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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…

Death penalty chaos around the country

Nevada just became the ninth death penalty state to go a decade or more without an execution. Add those nine to the 19 states without capital punishment, and you have 28 states that have abandoned executions in either law or practice.

And in the remaining states? The death penalty is in complete chaos.

Florida’s death penalty law has already been thrown out twice in 2016. The first ruling came from the U.S. Supreme Court in January. The Florida legislature then passed a “fix” to the law, and last month a Miami judge threw it out again. Alabama’s death penalty law is similar to Florida’s, and the Supreme Court sent a death sentence back for review for the third time this week because of those similarities.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Georgia have come under fire for illegally keeping African Americans off the jury in a death penalty case. The Supreme Court overturned the sentence with a vote of 7-1. The defendant is one of many black men sentenced to die by an all-white jury across the south.

Lethal injection debacles continue as states struggle to find drugs, hide their processes in secrecy, or carry out executions with outright “systemic ineptitude.”

Oklahoma is back at the heart of the lethal injection controversy. A grand jury released 106 pages of scathing critiques last month, citing “inexcusable failures” in the state’s execution process. According to the Washington Post, the grand jury:

“…paints these officials as careless and, in some cases, reckless. The missteps described by the grand jury include a pharmacist ordering the wrong drug for executions, multiple state employees failing to notice or tell anyone about the mixup and a high-ranking official in the governor’s office urging others to carry out an execution even with the incorrect drug.”

The same secrecy and lack of oversight found in Oklahoma is common in other states, too, and has contributed to execution problems in Missouri, Georgia, and Ohio.

And now Pfizer, the last remaining, FDA-approved supplier of lethal injection drugs, declared it no longer wants to be in the execution business. Pfizer announced sweeping new restrictions on the distribution of some if its drugs, preventing them from being used in executions.

The last death penalty holdouts show that the only way to have a death penalty is to accept bias, ineptitude, and arbitrariness. It’s only a matter of time before the death penalty is gone for good.

Source: Equal Justice USA, Sarah Craft, June 7, 2016

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