Activists Want Texas' Death Penalty Abolished as Executions Decline

AUSTIN, Texas - Data from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty shows fewer inmates were executed in 2016 than in 2015—a trend the group says continues to go down.

“I think it’s time to get rid of it," said Brian Stolarz, defense attorney.

Opponents of the death penalty say juries are becoming more aware of the risk of a wrongful conviction.

“We also see juries in cases demanding higher standards of evidence. There have been 157 people nationwide and 13 here in Texas who were wrongfully convicted and released from death row,” said Kristin Houle, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  

Defense attorneys say the political climate has changed and so have minds.

RELATED | Texas Carries Out Fewest Executions in Two Decades

“We have a case with no physical evidence, no science at all in the case. Just witness interviews, witness statements and other things, and a man who was innocent was going to die,” said Stolarz.

Two bills have been filed at the state capitol; one would get rid of the death penalty for people convicted under Texas’ law of parties and the other would abolish the death penalty altogether.

Additionally, fewer prosecutors are seeking capital punishment “because they have the option of life in prison without parole and also because many of them don’t want to burden their counties with the exorbitant expense of a death penalty trial,” said Houle.

Some argue the state ought to practice restorative justice—where those convicted have a chance to repent and rehabilitate.

“Even people who have done bad things cannot be judged on that one bad thing alone. People are greater than the one bad thing they do,” said Stolarz. 

So far, 18 states plus DC have abolished the death penalty.

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