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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…

Texas: Minister jailed for protesting execution refuses to be silent

Jeff Hood, a Denton Texas based pastor, faces arrest after crossing security-tape line, Tuesday evening, March 22, 2016, Huntsville Texas.
Jeff Hood, a Denton Texas based pastor, faces arrest after crossing
security-tape lineTuesday evening, March 22, 2016, Huntsville Texas.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Rev. Jeff Hood made his stand against the death penalty.

At the very moment Adam Ward was being put to death for a 2005 killing of code enforcement officer in Hunt County, the Denton resident, wearing his ministers' robe and stole, strode up to the police line keeping death penalty protesters back.

"I told them I was coming across, and they said, 'No, you're not,'" Hood said.

Hood spoke to News 8 Thursday after his release from jail. He is a spiritual advisor to several death row inmates. One of them was Juan Garcia, who was executed last fall for the 1998 robbery and killing of a Houston man.

"We're sitting here in the middle of holy week -- where Christians are celebrating beauty of the atonement of Jesus -- and yet we are, still killing for the sake of atoning for evil, and that's not very Christian," Hood said. "How can we love our neighbor as yourself and kill them?"

Hood, a Baptist minister, drove to Huntsville on Tuesday fully planning to commit what he calls an act of civil disobedience.

Hood knew full well he'd arrested when he crossed that line outside the "Walls Unit," which houses the death penalty chamber. He says he felt it was something God was leading him to do.

He wore what he calls his "protest robe." This was not its 1st protest.

He called his wife to let her know that he was going to go through with it. He began to pray and ask God to be with him. He said he kept hearing the last words of Jesus, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

"When my feet started moving, I felt the spirit with me," Hood said. "There was no question."

Once he crossed the line, he says the guard told him he was either going to turn back or to go jail.

"I said, 'I can't,'" Hood said.

The 2 officers then escorted him to a squad car.

On the way to jail, he says the officer asked him what his religion was. He told him he was Baptist and a follower of Jesus.

Once he was booked and inside cell at the Walker County jail, he says began worshipping, praying, and singing spiritual songs. He says he specifically prayed for Ward.

He says he felt God speak to him, telling him, "He's OK. He's with you. You will get a chance to see him again one day."

Hood later learned that was about the time that Ward died.

The minister was released from jail about 1 a.m. Wednesday. He immediately drove to Austin, where he testified before a legislative committee about immigration issues.

It's not Hood's 1st arrest.

In 2015, he was arrested outside the White House at a rally of pastors protesting deportations and again at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas. He's been vocal in the quest for justice for Joseph Hutcheson, a man who died last summer in the lobby of the Dallas County jail.

"For me, I count as a particular burden to keep doing this to show Christians that you can't follow Jesus -- you can't love your neighbor as yourself -- and keep on killing people," said Hood, who previously headed a social justice ministry at the Cathedral of Hope.

He's back at home in Denton -- back with his wife and 5 kids.

"I want my children to look back and see these pictures and some of these moments of this arrest," he says, "and say, 'My father did all that he could do to keep the State of Texas from killing people."

He says he received a call from Ward's father inviting him to attend the funeral. He plans to attend to pay his respects.

Source: KHOU news, March 26, 2016

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