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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…

Roof jury selection underway in Charleston federal death penalty case

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
The 1st of some 3,000 potential jurors in the Dylan Roof death penalty trial began reporting Monday to the U.S. District courthouse in downtown Charleston.

Jurors were summoned, some 80 at a time, before U.S. Judge Richard Gergel, whose questions were aimed at weeding out those who obviously cannot or who will elect not to serve: people over 70, having no one else to care for young children and the like. Also to be excluded: those whose minds are already made up about Roof's guilty, or whether to impose the death penalty.

Roof, 22, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, is charged with federal hate crimes resulting in death in the June 2015 slayings of 9 African-Americans who were attending an evening Bible study at historic "Mother" Emanuel AME church downtown.

Of the first 80 prospective jurors in court on this morning, some 90 % were white. 9 were black. All were somber. Gergel deferred 2 teachers.

The initial jury selection is taking place in a relatively small courtroom on the 4th floor of an old federal courthouse on Broad Street. It has only about 80 seats, nearly all of which were taken up Monday by prospective jurors.

Gergel allowed a sketch artist, along with one pool print reporter to write accounts of what happened. Other journalists watched the proceedings on a flat-screen television in a nearby courtroom. Unlike state court, no cameras or reporters' tape recorders are allowed in federal court. The in-court proceedings in this story were furnished by the pool reporter.

Roof stared down at his defense table during much of the morning. During Monday's initial session, he appeared unemotional. In numerous pretrial hearings since last year, he has waived his right to be present in court.

The Roof case is set to be one of the most sensational criminal trials ever held in South Carolina, due to the racial dimensions of the case and the brutality of the crime.

Underscoring the emotionalism of the trial and the effect of publicity about the case, Judge Gergel has ordered dozens of pretrial documents to be kept secret so as not to taint the jury pool.

Roof also faces charges of murder in Charleston County state court. Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson is also seeking the death penalty in that case. Jury selection is set to begin in January in that case.

Monday's proceeding in federal court is designed to produce a smaller pool of some 700 prospective jurors. Those potential jurors will begin a more detailed questioning session on Nov. 7. The actual trial will not start until late November, observers estimate.

It's the opening day of a long, tedious and potentially confusing jury selection process in the Dylan Roof federal trial in the June 2015 slayings of 9 African-Americans at a historic downtown Charleston church.

Source: thestate.com, September 26, 2016

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