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Texas Death Penalty Declines following Nationwide Trend
Death sentences in the State of Texas are declining following a nationwide trend. This decline brings the Texas death sentences to an all time low, reported an anti-death penalty group.
Only nine death sentences were issued by Texas Juries in 2009. The same number as in 2008. Imposition of the death penalty in Texas has declined over the past 7 years. The effect of a state law giving the juries the option of "life without the possibility of parole" is thought to be one of the reasons for the decline.
Texas averaged 34 death sentences in 1990. The noticeable decline, evident over the past several years, is noteworthy due to the the states " Stiff support of the death penalty" and past proficiency of handing out the death penalty.
The death penalty has always played a major part of the "Texas Criminal Justice System" . It has always been a hallmark, but Texas is changing along with much of the naiton. Costs of appeals, executions, and concerns about flaws in the imposition of the death sentence is contributing to the decline.
Texas conducted more executions this year than last year, this was in part to a moratorium that lasted 4 months , creating a backlog. The Supreme Court considered the constitutionally of the practice of lethal injection. But even then the level of executions were low compared to the historic levels. Both attorneys and prosecutors have agreed that the "life without parole option" has drastically altered the "Capital Punishment System" in Texas. It is still unsure on where and why the impact is being seen. Many Texas prosecutors are seeking the death penalty less frequently due to the costs of pursuing the death penalty.
Harris County has long led the state in death sentences and now is also seeing a huge reduction in prosecutors seeking the death penalty.
Life without parole is a good alternative especially in a small rural community.
Many believe that the decline is in the concern of executing an innocent person, following the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2005. Several DNA exonerations have also added to the opinion that "unless I am 100% sure I will not vote for death."
Rob Owens, the co-director of the "Capital Punishment Project" at the University says that even a small shred of doubt can be significant. It is more difficult now because anyone who has seen the news will second guess the process.
District attorney, Craig Watkins has tried to take steps to re-establish the credibility of the sysyem by establishing a "Death penalty Review board." But he still admits that getting a jury to vote for the death penalty be hard.
Govenor Rick Perry declined to comment, thought we all know where he stands. His spokesman, has said" He believes that the death penalty is apporpiate for henious crimes.