In Unprecedented Change, No Death Sentences in Texas in First Half of Year
Friday, June 26, 2015
Texas, the nation's top state for using the death penalty, has not added a
single person to its death row so far this year, which is unprecedented.
Prior to 2015, the longest span Texas had gone was only three months,
according to Kathryn Kase, executive director of the Texas Defender Service,
a nonprofit organization of death penalty attorneys.
"This is the longest we've gone in a calendar year in Texas without a new
death sentence," Kase told the Texas Tribune.
Last year, Texas added only 10 prisoners to death row, quite a drop from
2000 when 40 were sentenced to execution.
The adoption of a law in 2005 that gave state prosecutors the option of
pursuing life-without-parole sentences in capital murder cases has clearly
had an effect. Since then, the size of Texas' death row has been shrinking.
It currently stands at 260 individuals, down from 460 in 1999. The death row
population is now dwarfed by the number of people serving a
life-without-parole sentence in the state: 745.
So far this year, Texas courts have had three cases that had the potential
to hand down a death penalty sentence, according to Kase, but all of them
resulted in life-without-parole decisions.