News Release

Bush gaffe alarms criminal defense bar

Houston, TX (October 20, 2000) -- In his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman last night, presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush said that a person in Texas can't get the death penalty until they've committed two capital (death penalty-eligible) crimes. So maybe the system in Texas isn't as bad as it seems, right? Wrong.

"First, what he said is a contradiction in terms," said Edward Mallett, a Houston criminal defense lawyer who currently serves as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "If the first offense a person commits doesn't make him eligible for the death penalty, then it's not a capital case."

"And second, he's factually incorrect," Mallett said. Texas law does in fact allow a person to be sentenced to death when charged with murder for the first time.

Bush has continued to express confidence that wrongful convictions do not occur in Texas, despite reports this week of a study finding serious problems in Texas death penalty cases and of a confession letter which cleared two men who are currently imprisoned, but has been ignored by Bush's office since its receipt in 1998.

"NACDL and Texas criminal defense lawyers are concerned about Governor Bush's grasp of the issues, to say the least," said Mallett. 

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.