No place for mitigation
Carroll Parr grew up in extreme poverty, in a family of chronic abusers. His mother, reportedly first pregnant before turning eight, drank excessively while carrying him, and once he was born the abuse continued – not only at the hands of his mother and father, but also by an older sister, who testified in court that on several occasions she even tried to kill him. The abuse took its toll; eventually, his sister testified, Parr would sit and rock back and forth and "hit his head against things" in response to violence in the home.
By the age of 11, Parr was on the streets, living among drug dealers, and he began to earn money dealing. It was Parr's continued involvement in drugs that would eventually send him to death row. According to records, in 2003 Parr arranged a drug deal in Waco that morphed into a robbery that went sideways and ended in the shooting of two dealers, Joel Dominguez and Mario Chavez; Chavez lived but Dominguez died. At trial, Chavez testified against Parr, as did Parr's friend and accomplice, Earl Whiteside. Parr was convicted and sentenced to die.
On appeal Parr's defense argued, in part, that Texas' instructions for jurors regarding mitigating evidence are so confounding as to provide no assurance that such evidence – of the extreme violence Parr faced as a child and the squalor he was raised in, including that he grew up without running water and was often fed "baked dirt" for meals – could be effectively weighed. The courts, however, have denied each of Parr's appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court in January declined to consider his case.
If executed as scheduled on May 7, Parr would become the 497th inmate executed since reinstatement of the death penalty. As planned, on April 26 the state executed Richard Cobb (see "Death Watch," April 19). "Life is death, death is life," Cobb said in his final statement. "I hope that someday this absurdity that humanity has come to will come to ... an end."