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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…

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Two Major Death Penalty Cases

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear two cases raising major questions about the death penalty, including whether executing a condemned inmate more than 35 years after he was sentenced to death violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

That case, Moore v. Texas, No. 15-797, concerns Bobby J. Moore, who has been on death row since 1980 for shooting and killing an elderly Houston supermarket clerk, James McCarble, during a robbery. 

Mr. Moore’s case also raises questions about whether Texas uses outdated standards in assessing whether a defendant’s intellectual disability was severe enough to bar his execution.

The second case, Buck v. Stephens, No. 15-8049, concerns the role race may play in capital sentencing. 

Duane Buck was convicted of the 1995 murders of a former girlfriend and another man. Texas law allows death sentences only if prosecutors can show the defendant poses a future danger to society.

During the trial’s sentencing phase, Mr. Buck’s lawyer presented testimony from a psychologist who said that race is one of the factors associated with future dangerousness. I

n their petition seeking Supreme Court review, Mr. Buck’s new lawyers said his trial lawyer had been ineffective and that Mr. Buck’s death sentence was infected by racial bias.

Source: The New York Times, Adam Liptak, June 6, 2016

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