Texas death sentences are on the decline, report says

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A report from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) shows the number of new death sentences and executions declined in 2019.

It also shows Texas juries rejected the death penalty in half of the cases presented to them this year.

“Texas has been steadily moving away from the death penalty over the last two decades, mirroring national trends,” Executive Director Kristin Houle said.

New death sentences remained in the single digits for the fifth year in a row, Houle added.

“The number of death sentences has dropped from a peak of 48 death verdicts back in 1999 to four death sentences this year,” she said. “Executions are dropping as well, although Texas still remains the most active death penalty state, putting nine people to death this year out of the 22 executions nationwide.”

Houle says one of the reasons for the decline is the 2005 law that allows for life in prison without the possibility of parole as a sentencing option in capital cases.

“Texas was the last death penalty state to adopt that sentencing option,” she said. “It has provided prosecutors with a great deal of discretion in terms of how they handle capital cases, such that prosecutors throughout the state simply are not seeking the death penalty as often as they used to.”

Over the summer, a group of legislators created the bipartisan Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus. During the 86th Legislature, several bills related to the death penalty were filed and though some made it out of the Texas House of Representatives, they didn’t make it out of the Texas Senate.

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