Monday, December 28, 2009

Death Sentences Decline, Life Without Parole Sentences Rising, Creating New Kind of Condemned Person

The Houston Chronicle reports that as death sentences have decline, life without parole sentences have risen. People sentenced to life without parole are sentenced to die in prison, so they constitute a new kind of condemned person. The Texas Life Without Parole bill was passed in 2005. The author of the bill wanted to have three options in capital cases, 1) death, 2) life without parole, and 3) life with the possibility of parole after 40 years; however conservatives and Republicans refused to support the bill unless the possibility of parole after 40 years was removed from the bill. That left only two options, death and life without parole.

The article also points out that Bexar (San Antonio) and Tarrant County (Fort Worth) now send more people to death row than Harris County.


Bexar and Tarrant each sent eight newly convicted killers to death row in the four years since the law took effect, state prison data show. In the same period, larger Harris and Dallas counties sent six apiece, based on the Chronicle's analysis of Texas Department of Criminal Justice death row arrivals.
No one disputes Texas' life-without-parole law has had another, more measurable impact.

Welcome to ‘life row'

Already, the 4-year-old law has created a kind of “life row” — a perpetual population of convicted killers and accomplices who can never win reductions in their sentence regardless of behavior, youth , mental deficiency or other factors. This group appears to be growing faster than death row itself. Texas' death row population stands at 332, TDCJ data show. As of Nov. 30, a total of 226 inmates were serving life without parole.

Read the full article here.


Nine people were sentenced to death in Texas in 2009:

Jerry Martin: Walker County (tried in Leon County). Killed a 59-year-old prison guard.
Fabian Hernandez: El Paso County. Killed ex-wife and her friend.
Demontrell Miller: Smith County. Fatally beat his girlfriend's 2-year-old son.
Paul Devoe: Travis County. Murdered two women as part of a six-person, two-state homicidal rampage.
James Broadnax: Dallas County. Shot and killed two men.
Armando Leza: Bexar County. Robbed and killed a disabled woman.
Christian Olsen: Brazos County. Broke into a home and murdered a woman with a metal bar.
Erick Davila: Tarrant County. Opened fire at a birthday party, killing a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother.
Raul Cortez: Collin County. Killed a family of four in a home invasion.

Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Death Penalty Information Center, news reports and interviews.

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