Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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…

Lethal Drug Expert: “Nebraska is unlikely to ever carry out an execution even if voters bring back the death penalty”

Tens of thousands of dollars evaporated into thin air
"Tens of thousands of dollars evaporated into thin air."
Senator asks State Auditor for investigation of missing $54k spent on illegal drugs

LINCOLN, NE – A law professor who is recognized as an expert in lethal injection drugs said today that even if Nebraskans vote to bring back the death penalty on November 8, it will be difficult for the State of Nebraska to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out a sentence.

“Pharmaceutical companies don’t want their products used in executions and are taking steps to prevent states from using their medicines in this way. So it’s hard for states to get the drugs they need,” said Eric Berger, a University of Nebraska College of Law Professor. Berger has written extensively about lethal injection and in January 2009, testified before the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska legislature about a bill to institute lethal injection.

Also on Thursday, Senator Burke Harr requested Nebraska State Auditor Charlie Janssen investigate the status of the $54,000 Governor Ricketts spent on illegal lethal injection drugs.

“At a time when the state is facing income shortfalls, and state agencies are being forced to tighten their belts, it’s unacceptable that we have allowed this administration to let tens of thousands of dollars evaporate into thin air,” Harr said.

“So today, I sent a letter to Nebraska State Auditor Charlie Janssen, asking his office to investigate the status of the $54,000 the Governor spent on illegal lethal injection drugs, and what is being done to recoup those state funds.”

State Senator Colby Coash also questioned the waste of funds.

“It’s been 17 months since Governor Ricketts declared a ‘solution’ to our state’s lethal injection quagmire and paid $54,000 for illegal lethal injection drugs we’ve never seen,” Coash said.

Berger said Nebraska has a track record of not fulfilling promises to carry out executions.

“Given its track record, Nebraska shouldn’t be trusted to be able to find the drugs. Indeed, time after time the State has promised to fix the problem, but it’s been nearly 20 years since Nebraska’s last execution, and state officials haven’t given any reason to think that they can get it right this time.”

“Additionally,” added Berger, “even if the State can somehow get the drugs, that doesn’t mean they will be able to get the drugs on a permanent basis. Drugs expire after a short time, so if voters reinstate the death penalty, Nebraska will face this problem of getting the right drugs over and over again.”

“It is unacceptable that the Governor is fighting so hard to have a death penalty system that he has been unable to enact for 17 months - and no one in the state has been able to enable in almost 20 years -- when we are being forced to cut other vital services,” Coash said.

“Last week, Corrections Director Frakes admitted there is an additional expense to housing death row inmates. This is in addition to the extra cost of 3-part death penalty trials, the Supreme Court mandated appeals only available in capital cases, and the costs of trying to get usable lethal injection drugs. These are the expensive components of our death penalty, which Creighton University economist Dr. Ernie Goss has shown costs the state an extra $14.6 million annually,” Coash said.

“The Nebraska State Patrol said the potential eight percent budget cut would require it to eliminate an estimated 28 sworn officer positions. Our symbolic death penalty law isn’t making our state any safer, but police officers do. This is an irresponsible use of resources.”

“There are more important things our state should be focusing our energies on. We can’t continue to waste time, energy, and money on the charade of a death penalty.”

“The cost of capital punishment, and our state’s continued inability to use the punishment, show the death penalty is dead wrong for Nebraska,” Coash said.

Source: Retain a Just Nebraska, october 6, 2016. Retain a Just Nebraska is a public education campaign to urge the retention of LB 268, the Nebraska Legislature’s vote to end the death penalty. Supporters include fiscal conservatives, law enforcement officials, faith leaders, murder victims’ families, and Nebraskans from all walks of life. It is a statewide coalition conducting public education on the smart alternative of life in prison without parole, which protects society without the many problems of our death penalty system.

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