On April 20, 2023, Texas legislators initially approved House Bill (HB) 1736 to limit the application of the death penalty in cases where a defendant commits a felony that was accompanied by a murder carried out by someone other than the defendant. Many states have a “felony murder” rule, similar to Texas’ “Law of Parties,” which provides that if one person is found guilty of murder, the offender’s accomplices or co-conspirators may also be found guilty of murder, regardless of their intent to kill.

The proposed Texas legislation would only allow a secondary participant to be subject to the death penalty if:

(1) the conspirator is a major participant in the conspiracy;

(2) in attempting to carry out the conspiracy, the conspirator acts with reckless indifference to human life; and

(3) the capital murder was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose of the conspiracy.”

Sec. 7.021 (proposed, emphasis added)

The sponsor of the bill, Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano, pictured), stated, “I’m thankful that HB 1736 passed the House again today. Capital punishment should be utilized only when there is absolute confidence in the crime and the perpetrator—under the existing law of parties, we can’t do that —and it’s time to make that change.”