Tribpedia: Death Penalty

The death penalty is the ultimate punishment for capital murder convictions in Texas, which leads the nation in the number of executions since the practice resumed in 1976.

The state has adopted various methods to administer the death penalty over the years, including hanging (1819-1923), electrocution (1924-1964) and lethal injection (1977-today), according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's ...

Willingham Won't Get Posthumous Pardon

September 17, 2010 - Activist Jamie Bush attends the Texas Forensic Science Commission board meeting on September 17, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.
September 17, 2010 - Activist Jamie Bush attends the Texas Forensic Science Commission board meeting on September 17, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.

UPDATED: The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has voted not to recommend a posthumous full pardon for Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed a decade ago after being convicted of setting a house fire that killed his three young daughters. 

DNA Hearing Brings Skinner Case Closer to Resolution

After more than a decade of fighting for DNA testing, death row inmate Hank Skinner got the day in court he was after. During a two-day hearing that ended Tuesday, prosecutors argued that the analysis only confirmed Skinner’s guilt, but his lawyers said the results raised too many questions to allow him to be executed for a 20-year-old triple murder. 

Hearing to Look at DNA Evidence in Skinner Case

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After more than a decade of fighting for DNA tests and two years of analysis of decades-old evidence, a court in Pampa will hear evidence that death row inmate Hank Skinner says should stop his execution. Prosecutors, however, say all the DNA testing only confirmed his guilt.

GOP attorney general candidates from left to right: Ken Paxton, Dan Branch, Barry Smitherman.
GOP attorney general candidates from left to right: Ken Paxton, Dan Branch, Barry Smitherman.

AG Candidates Weigh In on Execution of Mexican National

Wednesday night’s execution in Texas of a Mexican national convicted of killing a Houston police officer has given the candidates vying to be the state’s next attorney general an opportunity to weigh in on the death penalty — revealing only slight differences in how they might have handled the case.

 

Dennis and Patty Thuesen look through photos of their son John from his childhood and his service in the military. John, an Iraq war veteran, is appealing his death sentence for the murders of his girlfriend and her brother, Rachel and Travis Joiner, claiming that lawyers at his original trial did not adequately inform jurors about his PTSD.
Dennis and Patty Thuesen look through photos of their son John from his childhood and his service in the military. John, an Iraq war veteran, is appealing his death sentence for the murders of his girlfriend and her brother, Rachel and Travis Joiner, claiming that lawyers at his original trial did not adequately inform jurors about his PTSD.

Considering the Toll of War in a Death Penalty Debate

Lawyers for Iraq War veteran John Thuesen are appealing the former Marine's death sentence, arguing that his original trial lawyers didn't adequately explain the post-traumatic stress that Thuesen had suffered. But prosecutors say post-traumatic stress was not to blame for the cold-blooded double murder that Thuesen committed in 2009.

Year in Review: Criminal Justice

Fallout from the high-profile Michael Morton exoneration along with more prison closures and growing concerns about the mentally ill in Texas prisons dominated criminal justice headlines in 2013.

 

The death row file for Marvin Wilson, who was executed in 2012 for the 1992 murder of Jerry Robert Williams of Beaumont. Wilson's lawyers argued that he was mentally retarded and unfit for execution.
The death row file for Marvin Wilson, who was executed in 2012 for the 1992 murder of Jerry Robert Williams of Beaumont. Wilson's lawyers argued that he was mentally retarded and unfit for execution.

Court May Clarify Rule on Impairment, Death Penalty

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of a Florida death row inmate — who claims he does not have the mental capacity to face execution — could provide more guidance to states like Texas as they determine who is too intellectually disabled to face the death penalty.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 9/16/13

M. Smith drops in on state textbook hearings, E. Smith interviews Tom Pauken, Satija on water rationing along the Colorado River, Root probes Dan Patrick’s unexpected investment, KUT’s Philpott sorts out clinic closings, Murphy maps the latest census data, MacLaggan on a welcome turn in poverty, Malewitz finds a race for energy efficiency, Hamilton reports on better grades for Sul Ross, Grissom on bad grades for the death penalty, Batheja on Debra Medina’s dilemma, Aguilar on the glum forecast for immigration reform and Aaronson looks at the latest hurdle for Obamacare: The best of our best for the week of Sept. 16-20, 2013.

