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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…

Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicts possible end to capital punishment

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The death penalty could be dying, according to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The outspoken liberal icon tackled capital punishment and a host of other hot topics during a sold-out summer George Washington University forum held last week by the Washington Council of Lawyers.

Toward the end of an hour-long talk, Ginsburg fielded a question about the future of capital punishment.

"The only comment I would make is that the incidence of capital punishment has gone down, down, down so that now, I think, there are only three states that actually administer the death penalty," she said.

"And not even whole states, but particular areas of states. It may depend on who's the district attorney."

Though she didn't actually mention Harris County by name, it easily may have been one of the areas that first sprung to mind for the 84-year-old justice.

Houston and its surroundings have long been seen as the capital of capital punishment, a standout even in a state with a longstanding enthusiasm for execution. For 21 years, one zealous and legendary district attorney - John Holmes Jr. - pursued the death penalty with a vigor unmatched almost anywhere else.

But the end of Holmes' tenure came in 2000, the same year capital punishment peaked in Texas. 

Although the Lone Star State kept Huntsville's death chamber busy with 40 executions that year, last year saw a 20-year low.

In Texas and across the nation, state-sanctioned deaths have declined in light of legal uncertainties, moratoriums, and lethal injection drug shortages. For Ginsburg, the writing's on the wall.

"We may see an end to capital punishment by attrition as there are fewer and fewer executions," Ginsburg declared.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Keri Blakinger, August 2, 2017

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