Katherine O'Shea

Shooting survivor Rais Bhuiyan takes on Texas Governor Perry as his attacker prepares for execution

on 20 July 2011

Rais Bhuiyan

The victim of a post-9/11 ‘hate crime’ will today ask a federal court to order the Governor of Texas to comply with the much-lauded Texas Victims’ Bill of Rights, hours before his attacker is due to die.

Shooting survivor Rais Bhuiyan is today suing Governor Rick Perry for multiple violations of his rights during the 2002 trial of his attacker Mark Stroman. The ground-breaking lawsuit will be heard by a federal court in Austin at 10am local time, with Stroman's execution scheduled to take place across the state in Huntsville later this evening.

Among other claims, Mr. Bhuiyan is urgently seeking an order for his constitutional rights to victim-offender mediation to be immediately restored. Texas has thus far refused Mr Buiyhan's requests to meet with, and formally forgive, his attacker before his execution. Mr Bhuiyan, who was shot in the face by Mr Stroman but forgave him many years ago, insists that this refusal by Texas has prevented him from healing.

But in a stunning counter-argument filed last night by the state, Texas officials claimed that the rights enshrined by the Texas Victims’ Bill of Rights – a bill that has been much championed by Governor Perry -- are merely “symbolic”, and are neither intended to be enforced nor genuinely to help victims and their communities to heal.

Governor Perry’s legal team argues: “Even though Art. 56.13 suggests that TDCJ “shall  . . . provide mediation services” as described in Art. 56.02...; he does not have a right to have victim offender mediation. In any case, the “right” is essentially symbolic...”

This argument will make little sense to the Texan victims whom Governor Perry’s bill was intended to assist. Proud Texans may also be baffled by the Governor's decision to kick the case from state court to federal court, a bizarre move from a Governor who vociferously supports states' rights to govern their own affairs. The move reads like an attempt to distance the Governor from Rais Bhuiyan on the eve of his Mark Stroman's execution, which is due to take place in Huntsville, Texas on 20th July.

Today's hearing, which will take place before Judge Yeakel at 10am at the Federal District Courthouse, 200 West 8th Street, Courtroom 1, Austin, TX 78701 will be the State of Texas's opportunity to remedy this absurd situation by restoring the constitutional rights of Rais Bhuiyan and of all victims of violent crimes in Texas.

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