PRESS RELEASE
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 23, 2001
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-8393

House Creates Strong Safeguard Against Execution of the Mentally Retarded

"This legislation is a solid step in the right direction. I thank Representative Hinojosa for his hard work and leadership on this issue.

"Over the past two years our criminal justice system has been under the microscope, and Texans have not liked what they have seen. By banning the execution of the mentally retarded, Texas -- the global leader in executions -- can show the world that we can be both tough and compassionate."

"Let me be clear. I support the death penalty, and I have a unique perspective that most lawmakers do not enjoy. As acting governor in 2000, I presided over three executions, and one stay. I know what it is like to support the death penalty, and enforce the death penalty, and it is not an easy task. That experience reinforced my support, but it also reinforced my deep belief that we must ban the death penalty for mentally retarded offenders. It is the right thing to do, and it is the moral thing to do. An overwhelming majority of Texans agree that it is time to ban this practice.

"Last session, the Senate overwhelmingly supported legislation to ban the execution of the mentally retarded. I hope and sincerely believe that we will join the 13 other states and the federal government that have passed laws prohibiting the execution of people with mental retardation. We have an even greater responsibility in this state, as six of the 35 prisoners recognized as mentally retarded that have been executed since 1984 were put to death in Texas.

"Justice is not served when we put someone to death who does not understand the consequences of their actions. It is time for Texas to ban the execution of the mentally retarded."

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