Saturday, October 27, 2012

Texas death sentences on the decline

According to the Waco Tribune, the frequency with which prosecutors seek the death penalty has steadily declined in Texas, the state with the busiest execution chamber. In 2005, a new law took effect providing for life without parole in capital murder cases.

Thirty-six new inmates were sent to death row in Texas in 2002. Nine years later, that number was eight.  So far in 2012 there have been six murderers sentenced to death in Texas.

There are 295 inmates on death row in Texas.  Texas has carried out 11 execution this year including the last four out of 5.  Texas is the most prolific state in terms of execution, 487 killers have been executed in Texas about one-third of all executions nationwide.

The concern that the most vicious killers eventually might be released back into society if not sentenced to death has eased. Under the statute, life without parole is automatic for those convicted of capital murder when the death penalty is off the table.

Before 2005, capital killers with life terms could be paroled in 40 years.

In addition to the impact of the life without parole statute, officials note the shocking number of DNA exonerations of prisoners, particularly in Dallas County. That has produced increased skepticism among potential jurors, who also watch TV shows like “CSI” and sometimes expect a mountain of scientific evidence, reported the Tribune.

Other factors contributing to the decline in death penalty cases, experts say, is the rising cost of trying them in sagging economic times in which most counties are struggling to make do without major tax increases.

Also, there is a rising frustration about the amount of time between conviction and execution, some say, which increases the price tag for counties and the state and adds to a feeling of helplessness among victims’ families longing for justice.

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