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Legislative Issues in Texas: The Death Penalty

While the death penalty has been banned and condemned as an inhumane and barbaric punishment in most of the world, it remains a highly controversial topic in the United States. Proponents of capital punishment claim that convicted murderers can never be reintegrated into society, and claim that execution is the only way to ensure that they pose no threat to anyone. While that may be true in certain cases, the issue of the death penalty is far more complex. Unlike any other punishment, the death sentence is irreversible in every sense of the word. To administer it justly, one must have undeniable proof that the accused is guilty of capital crimes. However, people are imperfect, and even experienced professionals make mistakes. In a country that allows capital punishment, the cost of a mistake can be a human life. This has motivated legislators to design systems that make it as hard a possible for an innocent person to be executed.

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These systems tend to have several stages that are meant to give the accused every opportunity to prove their innocence. Those sentenced to death usually have time to submit numerous appeals, discover new evidence, and interview witnesses. The materials they submit are then carefully considered by the court and may result in a “not guilty” verdict. The convinced may also file habeas appeals if they believe that they have been incarcerated unlawfully. Finally, the state governor usually has the power to grant clemency to death row inmates or postpone the date of their execution.

The state of Texas has built a system that has the opposite purpose – to execute criminals as quickly as possible. The judiciary process in Texas is flawed in several ways, which results in a desperate situation for those accused of capital crimes. At the very first step, the state-provided free lawyers are severely underpaid, and consequently can rarely offer good representation. There have even been cases when the layer openly admitted to believing their client was guilty of arson and murder, despite the lack of concrete proof (“Death By Fire”). The jury may also make unfair decisions based on racial prejudice and an extremely hostile attitude towards criminals. Although such tendencies seem to decline in most southern states, Texas remains the epicenter of enmity in the justice system. Furthermore, because Texas elects judges instead of appointing them, they often act in a way that would be more popular with the public, rather than concentrate their efforts on making the fairest possible decision. Unfortunately, the majority of Texans want to see their judges showing no mercy to criminals.

After the trial, the convicted may appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals. However, the chances of a successful appeal on a death penalty case are extremely low, as the Court of Criminal Appeals is plagued by the same issues. The elected judges and low-grade lawyers leave death row inmates with one last option – asking for clemency. In Texas, this process is made more difficult than in other states, where a governor can grant clemency directly. Before that can happen, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles must vote to give the governor the option to grant clemency to a death row inmate. The issue with this clemency system is that it allows for shared responsibility. As expected, the board often fails to consider the inmates’ arguments, making clemency impossible. A governor could also spare an inmate’s life by never assigning the date of the execution, but in the state of Texas, the date of the execution is assigned by the judge.

In addition to the slew of unjust processes, Texas has optimized its system in a way that allows it to bring death row inmates to execution significantly quicker than in any other state. The main issue with the death penalty in Texas is the fact that not nearly enough effort is being made to administer it fairly. There have been cases of people being executed based on inconclusive evidence, or false witness testimonies (“Death By Fire”). The justice system that is dependent so heavily on public opinion is bound to make decisions that may be popular, but are neither logical nor humane. Although elections can work well for representative roles, they are unfit for the justice system. Unlike a congressman or a governor, who works to represent the opinions of the people who chose them, a judge must always remain impartial. Without this basic principle, the state of Texas will continue to execute people to please the crowd.

Works Cited

“Death By Fire.” PBS. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Legislative Issues in Texas: The Death Penalty." February 15, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/legislative-issues-in-texas-the-death-penalty/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Legislative Issues in Texas: The Death Penalty'. 15 February.

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