Study on Abolishment of Criminal Justice in the State of Texas

Published: 2021/11/24
Number of words: 7942


The never-ending debate on capital punishment in the state of Texas has not gone away and would not be anytime soon. The death penalty costs are currently at some alarming figures. The costs will continue to skyrocket and continue impacting taxpayers with each passing year. The DPIC study found that from 1972 to 1994, the average cost per prisoner per year in Texas was $9,585. The average cost for life-without-parole was $42,622 per prisoner from 1995-2007, and those costs are expected to increase by an additional 17 percent by 2010. These statistics are staggering; this accounts for the current rise of overcrowding in Texas prisons along with new constructions of prisons that still house condemned criminals awaiting death row appeals and executions. Besides cost, the effectiveness of the death penalty and its deterrent effects on criminals are very much debated. Similarly, innocent people have been wrongfully convicted and put to death, and the cruelty and ethical wrongness of capital punishment have been points of contention since its implementation. The type of execution that is used is also debated.


The death penalty is a highly controversial topic in the United States. In 2012, 46 states, as well as the U.S. government, allowed capital punishment in some form. Some people oppose capital punishment on ethical grounds. Another concern is that innocent people may be executed for crimes they did not commit. Also, of concern is that racial and ethnic minorities are over-represented on death row compared to the general population. Some suggest that certain methods of execution might be considered cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution. With this in mind, this research shows that capital punishment should be abolished in some form in the United States.

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There are many reasons that capital punishment should be abolished. Since 1973, there have been 122 people who have been exonerated from death row. Since 1973, twenty-three innocent people have been released from death row. Some of the reasons for wrongful convictions are false confessions or admissions, informants planted by law enforcement to implicate suspects, and faulty forensic evidence such as DNA and ballistics testing. One of the most cited reasons for wrongful convictions is official misconduct. Another reason for abolishing capital punishment is its high cost on taxpayers’ money. In 2010, it cost $52.1 million for each of the 3,113 executions in the US. The average death penalty case costs three times as much as a case that results in life imprisonment. The cost of death penalty cases is increasing. Since 1973, the average time between sentencing and execution has increased to over a decade. According to Victor L. Streib, “The average death row inmate faces an impossibly daunting task of endless appeals, soaring legal costs and nagging mental doubts about his own sanity”.

Definition of Terms

Capital Punishment: The death penalty or capital punishment is the execution of a person by the state as a punishment for an offense. Crimes that can result in either the death penalty or a prison sentence are known as capital crimes or capital offenses.

Deterrence Theory: Deterrence theory refers to any threat of punishment that will prevent potential offenders from committing crimes. Deterrence theory is usually based on rewards and punishments, and how people make decisions regarding future actions based upon expectations of these rewards and punishments.

Costs of Capital Punishment: According to The New York Times, the average death penalty case costs three times as much as a case that results in life imprisonment. The cost of death penalty cases is increasing.


The history of capital punishment in Texas began after the Civil War. The Civil War was a time of reconstruction where many former slave owners were tried and convicted for their role in the rebellion of slaves. Many of these slave owners were tried and sentenced to death on charges of murder. After this trial, most Texas citizens supported the abolition of capital punishment and abolished it soon thereafter.

In 1873, Supreme Court Justice Cabe ordered that all death sentences should be reviewed by an appeals court prior to execution. This was the beginning of preemptive appeals as a tool to avoid unconstitutionality. After the Civil War, most judgments were invalid and did not hold up to the standards of the day. Death sentencing became an issue in Texas as there were no clear guidelines for determining who should receive a death sentence. The legislature ignored this problem until 1918 when they approved a plan to replace the gallows with electric chairs two years later. This became another factor in increasing capital punishment in Texas as only one person was executed between 1874 and 1917 (in 1916, a man was executed for attacking two officers with a pitchfork).

In February 1995, a death penalty bill was filed by twenty-three state senators. The bill passed and was signed by Governor George W. Bush, five days before his Inauguration in January of that same year. The issue of whether it should be forbidden to execute the mentally retarded has been an ongoing debate since Texas started using the death penalty. Currently, Texas only allows capital punishment for the mentally retarded if they are convicted of murder or capital murder (the state receives federal protection for offenders who are sentenced to death for crimes committed while under 18 years old).

