Texas Death Penalty Facts

For more analysis, as well as illustrative charts and graphs, read TCADP’s report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2021: The Year in Review and check out our fact sheet on the death penalty in Texas, Facts about the Texas Death Penalty.

Executions

The State of Texas has executed 574 people since 1982. Of these, 279 occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001-2014), more than any other governor in U.S. history.

On April 21, 2022, the State carried out its first execution in more than six months, putting 78-year-old Carl Wayne Buntion to death. Buntion is the oldest person executed by Texas. He spent 31 years on death row.

The State has four executions scheduled in the second half of 2022 (as of June 1).

Harris County alone accounts for 131 executions, more than any state except Texas. Dallas County accounts for 62 executions and Bexar County accounts for 46.

From 2017-2021, Texas set 80 execution dates. Of these dates, 32 were stayed by federal courts or the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 12 dates were withdrawn, 1 resulted in clemency, and 35 resulted in executions.

Executions in Texas peaked in 2000, when 40 people were put to death, and have steadily decreased since.

Death Sentences

New death sentences in Texas have decreased since peaking in 1999, when juries sentenced 48 people to death. Death sentences have remained in the single digits for the past six years.

After grinding to a halt in 2020 because of the pandemic, capital jury trials involving the death penalty resumed in the second half of 2021. Juries in Texas condemned three individuals to death last year. No one has been sentenced to death to date in 2022, though several capital trials are pending.

Texas has the third-largest death row population in the nation, after California* (697) and Florida (324).*On March 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions.

Death Sentences by Race and Gender

According to TDCJ, Black individuals compromise 45.7%, Hispanic individuals compromise 25.9%, and white individuals compromise 25.4% of the death row population.

Race

As death sentences in Texas decline, they continue to be applied disproportionately to people of color. Over the last five years, two-thirds of death sentences have been imposed on people of color; 40% were imposed on Black defendants. In 2021, two of the defendants sentenced to death are Black and one is white.

To learn more…

Watch “What does race have to do with the death penalty in Texas?”

Read “Race and ‘future dangerousness’ in the Texas death penalty”

Read “Enduring Injustice: the Persistence of Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Death Penalty”

Gender

According to TDCJ, there are currently 195 people on Texas’s death row, including 6 women. This is the smallest Texas death row population since 1985, when 188 people awaited execution, according to research by TCADP.

Death Sentences by County

As displayed in this interactive map, just three counties (Harris, Smith, and Walker) have imposed more than one death sentence in the last five years (2017-2021). More than one-third of all death sentences imposed by juries in the last five years came from those three counties. 

Three counties account for more than half of the current death row population: Harris (71); Dallas (18); and Tarrant (13). No other county has more than eight individuals on death row at this time.

Less than 20% of the 254 counties in Texas account for the current population of death row.

Learn more about the death penalty at the county level here.

Wrongful Convictions and Executions

Since 1973, 187 individuals who spent time on death row have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. This includes 16 people convicted and sentenced to death in Texas.

There also is strong evidence that the State of Texas has executed innocent people, including Carlos DeLuna, Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham, Gary Graham (Shaka Sankofa), and most recently, Larry Swearingen, who was put to death in August 2019.

Learn more about wrongful executions in Texas at TCADP’s Wrongful Execution page and DPIC Special Report: The Innocence Epidemic.

Cost of the Death Penalty

See TCADP’s fact sheet on the cost of the death penalty for details. For additional information, read “Experts discuss cost of the death penalty amid era of growing decline,” Community Impact Newspaper (Richardson edition), March 18, 2020.

National and International Abolition

Eleven states – Colorado, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Washington, Maryland, New Hampshire, and, most recently, Virginia – have abandoned the death penalty in recent years through legislative or judicial action. A total of 23 states and the District of Columbia do not allow the death penalty.

Governors in three other states (Oregon, Pennsylvania, and California) have imposed a moratorium on executions, bringing the total number of states that have either ended the death penalty or have a moratorium to 26.

144 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. According to Amnesty International, China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria accounted for the most executions in 2021, though it remains difficult to obtain exact numbers in many of these countries.