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Why Does Texas Lead the Nation for Executions?

Texas has the dubious distinction of executing the most inmates in the country. It’s not even a close call. Since 1976, Texas carried out 537 executions of death row prisoners. Oklahoma, the second placed state, ended the lives of 112 in the same period, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

When the Supreme Court lifted its ban on executions in 1976, Texas quickly jumped on the bandwagon. It executed 167 people by the end of 1978.

Texas carries out the most executions

Some of the reasons why Texas executes more inmates than any other state are detailed in a recent PBS Frontline report. The article is based on a paper published by Houston law professor Brent Newton. They include:

1 Texas Does Not Have a Public Defenders System

While many states have public defenders, Texas relies on court-appointed lawyers who often lack experience in capital murder defenses or appeals. It is more difficult for defendants to avoid the death penalty than in a system with public defenders.

2 Judges Are Elected

Appellate judges in the Lone Star State are elected to office, which means they are more accountable to those that elect them. There is considerable pressure to show their toughness with criminals and handing down the ultimate sanction, is often beneficial to their election prospects.

3 Texas Has a More Streamlined Execution System

The system that leads to the execution chamber is dogged with delays and procedural issues in many states. Texas has worked ways of getting around many of these. A law enacted in 1995 expedited state appeals, reducing the time between conviction and execution.

4 Texas Fails to Allow Mitigating Factors to be Considered

Newton’s report stated Texas courts are often reticent about allowing mitigating evidence like the age of a defendant or a mental illness when considering capital charges.

California Has More Death Row Inmates but Fewer Executions

The approach of Texas when it comes to executions is very different from that of California which has the most inmates on death row – 745 but has only executed 13 since 1976.

If you have been charged with capital murder, you are more likely to be executed in Texas than anywhere else in the country. See our page about facing a murder charge in Texas, here. Although the use of the death penalty has decreased here in recent years, in line with a national trend, Texas still executes more people than any other state.

If you are charged with a homicide offense, you should be aware that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, and you have to be very careful about what you say. Never give up any evidence that can later be used against you, including your own words. Consult a Texas criminal defense attorney before speaking to the police. Contact Peek & Toland today, and we will safeguard your rights and deal promptly with your case.

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