“Todos los cristianos y hombres de buena voluntad están llamadas hoy a trabajar no sólo por la abolición de la pena de muerte, sino también para mejorar las condiciones de las cárceles, en el respeto de la dignidad humana de las personas privadas de libertad.” - Papa Francisco
The Lone Star State does indeed stand alone. It holds the record for the most individuals executed by a state since 1976. When Texas became a state in 1845, hanging was the method used for almost all executions. Texas changed its execution laws in 1923, requiring the executions be carried out on the electric chair. Five executions were the most carried out on a single day in the state, but on several other occasions up until 1951 Texas would conduct multiple executions on one day.
After the 1972 Furman US Supreme Court decision, which annulled most states’ death penalty statutes, 52 inmates in Texas who had been given the death penalty were commuted to life in prison. After a revision of the law, the death penalty was formally reinstated in 1974 but the first execution in Texas would not take place until 1982. Charles Brooks, Jr. became the first person to be judicially executed by lethal injection in the world, and the first African American to be executed in the United States since 1967. Since 1976, Texas has executed over four times more inmates than Virginia (the state with the second-highest number of executions in that time) and nearly 37 times more inmates than California (the state with the largest death row population). Texas’ active use of the death penalty has led death penalty opponents to claim that the state has executed persons who were, in fact, innocent.
However, findings such as this, as well as the work of dedicated anti-death penalty groups may be having an impact. Support for the death penalty in the state seems to be decreasing and use of the penalty as a sentence has declined by more than 70% since 2003.
For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:
The Texas Mercy Project is an initiative of the Texas Catholic Conference to raise public awareness and provoke collaboration on the issues of criminal justice and the death penalty across the state.
A major function of the Conference is to be the public policy arm of the Conference’s Board of Directors, the bishops of Texas, before the Texas legislature, the Texas delegation in Congress, and state agencies. The public policy issues addressed by the Conference include institutional concerns of the Catholic Church as well as issues related to Catholic moral and social teachings.
The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is a statewide, grassroots membership organization working to end the death penalty in Texas. TCADP engages in outreach, education and advocacy aimed at raising awareness of issues related to the death penalty and mobilizing the citizens of Texas – and their elected officials – to support death penalty repeal legislation.