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Death Penalty in Texas

In: Social Issues

Submitted By werner1
Words 1908
Pages 8
There are many legal and cultural explanations for why Texas executes far more people than any other state and is doing so at a pace that has no parallel in the modern era of the death penalty in the U.S. What follows is a summary of the analyses.

Texas has become ground zero for capital punishment. Between 1976 (when the Supreme Court lifted its prohibition on the death penalty) and 1998 Texas executed 167 people. Next in rank was Virginia which executed 60 during the same period.

(**my note** as of today, Texas has executed 237 individuals, and Virginia has executed 80)

Why do capital murder cases proceed through the Texas state court system with a speed unimaginable in other parts of the country? Brent Newton, in an article entitled "Capital Punishment: Texas Could Learn a Lot from Florida,"1argues that there are three procedures unique to the state's judicial system that enable it to execute convicted murderers with astonishing frequency:

1. Texas' appellate judges are elected to office and hence serve according to the pleasure of the public. Not surprisingly, they require a record of toughness on criminals in order to win re-election. Also, there are many indications that elected appellate judges generally are of a lesser quality than their appointed counterparts in other states. Newton even claims that these elected judges do not carefully consider the complexities of each specific death penalty case. As evidence, Newton argues that "[e]specially during the past few years...the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has refused to publish most of its decisions in death penalty cases, including many cases that discuss important issues of 1st impression. Often these opinions take positions entirely inconsistent with prior decisions by the court and fail to mention the conflict. Generally speaking, there is a hit-and-mostly-miss quality in the Court of...

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