From the Wool-sack

Publication year1987
CitationVol. 16 No. 10 Pg. 1858
16 Colo.Law. 1858
Colorado Lawyer

1987, October, Pg. 1858. From the Wool-Sack


Vol. 16, No. 10, Pg. 1858

From the Wool-Sack

by Christopher R. Brauchli

So it is that punishment tames man, but does not make him "better."

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

My colleagues at the bar will certainly join me in raising high a glass for Jim Mattox. For the benefit of those who find the antics of our legislators so amusing that they do not look for laughs beyond the boundaries of our state, he is the Attorney General of Texas. As befits the Attorney General of Texas, Mattox has made headlines in the New York Times. He has thought of a way to improve the death penalty. Not knowing that it wanted improving, I am quick to announce that I have nothing but admiration for his imagination. His headline is about four times as exciting as our Attorney General's headline announcing that he is thinking of switching parties.

The headline which so impressed me simply said, "Texas Official and Prisoners Fear Banality of Executions." The story then reported that Mattox fears that executions in Texas have become so routine that their deterrent purpose is being lost. As if that weren't bad enough, Mattox says Death Row inmates think they have been forgotten. Mattox is quoted as saying:

The public should have an understanding of what takes place. The public appears to take this in stride. For these things to be conducted in the still of the night with no crowds around, it is likely not to bring about the deterrent impact that people would like for it to have.(fn1)

Mattox is not simply talking about something he read in some pulp magazine on a newsstand in an airport. If any state knows about the death penalty and its deterrent effect, it's Texas. Few states have taken as good advantage of the death penalty's restoration to respectability as Texas. Since 1982, when it resumed the use of the death penalty in its fight against crime, Texas has executed twenty-four people; 250 more are waiting in the wings for wings.

When the penalty's use was novel, lots of people turned out for executions. In addition to journalists and a coterie of "prop-" and "opponents," beer drinking students from Sam Houston State University used the occasion of a criminal being served his just dessert to have a beer drinking party in the vicinity of the prison.(fn2) So popular were those early executions that...

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