death penalty news—-TEXAS

Dec. 7



TCADP Report Shows New Death Sentences in Texas at Record Low

Concerns about Wrongful Execution Spark Scrutiny of State's Death Penalty

New death sentences in Texas remained at historic low levels in 2009,
according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's (TCADP)
newly-released report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2009: The Year
in Review. TCADP, an Austin-based statewide, grassroots organization,
releases its annual report each December in conjunction with the
anniversary of the resumption of executions in Texas in 1982.

As of December 4, Texas juries had condemned eight new individuals to
death in 2009. If this number remains unchanged, it will represent the
lowest number of new death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld
Texas' revised death penalty statute in 1976. The report notes, however,
that this year Texas once again accounted for 1/2 of all executions that
took place in the United States. The state has executed a total of 447
people since 1982, out of 1,186 executions nationwide since 1977. Two
hundred eight of these executions have occurred during the administration
of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Among those executed, 6 inmates were
convicted in Harris County, which alone accounts for more executions (112)
than any state in the country besides Texas. Yet for the second
consecutive year, Harris County did not condemn any new defendants to
death (juries returned two inmates to death row). While Harris County
still accounts for a third of all Texas inmates awaiting execution (106 of
332), it has sentenced just 7 new individuals to death in the last 4
years. In the 1990s, it often sent 15 people a year to death row.

When it comes to executions, Texas is out of sync with its own shifting
landscape. New death sentences have declined 60% in the past six years as
prosecutors and juries have accepted the alternative punishment of life in
prison without the possibility of parole as a reliable way to punish the
guilty, protect society, and guard against convicting and executing
innocent people.

"2009 stands as a critical year in Texas' experience with the death
penalty," said TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle. "Concerns about
innocence, arbitrariness, cost, and fairness generated unprecedented
scrutiny of the administration of justice in the nation's most active
death penalty state. It is time for more elected officials to catch up
with increasing public recognition that the Texas death penalty system is
fatally flawed. We join with a swelling chorus of diverse voices,
including those of law enforcement, religious leaders, murder victim
family members, and state legislators, in calling for an end to this
arbitrary and error-prone form of punishment."

December 7 also marks the 20th anniversary of the execution of Carlos
DeLuna, who was convicted of the 1983 slaying of Wanda Lopez at a Corpus
Christi gas station. A 2005 Chicago Tribune investigative report provided
compelling evidence that another individual (now deceased) committed the
crime for which DeLuna was executed in 1989. Another likely wrongful
execution – Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 – has raised awareness of the
irreversible risk of error associated with the death penalty. Since 1973,
139 people – including 11 Texans – have been exonerated from death rows
nationwide due to evidence of their wrongful conviction. 9 exonerations
occurred in 2009 and included two Texas cases: Michael Toney and Robert

Highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2009: The Year in Review
include the following:

-In 2009, the State of Texas carried out 24 executions. Currently there
are 332 inmates on death row in Texas – 322 men and 10 women.

-5 inmates were resentenced to death in 2009.

-In 4 capital murder trials, juries rejected the death penalty and opted
for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Levi
King was spared a sentence of death in Lubbock County on October 8, 2009.
His case, which had been moved from Gray County, cost nearly $1 million.
King was already serving 2 consecutive life sentences in Missouri.

-7 inmates scheduled for execution in 2009 received last-minute stays due
to mitigating factors, new forensic evidence relating to innocence, or
claims of mental retardation or mental illness. A comparable number of
stays have been granted in recent years (6 in 2008 and 7 in 2007). -6
inmates were removed permanently from death row in 2009; their sentences
were commuted to life in prison.

-One inmate, Robert Lee Thompson, was executed despite a rare
recommendation for clemency from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

TCADP's report also recaps the 81st Texas Legislature Regular Session,
during which dozens of bills related to capital punishment were
introduced. This includes House Bill 682, legislation that would repeal
the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the
possibility of parole, sponsored by State Representative Jessica Farrar

"This session, my colleagues displayed greater openness to considering
issues related to the death penalty," said State Representative Lon Burnam
(D-Fort Worth), one of the co-authors of House Bill 682. "Yet Texas
lawmakers lag far behind our peers in other states. This year alone, the
state of New Mexico repealed the death penalty, and legislators in
Connecticut, Colorado, Montana, and New Hampshire passed abolition bills.
It is time for Texans to follow suit and divert our state's valuable
resources to programs that truly prevent crime and provide meaningful
victims' services, rather than perpetuate the cycle of violence."

Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2009: The Year in Review is available
onlin. Contact Kristin Houle at to receive a copy
directly via email.



Decision on Inmate's Punishment to go to Jury Monday

Monday, a Huntsville inmate could learn whether or not he'll be sentenced
to death for the murder of a prison guard.

39-year-old Jerry Martin was convicted of capital murder last week.

Monday both Martin's attorneys and prosecutors will make their final
arguments before jurors decide on the death penalty or life in prison.

It took the jury less than 2 hours to find Martin guilty in the death of
TDCJ officer Susan Canfield.

(source: KBTX News)