American Constitution Society capital punishment counsel court-appointed attorneys death penalty Harris County

"Odds of A Killer Getting Death"

The Houston Chronicle (March 4, 2010) followed up on a report issued earlier this week by the American Constitution Society regarding factors increasing the chance of a death sentence. The report was conducted by Scott Phillips, a University of Denver sociology and criminology professor, who studied the 504 capital murder indictments in Harris County between 1992-1999.
According to the article, “the death penalty is more likely to be imposed on convicted murders who kill whites or Hispanics who have college degrees, are married, and have no criminal record, or when defended by count appointed counsel”.
The author of the report said that research suggests legally irrelevant factors tend to influence death penalty cases, “such as whether the victim is low-status or high-status. People who kill someone who’s ‘important’ and more likely to get the death penalty.” Additionally, of the 129 defendants sentenced to death in the years of the study, “38 of the 41 inmates executed so far had appointed counsel” while “defendants who hired their own lawyers and who represented them for the entire case were 20 times more likely to be acquitted.”
While the current District Attorney, Pat Lykos, declined to comment on the report’s conclusions, she stated “under her leadership, a victim’s race or ethnicity or education level would play no part in determining whether to seek the death penalty against an accused killer.”

TCADP wrote about Phillip’s report early in the week. To view this article, with a link to the report published with the American Constitution Society visit here.

To view the Houston Chronicle article visit here.