2013-2017 New Death Sentences

Information on new death sentences has been compiled from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and various media outlets. Please note that these figures correspond with the county in which the case originated, not where the trial occurred, and do not include re-sentences.

More information regarding death sentences is available in Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2017: The Year in Review. Contact Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org to receive a copy of this report directly via email.

Highlights from High-Use Counties

Bexar County (San Antonio)

  • On October 20, 2015, a jury in Bexar County sentenced Mark Anthony Gonzalez to death for the 2011 murder of Bexar County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kenneth Vann.  It was the first death sentence imposed by a jury in Bexar County since 2009. The punishment was finalized in January 2016 after a hearing to determine Gonzalez’s competency to stand trial.
  • Death-qualified juries in Bexar County have rejected the death penalty four times in recent years.
  • Overall, Bexar County is responsible for the third highest number of death sentences imposed by juries since 1976, behind Harris and Dallas Counties (76 total).
  • Bexar County accounts for 42 executions since 1982.
  • 12 individuals convicted in Bexar County remain on death row.

Brazos County (Bryan/College Station)

  • Brazos County is responsible for 17 death sentences since 1976.
  • Prosecutors in Brazos County have pursued the death penalty in a number of problematic cases, including those in which the defendant presented evidence of intellectual disabilities or severe mental illness.
  • In April 2016, a Brazos County judge deemed Marcus Druery incompetent to be executed due to evidence of his severe mental illness, which prevents him from understanding why he is being punished. Prosecutors did not contest the decision.  Druery faced imminent execution in 2012 before receiving a stay from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Two other individuals sentenced to death in Brazos County were removed from death row in 2016.
  • Brazos County accounts for 12 executions.
  • Three individuals convicted in Brazos County remain on death row.

Dallas County

  • Dallas County has not accounted for any new death sentences since 2013.
  • Overall, Dallas County is responsible for 107 death sentences in Texas (second only to Harris County).
  • All nine men sentenced to death in Dallas or Tarrant County since 2012 are African American.
  • More than 40 men in Dallas County have been exonerated of serious crimes since 2001; many of those exonerations were based on DNA evidence.
  • Collectively, 40 people sentenced to death in Dallas or Tarrant County have been removed from death row; in most cases, their sentences were commuted.
  • The State of Texas has executed 55 people who were convicted and sentenced to death in Dallas County (behind only Harris County). There are two execution dates set in 2017 for individuals convicted in Dallas County.

Harris County (Houston)

  • Harris County accounts for 127 executions since 1982, more than any state in the country besides Texas and twice as many as any other county.
  • Harris County prosecutors have sent 294 people to death row. For the second year in a row, however, there were no new death sentences in Harris County. (In the mid-1990’s, Harris County juries typically sent more than a dozen people to death row each year.)
  • There are approximately 83 inmates still on death row who were convicted in Harris County (more than one-third of the current death row population in Texas).
  • 15 of the last 18 defendants sentenced to death in Harris County are African American – the other three defendants are Hispanic. The last death sentence imposed on a white defendant in Harris County occurred in November 2004, when a jury sentenced serial killer Anthony Shore to death.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in two death penalty cases from Harris County last fall; one involves racially biased testimony (Duane Buck) and the other relates to Texas’ outdated and unscientific process for determining intellectual disabilities (Bobby Moore).
  • According to the Houston Area Survey for 2016, conducted by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, just 27 percent of respondents think the death penalty, rather than life imprisonment, is the most appropriate punishment for first-degree murder, a drop from 39 percent in 2008.

McLennan County (Waco)

  • McLennan County accounts for three death sentences since 2012 and 18 overall.
  • The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction and death sentence of Albert Love on direct appeal on December 7, 2016. The Court found that Love’s text messages had been seized without a warrant and improperly admitted as evidence during his 2013 trial, and that the error was not harmless. Love was convicted and sentenced to death in 2013 for the murders of Kennan Hubert and Tyler Sneed two years earlier in Waco.  He was the second of two men convicted in the shooting deaths.  Love’s trial was moved from McLennan to Williamson County due to media coverage of the earlier trial of co-defendant Ricky Cummings.  It is extremely rare for the CCA to reverse a capital conviction on direct appeal.
  • There have been seven executions involving cases out of McLennan County.

Tarrant County (Fort Worth)

  • Tarrant County accounts for 4 death sentences since 2012 and 74 overall. The death sentence imposed on Amos Wells III in November 2016 was the first such verdict in more than two years.
  • All nine men sentenced to death in Dallas or Tarrant County since 2012 are African American.
  • Collectively, 40 people sentenced to death in Dallas or Tarrant County have been removed from death row; in most cases, their sentences were commuted.
  • Tarrant County accounts for 39 executions since 1982, including the first execution of 2017, and it has two other execution dates set this year.

Travis (Austin)

  • Prosecutors in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office have secured two new death sentences since 2011 (the last one came in February 2014).
  • Travis County accounts for 20 death sentences overall since 1976 and 8 executions.