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 ...

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.

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. 

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

More than 100 elected officials, religious officials and lawyers have sent a letter to the Harris County district attorney's office urging a new hearing in the case of Duane Buck, who they say was unfairly sentenced to death because of an expert witness's testimony.

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

UPDATED: 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.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 2/18/13

Grissom begins a gripping series on mental health and criminal justice, Hamilton and White on the Senate’s defense of UT-Austin, Murphy’s interactive look at public school test scores, Ramshaw finds the governor digging in on the Medicaid expansion, Rocha and Dehn visit a weapons maker with Ted Cruz, M. Smith explores another angle on unpopular standardized testing, Batheja on a car that drives right past state laws, Aguilar reports on the other immigration problem, Aaronson on a break in the race for a cancer cure: The best of our best for the week of February 18-22, 2012.

Andre Thomas with his son, Andre Thomas Jr.
Andre Thomas with his son, Andre Thomas Jr.

Andre Thomas: Services Scarce for Troubled Youths

During his troubled adolescence, lawyers for death row inmate Andre Thomas say he never received the mental health care he needed. In Texas, there are few mechanisms to diagnose and treat youths who suffer from mental illness.

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

Call for a New Execution Date Revives Race Debate

Harris County prosecutors will seek a new execution date on Monday for death row inmate Duane Buck. His defenders say race played a role in his death sentence. Prosecutors say courts have "thoroughly reviewed" and rejected his claims.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 1/7/13

Batheja on growing calls for infrastructure spending, Dehn and Rocha report on voters’ legislative wishes, Murphy counts noses in the new Legislature, KUT’s Philpott sniffs out a push for tax relief, M. Smith tracks House Speaker Joe Straus after his re-election, Kalifa’s lovely time-lapse look at the Legislature’s first day, Aaronson on the Medicaid expansion, Aguilar on hopes for immigration reform, Grissom on the tribulations of Kerry Max Cook, Hamilton looks into a college curriculum battle, and E. Smith’s TribLive interview with Michael Williams: The best of our best for the week of Jan. 7, 2013.

In 1981, Max Soffar was sentenced to death for the murder of three people at a Houston bowling alley. Soffar, who has spent three decades on death row, says his confessions were coerced. Prosecutors say that the case against him is solid, and police officers deny accusations of coercion.
In 1981, Max Soffar was sentenced to death for the murder of three people at a Houston bowling alley. Soffar, who has spent three decades on death row, says his confessions were coerced. Prosecutors say that the case against him is solid, and police officers deny accusations of coercion.

Inmate's Case Adds to Debate on Recorded Interrogations

Death row inmate Max Soffar says his 1980 murder confession was coerced. As his lawyers say his case highlights a broader debate about false confessions, police and prosecutors say he told them details only the killer would know. 

This gurney is used to perform executions at Terre Haute by lethal injection.
This gurney is used to perform executions at Terre Haute by lethal injection.

Death Row Population at Its Lowest Since 1989

Mirroring a national trend, death sentences in Texas have declined over the last decade. Death sentences have fallen 75 percent since 2002, according to a new report. And the Texas death row population is the lowest in more than 20 years. 

Preston Hughes interview two months before Hughes' first scheduled execution date, TDCJ Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas. September 19, 2012.
Preston Hughes interview two months before Hughes' first scheduled execution date, TDCJ Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas. September 19, 2012.

Preston Hughes Executed for 1988 Murder

Preston Hughes was executed Thursday night for the fatal 1988 stabbing of two youths in Houston. Hughes was the second Texas inmate executed in two days.

Preston Hughes interview two months before Hughes' first scheduled execution date, TDCJ Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas. September 19, 2012.
Preston Hughes interview two months before Hughes' first scheduled execution date, TDCJ Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas. September 19, 2012.

A Death Row Struggle Between Advocates and Lawyers

Preston Hughes III, who faces a Nov. 15 execution date, trusts several advocates without legal training more than his court-appointed attorney. The conflict between advocates and attorneys is not unusual in death penalty cases.

From Left, Patricia Willingham Cox, Cameron Todd Willingham's cousin, Eugenia Willingham, his stepmother, and Judy Cavnar, his cousin, are seeking to clear Willingham's name from a 1991 arson case for which he was executed in 2004. They spoke at a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday, October 24th, 2012.
From Left, Patricia Willingham Cox, Cameron Todd Willingham's cousin, Eugenia Willingham, his stepmother, and Judy Cavnar, his cousin, are seeking to clear Willingham's name from a 1991 arson case for which he was executed in 2004. They spoke at a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday, October 24th, 2012.

Willingham's Family Seeks "Posthumous Pardon"

The surviving relatives of Cameron Todd Willingham have sent an application for pardon, hoping to clear his name eight years after his execution for a 1991 fire that killed his three young children.

A.P. Merillat has spent more than 20 years as an investigator of prison crimes and been a go-to expert for prosecutors seeking the death penalty. In June, the courts reversed a second death penalty conviction based on his inaccurate testimony.
A.P. Merillat has spent more than 20 years as an investigator of prison crimes and been a go-to expert for prosecutors seeking the death penalty. In June, the courts reversed a second death penalty conviction based on his inaccurate testimony.

Death Penalty Witness Condemned by Courts

Prison investigator A.P. Merillat's court testimony about the violence inmates serving life sentences can inflict has helped send at least 15 murderers to death row. Now, his credibility has been condemned by the state’s highest criminal court.