Pardoning has become a holiday tradition for governors and the president, who each year choose a fortunate few whose criminal records will get wiped clean. But experts say state and national leaders are granting fewer pardons these days — and doing it in a way that undermines a critical criminal justice process that allows rehabilitated offenders to lead normal lives. Gov. Rick Perry, for example, has granted only about 180 pardons since 2001. By contrast, Bill Clements issued more than 800 pardons during his eight-year tenure, while Mark White issued nearly 500 in four years.Full Story
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, composed of a chairman and six board members, makes recommendations to the governor about state prisoners' sentences, clemency, parole and supervision. The governor needs support from a majority of the board to alter a prisoner's sentence, which puts considerable weight behind the board's recommendations.
The board performs the following duties, in ...
Gov. Rick Perry today announced pardons for eight Texans who were convicted of relatively minor offenses, most of them decades ago.Full Story
Texas juries sentenced just eight people to death in 2010, the smallest number since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment here in 1976, according to a report published today by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.Full Story
Harris County District Judge Kevin Fine is set to hold a hearing Monday in the case of John Edward Green, who is charged with fatally shooting a Houston woman during a robbery in June 2008. Green’s attorneys and capital punishment opponents want Fine to find that prosecutors can’t seek the death penalty because the way we administer it in Texas is unconstitutional. “The current system is profoundly and fundamentally flawed from top to bottom,” says Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service. Prosecutors counter that the ruling should be made by higher courts, not a trial judge.Full Story
Marvin Brown is a convicted sex offender who was released from jail in 1999. Today, he's ill and elderly, suffering from diabetes, stage-four renal disease and congestive heart failure. He's had three mini-strokes in the last two months alone. On good days, he walks with a cane. Other times, he gets around with a walker or an electric wheelchair. But according to Gov. Rick Perry, he poses such a threat to society that he has to wear an ankle bracelet so he can be continuously monitored. Brown says that's a violation of his civil rights, and on Tuesday he filed suit in federal court. "They can't give you freedom and then take it away," he says.Full Story
The soft-spoken and — until now — media-shy presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals sat down with The Texas Tribune last week to talk about capital punishment in Texas, what she was doing on the afternoon she closed her office at 5 p.m. to a last-minute death row appeal, the flaws in the way the state sanctions judges, what it's like to be known as Sharon “Killer” Keller and the "ridiculous" idea that she doesn't care about defendants or indigent defense.Full Story
The co-director of the University of Texas School of Law Capital Punishment Center, currently representing death row inmate Henry “Hank” Skinner before the U.S. Supreme Court, on what it's like to try a case in front of the high court, how Texas has influenced capital punishment law, why Texas juries are more inclined to impose the death penalty and the impact of life without parole.Full Story
The U.S. Supreme Court heard testimony Wednesday in a case that could have far-reaching ramifications for criminal justice nationally. Lawyers for Henry “Hank” Skinner maintain that the Texas death row inmate has a civil right to access DNA evidence that could exonerate him in the 1993 murders of his live-in girlfriend and her two sons. Lawyers for the state argue that Skinner exhausted his opportunity to analyze potentially exculpatory evidence when his defense team declined to request testing at his original trial, fearing that the results might be incriminating.Full Story
Aguilar on Mexican journalists in grave danger, Galbraith on the continuing saga of Texas vs. the EPA, Ramshaw on whether a broken hospital bed constitutes medical malpractice, M. Smith on the latest delay in the Cameron Todd Willingham case, Hamilton interviews a Sarah Palin-approved GOP candidate for Congress, Stiles goes all interactive in chronicling the massive increase in legislative filings in the last 20 years, Grissom talks about the criminalization of mental illness with an author who knows the subject first-hand, Philpott on closing the budget gap without federal stimulus money, Ramsey on everyone ignoring down-ballot candidates, Hu on the mysterious lack of Rick Perry yard signs and yours truly sits down with the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor: The best of our best from September 20 to 24, 2010.Full Story
Nearly half of all Texans would repeal the constitutional promise of citizenship for anyone born on U.S. soil, and nearly two-thirds would favor Arizona-style laws allowing the police to ask about the immigration status of anyone they stop for any reason, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.Full Story
After a series of investigative reports revealed serious problems with the quality of legal representation for indigent defendants on Texas death row, lawmakers created the Office of Capital Writs. California lawyer Brad Levenson will be moving to Texas to open the new office and attempt to restore some confidence in the state's busy system of capital punishment.Full Story
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, under fire at home for his handling of an investigation into Democratic county constables, played defense before an Austin crowd this morning in a TribLive interview with the Tribune's Evan Smith.Full Story