Marching On The Mansion In Texas

By: Lily Hughes and Frank Edwards

More than 400 people from across Texas and around the country gathered October 27 for the Second Annual March on the Mansion to call for a moratorium.

Over the years, Texas has become known as the "death penalty capital of the world," because it executes far more prisoners than any other state and has the second-largest death row in the country. But even here, people are questioning the death penalty. Investigative reports chronicling the flaws in the Texas system, such as sleeping lawyers, and high-profile cases involving issues of innocence, like that of Gary Graham last year, have helped to sow seeds of doubt.

In October a year ago, 750 people participated in the March on the Mansion at the height of the presidential election campaign. The Texecutioner, George W. Bush, allowed more than 150 executions during his term, and the death penalty became a major issue in his bid for the presidency.

This year’s march had another target. The new "governor of death," Rick Perry, has stepped in for Bush and shows the same sick allegiance to the death penalty. This past spring’s legislative session saw a host of bills designed to reform the justice system, including several moratorium bills. Despite the obvious recognition by the legislature of the problems in the system, Perry continues to uphold the death penalty, even vetoing a bill that would have banned the execution of mentally retarded people.

Speakers at this year’s rally called out Perry and Bush for their role in the use of the death penalty and highlighted the many problems in the system. Rena and Ireland Beazley, whose son Napoleon is a juvenile offender on death row, spoke of the need to be active in the movement. Kerry Max Cook, an innocent man who was freed from Texas death row after 22 years, spoke about how the system doesn’t catch the mistakes, but rather those working from the outside do.

The crowd of diverse protesters chanted "No justice, no peace! Moratorium now!" and carried signs highlighting the worst aspects of the death penalty. The march ended this year, like it did last year, by surrounding the governor’s mansion with crime-scene tape to point out that criminals reside in the mansion.

The success of the second annual march--in a state whose name is synonymous with executions--is an important indication of our progress. We’ll march again next year--and keep marching until we win a moratorium and finally abolition.