November's Theme for Monthly Reflections Rug

The church bulletin came today. September was "turning" (which I am just finishing hooking because I got a late start: see photo here); October was "serving" (which I have drawn out but not hooked); and November is "doing justice" or "justice".

The words of Micah come to mind: "What does the Lord require of you? That you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God."

Living in Texas, I am concerned about many issues of justice, including the horrific fact that Texas leads our nation in the number of death row prisoners it executes since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. In fact, Harris County (aka Houston) is our nation's death penalty capital. 10% of all death penalty convictions made in the US are made in Harris County. This is all in light of the other known fact that Harris County does not have a Public Defenders Office, but relies on the appointment of defense attorneys by the judges who are known to want speedy trials, or what is boasted around the courts as "greased lightening." It is also statistically proven by a study made at the University of Denver that during the years 1992-1999 the death penalty was sought for white defendants only half as often as for african-american defendants.

According to Jeff Skelton, a legal analyst in Houston, the biggest reason behind these horrific statistics is that the Harris County DA's office has a "take no-prisoner" approach which was put into effect in the 1980s when Johnny Holmes was the DA and began to run it as if it were an extension of the police and instituted their concept of justice, favoring more prison time, more death penalties, and more punishment.

This should all be framed with the knowledge that Houston's crime lab has been under investigation for poor practices whose results have been overturned time and again by independent crime lab probes. Houston's lab has been called the "worst crime lab in the country" producing false tests results that have been used to convict people of crimes. It is only after the conviction that retesting the evidence at an independent lab ends up exonerating the convicted because the results from Houston's lab are found to be wrong. This has resulted in the release of several people from long sentences and from death row here in Texas. Because of this, in 2004, several of the major newspapers in Texas called for a halt to executions (which didn't happen). Death row convictions are still being challenged today due to the incompetence of the Houston lab, and yet no halt to executions or death penalty convictions is in sight.