Why did Bush commute Henry Lee Lucas' sentence?

I once wrote a little paper in college on this very subject. It was about the Karla Fay Tucker case (I detested Tucker, had no sympathy for her and had no problem with Bush mocking her, nor any problem with his decision), but more broadly about the willingness to accept responsibility for the death penalty. I used quotes from newspapers and such, quoting the jury as saying the appeals court would have the final decision, the appeals court deferring to the parole board, the board deferring to the Governor, and the Governor then passing the buck back to the jury. Nobody in the circuit was willing to say it was their decision or their responsibility.

He commuted the sentence because the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended it. They did so because of concerns over Lucas’ conviction of the murder of an unknown female called “Orange Socks” by police.

I think it’s highly true the Texas system is set up so people can easily fool themselves, and I readily concede that they do fool themselves.

In reality though I think primarily the jury has to accept responsibility for the sentence as the first party. During a sentencing hearing if the jury decides on any sentence other than death, death will never be the sentence for the crimes in question. There is no process by which a jury’s decision not to impose the death penalty can be overruled later on, so the whole process cannot begin without the jury.

Once a jury has done the deed, I’d say the next most responsible party for allowing an execution in Texas to happen is the Texas Board of Pardons & Parole, because they have the clear power to approve commuting a sentence, and unless the original case is retried because of procedural error or other legal issues unless the TBPP actually votes in favor of commuting a sentence there is, to my knowledge, no legal power that any other party would have to commute the sentence (i.e. the Governor would be powerless.)

Okay, but as I pointed out a big reason why the Board recommended he commute Lucas’s sentence was because Bush went to the board before they made their decision and asked them to make that recommendation. Something he never did for any of the other 152 cases that appeared before him.

So why did he decide to ask for a recommendation on this case? Are you saying that Lucas’ guilt was more questionable than every other case that he reviewed?

Personally if you handed me those 153 cases and asked me to rank them in order of how certain I was that each prisoner deserved to be executed, Henry Lee Lucas probably would have made my top ten.

This is the correct answer. In the rush to clear cases in the wake of Henry Lee Lucas’ apparrent willingness to confess to every unsolved murder case over the last 100 years, Lucas created a morass not only around those investigations but around his own convictions that never would have been cleared in Lucas’ lifetime. The decision to commute his sentences cleared up the expenditure of thousands of taxpayer dollars and many hours of work to secure an execution that almost certainly never would have come during his lifetime, as well as cleaned up the investigations of the many murders that he took credit for yet never committed.

I’m not sure what you’re saying here. What “expenditure of thousands of taxpayer dollars and many hours of work to secure an execution that almost certainly never would have come during his lifetime”? Lucas had already been sentenced to death and the date had been set. It wasn’t an issue of avoiding a retrial or fighting an appeal.

Granted, Lucas was probably innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to death. But this is Texas. That’s not considered a problem worth calling off an execution for.

I’m not following your logic, because it seems to me that avoiding expense would be served better by killing him off more quickly – then it would all be moot.

And – “an execution that almost certainly never would have come during his lifetime”?? We’re talking about Texas, where they’ll convict you at lunch and kill you before your next breakfast. Er, compared to other states, that is.

I think the argument is that he would have and could have appealed every case independently.

Well then, a legal question… if someone in Texas has a murder conviction and their execution date approaches, is it grounds to delay or cancel the execution because the appeal of some other conviction is still pending?

Bush? Becuase I think he is demonstrably retarded. He is white though.

Oh, he’d be number 1 on the hit parade, no doubt. I don’t know why Perry went to bat for him, other than the issues in the Orange Socks case. In hindsight, I imagine that he felt that Lucas deserved the needle, but not for that case in particular.

Frankly, I wonder why some other D.A. didn’t bring Lucas up on one of the stronger cases. He would have gotten the needle, no questions asked.

Originally, it probably looked like a slam dunk. Lucas had confessed to killing the woman so getting a guilty verdict looked to be a cinch. But then once the case had been set in motion, Lucas recanted his confession. But by this time, the state had committed itself to trying Lucas for the crime so they went ahead with the trial even though the case was much weaker without Lucas’ confession.

Ooopsie…Bush, not Perry.

I hope a lot of voters make the same mistake in the next 14 months.

Hmm, I think I get it.

“We agree that he made the correct decision but he’s the type of slimeball that would ordinarily have made the wrong decision, so he must have had some nefarious reason for making the correct decision in this case.”

Once you go for this type of reasoning, the possibilities are endless, as long as there’s people out there that you dislike …

Well, the possibility that you think is still open but it’s clear you didn’t get it.

We (whoever “we” are) don’t agree he made the correct decision. In fact, that’s the main point of this thread, which makes it strange you missed it.

Here’s what you wrote in the OP:

And there have been any number of similar quotes throughout this thread.

I’m aware of what the OP says. I wrote it.

There’s a technical term for those things that are annoying you. They’re called facts.

Bush really was getting ready to run for President in 1998. He really did commute Henry Lee Lucas’ death sentence to life imprisonment. Bush really did review 153 death sentences while he was Governor of Texas. Lucas really was the only case where Bush asked the review board to recommend a commutation and the only sentence he commuted. Lucas really was almost certainly guilty of some murders.

So I asked what these facts meant and why Bush did what he did. It’s hard to discuss what Bush did without mentioning what it was he did. If it’s insulting to Bush to talk about the things he’s done in his life, that’s really more of a reflection on him than anything else.

It is rare that a capital murder defendant condemned to the death penalty is the subject of a report from the chief law enforcement officer of the state calling into question the entire law enforcement response and case built against a defendant as designed to simply clear cases to get them off of the books, calling into doubt every case he’d ever confessed to, which was the basis of his death sentence. This is what happened with Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox with the Lucas Report. You’re putting me in the profoundly uncomfortable position of defending both Bush as Governor and the Texas capital death penalty system here, but the reality is that there was enough of a systemic clusterfuck in the Lucas case that it would could not possibly have been resolved by the state and federal judicial systems before his death of natural causes.

See above. Even if you believe that Texas is pathologically bloodthirsty for executions, they cannot occur without state and federal judicial oversight. Overseeing these issues on appeal in intensively time consuming (to say the least) in cases of one or two homicides, and is near impossible when possible false admissions to homicides acted on by law enforcement and referenced in open court number in the hundreds. The problem with the state’s case on appeal was not just accusations but admissions from state law enforcement that so many catastrophic mistakes were made in a rush to judgment in the Lucas case that he almost certainly would have never been executed.