Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team
Knowing which states have the death penalty can be important.
Whether it is because you have a relative facing such a sentence or because you are interested in knowing how the laws of sentences are passed in each state in America, then you need to find a clear source of information that sets out which states carry the death sentence, and which do not.
This article will focus on the death sentence in Texas and help to answer – does Texas have the death sentence or not?
Does Texas Have The Death Sentence?
The short answer to this question is that yes, for offence of murder and murder specifically. Texas does not carry the death sentence for any other crimes.
Texas is in fact unique in the United States of America for the sheer number of capital punishments it has carried out during the 20th and 21st century.
You may be curious as to why Texas is often called the “ground zero” of capital punishment in the United States and this article will set out exactly why so many murderers have been executed in Texas.
Why Are So Many Death Sentences Carried Out In Texas As Compared To Other States?
In 1972 the Supreme Court has attempted to effectively end the death penalty in the United States in a case referred to as Furman v Georgia.
However, it would be only five years later when the Supreme Court would effectively overturn its ban on the death penalty in another case involving the state of Georgia, known as Gregg v Georgia, though the decision was based on several cases involving several different states including Texas.
Between the years 1976 and 1998 Texas executed 167 people, the state to execute the most people across the entire US.
The next nearest state, Virginia, executed only a fraction of the amount that Texas did during the same period, sending 80 people to their deaths between 1976 and 1998.
The sheer scale of executions in Texas isn’t simply down to a regional bias towards the old adage an eye for an eye.
Whilst the concept of wanting retribution for murderers by executing them is certainly a core to Texas’ idea of law enforcement it is a view that is common across states in the South, so why are there so many in Texas?
The answer is somewhat more complicated than simply a desire to see executions. There are a number of different important factors in the reason Texas executes more people than any other state.
One reason is that Texas’ appeal process is different from that in other US states.
In Texas, the appellant judges are all elected meaning that they serve at the pleasure of the public and are therefore wary of angering the public by denying an execution or allowing a case to be properly retried.
Texas appeal judges are also, in comparison to appeal judges in many other states, far less willing to present any strong written evidence as to why they have dismissed a case meaning that they are far less willing to be open to public scrutiny than other judges.
Equally important in Texas’ high execution rate is the fact that Texas does not have system of public defenders and most of those who cannot afford to hirer their own lawyers are given briefs by court appointed lawyers.
This means that even if the person on death row manages to get an appeal before a more sympathetic judge, the inexperience of their lawyer is likely to let them down and make it more likely that they will face the death penalty.
Another factor, but one that isn’t as important with more recent cases, is that until the early 1990s Texas did not allow juries to accept mitigating factors when considering when deciding whether a person’s sentence should be harsh or not.
This means that there are individuals on death row who, in modern circumstances, might not be in that position today because mitigating factors would be taken into account.
Even today, Texas courts aren’t the most sympathetic of institutions means that factors that may play a role in sentencing in other parts of the United States don’t come into account as much in Texas as they would elsewhere.
Alongside a cultural bias towards the death penalty and generations of local politicians who prefer executions to happen quickly an often, the system of executions in Texas is one that has for decades outstripped the rest of the country.
Even when the federal government has attempted to stop executions and there have been brief pauses between the number of executions occurring each year, Texas has still managed to ensure that the death penalty is enacted against those who have been sentenced to the lone star state’s death row.
Why It Is Important To Know Which States Have The Death Penalty
The reason it is so important to know which states enact the death penalty and which do not is because it helps to give you a picture of the United States as it is now.
Whether you are for or against the death penalty, it is a system that has had an enormous impact on the US and has seen those who were innocent of the crimes they were convicted of executed for things they did not do.
In Texas in particular, given that the system of potential reprieve is so weighed against the defendant you have to ask yourself whether the system can be considered truly just or not.
If the person is guilty then why is the system so weighted against them by having judges that don’t allow their findings in individual cases to be published and who will regularly reject appeal claims without hearing all the evidence?
Why does Texas have such a poor track record of court appointed lawyers particularly for capital cases?
To understand whether or not the death penalty is really called for we have to look at these, often hard issues, and question things that we might have simply taken for granted.
We cannot take the legal system for granted particularly when we are looking at a system which can ensure that someone is executed even if they did not commit the crime they were convicted of.
America is a nation that is changing and the states that have effectively ended the death penalty is growing.
If you live in a state that has the death penalty it is worth considering why your state has the death penalty and understanding why other states, no longer have it.
To properly appreciate life, we must understand all the consequences of having a system of capital punishment and allowing for a free and honest debate on the very nature of crime and punishment in the United States.
Only through such discussions can America move forward and be an even greater nation than it already is.
Only by truly looking at ourselves and considering the consequences of the death penalty can we ever move on as a united nation.