Death Penalty

Commentary: Why Support For The Death Penalty Is Higher Among White Americans

Nov 30, 2019
Protesters hold signs proclaiming Rodney Reed's innocence.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Sentencing a person to die is the ultimate punishment. There is no coming back from the permanence of the death penalty.

In the U.S., the death penalty is currently authorized by the federal government, the military and 29 states. The primary rationale for using the death penalty is deterrence.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

A judge has blocked the U.S. government's plan to begin executing federal prisoners for the first time in nearly 20 years. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday halting four executions set to begin next month over concerns about the government's lethal injection method.

A rally at the governor's mansion in support of Rodney Reed
Julia Reihs / KUT

In his five years as Texas' governor, Republican Greg Abbott has overseen the execution of nearly 50 prisoners while only once sparing a condemned man's life.

Rodrick Reed talks to supporters
DaLyah Jones / KUT

As Rodney Reed's execution date fast approaches, more than 70 people packed into a community center in Bastrop on Saturday to apply pressure on state officials to reconsider his case.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

For decades, a staunch claim of innocence and doubts over forensic science engulfed the death penalty case of Larry Swearingen. On Wednesday, he was executed in Texas' death chamber.

Illustration by Brandon Formby / The Texas Tribune

It’s been more than two decades since an infamous hate crime in East Texas, where three white men were convicted of chaining a black man to the back of a pickup truck, dragging him for miles and then dumping the remains of his body in front of a church.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

In two weeks, two Texas executions have been stopped by the courts.

On Monday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the Thursday execution of Mark Robertson, who was convicted nearly 30 years ago in the Dallas shooting deaths and robbery of an elderly woman and her grandson.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

From Texas Standard:

On Tuesday, a new Texas Department of Criminal Justice policy went into effect, banning any religious adviser from being in the execution chamber with an inmate. The decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court, last week, postponed the execution of Patrick Murphy, a member of the Texas Seven group.

The court said his execution had to wait until Texas decided on its policy about the presence of spiritual advisers during executions. The state had originally denied Murphy’s request to have a Buddhist priest, which Murphy appealed because Texas had allowed advisers from other faiths to be in the execution chamber. In his opinion, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that Texas needed to find a way to accommodate all faiths so as not to discriminate, or allow no advisers at all. TDCJ decided on the latter.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The state of Texas has banned all prison chaplains from its execution chamber, days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state was violating an inmate's rights by not allowing a Buddhist chaplain into the death chamber with him.

Two Supreme Court decisions just hours before a scheduled execution. Two decisions just seven weeks apart. Two decisions on the same issue. Except that in one, a Muslim was put to death without his imam allowed with him in the execution chamber, and in the other, a Buddhist's execution was temporarily halted because his Buddhist minister was denied the same right.

The two apparently conflicting decisions are so puzzling that even the lawyers are scratching their heads and offering explanations that they candidly admit are only speculative.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the execution of a Buddhist inmate on death row because prison officials wouldn't let his spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber, even though they provide chaplains for inmates of some other faiths.

U.S. Supreme Court Again Reverses Death Sentence Decision For Texas Inmate

Feb 19, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court has for the second time struck down the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' way of determining if a death row inmate is intellectually disabled and eligible for execution.

TDCJ

Joseph Garcia was four years into a 50-year sentence for a 1996 Bexar County murder when he joined six other inmates who escaped prison, went on the run and killed Irving Police officer Aubrey Hawkins in a Christmas Eve robbery.

Ken Piorkowski/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Danny Bible is scheduled to die on June 27. He was sentenced to death in 2003 for murdering Houston resident Inez Deaton in 1979. Bible’s attorney, Jeremy Schepers, recently filed a lawsuit alleging that a lethal injection would almost certainly constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Schepers is a federal public defender in the Northern District of Texas.

Austin Price/KUT

From Texas Standard.

Texas has been fighting to keep a secret for years now – the name of the pharmacy that supplies its execution drugs. But late last week, after a lengthy court battle, the state Supreme Court refused to grant an appeal of a lower court ruling that the state must reveal where it gets these drugs.

