Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tweaking the machinery of death

There's a bill up on today's Texas House calendar which I've not tracked closely - SB 1091 creating a capital writs committee for indigent defendants (by Senators Ellis and Duncan) - that deserves Grits readers attention. See the House Research Organization report for background on the bill.

The inadequacy of indigent counsel on capital cases is one of those shortcomings that IMO contributed mightily to bringing the wrath of the US Supreme Court down on Texas' capital punishment system, so to the extent this new office would contribute to boosting the credibility of representation for capital defendants, even proponents of the death penalty have an incentive to support this bill if they want Texas' executions to continue to pass constitutional muster.

The House will consider another capital-punishment focused senate bill today, SB 839 by Hinojosa, which would eliminate life without parole for juveniles convicted of capital crimes, substituting a minimum, real-time sentence of 40-years. This bill has been surprisingly uncontroversial after Williamson County DA John Bradley and other hardliners came out in support of the concept. And at this point in the legislative session, lack of controversy is a good thing for those who want the bill to pass.

UPDATE: Both bills passed to third reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why is it so bad that we have a death penalty. I mean really, all this hubbub over sentencing someone to death and all. Look what it did for the Nazi's ...

in all seriousness though, the death penalty has been misused for decades. How many innocent people have gone to the gallows/chair/needle? If anything were to be done with the death penalty, my only hope for keeping it would be that if someone is exonerated whether dead or alive, the person that put them there be given the same sentence.