Texas executed more people than any other state in 2017, but the number of times inmates were put to death was again at a low in the Lone Star State.
Seven men were executed in Texas in 2017. The figure was the same as 2016, a year with the lowest number of executions in two decades, The Texas Tribune reported.
Texas still executed more death row inmates than any other state. The trend is not unusual. Texas has put to death nearly five times more people than any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the Death Penalty Information Center states.
In 2017, Texas accounted for 30 percent of the 23 executions carried out nationwide. Arkansas executed the second highest number of inmates with four. In 2016, Georgia executed more people than Texas. However, it was the first time Texas had not led the national table since 2001, noted The Tribune.
The decline in the use of the death penalty is linked to fewer new death sentences and more reduced punishments in recent years.
Over the last two years, a series of executions have been halted by appeals, some of them to the highest court in the land.
The Tribune reported two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2017 led to the reduction of three death sentences to life in prison. In two high profile cases from Harris County, the high court ruled against Texas in the death penalty cases of Duane Buck and Bobby Moore.
The justices said Buck’s case was prejudiced by expert defense counsel testimony. An expert told the jury Buck was more likely to re-offend in the future because he is black.
Buck’s lawyers later reached a plea agreement with Harris County prosecutors to change his death sentence.
Moore’s case had even greater implications for criminal justice in Texas. The judges invalidated the method used by Texas to determine if an inmate is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution.
Moore’s case has yet to be resolved. Harris County prosecutors requested the Texas Court of Appeals to reduce Moore’s sentence to life in prison.
Harris County was once the U.S. execution capital. However, the number of times the ultimate sanction was used on an inmate from Harris County fell to zero in 2017, reported the Christian Science Monitor.
The report noted 126 inmates from Harris County were executed since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976. The figure marks more executions than every individual state in the union with the exception of Texas.
In 2017, the county with the reputation for being the death penalty capital of the United States executed and sentenced no defendants to death.
Kim Ogg, the Harris County District Attorney, campaigned on platforms including a more selective pursuit of death sentences during her election.
Ogg sought the death penalty in four cases in 2017. On all four occasions, the jury instead sentenced the defendant to life without parole.
Robert Dunham, the director of the Death Penalty Information Center stated:
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also significant because they reflect the growing movement in the United States toward reform prosecutors who have pledged to use the death penalty more sparingly if at all.”
At the same time, issues with the supply of execution drugs impacted capital punishment rates across the county. In 2016, only five states carried out executions even though the death penalty is on the statute books of 31 states.
If you are facing charges for a serious crime such as a homicide, you are more likely to be executed in Texas than elsewhere. It’s vital to seek experienced criminal defense representation.