Critic: Williams Asked Gov. Perry a Softball Death Penalty Question


Citing the 234 executions during Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 10-year term, Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman expresses disappointment on his Sentencing Law and Policy blog that NBC anchor Brian Williams, during this week’s Republican presidential debate, asked Perry “a death penalty question that was both weak and readily enabled [ ] a standard-issue pro-death penalty response.” Unlike predecessor George W. Bush, who said he favored the death penalty because he thought it saved lives, Perry stressed retributive justice.

Although Williams seemed surprised that his mention of the number of executions in Texas under Perry’s watch drew applause, anyone with a sophisticated understanding of the politics of this issue should not have been, Berman says. He believes that what he calls the “lamestream” media should ask tougher questions of Perry and other candidates, like why a state like Massachusetts has a lower murder rate than Texas even though it lacks the death penalty, why the federal government should seek death sentences in states without capital punishment, and whether they agree with Bush’s advocacy for federal funding to train defense counsel in capital cases.

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