FEATURED POST

Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

Image
Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Artist Ben Quilty Opens Up About His Friendship With Myuran Sukumaran

Myuran Sukumaran (L) and Ben Quilty (R) in Kerobokan's art workshop.
Myuran Sukumaran (L) and Ben Quilty (R) in Kerobokan's art workshop.
Quilty first met Myuran in early 2012 after a member of the Mercy campaign forwarded him an email from the Bali Nine ringleader, asking for technical advice about painting. Quilty says at first he was curious about this infamous Australian condemned to die in Indonesia. "I've always been interested, as part of my drive, to explain why young men sometimes behave so atrociously."

At first they just wrote to one another; Myuran asking questions about his newfound passion, Quilty trying to answer them as best as he could. "I sent him some tasks, to make self-portraits. I said, 'Do one a day,'" he explains. "At the end of two weeks [Myuran's lawyer] Julian emailed me and said, 'I don't know what you said to him but look at this photo.'"

It was a photo of the wall of Kerobokan prison. "It was absolutely covered from one side to the other in self-portraits," Quilty tells me.

"Australia hated these boys at first," says Julian McMahon, the barrister who stepped in to represent Myuran after he'd been sentenced to death for a third time in 2006. "First impressions were not great," McMahon admits. "We were dealing with relatively young punkish guys who didn't have a great sense of reality or where this was all going."

Over the next few years though, McMahon says he saw a change. Myuran—who'd been just 24 years old when he was sentenced to death by firing squad for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia—persuaded the governor of Kerobokan to give him a corner of the prison that wasn't being used. He started up classes: computer programming, t-shirt printing, English, philosophy, dance, and, of course, art.

Art became Myuran's release, even forming part of his legal defence. "We used the art that was being done as a major argument in clemency," McMahon explains. "Everyone could see that what was happening was remarkable." Under Quilty's guidance, Myuran emerged as a gifted artist.

"I said, 'You should escape,'" Quilty has stopped in front of a large self-portrait of Myuran. His loft is packed with them, hanging all around, some leaning against chairs and walls. And it's not just the self-portraits, there are pictures of Myuran's friends and family too. Above Quilty's desk is a giant portrait of Myuran's mum.

The plea came from Quilty when he went to visit Myuran one last time in Kerobokan, after he'd lost his final appeal. By this point the guards trusted him so completely, Myuran moved around the prison carrying a big bunch of keys. The two friends walked through the prison together, down some passageways, and into a small room. Four guards and tobacco smoke filled the space. Only two were armed.

"The next door is outside, it's Bali," Quilty recalls. "Myuran took me right through this room and the guards are like, 'Hi Myuran.' He gave me a hug—this is standing at the bloody door—and I said, 'This is the only hope.'

"He said, 'I thought about it... but if I did that, the life of my mates wouldn't be worth living.'"


Source: VICE, Angus Smith, July 5, 2016

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

North Carolina death row becoming frail, aging

Trump calls for death penalty for anyone who kills a police officer

California: Riverside County leads U.S. in death penalty sentences, but hasn’t executed anyone in 39 years

Bali jailbreak: US inmate escapes notorious Kerobokan prison

Georgia executes Emmanuel Hammond

Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

Law of Parties: Prosecutor who put Jeff Wood on Texas’ death row asks for clemency

Iran: Two Prisoners Hanged In Public

Execution date set for convicted killer in Alabama who is terminally ill

Iraq hangs 38 members of Daesh, al-Qaeda