The Chicago Tribune, in an investigative report on the Texas death penalty, said the Lone Star state's trying of capital cases was as flawed as in Illinois, where Gov. George Ryan placed a moratorium on executions in January after 13 death row inmates were found innocent within the past decade.
Seven condemned inmates were exonerated in Texas in the same period. Since becoming governor in 1995, Bush has granted clemency to just once converting a death sentence to life in prison.
Texas scheduled three executions this week. Thomas Wayne Mason was to die by lethal injection Monday evening for the 1991 slayings of the mother and grandmother of his estranged wife. With 457 inmates on death row, Texas is second in the nation in the number of condemned prisoners behind California's 568 death row inmates.
At a church service in Maine Sunday, Bush said there was no problem with the way Texas handles capital cases. In the past, Bush has said he saw no reason for Texas, which has executed 218 inmates since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, to halt executions to review the state's legal process.
The Tribune said in 43 cases condemned prisoners were executed even though they were represented by defense attorneys who had been or later were disbarred, suspended or sanctioned. In 23 cases, convictions or death sentences came after unreliable testimony from a jailhouse informant.
The report found in the sentencing phase of 40 capital cases defense lawyers presented no evidence or called a single witness. Prosecutors in at least 29 cases presented psychiatric testimony that predicted future violence by the defendant although the psychiatrist often had not seen the inmate.
"In most of these cases, the examining psychiatrist offered this opinion without ever examining the defendant. Although this kind of testimony is sometimes used in other states, the American Psychiatric Association has condemned it as unethical and untrustworthy," the Tribune said.