Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Texas jurors sent only 8 murderers to death row in 2009

An Austin Statesman report about Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg's decision to seek the death penalty in the sexual assault and murder of an LBJ High School student included this analysis of the Travis DA's track record on capital cases over the last ten years:
Prosecutors in Travis County have announced their intent to seek the death penalty 15 times in the past decade. Two of those defendants pleaded guilty in exchange for life sentences, and juries gave life prison terms to six others. Six defendants received the death penalty. One case is pending, that of Milton Dwayne Gobert, accused of killing a North Austin woman and stabbing her 5-year-old son in 2003. Gobert is scheduled for trial in January.

One of those sentenced to death — Robert Springsteen IV — saw his conviction overturned on appeal and the case against him dismissed in October. Along with Springsteen, Michael Scott had been convicted of capital murder in the killing of one of four teenage girls found dead in 1991 in a North Austin yogurt shop. In dismissing the case, Lehmberg said that prosecutors could not prove the case against Springsteen and Scott, given recently discovered DNA evidence.
So in nearly 2/3 of cases in which Travis prosecutors sought the death penalty, they did not succeed in securing it. Perhaps relatedly, according to a press release this week from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty:
New death sentences in Texas remained at historic low levels in 2009, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's (TCADP) newly-released report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2009: The Year in Review. TCADP, an Austin-based statewide, grassroots organization, releases its annual report each December in conjunction with the anniversary of the resumption of executions in Texas in 1982.

As of December 4, Texas juries had condemned eight new individuals to death in 2009. If this number remains unchanged, it will represent the lowest number of new death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas' revised death penalty statute in 1976. The report notes, however, that this year Texas once again accounted for half of all executions that took place in the United States. The state has executed a total of 447 people since 1982, out of 1,186 executions nationwide since 1977. Two hundred eight of these executions have occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Among those executed, six inmates were convicted in Harris County, which alone accounts for more executions (112) than any state in the country besides Texas. Yet for the second consecutive year, Harris County did not condemn any new defendants to death (juries returned two inmates to death row). While Harris County still accounts for a third of all Texas inmates awaiting execution (106 of 332), it has sentenced just seven new individuals to death in the last four years. In the 1990s, it often sent 15 people a year to death row.

RELATED: Death penalty deterrent evanescent, symbolic.

UPDATE (Dec. 9): Make it nine. A Huntsville jury gave the death penalty yesterday to the TDCJ inmate who killed prison guard Susan Canfield in a 2007 escape attempt.


RAS said...

I don't think those 208 executed during Perry's administration means anything since all of them were sentenced before he took office, probably.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

OTOH, RAS, the governor has no formal role until they get to his desk as possible clemency cases at the end of the line. Still, certainly he has nothing to do with generating the volume.

Deb said...

So what you're saying is Lehmberg/TCDA's office is out-Harris County-ing Harris County on the death penalty?

So much for our blue oasis.

Deb said...

I understand she's sought the death penalty at least 3 times in her short tenure. 1 of those the jury denied, giving life without parole instead.

Anonymous said...

That TCADP report was wrong. They aren't too reliable. Texas has sentenced ten people to death in 2009, and the year is not over yet.


Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 7:04,

Actually the number of people sentenced to death in Texas in 2009 seems to be 11. The TDCJ list you linked to does not yet include Jerry Duane Martin. The TCADP report was way off, so you are right about them being unreliable. I don't know why they only knew about 8 at the time they issued their report. Seems pretty careless.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, it looks like the number of people sentenced to death this year in Texas was 12. TCADP also missed this one from El Paso, Fabian Hernandez. He was sentenced to death before their report on Dec 7, so I don't know why they missed that one too. They are even more amateurish than I thought. Bunch of losers.

Who knows if there were even more death sentences this year. I guess if we want to know the actual number, we should find someone competent to do the research.


Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

Texas did sentence nine people to death in 2009. Some of the people listed on the TDCJ website were received by TDCJ in 2009, but sentenced to death in 2008.

What I would find interesting, but is not in any report that I have seen is how many times Texas DA's sought the death penalty in 2009, but juries decided to choose life in prison without parole.

The nine sentenced to death in 2009 were:

Raul Cortez

Erick Davila

Christian Olsen

Armando Leza

James Broadnax

Paul Devoe

Demontrell Miller

Jerry Duane Martin

Fabian Hernandez

Anonymous said...

You can only be tried once for murder so it's a good thing that both Robert Springsteen IV, Michael Scott were "put on hold". We need to get this right the first time - we will not get a 2nd chance to try these two.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:24, you realize they've already been "tried once for murder," right?