Within the United States, capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, has had a long and controversial history. This blog details context, history, and facts surrounding the use of capital punishment in Texas since its introduction. In terms of historical context, the first execution in Texas occurred in 1819. The man executed was ship captain George Brown, who was hanged for piracy in Galveston. Upon reaching statehood, hanging was primarily used as a method of execution until 1924. In a few rare instances, the use of firing squads for execution was also permitted (ex: three confederate deserters during the Civil War).
Then, in 1923, the state changed its execution laws requiring that capital punishment be carried out through the use of the electric chair. This method had been used until 1965 with a total of 361 people electrocuted over the period. Then, as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Furman vs. Georgia (1972), the laws surrounding capital punishment were revised. This came through the introduction of a split trial process that separated guilt or innocence and punishment. A few years later in 1976, a Supreme Court decision once again allowed for the death penalty to be imposed. Since this revision, in a period dubbed the post-Gregg era, Texas has executed 565 people. Nowadays, death penalty executions are carried out through lethal injection.
Texas Leading in the Death Penalty
Although the use of capital punishment has slowly decreased across the United States, Texas still remains the primary perpetrator. Of the eight states that had an execution last year, Texas accounted for half of these deaths nationwide. This was also the case for last year (13 people were executed in Texas out of the 25 across the nation). There are also a number of studies that reflect on the impact of race when it comes to death row sentencing, as more than seventy-two percent are people of color. The takeaway here is that since its inception, the use of capital punishment within the state has had a large share of controversy and change-making for a shaky piece of the larger legal puzzle. For those looking to impact the ways in which we approach legal punishment in Texas, it is important to consider its contentious place in Texas history.
Within the state of Texas, there are a number of homicide types that meet the requirements for capital murder:
- The murder occurred while the defendant was carrying out a kidnapping, robbery, burglary, arson or sexual assault
- The murder occurred during a prison break
- The defendant hired someone to murder or was hired to murder
- The victim was either an officer or fireman on duty
- The victim was younger than ten years old
- The defended killed multiple people as a result of their actions
- The defended, while incarcerated, kills an inmate
If you are curious about capital punishment, contact a criminal defense attorney, like a criminal defense attorney in Arlington, TX, for more information.
Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, for their insight into capital punishment in Texas.