While presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is unquestionably a steadfast supporter of capital punishment, his overall record on criminal justice is more complicated than that, reports NPR. As governor, he has little to do with executions. “The train runs on its own,” says Jordan Steiker of the Capital Punishment Center at the University of Texas Law School. “Execution dates will be scheduled. The attorney general’s office and the local district attorneys will defend the death sentences. The governor’s office basically doesn’t have to do anything, and capital punishment will run in a robust way in Texas.”
“Rick Perry is really getting a bum rap if and when he’s being portrayed as some sort of bloodthirsty tyrant that just likes to kill people,” says Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas, which works to overturn wrongful convictions. Blackburn notes that Perry supported the nation’s most generous compensation package for exonerated prisoners, signed a reform bill that avoided 17,000 new prison beds, pardoned 38 defendants in the Tulia drug sting, and curbed the state’s overzealous drug task forces, and signed legislation that gives prosecutors an option of life without parole, which keeps criminals off death row.