More than five months pass since last execution in Texas

The death penalty landscape continues to shift in Texas, with no executions occurring here since April 6, 2016.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), the state’s highest criminal court, has stopped the last four scheduled executions; it also halted two other executions earlier in the summer.  According to Chuck Lindell with the Austin American-Statesman, “Only one other hiatus [in executions], a nine-month stretch in 2007-08, has been longer in the past 20 years.”

Jim Marcus, co-director of the University of Texas’ Capital Punishment Center, told the Houston Chronicle:

What connects these recent stays of execution are serious flaws that undermine the integrity of the prior proceedings, including junk science, inadequate counsel and unconstitutional jury instructions. These problems are not new. What appears to have changed is that a more careful scrutiny of Texas’ defective death penalty process has resulted in greater intolerance.

In 2015, the CCA granted eight stays of execution; state district judges withdrew the execution dates for four other individuals last year.

To date in 2016, the State of Texas has put six people to death; there have been 15 executions nationwide.  Last year, Texas carried out 13 executions.  At this time, three execution dates remain on the schedule.  Regardless of what happens in those cases, Texas will end 2016 with the fewest executions in 20 years.

execution-chartHere’s a roundup of recent media coverage of declining executions in Texas:

Houston Chronicle, “Six capital stays fuel speculation on future of death penalty,” September 9, 2016:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Six-capital-stays-fuel-speculation-on-future-of-9210220.php

Austin American-Statesman, “Flurry of halted executions idles Texas death chamber,” September 9, 2016:
http://www.statesman.com/news/news/flurry-of-halted-executions-idles-texas-death-cham/nsTxr/

Weatherford Democrat, “Factors lead to slowdown in Texas executions,” September 9, 2016:
http://www.weatherforddemocrat.com/news/local_news/factors-lead-to-slowdown-in-texas-executions/article_b2f347e1-ea6d-5195-b701-69355082e8d1.html

Associated Press, via ABC News, “Top Texas Court Is Unlikely Source of Execution Reprieves,” September 10, 2016:
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/top-texas-court-source-execution-reprieves-41996716

Texas Standard, “Why the death penalty is dying in Texas,” September 12, 2016:
http://www.texasstandard.org/stories/why-the-death-penalty-is-dying-in-texas/

Texas Tribune, “Texas Sees an Unusual Lull in Executions,” September 14, 2016:
https://www.texastribune.org/2016/09/14/court-stays-create-lull-texas-executions/