Osbaldo Torres DOC# 243147
PO Box 97
2004-05-18 The Claremore Progress
With courage, Governor Brad Henry saved Oklahoma from a bloodbath of international attacks and image damage by commuting the death sentence of Mexican national Osbaldo Torres.
But courage has dangers. A large sector of Oklahoma voters favor the death penalty. Henry’s opponents no doubt will twist the commutation to a lying vision that the governor is soft on crime.
Torres, now to serve life imprisonment without parole, had been sentenced to death for killing an Oklahoma City couple. Mexico officially protested the execution. That country has outlawed the death penalty and there were doubts that international law was followed in handling Torres.
The specter of Torres’ execution additionally triggered protests at the state capital and increasingly widespread and hostile international news reporting.
None of these boosts Oklahoma’s reputation as a fine Christian place to locate businesses, prosper and to raise families. However, Torres’ act of murder admittedly is unforgivable and mars the image.
The parting of the waters is that Torres acted as an individual.
Executing Torres would have constituted a third killing. But, this time, performed by the State of Oklahoma representing all 3.1 million individuals living in the state.
Passions that drove Torres — and most killers of their fellow humans — to murder is generally a mixture of unanswered madness.
What drives a state to execute its felons is similarly puzzling. Public attitudes are split and sharply divided.
Of all criminals, murderers have been shown the least likely to ever commit crime again. Drug peddlers, burglars, shoplifters, rapists, kidnappers and robbers are the most likely recidivists.
Is capital punishment simply to punish (an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth)? Or do backers see it as a deterrent to future crime? Is society executing the wrong class of criminals? Should the State become a killer of its own citizenry?
In Torres case, these were not the most vital questions that Henry pondered. Those are not what led to his decision to commute the death sentence. Capital punishment remains a viable issue that people across Oklahoma must decide they want or would shun.
In fact, the governor handed Torres something worse than death: life behind bars! Freedom gone! Torres, at age 18, was involved in something that will haunt him for the remainder of his life. His life is over without the public executing him.
In putting Torres to death, Henry foresaw a blizzard of attacks; major international problems; mountains of legal expenses; invaluable court time swallowed, and Oklahoma pictured as a blood-thirsty state without pity, forgiveness or people who follow the commandment of “Thou shalt not kill.” This state doesn’t need that.
With courage, Henry did the right thing last Thursday.