American Bar Association to Texas: Your Administration of the Death Penalty Is Woefully Inept
There are a number of legitimate criticisms that can be levied at the American Bar Association: it has accredited far too many law schools such that there are more lawyers than there are jobs, it can be self important and it skews towards the "elites" in the legal profession.
Public Domain Death Penalty in Texas
That said, it is still the premier legal association in the United States and when it releases a 517 (!) page report on the administration of the death penalty in Texas with an all-star cast (all based in Texas), we should listen. (Not every member of the Task Force was against the death penalty). The report opens with this salvo:
In many areas, Texas appears out of step with better practices implemented in other capital jurisdictions, fails to rely upon scientifically reliable methods and processes in the administration of the death penalty, and provides the public with inadequate information to understand and evaluate capital punishment in the state. For example, since 1992, Texas has paid over $60 million to those it has wrongfully imprisoned--money that could have been applied more effectively to find the "right guy" the first time around. In addition, the state and federal courts must spend significant time and resources correcting errors in capital cases--errors that could have been prevented--to the detriment of the vast majority of Texans who rely on the justice system every day. Indeed,preventing error is often far less expensive than correcting error.
It gets worse: from 1989 to 2012, 47 (!) Texas death row inmates have been exonerated via DNA testing or the discovery of new evidence. But yet, almost unbelievably, Texas does not require "indefinite preservation" of DNA/biological evidence for violent felony crimes. (Dallas County's District Attorney has been the exception to this rule and has been remarkably open to getting it right).
What is more, Texas is behind the times on eyewitness identifications, a problem I highlighted in an article for the Law & Psychology Review back in 2007 (which has been cited by Connecticut Supreme Court). Texas courts routinely allow in unreliable eyewitness identifications which have repeatedly been shown to problematic. No matter, Texas prosecutors just want their conviction. But, according to the report, Texas leads the nation in wrongful convictions and exonerations in criminal cases generally.