The Future of the Death Penalty
Twenty years ago, 48 capital cases in Texas resulted in a death penalty conviction (The Texas Tribune, 2020). This period of time was when the state did not recognize life without the possibility of parole as an option for the convicted. It was either life with parole in 40 years or death. In 2019, life without the possibility of parole had become an option, and the number dropped to only 4 capital cases that reached a death penalty conviction. But what else happened over the course of those years?
According to a former judge for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Elsa Alcala, there are many other reasons for the shift in attitude. The first being the heightened awareness of corruption and systematic failures within the criminal justice system. This reality was made apparent in cases such as Anthony Graves and Randall Dale Adams, where a new trial provided proof of their innocence(Death Penalty Information Center, n.d.). Acala also mentions that there has been a decrease in crime and public fear of crime compared to earlier years. Without public fear, there is less political pressure on upholding the death penalty. District Attorney of Bexar County, Joe Gonzalez, adds that there is also a financial aspect to consider. The death penalty is far more costly for the state to pursue. Maurice Chammah, advocate and writer for the Marshall Project, agrees and believes that defense attorneys have also begun to master the act of humanizing their clients. A tactic that results in jury members empathizing with those they are tasked with sentencing.
Overall, the shift in attitude seems to be coming from those closest to the action. A former judge, district attorney, and advocate who each believe that the way forward is to lean away from the death penalty. What do you think? Do their arguments ring true? Watch the video below and keep an eye out for updates on H.B. 215, which is currently waiting to be read by the Criminal Justice committee.
Death Penalty Information Center. (n.d.) Texas: state and federal info. https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/state-and-federal-info/state-by-state/texas
The Texas Tribune. (2020, September 28). The future of the death penalty [Video]. Streaming service. https://youtu.be/YGU5TgluEmk