George W. Bush on Crime

Ignored Byrd hate crime bill despite plea by Byrd’s family

The Gore campaign accused Bush of trying to deflect attention from his unwillingness to push for an enhanced 1999 hate crimes bill named for James Byrd that died in the State Senate. And Byrd’s daughter, Renee Mullins, who lobbied Bush in 1999 to help pass that bill, said in an interview today that the governor pointedly told her that he would not work to do so. “I pleaded with him,” Mullins recounted of her meeting with Bush. Mullins said she was offended when she learned that Bush expressed support for hate crimes legislation, saying “I just went to him last year and he didn’t support me. So how could he support one?”

A Bush spokesman attributed the governor’s inaction on the Byrd bill in 1999 to several factors: It was not part of Bush’s own legislative package, and [strengthening penalties for one group] might weaken penalties under existing laws for [other groups which were not specified in the Byrd bill]. Advocates of the Byrd bill argued that the existing law was too vague.

Source: Analysis of Wake Forest debate, Jim Yardley, NY Times Oct 13, 2000

National hate crimes law OK, stricter enforcement better

GORE [to Bush]: The law that was proposed in Texas that had the support of the Byrd family, died in committee. There may be some other statute that was already on the books, but the advocates of the hate crimes law felt that a tough new law was needed. And it’s important not just because of Texas, but because this mirrors the national controversy. There is pending now in the Congress a national hate crimes law because of James Byrd and others. And that law has died in committee also because of the same kind of opposition.

Q: And you would support that bill?

GORE: Absolutely.

Q: Would you support a national hate crimes law?

BUSH: I would support the Orrin Hatch version of it, not the Senator Kennedy version. But we’re happy with our laws on our books. There was another bill that did die in committee, but I want to repeat, if you have a state that fully supports the law, like we do in Texas, we’re going to go after all crime, and we’re going to make sure people get punished for the crime.

Source: (X-ref Gore) Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University Oct 11, 2000

Tough loves means consequences for committing crimes

Bush told the Fraternal Order of Police he would be the candidate of “tough love.” “The men and women in uniform understand that if you break the law, there will be a consequence. In order to have a safe country, we’re going to stand by the men and women who wear the uniform.”
Source: Sep 20, 2000

Limit frivolous lawsuits to create entrepreneurial heaven

Liberal court decisions had resulted in an unfair legal system, tilted in favor of personal injury trial lawyers, unfortunately making Texas a great place for people to sue one another. I wanted Texas to be a great place to do business, an entrepreneurial heaven, where dreamers and doers felt comfortable risking capital and creating jobs, not a haven for frivolous lawsuits.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p. 25. Dec 9, 1999

Stop hurting business with excessive punitive damage awards

Punitive damages have nothing to do with a victim’s actual damages. They are intended to punish a defendant for extraordinarily negligent or malicious behavior. But too often, that was not how they were being used; they were being used to terrorize small-business owners and force higher and higher out-of-court settlements. Punitive damages of tens of millions of dollars became all too common, even when the dispute involved actual damages that were much smaller.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p.117 Dec 9, 1999

Criminal rehabilitation by Prison Ministry after release

[Bush created] InnerChange, a Prison Ministry Program for criminal rehabilitation. It’s a 24-hours-a-day, Bible and value-based prerelease program, aimed at helping inmates achieve spiritual and moral transformation. InnerChange begins 12-18 months before release and continues for 6-12 months of post-release aftercare to re-integrate inmates back into society. Volunteer church mentors will help inmates re-adjust and keep on the straight and narrow by avoiding old habits and old friendships.
Source: “Faith in Action” Jun 12, 1999

George W. Bush on Death Penalty

Not proud that Texas has most executions

Q: Are you proud of the fact that Texas is number one in executions?

BUSH: No, I’m not proud of that. The death penalty is very serious business. It’s an issue that good people obviously disagree on. I take my job seriously, and if you think I was proud of it, I think you misread me, I do.

I was sworn to uphold the laws of my state. I do believe that if the death penalty is administered swiftly, justly and fairly, it saves lives. My job is to ask two questions. Is the person guilty of the crime? And did the person have full access to the courts of law? And I can tell you, in all cases those answers were affirmative. I’m not proud of any record. I’m proud of the fact that violent crime is down in the state of Texas. I’m proud of the fact that we hold people accountable. But I’m not proud of any record, no.

Source: St. Louis debate Oct 17, 2000

Death penalty for deterrence, not revenge

Q: What about the death penalty?

