Opponents of the death penalty say their time has come.
One of the bills introduced in day one of the new Legislative session would abolish capital punishment in Texas, making life in prison without the possibility of parole, retiring the gurney in the state which has executed more people by far than any other state in the union.
"Each time the Legislature meets, more and more legislators get on board with the idea of ending the death penalty," said Scott Cobb, who heads the Texas Moratorium Network, which has been fighting for decades to bring an end to capital punishment in Texas. Once it seemed like a forlorn quest, but now, there are more and more signs that the goal may be in reach.
For the first time ever, more than half of Americans who self-identify as 'conservative' say they oppose capital punishment, meaning the death penalty is losing its clout as a social issue.
Cobb says there are three things which have caused Americans to fall out of love with capital punishment.
One is the obvious racial and income divisions, with poor and minority Americans far more likely to be second to death.
One that has hit home in Texas recently has been the number of people who have been sentenced to death, and in many cases have spent long decades on Death Row, only to be exonerated by new technology and released.
And the third and most recent item which has turned more people off from capital punishment is its use in what is called 'The Law of Parties,' meaning that a person who 'participates' in a crime is just as guilty as the person who actually commits a crime.
Most egregious is the case of a Kerrville man who is awaiting execution for the murder of a gas station clerk. He wasn't even in the room when the victim was murdered, had no idea that his friend was planning to kill the clerk, and didn't even know the man had a gun, but he was sentenced to death because a jury determined that as the driver who had taken the killer to the scene, he was a 'participant' in the capital murder.
Survey after survey has shown that the death penalty does nothing to dissuade people from committing crimes, even premeditated murders. Repeatedly studies show that it is not the severity of punishment or the length of the jail sentence that impacts whether a crime is committed, it is the certainty of punishment. As police officers are fond of saying, 'if they thought they would get caught, they wouldn't do it.'
Also...Texas juries are voting with their feet away from capital punishment. Texas is on track to have the fewest number of peopel sentenced to death in thirty years in 2016, and the number of executions carried out this year, as more questions are raised about capital punishment, is also appoaching its lowest level in decades.