Texas and the Death Penalty

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|TEXAS & THE DEATH PENALTY | |SOC. 312 / | | | | |

Putting people to death for breaking the law is a punishment that has been in existence for thousands of years of human history and has been enforced in all corners of the world by different societies. Capital punishment has become a very controversial subject that is widely accepted by some people and harshly protested by others especially in today’s American society where differences in opinion about subjects such as this are as broad and complicated as the legal information and research information that has been published about it. This is also one of those subjects where it is impossible, because of these differences for there to be any sort of universal agreement among law makers, law breakers, conforming citizens, communities and societies because it involves punishment by the decision of taking or sparing of a human life.

In the American context, when the topic of the death penalty arises, a word that might come to mind is “Texas”. Texas is probably the most popular state in the U.S. when it comes to this legal sanction because of its notorious history of carrying out over four hundred executions since 1974 and executing more offenders than any other death penalty retentionist jurisdiction. This reputation is what fueled the idea for our group paper. This paper intends to discuss the socio-economic effects, political and deterrent effects of capital punishment in Texas and how it applies to criminology. The deterrence effect of capital punishment is the main criminological element that can be applied to this sort of research because some of the biggest arguments made about this tool of the criminal justice system of Texas and anywhere else are the questions of does the death penalty keep people from committing serious crime and does it really protect the public from the offenders who are on death row and eventually executed?

Texas developed one of the most sophisticated criminal codes in the country during the 1973 “reform legislature” which did a complete overhaul of the state’s criminal justice code in response to a recent corruption scandal in the state’s government resulting in half of the seats in the Texas House of Representatives being filled by new members. This was also in response to the U.S Supreme Court’s decision in Furman v. Georgia which leaned on the unconstitutionality of the current capital punishment laws and eventually annulled nationwide death penalty sentences. This half-new freshman legislature revised the criminal laws of capital punishment in a few ways: One was by implementing a bifurcated trial process. This process was designed to separate the guilt-innocence and punishment phases of the criminal trial. The second revision was the change in the execution method to lethal injection which was seen to be a more humane execution style than electrocution, firing squad or hanging. The third revision was the declaration that only capital murder offenses qualified offenders for capital punishment in Texas. These are crimes such as murder of a police or public safety officer, murder during commission of a felony offense such as robbery, burglary, sexual offense, etc. The Texas Penal Code states that even offenders considered a “party” to a capital murder offense, meaning he or she did not have personal involvement in the act of murder can also be held responsible for it and be sentenced to death. There are...
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