February 21, 2014
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins,
Good morning. We bring you greetings on behalf of the hundreds of faith leaders who have joined the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. We must begin with commendations. We commend you for your pursuit of exonerations. We commend you for your honest assessment of the many race-based biases and injustices within our justice system. We even commend you for your often-declared moral opposition to the death penalty. Unfortunately, this is where our commendations must end.
Richard Johnson was executed by electrocution on August 10, 1932. I am sure the date of your great-grandfather’s execution sticks with you in the same way present day dates of executions stick with the families who endure the similar trials and tribulations that your family endured. You often talk about your moral opposition to the death penalty but your need to enforce the law. We believe this is a smoke screen. There are many counties in Texas that have never pursued the death penalty in any modern case. No one is forcing you to pursue death sentences yet you do. In the past five years, Dallas County has sent more people to death row than any other county in the State of Texas. Your talk of moral opposition is not enough. Ten of the eleven men sentenced to death in Dallas County in the past five years are persons of color. We are ready for you to put your morals where your mouth is.
We are tremendously frustrated. We believe that you are participating in and perpetuating a cycle of violence that will only continue if you continue to follow the ludicrous notion that you can teach people not to kill by killing. We believe it is immoral for you to spend the amount of money that you spend pursuing these death sentences when you can pursue life in prison without parole and use that same money to accomplish the reforms that you have so often said that you want to see in our judicial system. We believe it is possible to achieve justice for the families of murder victims through a sentence of life without creating more victims. These are but a few of the many reasons to be opposed to continuing to waste moral and financial energy on death sentences.
We are persons of faith and know you to be a person of faith as well, so we write to remind you of that most basic of moral and religious principles “love your neighbor as your self.” Do you think it is possible for you to love your neighbor as your self and execute them? How much more money will have to be spent, how many morals will have to be compromised and how many more people must die before you figure out the answer to that question?
Rev. Jeff Hood
Board Member, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Rev. Wes Magruder
Chairman of the Board of Church and Society, North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church
Executive Director, Hope for Peace and Justice