How do you cheer up a room full of Republicans? Tell them you've executed a few hundred people! Wednesday's otherwise mundane debate was punctuated by a moment of macabre amusement when the crowd got a grim glimpse at Gov. Rick Perry's death tally.
Applause erupted in the Ronald Reagan Library outside of Los Angeles during last night’s Republican debate when the governor from Texas was prompted for his take on his own record with those on death row. For a politician who has gone off time and time again on his religious beliefs during his three terms as governor, Perry showed no remorse for the number of lives he’s approved of ending — and the GOP fanbase before him responded with unmatched and unsettling enthusiasm.
Debate moderator Brian Williams opened up a question for Governor Perry by first reminding him that his state has executed 234 men under his watch, allowing for the candidate to maintain a bodycount much greater than any other governor in modern times. Before Williams could get to his question, however, the crowd broke into applause to laud Perry for his accomplishment, interrupting Williams and causing the NBC commentator to pause for the audience to subside.
“Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?” Williams asked Perry. Two years ago the governor was accused of keeping a state probe from fully investigation allegations that one of those executed men was innocent of his supposed crime.
“No sir,” responded the governor, “I’ve never struggled with that at all.”
From there Perry went on to defend the hundreds of deaths he approved, saluting the justice system of Texas which he says employs “a very clear process.”
That process, which has helped the Lone Star State earn a ghastly reputation for its history with executions, costs over $2 million taypayer dollars for each life taken away.
Despite that financial burden, Perry jumped on the fact that clearly Americans — or at least those in attendance at the debate — stand by Texas’ stance.
“I think Americans understand justice,” Perry told Williams after he was asked in a follow up what he thought of the applause his execution-count caused. “I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of — of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens — and it’s a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don’t want you to commit those crimes against our citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.”
In the first nine months of 2011, that ultimate justice was bestowed on nine men already. More than a fifth of the states that make up the US do not allow for capital punishment.
Responding to last night's debate, human rights activist Jen Marlowe tells RT, "I think as much as we're hearing those cheers, there is a very strong movement of people who are working against the death penalty and are working to abolish it."
Marlowe is currently putting her support behind Troy Davis, who faces execution in Georgia for a crime many say he didn't commit.