The Controversial History and Practice of the Death Penalty in Texas

Texas and the Death Penalty

While most Texans say that they support the death penalty, a significant number believe that Texas has executed innocent people. This finding is especially strong among Blacks, other ethnic groups and younger respondents.

In the state of Texas, convicted death row inmates can appeal their sentence through the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the governor has the power to grant clemency.


From gripping courtroom dramas to heart-pounding moments of redemption, Texas’s history with capital punishment is a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It’s a story of wrongful convictions, botched executions and countless tales of innocence that defy belief.

From the start of the modern era of capital punishment in 1976 until 1998, Texas executed more people than any other state—and more than four times as many as Virginia, the second-highest executioner.

The state’s first execution using lethal injection was performed in 1982. Today, 184 inmates remain on Texas’ death row, including seven women. Although the death penalty is now at historic lows across the country, Texas still hands down and executes more death sentences than any other state—and it applies those sentences more disproportionately to racial minorities.


In Texas, as in most states, individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It’s the prosecutor’s job to show that someone committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and it’s the defense attorney’s job to challenge evidence and raise any possible points of innocence.

In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that juries should be allowed to consider mitigating evidence when they decide whether a defendant should live or die. But juries are only given three limited questions, so they can’t truly take into account factors like mental retardation or child abuse.

When lawyers for a condemned prisoner exhaust all legal appeals, they can file a petition with the Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend clemency. The governor has clemency authority but is not obligated to follow the board’s advice. If he or she grants clemency, the offender’s execution is delayed for 30 days. The board members are appointed by the governor. For more information about the judicial system in Texas, visit FindLaw’s Texas Law section.


The Texas criminal justice system allows for several avenues of appeal after a conviction and execution. Depending on the case, this can include filing a petition with the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the governor, or a one-time 120 day reprieve from an upcoming execution.

The prosecution can also choose not to seek the death penalty for a capital crime. This can be for a number of reasons including family members requesting that the death penalty not be sought, prosecutors believing they could not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, or evidence that the offender was under the age of 18 at the time of the offense (i.e. the victim was a child).

The use of DNA evidence is also becoming more common, though DNA testing has not proven innocence in any case. Nonetheless, many people who are convicted of a crime in Texas might not be there had mitigating factors such as mental illness or youth been considered.


Once a date for an execution is set, the prisoner’s legal team will file a series of final appeals. These are typically reviewed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Many of these cases also go to a federal district judge, who can grant a 30-day stay of the execution.

If no stays are granted, the execution is carried out. Usually, friends and family of the victim witness the process. Prison officials will allow media witnesses to view the execution, although they can not have direct contact or voice vocal prayers during the procedure.

Recently, TDCJ officials have released documents that show the department is woefully unprepared to execute an inmate. The documents reveal that the agency has trouble sourcing the drugs needed for the lethal injection. This may have contributed to the recent drop in executions. It is also believed that the lower number of executions could be related to better-trained indigent defense lawyers, and the ability to raise mitigating circumstances for an alleged killer’s crime.

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The Death Penalty: A Controversial Form of Punishment

The Death Penalty

The death penalty is a form of punishment where the convict is executed for serious crimes. Some people support it because of the ‘eye for an eye’ philosophy. Others think it is cruel and unjust.

The death penalty is an affront to human rights and the right to life. It is also ineffective as a deterrent. Moreover, it has been proven that innocent people are executed.

It is a form of punishment

The death penalty is a form of punishment used by states to punish people who commit serious crimes, such as murder. It can be imposed by Congress or state legislatures. In the US, the death penalty was used frequently until the 1960s, when it became a target of moral, legal, and political opposition. Many scholars have found that the death penalty is inconsistently and unequally applied, and that racial and economic factors influence sentencing decisions.

In recent years, a growing number of states have abolished the death penalty, either through legislation or court rulings. These states include New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009), Colorado (2020), Washington (2018), and Delaware (2016). Many organizations are working to end the use of the death penalty, including the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Innocence Project, which provides free DNA testing to wrongfully convicted prisoners with the goal of winning their exoneration. Law enforcement professionals overwhelmingly agree that the death penalty does not deter crime. In fact, police chiefs rank the death penalty lowest among ways to reduce violent crime.

It is a deterrent

Despite the lack of a scientifically established deterrent effect, the death penalty continues to be used around the world. It is often used for crimes other than murder, such as drug offences. Nevertheless, people have strong intuitive feelings that the death penalty will deter murder.

