Texas plans to execute David Harris on June 30th on the basis of a prediction in 1986 that he would be a future danger even if sentenced to life in prison. Dr. Edward Gripon testified that Harris posed a substantial risk of committing further violent acts, even though Gripon had never met or examined Harris. During his nearly two decades on death row, Harris has had only minor infractions, such as having too many postage stamps or hanging a clothesline in his cell.

In a 1983 brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Psychiatric Association stated, “The unreliability of psychiatric predictions of long-term future dangerousness is by now established fact within the profession.” This same sentiment was recently examined more closely in a Texas Defender Service report, Deadly Speculation — Misleading Texas Capital Juries with False Predictions of Future Dangerousness, that investigated the unreliability of future dangerousness predictions in Texas death penalty cases.

Texas is one of only two states that relies primarily on the concept of future dangerousness in sentencing people to death.


New York Times, June 14, 2004. Read the Texas Defender Service study.