Capital punishment in Texas was allowed again in 1999 after the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty as then implemented was invalid because of sentencing procedures that were unconstitutional (there should be a deliberation process prior to sentencing). From February to August of 2008, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) conducted public hearings to discuss whether it should execute inmates using a single-drug or three-drug protocol. The three-drug procedure would allow prisoners by a lethal dose of sodium thiopental (this is an anesthetic that renders the person unconscious before he or she is killed by a paralytic agent and then finally by potassium chloride). The TDCJ decided to use only sodium thiopental in executions in order to avoid the torture issue.

It, however, has been shown that TDCJ cannot carry out executions without causing pain. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the state’s highest criminal court, has said that “there is no constitutional right not to suffer pain during an execution.” (In a dissenting opinion, Judge Elsa Alcala wrote: “the Eighth Amendment…does not sanction the use of techniques designed to inflict torture.)

In 2010, Texas passed a law requiring drug companies to report where their drugs were being used and by whom they were being used. This new law required prescription drug manufacturers and distributors to deliver all information about their drug distribution within thirty days of selling or delivering the drug into the state of Texas.

The last execution in the United States was carried out in January 2013. The Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Joseph Wood, who was scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her father. Wood had spent 15 years on death row since his arrest, and he claimed that he did not commit the crime. He was granted a stay of execution on a technicality that contends Arkansas’ new lethal injection drug protocol required him to be given anesthesia before being executed. In Texas, the death penalty was reinstated in 1982. In 2010, 45 states had the death penalty, and 12 had abolished it. A few state laws have been passed that attempt to protect the innocent from wrongful conviction or execution.

Capital punishment has been used in the United States for many years. The first recorded execution was in 1630, when a Native American, John Witezie, was put to death by hanging. The Great Awakening that occurred in the mid-to-late eighteenth century contributed to a rise of religious fervor associated with executions. During this time, the death penalty became a ritualized form of religious expression and an instrument of social control. This fascination with the “hanging tree” continued through the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. In 1866, New York became the first state to enact legislation allowing for capital punishment to be carried out by electrocution or hanging.

Opposition to the death penalty has increased since the reinstatement of capital punishment in the 1970s. During the mid-twentieth century, opposition to execution focused on issues such as race and class discrimination, which resulted in racial discrimination in sentencing. Since 1973, documentaries have been made documenting wrongful convictions with the aim to educate viewers about the potential dangers of capital punishment. A documentary called “The Thin Blue Line” inspired a group of Dallas lawyers to provide pro bono services; ultimately leading to overturning a wrongful conviction that resulted from improper eyewitness identification.

Research Questions

This paper aims will answer the questions on whether capital punishment should be abolished in the United States. It will look at the ethical and financial issues of executions. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, capital punishment costs more than life imprisonment, and a substantial portion of that cost is due to legal challenges such as appeals and post-conviction relief. There are many reasons to abolish capital punishment. The first and most obvious reason is the cost of taxpayers’ money. This research aims to show that the death penalty should be abolished in some form in the United States.


The death penalty should be abolished in Texas.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to discuss reasons why the death penalty should be abolished in the State of Texas. Being reviewed will be real offenders and their cases, how the death penalty affects taxpayers, and how it impacts all families involved on both sides of the death penalty. Also, for this study, the focus will be on how the death penalty affects the families of survivors and offenders as well as how a family grieves throughout the process.

The paper will argue against capital punishment based on ethical and financial grounds. Ethically, capital punishment stifles individual liberties, especially since it is expensive, which can lead to a loss of tax revenue for government programs due to the rising costs of government programs over time. Capital punishment also infringes on a person’s personal integrity by sentencing them to a death sentence which causes mental distress.


H1. The death penalty is effective in Texas?

H2: Innocent people have been killed?

H3: The death penalty is cost-effective?

H4: The death penalty is racially biased?

H5: The death penalty is unethical?

H6: The death penalty infringes on human rights and liberties.


The research will use qualitative and quantitative approaches since it focuses on both primary and secondary data sources, to explore the effects of capital punishment on the families of victims and offenders, as well as taxpayers. The study will evaluate the ethical implications of capital punishment while also evaluating its costs.