Those who support the death penalty rely on the argument that other punishments, such as life without parole, do not provide sufficient deterrence. They also argue that it is an effective method of lowering the murder rate. But the truth is that many studies have found no such effects.

Ehrlich’s study was criticized by other researchers who experimented with different assumptions and time periods. Ultimately, they concluded that his results were not valid. Moreover, the imposition of the death penalty denies due process and is imposed disproportionately against victims who are white and offenders who are black, and against those who are poor. It is also irrevocable, denying a defendant the opportunity to benefit from new evidence or legal changes that could reduce his or her conviction and sentence.

It is a form of justice

In the United States, the death penalty is the punishment for murder and other crimes involving violence. A majority of Americans support it, though the numbers vary by racial and religious affiliation. Support for the death penalty is higher among white evangelical Protestants than other Protestants. Moreover, it is favored by Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated.

In recent years, several Supreme Court rulings have narrowed the scope of the death penalty. The Court ruled that the existing laws violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The decision also affirmed the right of juries to choose whether or not a defendant is eligible for the death penalty.

Despite this, many people are wrongfully sentenced to death and spend years on death row. Several of these individuals have been found to be innocent, and 156 people have been released from death row in the United States since 1973. Innocent prisoners often have mental disabilities and have been subjected to unfair trials.

It is a form of retribution

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment or judicial murder, is the state-sanctioned killing of an offender as a punishment for a crime. It is a form of retribution that expresses society’s denunciation of the offender and its outrage at their conduct. However, it is difficult to justify capital punishment on utilitarian grounds alone, since executions are not merely retributive but can also express or communicate conflicting messages.

Several nonprofit organizations are working to abolish the death penalty, including the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Innocence Project, which helps to win exoneration for wrongfully convicted prisoners. In the United States, opinions about the death penalty vary by political affiliation, education level and race and ethnicity. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to support the death penalty for convicted murderers. In addition, people with less formal education are more likely to support the death penalty than those with at least a high school diploma.

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The Death Penalty: Constitutional, Arbitrary, Capricious, and Discriminatory

Death Penalty Overturned in California

In just the past 19 years, judges have reversed 34 death sentences in California. Most of those reversals occurred because of judicial errors such as giving improper instructions to jurors or allowing inadmissible evidence.

However, since the conservative majority on the court took office, it has refused to intervene in these cases. That’s a big problem.

The Death Penalty is Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty infringes on the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In Furman v. Georgia, the Court commutated the sentences of 629 people on death row.

Since then, the Court has allowed states to revive capital punishment so long as their laws provided an objective process for determining when it should be applied and enough discretion to ensure that it is not arbitrary or racially biased. The Court has also barred executions of certain groups, including children and people with mental illness or disability that prevents them from showing the level of culpability required for a death sentence.

Now, with a new conservative majority and a sped-up timetable for executions, the justices have closed the door to many petitions by death row prisoners seeking a review of their cases. This is a disturbing pattern, and it may signal that the court has stopped functioning as the “overseer of last resort” in matters of life or death.

The Death Penalty is Arbitrary

When the government decides who lives and dies for what amounts to the same crime, it is bound to make mistakes. That is why Furman declared that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. Unfortunately, four years later the Court shifted course in Gregg v. Georgia and other cases to revive the death penalty as a constitutionally permissible state power.

The Supreme Court’s shift to a hardline position is troubling. Its conservative majority shows hostility to any limits on capital punishment, and it has ignored claims of racial bias or errors that should have overturned federal death sentences such as those of Rejon Taylor.

The Supreme Court should use its power to ensure that no one is executed unless it meets the Constitution’s requirements. This means ensuring that the justices who make the decisions have the skills and resources to carry out this critical role. The justices need to be able to review evidence and consider the full details of each case. They should not simply rely on rote adherence to an outdated legal standard and ignore the arbitrary nature of the death penalty.

The Death Penalty is Capricious

In a single, one paragraph decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. The Court centered its objections on the method of selection of which murders would receive the ultimate punishment, finding that the state’s procedures were so arbitrary and capricious that they violated the Constitution.

The Court cited the examples of an armed burglar who tripped and accidentally fired his gun killing the victim and a man who killed his fiancee’s son for a large monetary reward. The Court also pointed out that the statutory aggravating factors do not adequately explain how murders committed for monetary gain, or for other reasons, can be more deserving of the death penalty than those committed for any other reason.

But the court’s decision was a pyrrhic victory for opponents of the death penalty. The number of people who have been spared from execution since the Furman decision is still abysmally low – only 629 in all of America, and not even all those on death row.

