Death Penalty in Texas: Just the Facts

Texas is one state in the nation that allows for the death penalty. Also referred to as “capital punishment,” it was declared “cruel and unusual punishment” by the U.S. Supreme Court in June of 1972 and was therefore prohibited in any state. At that time, there were 45 men on death row in the state. These sentences were changed to life sentences by the governor at the time.

However, in 1973, there was a revision to the Texas Penal Code and executions were allowed to begin again in January of 1974. Later, in 1977, Texas adopted lethal injection as a method of execution. The state’s first lethal injection execution was in 1982. Beginning in January of 1996, close relatives and friends of a deceased victim were permitted to witness the execution.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the following crimes are considered Capital Murder offenses in Texas:

  • Murder of a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
  • Murder during the commission or attempted commission of kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat;
  • Murder for remuneration or promise of remuneration or employs another to commit murder for remuneration or promise of remuneration;
  • Murder during escape or attempted escape from a penal institution;
  • Murder, while incarcerated in a penal institution, of a correctional employee or with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination;
  • Murder while incarcerated in a penal institution for a conviction of murder or capital murder;
  • Murder while incarcerated in a penal institution serving a life sentence or a 99 year sentence for a conviction of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated robbery;
  • Murder of more than one person during the same criminal transaction or during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct;
  • Murder of an individual under ten years of age; or
  • Murder in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Texas leads the nation in the number of executions.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 35 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons had a total of 3,082 inmates who had been sentenced to the death penalty. This was 57 less than the total in 2010.

In addition, other statistics show that of those 3,082 inmates facing the death penalty in 2011, 55% were Caucasian and 42% were African American. Of the remainder, there were 387 Hispanic inmates facing the death penalty and there were still others with no known ethnicity. In 2012, there were a total of 43 inmates executed throughout nine states.