NEW VOICES: Prominent Texans Support Death Penalty Moratorium Legislation

The Texas Criminal Jurisprudence Committee of the House of Representatives heard testimony on March 29 regarding HB 1641, a bill that would put a hold on executions while the death penalty was being studied. Charles Terrell, former Chairman of the state’s Department of Criminal Justice, supported the moratorium in a statement to the committee, expressing concerns about: “fairness to those convicted on the limited testimony of witnesses, racial fairness in some areas of our state, the absence of DNA testing where it was possible to do so, and my belief that a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is far worse than a death sentence for young offenders.” Former Texas Gov. Mark White (pictured) also wrote a statement to the Committee in favor of the bill, stating that “there are more safeguards beyond careful gubernatorial review that the State of Texas should put in place to decrease the likelihood of executing an innocent individual and to increase fundamental fairness in our capital punishment system.” White also wrote that “regardless of our views on the death penalty itself, we all have profound concerns that the administration of capital punishment is deeply flawed and believe that all persons facing the death penalty are entitled to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”

(M. Landauer, “Widespread support for a moratorium on display today in Austin,” Dallas Morning News, March 29, 2011). See Recent Legislation, Innocence and New Voices. The next execution scheduled in Texas is of Cleve Foster on April 5. Foster is challenging the state’s adoption of a new lethal injection protocol without an opportunity for public review.