Who deserves to die?

For many of us, the answer is nebulous. Do all murderers deserve to die? Or are there mitigating circumstances that would elicit mercy? There are laws in place to help Texas juries decide. In Texas, the death penalty can be handed down if two requirements are met. One, it must be a capital crime- like the murder of a police officer or a small child. Secondly, it can be reasonably believed that for as long as the defendant walks this earth, they will continue to be a danger to society and commit further violent acts.

There is no doubt that Brent Ray Brewer committed the capital crime of his conviction. In the course of committing a violent robbery, he took the life of a man whose only mistake was showing kindness to two strangers

On April 26, 1990, then 19-year-old Brent Brewer and his girlfriend, Kristie Nystrom, approached Robert Laminack outside his flooring store in Amarillo, Texas and asked for a ride to the Salvation Army. Laminack invited the young couple to get in his truck; Nystrom took the front seat, and Brewer sat in the back. While en route, Brewer grabbed Laminack and began to stab him in the neck with a butterfly knife. Laminack begged for his life while obeying Brewer’s demand to hand over his keys and wallet. He was wounded in the carotid artery and jugular vein. After losing consciousness, he bled to death.

Brewer's bloody fingerprints were found on the knife and inside the truck. Witnesses saw him covered in blood. This is a horrible and senseless crime of violence, but did the State prove that Brewer would be violent again? Some say the use of "junk science" is what put Brewer on Death Row- and for that reason, his sentence should be commuted. We will take a look at that "junk" science and other evidence brought by the State- and then I'll let you decide if Brewer deserves to die as scheduled on November 9th, 2023. 

Getty Images/ TX Dept of Corrections
Getty Images/ TX Dept of Corrections

For me, I would need a list of provable "priors" to determine for myself if a person was likely to act violently again. And I would need context for those priors. Some people have terrible luck and have to defend themselves more than once, for instance.

During Brewer's death sentence appeal, prosecutors brought up three previous "bad acts." The acts were the possession of a knife (which seems weak for a "bad act" to me), an assault on his stepfather, which Brewer contends was in defense of his mother, and an assault on his high school girlfriend which temporarily paralyzed her. The last act might be enough to sway me that he is a continuously violent person unless it could somehow be proved it was an accident.

If the forensics were solid, what was the "junk science" used? A psychiatrist, who never met with Brewer, testified that Brewer was likely to join a prison gang and continue to act out violently. The methodology he used to come to this conclusion has been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association. The same psychiatrist testified at Brewer's appeal. Only the jury really knows if it was his testimony that made them decide to give Brewer the death penalty- twice.

Brewer is one of a few men who are/ were scheduled to be executed in Texas this year. Most recently Jedidiah Murphy was executed on October 10th, and William Speer was granted a stay of of execution. Time will tell if Brewer will have to pay the ultimate price this year.

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