TEXAS (USA): LOWEST NUMBER OF EXECUTIONS IN 20 YEARS
October 11, 2016: For the 1st time in 20 years, the number of Texas executions will fall out of double digits this year.
The 7 men put to death this year are the fewest since 1996, when executions halted amid legal challenges to a new state law intended to hasten the death penalty appeals process, according to data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Only 1 more execution is scheduled for 2016. "There is clearly a change going on in Texas," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Judges and appellate courts rescheduled or stopped executions 15 times for 11 people in 2016.
At least 2 judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals have said better lawyering by defense attorneys - including bringing forward better arguments and challenging "junk science" convictions - has contributed to the recent stays.
The state's highest criminal court sent multiple cases back to trial courts this year to resolve claims relating to potentially faulty evidence. The number of new sentences dropped significantly after 2005, when life without parole became the alternative for jurors in death penalty trials, but the past 2 years have seen even lower numbers.
Texas counties have sentenced 3 men to death this year, and only 2 received the penalty last year, according to TDCJ.
Murder rates in Texas steadily decreased from 1996 to 2013, dropping from 7.7 to 4.4 murders per 100,000 people, according to FBI crime data.
The rate increased slightly the next 2 years. (Source: KHOU news, 11/10/2016)