New Law Gives New Hope to Death Row Inmate

Convicted of stomping a 19-month-old baby to death, Robert Avila faces execution in January. Under a law passed this year that allows for new trials in cases where forensic science has advanced, Avila hopes to bring to court new scientific evidence that his lawyers say shows that the child's death could have been a tragic accident. 

From the Tea Party, a Softer Line in Criminal Justice

Texas Weekly

Legislators approved at least seven bills meant to prevent future wrongful convictions. Michael Morton’s ubiquitous presence and lobbying efforts helped. But both reform advocates and prosecutors agree that the increased presence of Tea Party Republicans also changed the Legislature’s attitude toward law and order.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, c, discusses SB 1292 on pre-trial DNA testing March 19, 2013 with Sen. Robert Duncan, l, and Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, c, discusses SB 1292 on pre-trial DNA testing March 19, 2013 with Sen. Robert Duncan, l, and Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott.

DNA Testing Mandate Gets Early House Approval

The Texas House gave early approval on Tuesday to a requirement that the Department of Public Safety perform DNA testing on all biological evidence prior to the start of cases that involve the death penalty.

Robert Pruett, 33, was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of correctional officer Daniel Nagle. Pruett says he was framed by corrupt guards and inmates while the prison employee union says chronic understaffing led to Nagle's murder.
Robert Pruett, 33, was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of correctional officer Daniel Nagle. Pruett says he was framed by corrupt guards and inmates while the prison employee union says chronic understaffing led to Nagle's murder.

Execution for Prison Guard Murder Delayed for DNA Tests

Death row inmate Robert Pruett will get a 60-day reprieve from his May 21 execution date after his lawyers filed a request for DNA testing Thursday, arguing that it could prove Pruett did not murder a prison guard in 2002. State prosecutors agreed to allow the requested testing.

Robert Pruett, 33, was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of correctional officer Daniel Nagle. Pruett says he was framed by corrupt guards and inmates while the prison employee union says chronic understaffing led to Nagle's murder.
Robert Pruett, 33, was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of correctional officer Daniel Nagle. Pruett says he was framed by corrupt guards and inmates while the prison employee union says chronic understaffing led to Nagle's murder.

Pending Execution Revives Prison Staffing Debate

Officials of a prison workers' union say that understaffing had a role in the 1999 murder of a correctional officer, who was fatally stabbed by an inmate. They say such issues continue to exist and put officers in danger today. The inmate convicted of the officer's murder says he was framed.

Death row inmate Duane Buck, Texas Department of Criminal Justice photo
Death row inmate Duane Buck, Texas Department of Criminal Justice photo

Panel Debates Death Penalty Cases, Race Considerations

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Lawmakers debated a bill that would allow death row inmates to appeal if they believe that race played a role in their convictions. Advocates pointed to the case of death row inmate Duane Buck as a prime example of what they say is a widespread problem, while some house members worried about unintended consequences if the bill is too broad. 

Death row inmate Duane Buck, Texas Department of Criminal Justice photo
Death row inmate Duane Buck, Texas Department of Criminal Justice photo

Lawmakers Urge New Hearing in Death Penalty Case

Over a hundred elected officials, religious officials, and lawyers, including Former Governer Mark White, sent a letter to the Harris County District Attorney's Office urging a new hearing in the death penalty case of Duane Buck, who they say was unfairly sentenced to death because he is black.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, c, discusses SB 1292 on pre-trial DNA testing March 19, 2013 with Sen. Robert Duncan, l, and Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, c, discusses SB 1292 on pre-trial DNA testing March 19, 2013 with Sen. Robert Duncan, l, and Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott.

Senate Committee Passes DNA Testing Bill

Attorney General Greg Abbott is supporting a bill by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, that would require DNA testing of "all biological evidence" in cases where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Bill Would Limit Execution of Intellectually Disabled

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and other advocates want a new law to ensure that Texas doesn't execute offenders who are intellectually disabled. Prosecutors say the existing law already does that and that Ellis' proposal would make it too easy for defendants to argue they should be exempt from execution.