The Death Penalty is Discriminatory

In reality, the death penalty is imposed disproportionately upon those whose victims are white, offenders who are people of color, and poor and powerless defendants – the very same defendants that studies show most likely do not benefit from the deterrent effect of capital punishment. It is also imposed upon those who are unlikely to be able to afford the best legal representation available, as well as those with mental health or substance abuse problems that limit their ability to participate in their own defense.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Furman v. Georgia, which overturned 629 death sentences nationwide, was the result of a successful strategy devised by TCADP Inc. Fund lawyers to challenge the justices’ own rules that allow capital-sentenced defendants to prove only that a particular actor or actors in their individual case committed an equal protection violation. This has enabled states to ignore racial disparities that are systematic in nature, such as the use of the “Texas Shuffle” and other racially biased jury selection practices to exclude or limit potential African American jurors.

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Federal Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Pittsburgh Synagogue Attacker

The Same Federal Jury That Recommends Robert Bowers to Death For the Tree of Life Synagogue Attack Recommended Wednesday

The death penalty is expensive, and siphons off money that could be better spent fighting crime. It also limits due process and curtails appeals, the only means to correct serious miscarriages of justice.

Recidivism among convicted murderers does occur, but that is far less frequent than most people believe. The best way to prevent recidivism is through life without parole.

PITTSBURGH (CBS) — A judge formally imposed a death sentence on a man convicted of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The same jury that convicted Robert Bowers on all 63 federal charges last month recommended he be put to death for the attack that killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Prosecutors said he exhibited the required level of intent and premeditation for a death penalty sentence. But defense attorneys argued that Bowers suffers from major mental illness, including schizophrenia, and therefore lacks the necessary intent.

As the judge read the verdict, relatives of the victims fought back tears and comforted each other. Bowers, 50, showed no reaction as the jurors affirmed their votes.

Rabbi Olshan described the federal trial as both difficult for families and a “necessary accounting.” She added that while no verdict can bring back the victims, it will help prevent the shooter from gaining notoriety and being an inspiration for others who share his antisemitic beliefs. The formal sentencing is set for Thursday and will include victims’ family members who are expected to speak publicly.

A federal jury in the trial of the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooter has decided he is eligible for the death penalty.

The same federal jury that convicted Robert Bowers on 63 criminal counts recommended Wednesday that he be put to death for the deadliest antisemitic attack on U.S. soil. Bowers, 50, stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Oct. 27, 2018, killing 11 worshippers and wounding a dozen more, including five responding police officers.

Prosecutors focused on the shooter’s documented history of antisemitism throughout his trial and argued that it proved he had the requisite intent to kill. The defense unsuccessfully tried to argue that mental illness and delusional beliefs led to the massacre.

Survivors and family members of victims were in the courtroom to hear the verdict, which came after more than 10 hours of deliberations. The jurors agreed that Bowers planned his attack, committed a premeditated act, and selected targets that were vulnerable, elderly or disabled. They also agreed that there are aggravating factors such as the scope of the murders, lack of remorse and injury to surviving victims.

James Barber was executed for the beating death of Dorothy Epps in Alabama’s first lethal injection since difficulties inserting IVs led to a halt.

Using drugs that suppress breathing, James Barber, 64, was executed at an Alabama prison. He was convicted of beating Dorothy Epps, 75, to death with a claw hammer and fleeing with her purse in 2001.

The state resumed executions after governor Kay Ivey paused them in November to review procedures. Barber’s execution was the first since then.

He made a last statement and spoke with a spiritual adviser who was with him in the death chamber. Then he was given the lethal injection, which is the same one used in other states.

Across the country, majorities of adults support the death penalty for murderers. But opinions differ by party, education and race and ethnicity. For example, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely to support the death penalty than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Similarly, Whites are more likely to support it than Blacks. And people with less education are more likely to support it than those with a college degree or higher.

CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane has more.

Every day people around the world are sentenced to death for a wide range of crimes. Many are convicted after trials that fall short of international standards, including torture-tainted evidence and inadequate legal representation. Others languish on death row for years, not knowing when their last day will be.

CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane covers the justice system for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. He has won multiple awards for his work, including a Wade H. McCree award for journalism about the justice system. His work on teacher licensing loopholes, child sexual abuse allegations and thoroughbred horse racing deaths has gained national attention. He has also investigated a congressional firestorm that resulted in the resignation of U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Prior to joining CBS News, he was a political and enterprise reporter for local TV stations in Cleveland and Detroit. He has also hosted a syndicated radio talk show. MacFarlane is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.

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