IN THE EXECUTIONER'S SHADOW

A STORY OF JUSTICE, INJUSTICE, AND THE DEATH PENALTY

"I am ready, Warden."

While the President was giving his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, another American was being put to death by the state of Texas.  At approximately 9:35 p.m., EST, William Earl Rayford became the first inmate executed by Texas this year.
 
You probably didn’t hear about this.  The media gave the event precious little coverage.  In keeping with a prevailing criticism, the death penalty persists, in part, because people don’t think about it.  It’s hard to consider what you’re not aware of.
 
The facts of the case are not subject to dispute.  Rayford was convicted in 1999 of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Carol Lynn Thomas Hall. At the time of that crime, he was on parole from a sentence for murdering his wife thirteen years prior. While trying to escape her house, Carol called on her two young sons. When the youngest son came down the stairs, Rayford stabbed the 11 year old boy in the back. The young boy survived his injures.  His mother did not. She was later found hidden in a pipe, beaten to death. 
 
As issue raised by Rayford’s punishment is whether the execution of an elderly inmate is cruel and unusual.  Rayford spent more than 17 years on Texas Death Row, becoming a part of an increasing crowd of elderly men in their 60’s and 70’s awaiting their fate for years on end.  To critics, such long waits are extreme. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there is a growing concern with inmates spending up to twenty years awaiting their own deaths, often under extreme conditions and in solitary confinement. 
 
Most death row inmates “are excluded from prison educational and employment programs, and sharply restricted in terms of visitation and exercise, spending as many as 23 hours a day alone in their cells,” according DPIC. 
 
Mr.Rayford’s last words expressed remorse and sought forgiveness.
 
What do you think proper punishment is for a 64-year old man?