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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…

Bill to abolish death penalty in Kentucky defeated

Downtown Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Downtown Harrodsburg, Kentucky
FRANKFORT, Ky. – A bill that would have abolished capital punishment in Kentucky was rejected by a House committee Wednesday despite claims from opponents that the death penalty is unworkable, too costly and sometimes results in convictions of innocent people.

"The death penalty you support is not the death penalty we have," Rep. David Floyd, a Bardstown Republican, said in appealing to fellow lawmakers to approve House Bill 203, which he sponsored.

HB 203 would replace a death sentence with life without possibility of parole.

But members of the House Judiciary Committee rejected HB 203 on a vote of 9-8 with several committee members expressing unwavering support for the death penalty including Rep. Robert Benvenuti, a Lexington Republican, who spoke against the bill.

"It will never, ever have my support," Benvenuti said.

Still, supporters of ending the death penalty said they were encouraged that the measure got a hearing and a vote before a legislative committee for the first time since 1976 when the General Assembly voted to reinstate the death penalty after it was struck down by a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

"It's progress," said Rev. Patrick Delahanty, chairman of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "We'll be back. Some of them will be gone. Things change."

Several people joined Floyd to speak in favor of ending capital punishment in Kentucky including Joe Gutmann, a former assistant commonwealth's attorney in Jefferson County who prosecuted death penalty cases, and retired Jefferson Circuit Judge Steve Ryan, who said he had presided over such cases and imposed a death sentence.

Gutmann said he once supported the death penalty but has come to oppose it because of the frequent mistakes in the judicial process and the fact that innocent people on death row have been freed in Kentucky and other states after they were exonerated.

"Innocent men are sentenced to death as are guilty ones," he said.

Also speaking in support of abolishing the death penalty was Marc Hyden, advocacy coordinator for the national organization Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

"We believe the death penalty is inconsistent with our core principle of valuing life," Hyden said.

But several lawmakers who voted against the measure brought up heinous crimes that had occurred in their districts, arguing the death penalty should be available in such cases.

They included Rep. Johnny Bell, a Glasgow Democrat, who mentioned last year's brutal rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl in southern Kentucky.

"For me, when it comes to the death penalty, I think about what you have to do to get there," Bell said.

Kentucky currently has 32 people on death row at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville.

The last execution was in 2008.

Executions currently are suspended in Kentucky by order of Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd over questions about the drugs used for lethal injection and how to determine the mental capacity of those sentenced to die, Delahanty said.

Source: Courier-Journal,  Deborah Yetter, March 9, 2016

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