With A Number Of Texas Executions Scheduled, Does Capital Punishment Serve Its Purpose?

 

Texas has become ground zero for capital punishment, from hangings to the electric chair to lethal injection. Since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, there have been more executions carried out in the lone star than any other state -- with 484 -- and Rick Perry has more on his watch than any other governor in modern times.

Gloria Rubac is with the Texas Death Penalty Abolition movement.

"Until Bobby Hines got a date of October 24th and it could still happen, Rick Perry's 250th execution, this milestone could possibly be on Halloween."

She says Texas has a record of taking shortcuts with the law, executing people with poor representation or disproportionately putting to death people of color.

"There's people being executed who are mentally ill and number two, it's costing a fortune in a time when we're in an economic crisis. So to save money and to save innocent lives, we should stop them."

UH professor David Dow has represented more than a hundred death row inmates in their state and federal appeals. He says Texas death sentences have declined significantly.

Last year, juries and judges sent 8 people to the gurney, down from an average of almost 22 in the three years before the change in the law and a high of 40 in 1996.

"It's true that it costs at least twice as much to execute somebody as it would cost to keep that person in prison for the rest of his life and in some places, the suggestion is that it might cost up to 5 times as much to carry out an execution as it would cost to keep that person in prison for the rest of his life. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the biggest reason just has to do with the complexity of death penalty trials. People sometimes think that we could get rid of most of those costs if we streamliner the appeals. The truth is that the appeals are just a drop in the proverbial bucket."

He says while Texas prosecutors believe in moving forward quickly and frequently with executions, jurors don't believe in sending people to death row any more than jurors in other states do.

"I myself don't personally think that we're gonna get rid of the death penalty in Texas or anywhere else in the United States, because of qualms that people have about the lethal injection protocol. I think it's gonna be for different reasons that don't have anything to do with the actual mode of execution."

Meanwhile, a recent poll by the Texas Politics Project found three quarters of respondents either somewhat or strongly supported the death penalty.

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