Robert Ladd and Ricky Ray Rector

The State of Texas executed a man with an IQ of 67 last night; the second such controversial execution this week following Georgia’s killing of intellectually disabled Warren Hill on Tuesday.  All this has reminded me:

Back in January of ’92, in the midst of controversy regarding Gennifer Flowers, whom Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton would admit six years later to having an affair with, the President-to-be found it necessary to take a break from his primary campaign in New Hampshire to travel east to his home state and physically oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector.

Rector had murdered two men 11 years earlier; one of them a police officer he had known since he was a child, and whose trust he abused in order to shoot him in the back. After killing the officer, Rector walked calmly out of the house and attempted to take his own life — but he failed, and the result was effectively a self-inflicted lobotomy, the gun shot destroying his frontal lobe. He was ruled able to stand trial when experts offered conflicting testimonies as regards to his mental state, and then sentenced to death. However, when asked prior to the scheduled lethal injection why he was not eating the dessert of his last meal, Rector replied that he was saving it for “after the execution.” With Bill Clinton standing by — I imagine in earnest, estimating how valuable this death was going to be to his presidential bid — the State of Arkansas fumbled for 50 minutes, stabbing and re-stabbing Rector with the needle in order to find a working vein while he painfully moaned, until they at last ended him.

Clinton made a risky, but calculated decision to stop mid-campaign and ensure this cop-killer was put down for good. He looked tough on crime, the Flowers scandal temporarily disappeared — though it would later resurface amid further depravities — and after making a point to personally witness the execution of a mentally handicapped black man, Clinton went on to become one of the most popular Presidents ever.

I doubt the same fate awaits Texas Governor Greg Abbott; but I will preempt all criticism of the Republican Party, and of Texas, by first agreeing with that criticism, and by second adding to it the fact that Robert Ladd, like Ricky Ray Rector, like Warren Hill, is yet another black victim of a very bipartisan tradition.


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