A new report released by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty highlights Texas’ continuing outlier practices in the administration of the death penalty. As one of just five states carrying out executions this year, Texas is responsible for a third of the 24 executions in 2023. Of the eight men executed, six displayed significant intellectual or mental health impairments, including brain damage, intellectual disability, and a range of mental illnesses. “The vast majority of individuals executed by Texas in 2023 had significant mental impairments. What is even more appalling is that most of their jurors never heard about these impairments, or the traumatic life stories of the men they sentenced to death,” said Kristin Houlé Cuellar, TCADP Executive Director. Several jurors from the trials of those executed expressed new doubts when they learned about mitigation evidence that was not presented at trial, indicating that they would have changed their verdict or at least support stays of execution. “It is obvious that many of these executed individuals never would have received a death sentence if they were tried today,” said Ms. Cuellar.

TCADP’s report also highlights the geographic arbitrariness of the Texas death penalty. More than half of the executions scheduled in 2023 came from just three counties: Bowie (2), Dallas (3), and Harris (2). Since 2019, juries in just 11 of 254 Texas counties imposed death sentences. Only Harris and Smith Counties sentenced more than one person to death in the same time frame. In 2023, three people were sentenced to death in Texas, but none of these sentences was secured in any of the top-sentencing counties (Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant).

While the number of new death sentences in Texas has fallen from its peak of nearly 50 in 1998, when they are imposed, there is a disproportionate impact on people of color. Since 2018, more than 50% individuals sentenced to death in Texas are people of color. Two of the three new death sentences in 2023 were for people of color. Of the eight individuals executed in 2023, more than half were people of color (5). Since 1982, Texas has executed 586 people, 325 of whom are people of color (55.5%) Despite being about 12% of Texas’ residents, more than 40% of death sentences in the last five years have been imposed on Black people. 

The new report also notes that as of December 12, 2023, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice lists 180 people on death row, the smallest death row population in Texas since 1985, when 188 people were facing sentences of death. Black individuals constitute 45.6 percent of death row inmates, Hispanics comprise 27.8 percent of individuals on death row (39.3 percent of the population of Texas), and whites comprise 25.0 percent (39.8 percent of the Texas population). “Texas’s use of the death penalty continues to tarnish our state’s reputation as a stronghold for life, liberty, and limited government,” said Nan Tolson, Director of Texas Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “Texans deserve better than the broken, ineffective system of capital punishment. It’s time for the Lone Star State to invest in real solutions that will keep our communities safe and truly uphold our values.”


Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2023: The Year in Review, 2023.