regain our place among civilized nations, of which we were once the guiding light, the death penalty must be replaced with a sentence of life without parole in a “super-max” prison.

Europe has done it. Canada has done it. Australia has done it. Even some of our own states have done it. It’s time to kick the “death habit”.

During much of the twentieth-century, parents from around the world, desirous for their progeny to obtain the best education and opportunities possible, sent them to U.S. universities.
Our universities were often touted as the vanguard of human knowledge. After all, Enrico Fermi perfected nuclear fission at the University of Chicago and Albert Einstein spent his final years on the faculty of Princeton University.

Sadly, those days may have drawn to a close without any fanfare, hue and cry, or even a protest by irate librarians and tweed-clad academics.

According to a recent article by Daniel Burnett, which appeared in Tuesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer and Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, it’s possible that graduates of U.S. universities possess more basic knowledge regarding Lady Gaga and Beyonce, than they do regarding Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Civil War.

A survey commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and released to coincide with April 14-15 sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s assassination, revealed the following:

  • One in five Americans could not identify John Wilkes Booth as Lincoln’s assassin. (Forget his parting words to the mortally wounded Abe; “sic semper tyrannis”.
  • A mere eighteen percent of Americans knew the effect of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
  • The figure rose to a mere twenty-eight percent, when only responses from those with university degrees were considered.
  • Among those same degreed individuals, more than one-third were uncertain when the Civil War took place, and fewer than forty percent correctly the (formerly) well-known phrase, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth”, as part of the Gettysburg Address.

There’s a simple reason for this paucity of knowledge.

Fewer than twenty percent of American institutions of higher-learning require courses in U.S. history or government.

Even those who do, often allow for some surprising opt-outs:

  • Michigan’s Oakland University allows student to swap such courses for Foundations of Rock, Dance in American Culture or Human Sexuality. (I love sex, cannabis and rock music s much as the next person, but these people are pursuing university degrees, not a smoke-enhanced van ride with Jeff Spicoli.)
  • UC Berkeley allows the substitution of Dutch Culture and Society: Amsterdam and Berkeley in the Sixties. (Look, I love many things Dutch. Dutch-Canadian, Dorothy Stratten is still my favorite Playmate, I think Shocking Blue is one of the best rock groups from anywhere and whole concept of Dutch coffee-houses is amazing. That said; the aforementioned objections stand. Study the other stuff when you’re not on your parents’–or the government’s–dime.)
  • University of Colorado allows its students to duck out with America Through Baseball or Horror Films in American Culture. (Being able to correctly quote Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel or possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of Kevin Williamson’s Scream movies will not get you a white-collar job! ESPN and FOX Sports can only keep so many people on their payrolls at any given time.)
  • In Texas, twelve of forty-nine institutions in the study, including Rice University, had no American history or government requirement in most undergrad degree-plans.

Simply put; If I had a son or daughter graduating high-school this year, I would not send them to a university in the United States of America.

We’ve simply fallen too far, even in the sixteen years since I graduated from University of Houston. I believe this increasingly-uniform mediocrity is part-and-parcel of the mindset which requires all Little-League players to get a trophy for merely showing up, and insists that everyone is special.

That’s not life. In life, there are winners and losers, and if we insist on placing more focus on American Idol than American history, then we’re setting the next generation up to be major losers.

That’s why I would tell that hypothetical son or daughter that they could go to school anywhere they wanted, so long as it’s outside the United States.

UC? Try UBC.
University of Colorado? Try University of Toronto.
Rice? Try Pierre and Marie Curie University.
Visit the University of Tokyo website.

That’s what I’d tell my kid. Not every university in the United States has been infected with the stupidity virus, but you never know how fast it might spread or where it will next appear.

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