Dubya's DNA Straw Man

000602 bush death penalty
Ricky Nolen McGinn, who was supposed to be executed in early June, got another month to live. But now, according to a report in USA Today, the DNA has been tested. McGinn was not absolved, and his appeals are up.

The evidence against the convicted killer is overwhelming. Largely grasping at straws, defense attorneys had hoped to cast doubt on an aggravating factor in the murder conviction for which McGinn is sentenced to die: that he raped his 12-year-old stepdaughter before killing her back in 1993.

Lest you were confused by media reports, many of which suggested there were doubts about his guilt, McGinn would have spent the rest of his life in prison even if the DNA tests had absolved him of the rape (which they did not.) His lawyers were simply trying to spare him the death penalty by attacking the aggravating circumstance.

But why did Texas Gov. George W. Bush give him a reprieve? There cannot be any doubt that campaign politics had everything to do with it.

Speaking to Catholic journalists in Baltimore in May, Bush said he supported DNA testing to "erase any doubts" in death penalty cases.

McGinn    (AP)SIZE>
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee evidently doesn't see the deep irony inherent in a call to "eliminate doubt" from a death penalty case after conviction. Shouldn't the jury have exercised this standard in the first place?

That aside, Texas executed 35 inmates last year, the most in the nation. And the Lone Star State is ahead of that pace with 20 executions so far this year. Bush has spared only one condemned inmate in the 5 1/2 years he has been governor, rejecting pleas from the Vatican, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and officials of foreign countries whose citizens have been executed in Texas.

So why McGinn? Could it be that Bush knew - as all of us should - that the case against this man is overwhelming? And when the DNA is tested, there still will be one man responsible for this brutal murder?

It is hard to believe that Bush's actions in the McGinn case are little more than a political ploy. He has set up a straw man to avoid further scrutiny as more inmates come up for execution during the campaign season.

In Texas, Bush said recently: "I don't believe we've executed a single innocent person. If the DNA testing helps to settle a case, or erase any doubts or concerns, we would support that."

In McGinn's case, Bush will be right. But we must keep watch, because there are many still waiting to die.