American Bar Association to Texas: Your Administration of the Death Penalty Is Woefully Inept

Categories: Courts, Crime

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Death Penalty in Texas
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.

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.

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What are DNA exonerations per capita of criminals?

Although Texas leads the nation in DNA exonerations (for the entire criminal system, not death row), Texas is also the leader with the largest prisoner population.

Meaning that Texas could actually have the lowest per capital DNA exonerations, although I don't think that is the case.

It would be nice to know what the comparable rates of DNA exoneration per criminal population are, so we could know where Texas stands when looking at other states.

For example, there have been 311 DNA exonerations, nationwide.

We currently have about 6 million under criminal jurisdicition, those incarcerated and those under probation and parole.

During the entire period, whereby all of those 311 cases came from, likely, the past 30-40 years, we would be looking at a total criminal population of huge magnitude, likely in somewhere in the 30-100 million mark, of incarcerations, parole and probations.


The overwhelming majority of death penalty crimes are committed in major metropolitan areas, which, my guess is, when looking at those 20 counties, they are the source for, about 76% of the states' capital murders.


In Texas, as with all states, both state and federal courts are the arbiters of all criminal cases.

What do the courts think of Texas' death penalty?

1) Texas death  penalty cases are overturned 17% of the time.

Nationally, 37% of eath penalty cases are overturned.

Texas' due process protections show a 54% improvement over the national average. I think there is only one state better than Texas.

2)  Texas has executed 45% of those sentenced to death.

Nationally, that figure is 15.4%.

Texas' appellate record is 300% better than the national average.  I think there is only one state better than Texas.

The record would show Texas to be even better, if the Texas numbers were removed from the national averages.

1) Capital Punishment, 2011, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2013,  Table 17, Number sentenced to death and number of removals, by jurisdiction and reason for removal, 1973–2011, page 20


The 12 Texas death row "exonerations" is a fraud. I have no idea where you 47 came from.

The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy

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