30 Year Anniversary of the Death Penalty in the United States

On January 17th, 1977, after a four-year moratorium against capital punishment in the United States, Gary Gilmore was executed in Utah. His death, along with his bold last words (“let’s do it”) prompted a media and pop culture feeding-frenzy, inspiring songs by The Police and British punk band the Adverts, a “Saturday Night Live” sketch and numerous books and films.

Thirty years ago today, Johnny Cash reportedly called Gilmore to sing him a final song. Shortly afterward, Gilmore ate his last meal: a hamburger, hard-boiled eggs, a baked potato, a few cups of coffee and three shots of whiskey. As I recall, shortly after 8:00 AM, he was executed by firing squad.

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Since that day, over 700 Americans legally executed in this country, and this tonight in Texas, between 4:00 and 7:00 PM, there will likely be one more.

Texas has more executions than any state in the nation. Florida is another state with a high number of killings by the state. A friend of mine who practices law in Texas, and who specializes in representing people who the State seeks to execute, told me there were 45 executions in Texas last year. Remember, studies have shown that a small percentage of people who are sentenced to death are innocent. I wonder of the 45 killed in Texas, how many of them may have been not guilty?