In his statement on the Terri Schiavo case, President George Bush claimed that in cases “where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.” He then triumphantly ended his statement by asserting that he would “continue to stand on the side of those defending life for all Americans, including those with disabilities.”
Has the president had a change of heart since his days as governor of Texas?
In 1999, he opposed a bill that would have banned execution of the mentally incapacitated in Texas. Then, a year later, he was too busy campaigning to grant a reprieve on the execution of Oliver Cruz, a mentally retarded individual diagnosed with an IQ of 63. Despite the behest of the American Bar Association and “officials from France, Sweden, and the European Union,” Texas carried out the execution under the authority of then Lt. Gov. Rick Perry.
After rising to the position of Texas governor, Perry not only followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, but also echoed his words. Ignoring a growing consensus that the mentally incapacitated should not be executed, Perry vetoed a similar ban and said that “taking death penalty decisions away from jurors in such cases ‘basically tells the citizens of this state, ‘We don’t trust you.””
It might be difficult to ever address these issues with President Bush, since hours before the execution of Cruz, Bush maintained that “Texas doesn’t execute mentally retarded killers.” And despite five other cases of executing the mentally incapacitated and his personal opposition to any legislation that would have stopped the practice, “when told that several states [had] banned the execution of mentally retarded inmates, Bush said, ‘So do we, in Texas.’”