In a year in which few states have carried out any executions, the aggressive execution practices of a single state — Texas — stand in sharp contrast. The Lone Star State has scheduled thirteen executions for the last five months of 2019, more than the rest of the country combined. And a DPIC review of the circumstances in which the warrants were issued raises troubling questions as to whether the state is executing the most morally culpable individuals for the worst of the worst crimes or the most vulnerable prisoners and prisoners who were provided the worst legal process.

The cases of the thirteen men scheduled for execution include two with strong claims of innocence, two whom authorities admit did not kill anyone but were sentenced to death under Texas’ controversial “law of parties,” and eight who exhibited significant mental or emotional vulnerabilities as a result of intellectual impairments/brain damage, serious mental illness, or chronic trauma. Three prisoners were age 21 or younger at the time of the crime for which they were convicted. (Click here to enlarge the graphic.) Four prisoners scheduled for execution had raised claims that their attorneys did not provide them with constitutionally adequate representation, and six received other forms of deficient legal process — including false testimony at their trials, trial before a racially or religiously biased judge, or execution dates that interfered with ongoing judicial review.

Texas’ aggressive execution schedule also illustrates its status as an outlier in its use of the death penalty and the stark differences in approach between the decisionmakers empowered to end prisoners’ lives and those evaluating whether new defendants should be sent to death row. Nationally, executions have remained near historic lows for the past five years, but Texas has carried out more than any other state. In 2018, Texas executed more prisoners than the rest of the United States combined and, if most of the scheduled executions go through, could do so again in 2019.

Prisoners sentenced to death in Texas are executed at a rate triple the national average. The process of rubberstamping — in which state court judges adopt as fact the pleadings submitted by prosecutors — is commonplace, and the Texas federal courts routinely defer to this state court “factfinding.” The Texas state and federal courts are also outliers in denying resources to defense counsel and in resisting enforcement of constitutional rights, even in the face of clear directives from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state’s disproportionate pace of executions continues even as prosecutors are seeking and capital juries are imposing significantly fewer new death sentences. New death sentences have fallen from an average of more than 40 per year in 1998-2000 to five per year in 2016-2018. Fewer death sentences have been imposed in Texas in the last five years than in any other five-year period in the modern era of capital punishment.

The table below presents key information about each of the individuals who are the subjects of the thirteen Texas death warrants. (For more detail on these cases, see Texas Schedules Thirteen Executions in Last Five Months of 2019.)

NameExecution DateCountyAge at CrimeRace of Def.Race & Sex of Victim(s)Innocence Claim?Law of Parties?Intellectual Disability/Brain Damage?Serious Mental Illness?Chronic Trauma?
Dexter Johnson8/15/19Harris18BAM, AFYesYes
Larry Swearingen8/21/19Montgomery27WWFYes
Billy Crutsinger9/4/19Tarrant48W2WFYes
Mark Soliz9/10/19Johnson28LWFYesYes
Robert Sparks9/25/19Dallas33BBF, 2BMYes
Stephen Barbee10/2/19Tarrant37WWF, WM
Randy Halprin10/10/19Dallas23WWMYes
Randall Mays10/16/19Henderson47WBM, WMYes
Ruben Gutierrez10/30/19Cameron21LLF
Justen Hall11/6/19El Paso21WUnknown FYes
Patrick Murphy11/13/19Dallas39WWMYesYes
Rodney Reed11/20/19Bastrop28BWFYes
Travis Runnels12/11/19Potter30BWMYes

Key: A = Asian, B = Black, L = Latino/a, W = White, M = Male, F = Female