There’s news today that executions have declined around the country in 2007. This should come as no surprise given the current federal de facto moratorium pending the Supreme Court’s resolution of the lethal injection case, and the fact that New Jersey recently became the first state in a generation to repeal its death penalty law and ban the punishment in the state.
But one state is going against the grain — Texas. This year saw the smallest number of executions in over ten years, but a full 60% of the executions that did take place were in Texas (26 of 42). This despite the fact that the death penalty is not imposed in more murder cases as a percentage than in other states and in Texas and juries are no more likely to impose the death penalty than in other states. The big difference is that in Texas, a death sentence means what it says; in other states, a death sentence doesn’t always result in an execution…or at least not for a long time.
Some professors speculate that the trend will continue to expand. From the Times article:
Indeed, said David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has represented death row inmates, the day is not far off when essentially all executions in the United States will take place in Texas.
“The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions,” he said, “is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have.”
While I think this might be overstating the case a bit (there are other injection-happy states out there, particularly Texas’s neighbors), its a worthwhile statement if only to make clear how out of step Texas is becoming with the rest of the nation with regard to criminal justice and capital punishment. First it became the state that upheld a death penalty imposed while the defendant’s lawyer slept through the trial. Literally. And now it is the state that puts more people to death than do most countries, even as the rest of our own country begins (continues?) to shy away from imposing this harshest punishment.