Austin Price / KUT

From Texas Standard.

Texas is re-upping a request to “opt in” to a federal law that would speed up the execution appeals process in the state, potentially leading to quicker executions.

Ken Piorkowski/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Following the execution of a Dallas man last week, the status of the state's supply of execution drugs is under new scrutiny. In a last-minute appeal to halt the execution, the prisoner's attorneys claimed two other executions this year were botched. The appeal was denied.

TDCJ

A Texas death row inmate whose case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court could now face an execution date after the justices ruled against him in a 5-4 decision Monday morning split among ideological lines. The man was convicted in the 2008 shooting deaths of a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother in Fort Worth.

Kim Daram/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In 1985, Pedro Solis Sosa was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a sheriff's deputy in Wilson County. Prosecutors alleged that Sosa killed Ollie Childress Jr. with the officer's own pistol after robbing a bank.

Almost two years after Texas tried to import an execution drug from overseas, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled Thursday that the drug can’t be admitted into the United States.

Updated 10 a.m. ET Tuesday

Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request by Arkansas to lift a stay that would have allowed officials to conduct the state's first execution in nearly a dozen years.

But while Monday's two scheduled executions were blocked, a path has been cleared for the state to carry out other killings scheduled this month; the next two are set for Thursday night.

Illustration by Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the execution of Paul Storey, which was set for Wednesday.

In a three-page order Friday afternoon, the court sent the case back to the Tarrant County trial court to review claims regarding the prosecution presenting false evidence at Storey’s trial.

In 2008, Storey, 32, was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Jonas Cherry during a robbery of a miniature golf course where Cherry worked in Hurst, near Fort Worth. At the trial, the prosecution said that Cherry’s parents wanted the death penalty.

TDCJ/Abby Livingston

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the Texas death penalty case of a Honduran national who is arguing that a federal appeals court wrongly denied him resources to investigate and provide evidence of substance abuse and mental illness.

TDCJ/Abby Livingston

From the Texas Tribune:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Texas death row inmate Tuesday, sending his case back to the appeals court and invalidating the state's current method of determining if a death-sentenced inmate is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution. Texas' method relies on decades-old medical standards and a controversial set of factors.

Joy Diaz/Texas Standard

From Texas standard:

It's not common for a teenager to hang out in the office of a pro bono attorney whose clients are Texas death row inmates. But, that's where 15-year-olds Sebe Shearer and Heidi Ellis are.

 

"I've known Sebe for a really long time now since elementary school and I also needed volunteer hours – so I decided to come with her,” Ellis says.

Filipa Rodrigues / KUT

Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas – its history, how it has changed, whom it affects and its future. 

Courtesy Anthony Graves Foundation

Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas – its history, how it’s changed, whom it affects and its future. The following story is from KERA.

Texas is slated to execute Terry Edwards on Thursday evening. Barring an unexpected reprieve, Edwards will be the second man executed by the state this year. In Texas, 242 people sit on death row awaiting execution. Long the leading executioner in the U.S., the Lone Star State put to death fewer people last year than it has in two decades.

Ken Piorkowski/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas – its history, how it’s changed, whom it affects and its future. The following story is from Texas Public Radio:

When you hear about the death penalty in Texas, the discussion often focuses on criminal proceedings or policy. Often overlooked – how the death penalty affects victim’s families – the people left struggling to find healing in the wake of violent crimes.

Jorge Sanhuez-Lyon/Texas Standard

Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas – its history, how it’s changed, whom it affects and its future. From Texas Standard:

Death row inmates often spend decades between the day they're sentenced and the day they're executed. That can be due to many factors – from lengthy appeals to the state being unable to get the drugs it needs to carry out executions.

Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media

Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas – its history, how it's changed, whom it affects and its future. The following story is from Houston Public Media:

Texas is set to carry out its second execution of the year this week, barring a last minute reprieve. There are another seven planned by July. The use of the death penalty has been on the decline in Texas in recent years. But one state representative from Houston has made it his mission to end it all together.*

Pages