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COLUMN: Condemned man pulled no trigger

By Chris Castillo

Special to The News

On March 28, the State of Texas is planning to execute Patrick Murphy. He was not present in the building when Officer Audrey Hawkins was murdered in the Dallas area, he was not the shooter.

Murphy is being executed because he was one of the “Texas 7,” the name given to the seven men who in 2000 organized the largest prison breakout in Texas history. After escaping from prison, the men broke into a sporting goods store where Hawkins was killed.

The ringleader of the escape, George Rivas, later admitted to shooting the officer. Murphy was on the other side of the building as the lookout and, while he warned the others when Hawkins arrived, there was no indication he ever fired a shot.

If executed, he will die because of the law of parties. The law states that a person is criminally responsible for the actions of another if they are engaged in a conspiracy. Patrick Murphy is the second-to-last remaining member of the notorious “Texas 7.”

Two bills are currently being considered by the state legislature that would remove the death penalty as a sentencing option for those convicted of capital murder as a party under Section 7.02(b) of the Texas Penal Code, which if passed would update the law of parties.

I am a crime victim. My mother was murdered in Houston in 1991 and I am against the death penalty.

I guess, looking back, I can see how a group of people could be equally culpable for a crime. I recall when as a teen that my friend and I had purchased matching knives. One night we carried them out with us when we went to a Taco Bell. A guy from another group looked at us funny and things almost escalated. It was in that moment that I could see how just having a weapon, for some people, could cause an incident to escalate.

This isn’t the case for Murphy. He was not at the scene of the crime when the killing occurred. He had no idea the group was going to kill Hawkins and therefore was not guilty of that crime.

So what is proven by killing Murphy? That Texas has stricter laws than any other state? That we are more bloodthirsty and we will seek out revenge at any cost — no matter what the circumstances?

Anybody can kill. It takes a wiser, more learned person, to sit back and evaluate the circumstances and determine when not to use force. This is one of those times.

Please do your part in getting rid of the law of parties by contacting the governor and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole to see that this man does not die for a crime he did not commit. End this outdated law.

Let’s use our brains and stop killing innocent people under the guise of justice.

Call Gov. Greg Abbot at 512-463-2000 and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles at 512-406-5452 to make a difference.

 

Chris Castillo is coordinator of chaplain volunteers with the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont and a member of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.