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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

North Carolina prosecutor who sent 5 to death row: It's time to end death penalty

Vince Rabil
Vince Rabil
25 years ago, as an assistant district attorney in Forsyth County, Vince Rabil helped put Blanche Taylor Moore on death row. 

Today, Rabil says it is time to end the death penalty and calls Moore - a frail 82-year-old still sitting on death row - "a living monument to the failure of a vanishing legal remedy."

In an op-ed published Sunday, Rabil repudiates a punishment that he spent nearly 2 decades of his career fighting to uphold. In the 1990s, he prosecuted a dozen people for the death penalty and put at least 5 on death row. Four remain there today.

Rabil believed so strongly in the death penalty that, in 1997, he became the 1st prosecutor in the country to seek death for a drunk driver. "This will seriously make everyone stop after the 1st drink or the 2nd one," he said at the time.

Now, Rabil says the death penalty is a broken system that costs taxpayers dearly, threatens innocent defendants, and does little to comfort the grieving families of victims. He says life with no possibility of parole is a more appropriate replacement.

Rabil's transformation reveals how much our state has evolved since the 1990s, when a blind faith in the capital punishment system allowed us to sentence dozens of people a year to die. 

This year, N.C. juries didn't hand down a single death sentence, executions remained on hold for a 9th year, and public opposition to the death penalty reached its highest point since the 1970s. In North Carolina, even a Republican legislator came out against capital punishment.

At the same time, Rabil's courageous stance against the death penalty marks a turning point in North Carolina. While many prosecutors, current and former, no doubt have serious concerns about the death penalty, Rabil is the 1st in our state to take such a public stand.

We applaud Rabil for speaking the truth that so many others are afraid to admit.

Source: nccadp, December 14, 2015

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