GORE: I support the death penalty. I think that it has to be administered not only fairly, with attention to things like DNA evidence, which I think should be used in all capital cases, but also with very careful attention. If the wrong guy is put to death, then that’s a double tragedy. Not only has an innocent person been executed but the real perpetrator of the crime has not been held accountable for it, and in some cases may be still at large. But I support the death penalty in the most heinous cases.

Q: Do both of you believe that the death penalty actually deters crime?

BUSH: I do, that’s the only reason to be for it. I don’t think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge. I don’t think that’s right. I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other people’s lives.

GORE: I think it is a deterrence. I know that’s a controversial view, but I do believe it’s a deterrence.

Source: (X-ref Gore) St. Louis debate Oct 17, 2000

Death penalty decisions are profound, but made in 15 minutes

Bush has written that “by far the most profound” decision he or any governor can make is whether to proceed with an execution. “I get the facts, weigh them thoughtfully and carefully, and decide,” Bush wrote. What he did not say is that he normally does this in 15 minutes.

A review of Bush’s daily schedules underscores that he has devoted himself remarkably little to policy details-including whether to go ahead with executions. The detachment from policy details may arise in part because Texas law gives a governor very limited powers-he cannot commute a death sentence, but only delay its implementation for 30 days. And it may partly arise because Bush shows great trust in those to whom he delegates authority, including the board of pardons and paroles. He almost always follows the board’s recommendations. A spokeswoman said that the time schedule reflected Bush’s confidence in his legal advisers, who might have spent hours reviewing a death penalty case before discussing it with the governor.

Source: Nicholas D. Kristof, NY Times Oct 16, 2000

Death penalty for hate crimes like any other murder

GORE [to Bush]: James Byrd was singled out because of his race in Texas. We can embody our values by passing a hate crimes law.

Q: You have a different view of that.

BUSH: No I don’t, really. We’ve got a hate crime law in Texas and guess what? The three men who murdered James Byrd, they’re going to be put to death. A jury found them guilty. It’s going to be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death.

GORE: I guess I had misunderstood the governor’s previous position. I had thought that there was a controversy at the end of the legislative session where the Byrd family among others asked you to support a hate crimes law, Governor. Am I wrong about that?

BUSH: What the Vice President must not understand is we’ve got a hate crimes bill in Texas and secondly the people that murdered Mr. Byrd got the ultimate punishment, the death penalty. When you murder somebody, it’s hate. I’m not exactly sure how you enhance the penalty any more than the death penalty.

Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University Oct 11, 2000

Uphold law on death penalty; and think of the victims

Bush said that as Texas governor, his first job is to see that the state’s laws are carried out. Should Gary Graham be executed [as scheduled tomorrow], Bush said he was prepared to bear the consequences. “I’m going to uphold the law of the land and let the political consequences be what they may. If it costs me politically, it costs me politically,” a somber, deliberative Bush said. “No case is an easy case,” he continued, adding: “I also keep in mind the victims, and the reason I support the death penalty is because it saves lives. That’s why I support it, and the people of my state support it too.“

Bush’s advisors point out that the governor combs over case records thoroughly as each impending capital punishment case reaches his desk. State operatives insist that Bush is caught in the middle of something that he has very little control over. 66% of Americans support the death penalty as a deterrent, but many express concern that innocent people are facing execution.

Source: Ian Christopher McCaleb, Jun 22, 2000

Board of Pardons’ decision on Graham execution is just

My job is to ensure our state’s laws are enforced fairly. This is a responsibility I take very seriously. On October 28, 1981, Mr. Gary Graham was found guilty of capital murder and later sentenced to death by a Harris County jury. The murder marked the beginning of a week-long crime rampage during which Mr. Graham committed at least 10 armed robberies. Two of his victims were shot, one was kidnapped and raped at gunpoint. Over the last 19 years, Mr. Graham’s case has been reviewed more than 20 times by state and federal courts. Thirty-three judges have heard and found his numerous claims to be without merit. In addition to the extensive due process provided Mr. Graham through the courts, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has thoroughly reviewed the record of this case as well as all new claims raised by Mr. Graham’s lawyers. Today the Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to allow Mr. Graham’s execution to go forward. I support the decision.
Source: Press Release “Bush’s Statement on Gary Graham” Jun 22, 2000

134 Texas executions are “fair and just”

Texas Gov. George W. Bush defended his state’s legal system Wednesday as “fair and just” and said there was no need for a moratorium on executions. “As far as I’m concerned there has not been one innocent person executed since I’ve become governor,” Bush said. Since he took office 5 1/2 years ago, 134 inmates have been executed in Texas. Bush said he has analyzed each capital case that reaches his desk.
Source: Associated Press, N.Y. Times Jun 21, 2000

