Racism Seen in Harris County Death Penalty Cases

TEXAS COALITION TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY 3400 Montrose Blvd., Suite 312 Houston, TX 77006

For immediate release November 21, 2004 Contact: David Atwood (713)529-3826 (office) or (713)962-3838 (cell)


A review of the executions coming out of Harris County during 2004 reveals that 100% of the people executed and scheduled to be executed are minorities. Eight executions have already occurred and one more, Frances Newton, an African-American woman, is currently scheduled for December 1. Seven of the nine are African-American and two are Hispanic.

According to David Atwood of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, racism has always been a factor in who does and doesn't get executed in Texas. 40% of the people on Texas death row are African-American vs. 12% in the general population. However, for Harris County, 54% of the people on death row are African-American vs. 18% in the general population. "I don't think you can explain that large a discrepancy by just saying that African-Americans are involved in more crime", says Atwood. "Besides, nationwide studies as well as studies by the Texas Defender Service have shown that race is clearly a factor in who does and doesn't get the death penalty. Race enters into decisions on whom to charge with capital murder and in the selection of juries. A number of African-Americans have been found guilty and given the death penalty by juries that were all white or nearly all white."

On December 1, opponents of the death penalty will be protesting the execution of Frances Newton at the corner of Shepherd and Westheimer in Houston. Protests will also be held at the Walls Unit in Huntsville as well as in other cities in Texas - Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, etc.

Says Atwood, "Racial and economic biases, as well as the arbitrary and capricious nature of the death penalty, clearly show that the death penalty is unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition, the death penalty is totally unnecessary for societal protection. Long-term incarceration of dangerous criminals can protect society".

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