Ask anybody to guess which US State executes the most people, and they will probably name Texas. That is true in modern history, but hasn’t always been the case.
Before 1976, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina all had more executions than Texas. New York state led that time period with 1277 executions compared to Texas’s 755.
From 1982 to its last execution in July 2018, Texas has executed 553 prisoners. In comparison, the second top state for executions, Virginia, executed 113 prisoners, and the third state, Oklahoma, executed 112 prisoners, the fourth, Florida, executed 96 prisoners, and the fifth, Missouri, executed 88 prisoners.
There are now 243 prisoners on the state’s death row, including 6 women.
Harris County, Texas, was infamous for being responsible for executing 126 people, or almost 25% of all executions in the entire state. That changed when the county elected the reformed minded prosecutor Kim Ogg in 2016.
DA Ogg has said of the death penalty, “With other sentencing options and with an increased knowledge of science and technology, Americans feel responsible as jurors in a way they didn’t in the past because there’s more information to be considered. So I think attitudes toward the death penalty are changing.”
There have been several controversial cases in Texas of executions of people that are considered by many to be innocent.
Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted and executed for the arson deaths of his 3 young daughters, with now discredited science, in a house fire that many experts believe was accidental.
Columbia Law School students have set forth a case that Carlos DeLuna was executed in 1989 in a case of mistaken identity.
In October 2017 Texas executed 38-year-old Robert Pruett. Pruett was sentenced to 99 years in prison at the age of 15 for a murder his father committed, and sentenced to death at age 20 for the murder of a prison guard.
Author Cara H. Drinan said of the case, “We failed Robert Pruett in not addressing his childhood poverty, abuse and neglect; we failed Robert Pruett in treating him as if he’d been as culpable as his adult father when he was 15; and we failed Robert Pruett by immersing him in a culture of prison violence at 16. We can and must do better by our children, even when they commit a crime.”
Texas has a controversial law of parties, where a person can be executed when they are not responsible for an actual killing. In the case of Jeff Wood, he was sentenced to death, for sitting in a truck while his friend robbed and killed a convenience store clerk. A jury ruled that Wood should have anticipated the murder, but he maintained he didn’t know his friend was armed or planned to commit robbery.
Texas and Oregon are the only two states where the jury is compelled to speculate on “future dangerousness.” A study found that of 155 Texas cases experts were wrong 95% of the time in predicting the future danger of a defendant.
There are many flaws and areas of concern in the Texas death penalty. Let Governor Greg Abbott know your thoughts!
Even if the system was without flaw, it takes more strength to be merciful. A government that kills its own people is brutalizing. In the 21st century how can killing be done to show that killing is wrong?
Write Governor Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Phone, email, and contact Governor Abbott at