Results of the 85th Texas Legislature (2017):
Death penalty repeal bills were introduced in both chambers of the 85th Texas Legislature:
- State Representative Jessica Farrar filed House Bill 1537, a bill to abolish the death penalty, on February 3, 2017. The bill was jointly authored by State Representatives Alma Allen and Donna Howard. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee considered testimony on the bill on April 17, 2107 (see below for details).
- State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. filed Senate Bill 597, a bill to abolish the death penalty, on January 24, 2017. The bill was referred to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee but was not scheduled for a hearing.
Committee Hearing on HB 1537
During the hearing on House Bill 1537, members of the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence heard from representatives of several religious and civil rights organizations, including the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, Texas Impact, and the ACLU of Texas. TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé provided testimony, as well.
Reverend DeAnna Golsan shared with the committee how she came to oppose the death penalty after learning that a member of her congregation was the mother of a man on death row. She witnessed his execution on behalf of the family last year.
Faith Leader Advocacy Day
Earlier in the legislative session, on March 28, 2017, TCADP and Texas Impact sponsored the 2017 Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty. Participants included clergy and lay leaders from Beaumont, Houston, Plano, Abilene, Copperas Cove, and Crowell, as well as members of the TCADP Lobby Corps. Collectively, participants visited nearly 40 legislative offices to share their opposition to the death penalty and urge support for HB 1537 and SB 597, the death penalty repeal bills.
We are grateful to the TCADP Lobby Corps and everyone who contacted lawmakers to express opposition to the death penalty during the 2017 session.
Results of the 84th Texas Legislature (2015):
TCADP worked throughout the 84th Texas Legislature to educate and engage in dialogue with elected officials about the flaws and failures of our state’s capital punishment system. Our primary goals this session included building relationships with legislators through our Lobby Corps, lifting up the voices of faith leaders who oppose the death penalty, and securing a public hearing on House Bill 1527, a death penalty repeal bill sponsored by State Representative Jessica Farrar (District 148-Houston).
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, an abolition bill also was filed in the Texas Senate – Senate Bill 1661 by State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (Senate District 27–Brownsville).
The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony on House Bill 1527 on April 29, 2015. The following individuals testified before the committee in favor of the bill:
- Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in prison – including 12.5 years on death row in Texas – for a crime he did not commit. After facing two execution dates, he was exonerated and released from custody 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.
- TCADP Board Member Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood
- Patrick Ryan, Communications Director for the Texas Catholic Conference
- Joshua Houston, General Counsel/Director of Government Affairs for Texas Impact
- TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé
HB 1527 was left pending in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. SB 1661 was referred to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee; it did not receive a hearing.
TCADP Lobby Corps
The TCADP Lobby Corps, founded in 2012, played a vital role in our activities throughout the session. This constituent lobbying group consists of 20 people who have been trained to advance TCADP’s legislative agenda by meeting with legislators and increasing our visibility in the State Capitol.
Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty
TCADP’s first-ever “Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty” took place on Monday, March 9, 2015 at the State Capitol, in partnership with Texas Impact, the oldest and largest statewide interfaith network in Texas. TCADP and Texas Impact released an Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty, which has been endorsed by more than 550 faith leaders across Texas, as well as a Texas Rabbis’ and Cantors’ Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty, signed by more than 20 Jewish leaders in Texas. Participating clergy met with legislators to voice their support for House Bill 1527.
Results of the 83rd Legislative Session (2013):
- Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) files House Bill 1703, which calls for repeal of the death penalty in Texas;
- Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) and Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) sign on to the bill as co-authors;
- TCADP Lobby Corps meet with dozens of legislative offices to encourage their support for HB 1703 and to call for a committee hearing;
- HB 1703 receives a hearing by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 29, 2013.
TCADP also provided support for House Bill 2458 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), which sought to prohibit the imposition of a death sentence or execution under any judgment that was sought or obtained on the basis of race. On April 16, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony on this legislation. Both HB 2458 and 1703 were left pending in the committee. Read more about the hearings here and here.