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The Brief: Texas executions, death sentences trend downward in 2016

This year, Texas is set to execute the lowest number of people in two decades, and juries in the state have handed out the second-fewest death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The view of Texas' execution chamber from a witness viewing room.

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The Big Story

The state of Texas is set to execute the lowest number of people in 20 years. Here's the story:

• Texas executed seven people this year, more than any state other than Georgia, which held nine executions. The number is the lowest Texas has seen since 1996, when three people were executed.

The number of new death sentences also continued its downward trend. This year's four new death sentences is the second least since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 — behind 2015, which saw just two, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice data.

• Experts attribute the trend to fewer murders in Texas — and the option for juries to sentence convicts to life without parole. TDCJ data shows more than 40 people this year were convicted of capital murder and given the lesser sentence.

The state has executed 538 people since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. That’s nearly five times as many as Oklahoma, which has the second most at 112.

What We're Reading

(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Forensic video analysis goes under the microscope in Texas, The Marshall Project

Fed raises interest rates, signaling an improving economy, Houston Chronicle 

Advocates vow to fight broad deportation of immigrants, Houston Chronicle 

Council, community push for accountability on housing bond, San Antonio Express-News

Rape survivor, exonerated man credit testing of old DNA samples for solving cases, The Dallas Morning News

Today in TribTalk

"We must ensure that taxpayer money is spent as efficiently as possible and demand accountability from state agencies for each dollar that the Legislature appropriates."

John Zerwas, State Rep., R-Richmond 

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   Health Care and the 85th Legislature on Dec. 15 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio - Pestana Lecture Hall

•   Trivia Night on Jan. 8 at The Highball 

•   A Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Jan. 11 at The Austin Club 

•   A Conversation with the University of Houston's Renu Khator on Jan. 12 at The Austin Club

•   A Conversation with Reps. Dustin Burrows & Drew Darby on Jan. 19 at Howard College – West Texas Training Center

•   A Conversation on Mental Health on Jan. 26 at The Austin Club

•   A Conversation with Sen. Kel Seliger & Rep. Brooks Landgraf on Feb. 17 at Odessa College – Saulsbury Campus Center

•   A Conversation with Reps. Senfronia Thompson & James White on March 31 at Prairie View A&M University – W.A. Tempton Memorial Student Center

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