Texas to Execute Man 32 Years After the Crime; Many Say He’s Not the Same Person

Posted on Jun 04, 2010

Texas to Execute Man 32 Years After the Crime; Many Say He's Not the Same Person

David Powell (pictured left), who was sentenced to death in 1978 for the shooting of Austin police officer Ralph Ablanedo (pictured below), faces execution in Texas on June 15. During his 30 years on death row, Powell has shown sincere remorse and regret for his actions. In 2009, Powell wrote to Officer Ablanedo’s family: “I am infinitely sorry that I killed Ralph Ablanedo. I shot Officer Ablanedo and I take responsibility for his death. In a few frightful seconds, I stole from you and the world the precious and irreplaceable life of a good man, and destroyed your worlds of shared love, dreams, and possibilities….There is no excuse for what I did….In thirty-one years of imprisonment, I have had much time to contemplate my sin.” Powell’s story is told in a recent report from Amnesty International (see below).

Although some police officers in Austin continue to support Powell’s execution, at least one officer has said Powell is no longer the same person who committed the murder. This police officer, who generally supports the death penalty, stated: “I think David should have paid for his decisions and his crime with his life 25 years ago. I do not think that putting him to death today will serve any good purpose. The death penalty should be a deterrent to horrific crime, a message that such crimes will not be tolerated, and a means to ensure that someone who is capable of such crimes cannot repeat that behaviour ever again. That message loses its potency when 30 years pass before the sentence is carried out. The fact is, though,… the man who will be put to death for the killing of Ralph Ablanedo is not the man who committed the crime. This David Powell is an elderly man who has shown what I believe to be true understanding and remorse for his crime. This is a man who, in my feeble view, would not be any type of menace to society today and is not, in even any small way, the guy who killed that cop 32 years ago. Texas missed its opportunity to put that man to death and, in my view, accomplishes absolutely nothing in carrying out that man’s sentence on this man now….”

(“People can Change. Will Texas?,” Amnesty International, June 3, 2010). See also Clemency.