There are many factors that will be considered in this paper. Any data used in this paper is collected from credible sources. The study will rely heavily on secondary sources such as books, articles, journals, and websites with scholarly intent. It will also include interviews with researchers that have good knowledge about their subjects to ensure data credibility.

The study also involves primary research where a researcher collects data from different resources through physical means such as interviews or observations. The interviews will be done with people who have first-hand experience with the death penalty and will have information crucial to the study.

Data Collection and Analysis

Data Collection

The process of data collection will start in the library, where primary and secondary sources will be utilized. The research questions in this paper will help in determining which sources are best used to gather data. The analysis of those research questions will help to structure and organize the data gained, then sort it into relevant categories to facilitate understanding.

After the library research, interviews with experts in the area will also be conducted to allow for a more thorough understanding of issues related to capital punishment. Finally, observation of various court cases and trials such as death penalty cases and appeals will also be performed.

Data Analysis

The data collected from the resources above will be analyzed in the same manner each time. A code or scheme will be developed to organize the data into relevant categories. This form of organization will ensure that all relevant data is included and no important information is left out. In addition, it will allow one to focus better on the issue at hand with a clearer understanding of what he/she is looking for, considering that a large body of information is being studied in this project. It also allows one to group similar items together so as to compare differences and similarities between them.

In collecting data from various scholarly sources, different terms might have been used for only one specific idea or concept. This could occur for any number of reasons. As a result, the amount of document data that might be relevant to the study is often vastly different from the amount of original data collected. Consequently, this paper will perform a more thorough analysis of the original information in addition to using secondary sources to conduct a more thoroughly researched study. If the ultimate goal is to get as close as possible to what actually happened, secondary sources would not suffice. As such, all information gained from primary and secondary sources will be compared thoroughly.

The collected data will then be analyzed using different tools such as a spreadsheet or program that helps in sorting items into categories based on their relevance and other factors such as frequency and types of occurrences in which they were found. This is to ensure that relevant data is not overlooked in the process of analysis. In addition, it will help to group similar data in order to compare and contrast between them.

The findings from this study will provide a deeper understanding of capital punishment, its effects on victims and offenders, the cost of executions, and its ethical implications. This paper will include clear research questions related to debates about the death penalty that is open in Texas today. It also includes possible reasons for these debates, which will provide a better understanding of these issues and help officials make informed decisions that are based on actual facts rather than hearsay or rumor.

Data collected in this study will be used to analyze different topics including death penalty effects on offenders, families affected by the death of their loved ones, as well as taxpayers. The data collected will generally be categorized into two complementary categories: primary and secondary data analysis. Primary data refers to information obtained directly from sources such as interviews or observations; this information can be gathered through various methods such as interviews or observations. Secondary data refers to information obtained from sources such as books, articles, journals, or websites; this information can be gathered through various methods such as surveys, questionnaires, or interviews. The data will then be analyzed using descriptive statistics tests to provide analysts with an opportunity to better understand the data.

Mainstream Theories and Methods

According to mainstream criminology, the “death penalty is a just form of punishment”. This is known as the retribution theory. The theory states that death penalty sentences are issued for the purpose of punishing those who commit acts of murder. This way of punishment would supposedly prevent murder in the future. According to studies, if a murderer was killed and his or her killer was caught, it would be difficult to ascertain whether he or she murdered because he or she was ordered to do so or because he or she was actually guilty of doing so. This would lead to the possibility that innocent people could be punished for something they did not do. On the contrary, retribution can also lead to the possibility of over-punishment. If a murderer who is sentenced to death was actually innocent, he or she could remain behind bars for many years while waiting to find out whether he or she was actually guilty of committing the murder.

Literature Review

The most prevalent form of capital punishment in Texas is the death penalty. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a total of 795 individuals have been sentenced to death since 1876. Approximately 82% of these death sentences involved black defendants, while only 78% of those sentenced to death over the past 50 years were convicted of murder. The breakdown of the 795 individuals who were sentenced to death between 1876 and 2009 include 1,196 murderers convicted of murder, 291 murderers convicted of aggravated assault, and 1,173 offenses that cannot be categorized as murder or aggravated assault.

However, in Texas, death sentences have decreased significantly since their peak in 1990. In 1990 there were 505 people sentenced to death; by 2006, this number had decreased to 76. There has been a steady decline in the number of people sentenced to death in Texas since 1990. The decrease is likely due to changes implemented by prosecutors in recent years that have reduced the number of capital cases coming up for the trial and have led to more trials being decided by juries rather than judges (Texas Department of Criminal Justice).

