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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ouisa D. Davis: Let's push for moratorium on death penalty in Texas

Ouisa D. Davis, an El Paso lawyer, wrote Friday in the El Paso Sun Times ("Let's push for moratorium on death penalty in Texas") why Texas needs a moratorium on executions.

HB 913 is awaiting a vote in the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. That bill would create a two-year moratorium and a commission to study the death penalty. It received a hearing in the Subcommittee on Capital Punishment. If the chair of the full committee schedules it for a vote, it will probably pass the committee and move on to the Calendars Committee.

Under the Law of Parties, a person who "should have anticipated" a murder can receive the death penalty for the actions of another. A person sentenced to death under the Law of Parties has not killed anyone. They are accomplices or co-conspirators of one felony, such as robbery, during which another person killed someone. There is currently legislation pending in the Texas Legislature to prevent this application of the death penalty.

On June 17, 2005, Texas juries were given the option of sentencing capital defendants to life without parole.

On March 18, 2009, New Mexico repealed the death penalty, in favor of life without parole.

In all 36 death-penalty states, juries now have the option of sentencing defendants to life without parole.

The U.S. bishops call us to reflect, saying "The test of whether the death penalty can be used is whether society has alternative ways to protect itself, not how terrible the crime was. Life in prison without parole provides a non-lethal alternative to the death penalty. We cannot tell whether God has a purpose for a person's life, even one who has committed a terrible crime and must spend his or her life behind bars."

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