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New Death Sentences In Texas Remain Near Four-Decade Low

Harris County, long a national leader in the use of the death penalty, has handed down just two death sentences in the past five years.



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Four people were sentenced to death in Texas this year — one of the lowest rates since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1974. A new report shows much of that is due to declining use of the death penalty in cases from Harris County.

Harris County has long led not only Texas, but the rest of the country in terms of total death sentences. But new death sentences have been on the decline since Texas created the option of a life sentence without possibility of parole in 2005.

"Back in the 1990s, Harris County juries were sending 13, 14, 15 people to death row every year," said Kristin Houlé, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "Over the past five years, however, there have been just two new death sentences out of Harris County."

The state of Texas put nine people to death this year, compared to 13 executions last year.