Use DNA evidence for death penalty cases

Bush insists that the 30-day reprieve granted to death row inmate Ricky McGinn was done on procedural-not emotional-grounds. The delay-the first such reprieve Bush has issued since he took office-will allow defense attorneys to seek DNA testing of crime scene evidence. “To the extent that DNA can prove for certain innocence or guilt, I think we need to use DNA,” Bush said. The increasing trend toward the use of such science-based evidence has reshaped the national debate over capital punishment.

“It’s a case where we’re dealing with the man’s innocence or guilt,” Bush said. His recent comments reflect a new sensibility from just a few months ago, when he stated emphatically: “There’s no doubt in my mind that each person who has been executed in our state was guilty of the crime committed.” Bush has not yet spared any death row inmate, and in 1998 rejected a direct plea from the Vatican to spare the life of Karla Fay Tucker, who became the first woman put to death in Texas since the Civil War.

Source: Jun 2, 2000

Death penalty clemency for bad process, not for repentance

Bush had two criteria for considering clemency: Is there any doubt about guilt? Has the inmate had full access to the courts?

Karla Faye Tucker did not argue that she was innocent or that she had been deprived of her legal rights. She asked for mercy as reward for a life redeemed through faith. Bush cited his duty to carry out the execution: “My responsibility is to ensure our laws are enforced fairly and evenly without preference or special treatment,” he said. “I have concluded judgments about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority.“

In the case of Henry Lee Lucas, investigators determined [after his conviction] that Lucas was guilty of only three slayings and that the rest of his confessions had been lies. The paroles board recommended clemency, and the governor commuted Lucas’s sentence to life in prison. ”I take this action so that all Texans can continue to trust the integrity and fairness of our criminal justice system,“ Bush said.

Source: New York Times, by Jim Yardley Jan 7, 2000

George W. Bush on Mandatory Sentencing

Miranda should be waived in some situations

Bush said that he had disagreed with the Supreme Court’s 7-to-2 ruling on Monday that upheld the reading of Miranda warnings to criminal suspects. “We should never undermine the right of a person arrested to have their rights read to them,” he said. “I did believe, though, that voluntary confessions should be allowed without a Miranda reading. The court didn’t agree with my position. I’m now going to uphold the law.”
Source: Katherine Q. Seelye in NY Times Jun 28, 2000

Proud of eliminating parole for violent criminals

My appointees to the board of pardons and paroles reflect my no-nonsense approach to crime and punishment. They believe people who commit crimes against innocent Texans should pay the consequences; they believe sentences imposed by juries should be carried out. The Texas prison system had become a revolving door earlier in the 1990s, when the prison population had far exceeded the capacity of the system.. I am proud that Texas today has virtually eliminated parole for violent criminals.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p.151-152. Dec 9, 1999

Supports “two strikes” & registration for sexual criminals.

We have ended mandatory early release for offenders with a history of violence. We approved a tough two strikes & you’re out law for sexual predators. It is now illegal for paroled sex offenders to live in Texas without registering with local authorities.
Source: 12/31/98 Dec 31, 1998

Supports victim notification laws and anti-stalking laws.

We passed a stalking law, because no Texan should have to live in fear of a stalker. Our stronger victim notification laws give victims a louder voice in court and make it illegal for criminals to contact their victims once they leave prison.
Source: 12/31/98 Dec 31, 1998

More searches and less parole for criminals

Give police.a law that says to juveniles who have been convicted of a violent crime, “Our police have the right to stop and frisk you to make sure you are not carrying a gun.” Keep violent criminals behind bars longer. Last session, we repealed mandatory release for violent criminals. This session, we should broaden the law to apply to [all] violent criminals and sex offenders, no matter when they were sentenced. I do not believe violent criminals have a constitutional right to get out of jail early.
Source: 1997 State of the State Address, Austin TX Jan 28, 1997

Mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders

Texans have made it clear they want the most violent criminals to serve their full sentences. We must put a stop to the mandatory early release program that lets criminals out even though the parole board says no. Texas must increase penalties for criminals who assault law enforcement officials and give judges and juries more discretion in sentencing criminals. Drug dealers and other repeat offenders should face the prospect of hard prison time if they continue to flaunt the law.
Source: 1995 State of the State Address, Austin TX Feb 7, 1995

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