Pro-Con: Should the death penalty be abolished?
March 24, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 24, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.
Texas bills on death penalty
• HB 164 would abolish the death penalty.
• HB 189 would forbid use of accomplice or jailhouse snitch testimony in death penalty cases under certain circumstances.
• SB 87 would require recording of police interrogations of suspects in certain crimes, including murder.
• SB 89 would establish an innocence commission to review cases.
• Craig Watkins, Dallas County district attorney, has recommended introduction of Racial Justice Act - SB 1270.
• SB 750 would establish criteria for determining intellectual disability for those facing the death penalty.
• HB 261 would require separate trials if death penalty sought for co-defendants in the same crime.
• SB 1292 would require testing of all DNA evidence before trial if death is sought.
State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., a Democrat out of Harris County, wants to ban the death penalty in Texas - and he isn't alone.
Texas House Democrat Jessica Farrar, also out of Harris County, has authored a bill to end the death penalty in Texas. She has written similar bills since 2007, and not one has passed the Texas Legislature.
Dutton authored a different bill for the 83rd Legislature to abolish the death penalty, but it remains in committee.
Farrar's bill also is still in committee. In both bills, the Texas Penal Code would allow judges and jurors to give a life term or life without parole sentence to those convicted of capital murder with no mention of the death penalty.
Some legislators contend the death penalty is simply too expensive.
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, for example, found the death penalty system "dysfunctional" for costing the state about $137 million per year. Both New York and New Jersey have abolished the death penalty because of the high costs, which include an exhaustive appeals system.
Though no similar study has been released for Texas, a 1992 Dallas Morning News report found that each Texas execution cost the state about $2.3 million, three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years.
Despite the costs, others believe the death penalty is necessary for justice and acts as a deterrent to crime.
With two men out of Victoria County currently on death row, the conflict hits close to home.