The Washington Post and biased reporting
Posted by Dana Pico on 2011/08/30
Ever since he announced that he was running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) has been the target of our friends on the left, including the professional media. From The Washington Post:
Rick Perry holds the record on executions
By Robert Barnes, Published: August 23
Texas Gov. Rick Perry brings to the presidential race a law-and-order credential that none of his competitors can match — even if they wanted to.
In his nearly 11 years as the state’s chief executive, Perry, now running for the Republican presidential nomination, has overseen more executions than any governor in modern history: 234 and counting. That’s more than the combined total in the next two states — Oklahoma and Virginia — since the death penalty was restored 35 years ago.
Note the phraseology: Governor Perry “has overseen more executions than any governor in modern history.” To “oversee” means “to watch over and direct; supervise.” If you stopped reading the article at the point at which I ceased quoting, and you understood the definition of the word “oversee,” you would believe that Governor Perry had somehow scheduled and directed the 234 executions which have occurred in the Lone Star State since he took office eleven years ago.
But, if you read further, ten paragraphs further — something Patterico has referred to as The Power of the Jump™¹ — you’ll learn:
Texans and their representatives give governors little room to slow down the process.
Decisions to seek the death penalty are made by local prosecutors. Unlike in some states, the governor does not sign death warrants or set execution dates. The state constitution prohibits the governor from calling a moratorium on executions and allows clemency only when the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends it, which is rarely.
Emphasis mine. I wonder: just how does an official who has no authority to schedule executions, and no authority to stop them (he does have the power to issue a single thirty-day stay) actually “oversee” executions?
The Post story accurately noted that Governor Perry supports capital punishment, as do all of his “main competitors,” including President Obama, and that his support has been active, vetoing a bill which would have made mentally retarded murderers ineligible for capital punishment,² and sharply criticizing Roper v Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), a Supreme Court ruling that juveniles were not eligible for the death penalty.
And the Post also noted the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, in 2004. There is a lot of speculation that Mr Willingham was innocent of the murders for which he was convicted, and executed, with the claim being that very faulty forensic evidence was used in his trial to convict him. In the month prior to his execution, appeals for clemency and a new trial were received and reviewed by Governor Perry, the Texas Court of Criminal appeals and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, and none saw any reason, from what they had in the appeals they received, to delay Mr Willingham’s execution. But, if your only source of information on the case was the story in The Washington Post, you wouldn’t know that the Court of Criminal Appeals or Board of Pardons and Parole had reviewed the case, only that Mr Perry had an unspecified “role in the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.”
Do you like the chart at the right? That is also from the Post, accessible from the sidebar to the main story linked, under the following headline and blurb:
Executions in Texas
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has overseen more executions than any other governor in the nation since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Of the five governors who have overseen the most executions, three are from Texas.
Yup, there’s the loaded, but wholly inaccurate, verb, “overseen,” again. Who knows, maybe Governor Perry wishes that he had more authority in the execution process and really could claim that he has “overseen” 234 executions, but it doesn’t matter if he wishes it or not: he does not have it. If the good citizens of Texas elected the Pope to be their next Governor, it still wouldn’t matter: capital punishment would proceed in Texas anyway. The editors of The Washington Post know that, yet still chose to use inaccurate words and descriptions to slant the article.
Why did I write this article? It’s simple: I already knew that the Governor of Texas did not have the power to grant pardons or commute sentences on his own, and I knew that death warrants in Texas were signed by judges, not the Governor. Yet I’ve seen several references to Governor Perry “signing a death warrant,” the most recent one in a comment on the Delaware Liberal, and I realized that we cannot count on fairness or unbiased reporting from the professional media on this subject. Our host on this site may prefer former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) to Mr Perry for the Republican Presidential nomination, but he knows just as well as I do that neither Mr Perry nor Mrs Palin nor any other Republican candidate can ever expect unbiased coverage from the professional media.
¹ – “‘The Power of the Jump’™ is a semi-regular feature of this site, documenting examples of the Los Angeles Times’s use of its back pages to hide information that its editors don’t want you to see.” With this Patterico is referring to editing which reports facts which are inconvenient to the liberal mindset on the second page of the story, rather than with the headlined section.
² – Atkins v Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), held that executions of mentally retarded criminals are “cruel and unusual punishments” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Cross Posted on Common Sense Political Thought.
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