STUDIES: ABA Criticizes Texas Death Penalty in Latest Report
On September 18, the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Due Process Review Project released its latest report, focusing on the fairness and accuracy of Texas’s death penalty system. The report found: “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.” (Exec. Sum.) The assessment made several recommendations to help prevent wrongful convictions and improve due process, including requiring the indefinite preservation of biological evidence in violent crimes, abandoning the law's emphasis on predicting the “future dangerousness” of the defendant in deciding death sentences, and enacting appropriate statutes to deal with capital defendants with intellectual disabilities and severe mental illness. The report commended Texas on recent improvements to their justice system such as better lineup procedures, disclosure of police reports to the defense, and the establishment of two defender offices to provide capital representation throughout the state. The assessment team included Professor Jennifer Laurin from the University of Texas School of Law (Chair) and former Texas Governor Mark White.
Texas leads the country in executions since 1976 with 503, including 11 so far in 2013. Death sentences, however, have declined markedly in recent years.
(B. Grissom, "Bar Association: Texas Death Penalty System Falls Short," Texas Tribune, September 18, 2013; Texas Death Penalty Assessment Report, American Bar Association, September 18, 2013). See Studies for other state assessments.