Texas House Committee to Hear Death Penalty Repeal Bill

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, Executive Director
512-441-1808 (office); 512-552-5948 (cell)

Texas House Committee to Hear Death Penalty Repeal Bill
Former district attorney, religious leaders, and death row exonoree among those scheduled to testify

(Austin, Texas) — Today, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will hold a public hearing on House Bill (HB) 1527, which calls for the repeal of the death penalty in Texas.  The hearing will take place in the Capitol Extension Room E2.030 at 10:30 AM or upon final adjournment/recess of the House.

“National momentum continues to shift in the direction of abolition,” said State Representative Jessica Farrar (House District 148 – Houston), the author of HB 1527.   “Elected officials in at least 10 other states are considering repeal legislation this year while executions are on hold in numerous states throughout the country. This hearing provides members of the Texas House of Representatives with the opportunity to hear diverse perspectives on the death penalty and to engage in open dialogue about the flaws and failures of our state’s capital punishment system.”

Rep. Farrar has sponsored death penalty repeal legislation in every session since 2007.  This bill strikes the death penalty as a sentencing option from all relevant sections of the Texas Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure and replaces it with Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole.  For the first time this year, an abolition bill also was filed in the Texas Senate – Senate Bill 1661 by State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (Senate District 27–Brownsville).

The following individuals are among those scheduled to testify before the committee:

  • Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in prison – including 12.5 years on death row in Texas – and faced 2 execution dates for a crime he did not commit.  He was exonerated and released in October 2010.
  • Grant Jones, who served as the District Attorney for Nueces, Kleberg and Kenedy Counties from 1983 to 1991.
  • Bishop Joe A. Wilson, who served as Bishop of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, headquartered in Fort Worth, from 1992 to 2000, and as Bishop-in-Residence at Southwestern University in Georgetown from 2001 to 2013.

More than 550 faith leaders in Texas have endorsed an Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty, which was delivered to Governor Greg Abbott and members of the 84th Texas Legislature earlier this year. More than 20 Jewish leaders in Texas have endorsed an accompanying Rabbis’ and Cantors’ Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty.  Among them, the signatories represent 25 different faith traditions, including Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reform Judaism, and United Church of Christ.

“The death penalty landscape in Texas has shifted dramatically – as evidenced by the 80% decline in new death sentences over the last 15 years – yet this punishment is still applied in a geographically isolated and arbitrary manner,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP).  “Members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee can hasten its demise by voting in favor of House Bill 1527.”

To arrange an interview with any of these witnesses, please contact Kristin Houlé at 512-552-5948 (cell) or khoule@tcadp.org.