WILL BUNCH: I watched all of last night’s rather predictable and not particularly game changing GOP presidential last night. As the dust settles, I honestly couldn’t tell you who the “winner” was. I can tell you who lost, though: Basic human decency. Not to mention America’s reputation as a nation built on virtues like justice and fairness. This shocking new low came near the end of the debate when moderator Brian Williams of NBC News asked Texas Gov. Rick Perry to defend his record of executions — 234, more than any other governor in modern history — during his tenure in Austin. The mere mention that Perry had made what was once considered a solemn decision to sign off on the state-sanction deaths of 234 human beings caused the audience to break into sustained applause. Just watch the video [above]. It was utterly sickening to watch. When Perry — who recently vetoed a bill that would halt the execution of the mentally ill — told the audience that anyone convicted of murder in the Lone Star State faces “the ultimate justice,” the applause grew even louder. MORE

TEXAS TRIBUNE: As Gov. Rick Perry touts his tough-on-crime policies on the national political stage, the case of Cameron Todd Willingham will continue to be scrutinized. Scientists have raised questions about whether Willingham set the blaze that killed his three daughters and led to his 2004 execution. But Willingham’s execution is not the only controversial one the governor has presided over. During nearly 11 years in office, Perry has overseen 234 executions — by far the most of any recent governor in the United States — and has rarely used his power to grant clemency. He has granted 31 death row commutations; most of those — 28 — were the result of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision banning capital punishment for minors. Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the governor can only grant clemency when the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles — whose members Perry appoints — recommends that action. He has only disagreed with the board three times when it recommended clemency in death penalty cases, she said. “The governor takes his clemency authority very seriously, and considers the total facts of every case before making a decision,” she said. (Independent of the board, the governor may grant a one-time 30-day reprieve delaying an execution; Perry has issued one reprieve.) To his critics, his parsimonious use of clemency is notable because of continuing concerns about the ability of prisoners facing capital charges in Texas to retain quality legal representation, the execution of those who were minors when they committed their crimes, the ability of some prisoners to intellectually understand their punishment and the international ramifications of executing foreign nationals. The Texas Tribune has compiled a database of all the executions in Texas under Perry’s leadership. Below, some of the most controversial, by category. MORE

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