Executions in Texas reach milestone of 500

Professor Rick Halperin, director of SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program and a longtime opponent of the death penalty, talks about the 500th execution in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated.

On June 26, 2013, Kimberly McCarthy became the 500th person to be executed in Texas since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume after a legally enforced hiatus. 

Rick HalperinSince that time, Texas has carried out 40 percent of the more than 1,300 executions in the United States.

“At 500 and counting, that’s certainly more than any of the other state – actually, more than the next six states combined. But that grim milestone doesn’t come close to a contextual realization of what’s happening here,” says Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program and a longtime opponent of the death penalty.

The United States ranks among the top five execution jurisdictions in the world – which include China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia – and is the only G8 nation that still administers capital punishment.

“Human rights are not meant only for the innocent or the weak,” Halperin says.

“Condemned inmates are the easiest group in this country to disregard. But until we abolish the death penalty, we will never be free people committed to the defense, protection and advocacy of all people.”

McCarthy was convicted of the 1997 murder of her neighbor, 71-year-old retired college professor Dorothy Booth of Lancaster, Texas.

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