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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…

Opponents Hopeful Pope's Calls to End Death Penalty Resonate in Ohio

Executions are on hold in Ohio until 2017 as prison officials search for the necessary lethal injection drugs.

Death penalty opponents are hopeful the pope's calls to stop the use of capital punishment worldwide will resonate in Ohio, where executions have been highly criticized. After a 2007 assessment found Ohio fell short in 93 % of standards for a fair and accurate state death penalty system, an Ohio Supreme Court task force put forth recommendations for improvement.

Abraham Bonowitz, spokesperson for Ohioans to Stop Executions, explains that since then, more Ohioans support the alternative of life in prison without parole. And because Pope Francis is a moral leader for the world, says Bonowitz, his calls should be heard.

"We've got many, many Catholics here and many Catholics in leadership, in the legislature for example," he says. "And what we have to realize is that all of the mainstream Christian faiths and other religions as well call for ending the death penalty."

Ohio has a moratorium on executions until at least 2017, as prison officials attempt to secure the drugs needed for lethal injection. Of more than 140 death-row inmates in Ohio, 25 have a set execution date starting early next year.

Controversy grew over the death penalty in Ohio in 2014, when Dennis McGuire appeared to choke and struggle for 10 minutes during lethal injection. The state contends he did not suffer distress, and has said it plans to increase dosages in the future. Andrea Koverman, program manager with the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, says the incident opened many people's eyes.

"More and more people are questioning the practice, not only from moral principles but because of its ineffectiveness and the expense of it all," says Koverman. "And people are realizing it has not been an effective deterrent."

Recent research from the University of North Carolina found significant racial, gender, and geographic disparities in the 53 executions performed in Ohio since the state resumed capital punishment in the 1970s. Bonowitz contends an alternative punishment is needed in order to ensure a fair system.

"It's one thing to believe in the concept of the death penalty, but if you look at it and understand how the system fails us - it's not fair, it's not equitably applied," says Bonowitz. "The more you know about the death penalty, the less you like it."

According to Ohioans to Stop Executions, 9 death row inmates have been exonerated, spending a combined 190 years on death row before release.

Source: publicnewsservice.org, Feb. 22, 2016

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