Report: Texas Juries, Not Lawmakers, are Phasing Out the Death Penalty

A total of seven people were sentenced to death row this year, continuing a downward trend that started around the year 2000, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"Our state has gone from a peak of 48 death verdicts in 1999 to less than ten death sentences a year" Kristen Houle says.

The head of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says the decline can directly be linked to a move by the State Legislature in 2005, giving juries the choice of life without parole in capital murder cases.  Since then, she says prosecutors are seeking the death penalty far less often.  About one-third of cases where death was on table, juries have opted to life without parole.

And while she says the decline is a welcome trend, their annual report, out today, shows some troubling trends.

"The death penalty continues to be arbitrarily applied, based largely on geography, and it's disproportionally imposed on people of color."

All seven of the men sentenced to death this year are people of color.

In 2018, Texas executed 13.  And while that matches historic low numbers, Houle says Texas still outpaces other states in executions.  

For perspective, in 2000, Texas executed 40 death row prisoners.

This year, a jury in Atascosa County rejected the death penalty for the man who killed San Antonio Police Officer Bobby Deckard.


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