Thirty-two Years After Crime, High-Profile Texas Death Case Ends with Life Sentence

On August 1, Delma Banks Jr., one of the longest serving inmates in Texas death-penalty history, received a life sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2024 under a plea agreement with prosecutors. Banks was convicted by an all-white jury of a 1980 murder, but there were no witnesses to the killing and no physical evidence linking Banks to it. The prosecution’s case relied largely on the testimony of two informants, both admitted drug users. In 1999, almost 20 years after the trial, Banks’ lawyers discovered a transcript showing that one of the informants’ testimony had been extensively rehearsed and coached and the other had been paid. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Banks’ death sentence because prosecutors had suppressed crucial evidence and allowed the informants to testify falsely. A new sentencing hearing was scheduled for October before the plea agreement was struck. Bowie County District Attorney Jerry Rochelle said that the decision was influenced by the victim’s family wanting the case to end. Rochelle said, “They were ready for some closure. After 32 years of dealing with the offense, the death of their son, the original trial, the appeals and the prospect of a new trial, they were ready for it to end.” George Kendall, attorney for Delma Banks, said, “After 32 years, the State has decided to no longer seek the death penalty in this case. We hope the resolution of this case will bring closure to all concerned.”

(B. Grissom, “Death Row Inmate’s Sentence Reduced to Life,” Texas Tribune, August 2, 2012). Read DPIC’s previous coverage of Delma Banks Jr. See U.S. Supreme Court. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on the Supreme Court.