Tuesday, February 05, 2008

DA candidate Rick Reed opposes the death penalty

I was at a panel last night sponsored by TMN and ACLU-TX with the four DA candidates. Only Rick Reed has said that he will oppose the death penalty as the DA in Travis County. Austin American-Statesman has a very good article about the four candidates position on the death penalty. I will post the video sometime soon.

Candidate Rick Reed, who resigned from Earle's office last week, said he would not seek the death penalty under any circumstances. Reed also said he wouldn't seek death warrants for the five condemned killers already on death row from Travis County. Death warrants, issued by a trial court at a prosecutor's request when the killer's appeals have run out, set dates of execution.

"I believe it is a mistake ... to seek the death penalty," said Reed, citing his moral opposition and the cost of prosecuting such cases.

The candidates spoke at a forum that drew about 50 people to Gene's New Orleans Style Poboys & Deli, a restaurant on East 11th Street. The gathering was sponsored by the Texas Moratorium Network, which advocates a death penalty moratorium in the state, and the Austin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The candidates are running in the March 4 Democratic primary. Because there is no Republican candidate, the winner of the primary is expected to become the next top prosecutor in Travis and have the sole discretion on whether or not to seek the death penalty.

Cobb, 46, has worked in Earle's office since 1990; Montford, 37, has worked there since 1999; and Earle's first assistant, Lehmberg, 58, has been in the office since 1976. Reed, 52, had worked there since 1999.

In questioning the candidates, Scott Cobb, president of the moratorium group and no relation to the candidate, noted that Texas accounted for 62 percent of all executions in the United States in 2007 but that Travis County rarely seeks the death sentence.

Montford, who in the 1990s served two years as general counsel to state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., said she drafted legislation, finally passed in 2005, to institute life without parole.

"I am entitled to have my personal opinion on a bunch of laws," she said, "but as the DA, I take an oath, and I am charged with following the law."

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