Guarding Death's Door

The death penalty is under attack. Scores have been wrongly convicted of capital crimes, and most Americans believe at least one innocent has been executed. Who can fix the system? Meet Texas district attorney Ronnie Earle

On March 20, a man named Keith Clay died in Texas. His death was largely unremarkable except for one thing: he was the 300th person executed in Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized capital punishment in 1976. One need not ignore the savagery of his crimes--prosecutors said Clay stood by while a friend murdered a father and his two kids on Christmas Eve 1993, 11 days before Clay himself butchered a store clerk--to pause at his execution.

Three hundred is an impressive milestone, not only because it exceeds the number of executions in the next five top death-penalty states combined,...

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