Texas Moves to End “Law of Parties” and Clergy Ban in Death Chamber

Texas House Votes Against Controversial “Law of Parties”

May 17, 2021 | In early May, the Texas House overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill that would end the state’s “Law of Parties,” which allows death sentences to be handed down to individuals present for crimes they were fully unaware would take place.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Leach (R), still needs to pass one final vote in the House before moving to the Senate for consideration.

Texas is not the only state that allows for the execution of people who did themselves commit capital murder. The state of Alabama, under its “accomplice law,” executed Nathaniel Woods in March 2020 for being a co-conspirator in a capital case. His co-defendant, Kerry Spencer, took sole responsibility for the killings.

Texas Prison Allow Clergy and Spiritual Advisors Back into the Death Chamber

Last month, Texas also lifted a two-year ban on clergy and spiritual advisors present in the death chamber.

In April 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of Patrick Murphy from being carried out after Texas would not allow his Buddhist chaplain to be present in the death chamber. In response to that ruling, Texas subsequently banned all spiritual advisors from being present in the death chamber.

Another individual on Texas’ death row, Ruben Gutierrez, was also given a stay of execution the by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 based on similar grounds of religious rights violation.

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