• Campaigns

USA: Death penalty: USA (Texas): 250th Texas execution looms, Richard William Kutzner, aged 58, Richard William Kutzner, aged 58

, Index number: AMR 51/104/2001

Richard Kutzner is set to become the 250th prisoner executed in Texas since the state resumed judicial killing in 1982. He is scheduled to be put to death on 25 July for the murder of Kathryn Harrison in 1996.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/104/2001
EXTRA 44/01 Death penalty 16 July 2001
USA (Texas)250
Texas execution looms
Richard William Kutzner, white, aged 58
Richard Kutzner is set to become the 250
prisoner executed in Texas since
the state resumed judicial killing in 1982. He is scheduled to be put to death
on 25 July for the murder of Kathryn Harrison in 1996.
Texas accounts for more than a third of the 724 executions carried out in the
USA since 2 July 1976, when the US Supreme Court lifted the moratorium on the
death penalty which it had imposed four years earlier. A quarter of a century
on, the US capital justice system is one marked by arbitrariness, discrimination
and error, as well as the inevitable cruelty and dehumanization that defines
this punishment wherever it occurs. On 2 July 2001, US Supreme Court Justice
Sandra Day O’Connor gave a speech in which she said: “After 20 years on the
high court, I have to acknowledge that serious questions are being raised about
whether the death penalty is being fairly administered in this country.”
Texas is at the heart of this international human rights scandal. It has
regularly violated international standards in its use of the death penalty.
It accounts for nine of the 17 executions of child offenders - those under
18 at the time of the crime - carried out in the USA since 1976. Its 10
execution, that of Napoleon Beazley (see UA 156/01, AMR 51/095/2001, 22 June),
is scheduled for next month. A further 30 child offenders await this fate in
Texas, over a third of the national total.
Texas has executed numerous mentally impaired prisoners, including Larry
Robison, Oliver Cruz, Mario Marquez and Terry Washington. It has executed five
of the 15 foreign nationals put to death in the country since 1977 - Carlos
Santana, Ramon Montoya, Irineo Montoya, Joseph Faulder and Miguel Flores -
all of whom were denied their consular rights upon arrest, in violation of
international law.
In contravention of international standards, Texas has executed several inmates
despite serious doubts about their guilt, including Odell Barnes, Gary Graham
and David Spence. Seven others have been released from death row after evidence
of their innocence emerged. They spent an average of 10 years on death row
or in jail before being exonerated. In each case, the state had persuaded a
jury that the defendant was a future danger to society - a prerequisite for
a death sentence in Texas, and one which has led to a particular brand of “junk
science”: so called psychological “experts” willing to testify with 100 per
cent certainty that the defendant will commit future acts of criminal violence
inside or outside prison if allowed to live.
One of the condemned later shown to be innocent and released was Clarence
Brandley, an African American man sentenced to death by an all-white jury for
the murder of a white girl, in a case marked by racism. Despite the fact that
blacks and whites are the victims of murder in the USA in almost equal numbers,
over 80 per cent of the country’s executions have been for crimes involving
white victims. This is echoed in Texas, where in 202 of the 249 cases of execution
(81 per cent), the original crime involved white victims (Kathryn Harrison
was also white). Studies have consistently shown that the murder of a white
victim is more likely to result in a death sentence than murders involving
minority victims. Since Texas resumed executions, no white defendant has been
executed for killing an African American. Fifty-seven blacks have been executed
for crimes involving whites (23 per cent of the total executions).
People have been sentenced to death and executed in Texas who were denied their
internationally-recognized right to adequate legal representation at all stages
of proceedings. Carl Johnson was executed in 1995 despite the fact that his
court-appointed lawyer was seen to sleep during parts of the trial. He was
the 12
of 152 prisoners executed under the five-year governorship of Governor
George W. Bush (1995-2000). Virginia has the next highest execution total to
Texas - it has executed 82 prisoners since it resumed executions in 1982.
As elsewhere in the USA, the death penalty in Texas is marked by huge geographical
disparities. Sixty-two of those executed, and 155 of those currently on the
state’s death row, were prosecuted in Harris County. If Harris County was a
state it would lie behind only Virginia and Texas in the number of executions.
Richard Kutzner was prosecuted in Harris County.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in
English or your own language, in your own words:
To Governor Perry:
- expressing sympathy for the victims of violent crime, but arguing that the
death penalty is part of the culture of violence and one that diverts resources
away from constructive responses to crime;
- expressing deep concern that Texas is set to carry out its 250
since resuming judicial killing in 1982;
- pointing out that the use of the death penalty is doing immense damage to
the international reputation not only of Texas but of the USA as a whole;
- urging Governor Perry to use his power and influence to stop the executions
that come before him through his power of reprieve, to support a moratorium
in Texas, and to begin to lead his state away from the death penalty.
To President Bush:
- expressing deep concern that Texas is set to carry out its 250
over half of which were carried out under his governorship;
- noting the damage being inflicted upon the USA’s international image by its
use of the death penalty, frequently in violation of international standards;
- noting that his administration must ensure that all jurisdictions in the
USA, including Texas, adhere to the country’s international human rights
- urging him to offer leadership on this fundamental human rights issue and
to begin to lead his country away from the death penalty.
The Honourable Rick Perry
State Capitol
PO Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711, USA
Fax: +1 512 463 1849
Telegrams: Governor Perry, Austin, TX, USA
Salutation:Dear Governor
George W. Bush
The President
The White House
Office of the President
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500, USA
Fax: +1 202 456 2461
Telegrams: President Bush, Washington DC, USA
Salutation:Dear Mr President
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of the USA accredited to your country.

Choose a language to view report