Texas Death Penalty Facts

For more trends and analysis, including charts and graphs, read TCADP’s latest report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2023: The Year in Review and check out our latest fact sheet on the death penalty.

Executions

The State of Texas has executed 587 people since 1982. Of these executions, 279 occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001-2014), more than any other governor in U.S. history.

As of May 1, 2024, Texas has two executions scheduled:

  • June 26, 2024: Ramiro Gonzales
  • July 16, 2024: Ruben Gutierrez

On February 28, 2024, the State of Texas put Ivan Cantu to death despite grave doubts about the integrity of his conviction and widespread calls to stop his execution. Cantu maintained his innocence throughout his two decades on death row. 

Texas put eight people to death in 2023. The execution dates of three other men were withdrawn by trial courts and one man (Will Speer) received a last-minute stay. Four of the eight men executed last year were Black or Hispanic. David Renteria, who was executed on November 16, 2023, was Native American.

Harris County alone accounts for 133 executions, more than any state except Texas. Dallas County accounts for 65 executions, Bexar County for 46, and Tarrant County for 45.

Executions in Texas peaked in 2000, when 40 people were put to death.

Death Sentences

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

In 2023, juries in Texas sent three new people to death row. In two other capital cases, jurors rejected the death penalty and the defendants were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

To date in 2024, Texas juries haved imposed three new death sentences:

  • On January 31, 2024, a Hidalgo County jury sentenced Victor Godinez to death after deliberating for nearly 12 hours. Godinez was convicted of killing Moises Sanchez, a trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety, who responded to a vehicular accident involving Godinez on April 6, 2019. According to the prosecution’s case, Godinez opened fire at Sanchez while fleeing the scene; Sanchez died several months later in August 2019 following a surgery. This is the first new death sentence in Hidalgo County since 2005.
  • On April 24, 2024, a Tarrant County jury sentenced Paige Terrell Lawyer to death for killing his former girlfriend, O’Tishae Womack, and her 10-year-old daughter, Ka’Myria Womack, in 2018. Tarrant County juries have sentenced 76 people to death since 1974.
  • On May 2, 2024, a Johnson County jury sentenced Jerry Elders to death for kidnapping and killing Robin Waddell after stealing her car while fleeing law enforcement in 2021. He is the only person currently on death row from Johnson County.

Texas has the third-largest death row population in the nation (178), after California* (640) and Florida (278).

*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 46.1%, Hispanic individuals compromise 27.5%, and white individuals compromise 24.7% of the current 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, more than 50 percent of death sentences have been imposed on people of color; nearly 40 percent were imposed on Black defendants.

To learn more…

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

Read Arbitrary and Capricious: Examining Racial Disparities in Harris County’s Pursuit of Death Sentences

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 178 people on Texas’s death row, including 7 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 Tarrant) have imposed more than one death sentence since 2019.

Three counties account for more than half of the current death row population: Harris (67); Dallas (13); and Tarrant (12). 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.

  • 3 Death Sentences
  • 2 Death Sentences
  • 1 Death Sentence

Wrongful Convictions and Executions

Since 1973, 197 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), Larry Swearingen, and Ivan Cantu.

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 four other states (Arizona, 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 27.

112 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. According to Amnesty International, China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United States accounted for the most known executions in 2022; it remains difficult to obtain exact numbers in many countries.