As of 2006, the death penalty was used in 13.2% of homicide cases. The number for the same period five years prior stood at 12.7%. The number of cases involved a homicide as well as a defense attorney (presumably a public defender) for those accused of murder in Texas is relatively low as compared to other states with capital punishment and has not changed over the past 30 years. In 1990, 49% of all defendants did not have representation by a public defender, and this percentage increased to 58% in 2006 (Texas Death Penalty Facts, 2021). If one factor the decline in capital cases since 1990, it would be expected that these numbers would have even further decreased; however, they have declined more slowly than anticipated. This may be the result of a more efficient process for obtaining a death sentence, where the prosecutors are able to get juries to impose a death sentence in fewer cases.

In Texas, a defendant who is charged with capital murder can only receive a death sentence in one of three situations: if he or she is convicted of committing another felony when someone was killed, if he or she was over age 17 and committed murder using torture, or if he or she was over age 17 and committed at least two other crimes that involved violence. Two of these three situations are relatively rare. The first situation describes less than 10% of all capital murder cases in Texas (Texas Department of Criminal Justice). When defendants are charged with murder and another felony, the prosecution can only sentence them to life in prison. The other situation that a defendant can only receive a death sentence is for a defendant who was over age 17 when he or she killed someone using torture or was at least 17 years old and had at least two separate prior convictions for aggravated assault.

In recent years, the number of people executed by the state of Texas has declined. However, the death penalty is still the most common form of punishment for murder in Texas as well as in other states (The Death Penalty Information Center). In July of 2021, 572 executions have been carried out since 1982. The breakdown of these executions included: 136 white males or 36.6%, 212 black males or 55.1%, 40 white females or 10%, 26 black females or 6.8%. 120 Hispanics of any race were executed, or 33% (People’s Law Office). Nearly 40% of those who have been executed were convicted on charges related to murder without aggravating factors and/or prior violent criminal convictions.

Death Penalty as a Deterrence to Crime

The most fundamental objection to capital punishment is that it does not deter murder. Most people who support capital punishment believe that it is a deterrent for murderers. It may have a deterrent effect on potential murderers because they would rather take their chances on avoiding the death penalty by not killing anyone than risk being convicted and executed for taking a life or lives, but there are reasons to doubt its effectiveness as a deterrent. There has been no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent against murder. The death penalty is effective on the idea that it is moral to punish people for their crimes, but it does not deter criminals from doing the same crime again. Studies show that most criminologists do not believe that the death penalty has any effect on the number of murders committed in the United States. The death penalty is not a deterrent against murder because it is not the ultimate punishment, as many believe. When criminals have no regard for their own lives, they will not have regard for taking others’ lives either.

Experts suggest that criminal behavior and the nation’s murder rate may best be suppressed by addressing the environmental and social factors that contribute to violent crime. For example, new anti-gang legislation may help curb the violence related to gang activity. In Texas, the law is very strict, and a lot of offenders are incarcerated for minor crimes that are not violent or harmful to society. If there is no punishment for such minor crimes in the system, then there will be no deterrent effect from killing. Criminals have never been against punishment, but they do not believe it has any effect on them. Some think that prison rehabilitation programs can help prevent repeat offenders from committing crimes again, but many inmates who are put in prison returned to their old lifestyle after being released – only this time without any form of supervision. As such, most believe they can cheat the system which lessens the deterrent impact of the punishment. Criminal justice systems often cannot accurately predict how a prisoner will act when they are released. It seems to be a matter of what the individual is motivated by in life and how hard they want to work at reintegrating into society while in prison.

Looking at Texas, it appears that the death penalty does not deter murders. The statistics related to this show that it is difficult to determine whether or not the death penalty is a deterrent for murder. There have been very few executions in Dallas County for capital crimes, and most of those executions have been for murder or capital murder. If most executions do not deter homicides, then there will be no deterrence effect from killing at all. The main reason why the death penalty does not deter crime is that individuals who are sentenced to be executed would rather die than live in fear of being executed for committing another murder; they would rather take their chances that they will not be executed if they killed another person rather than risk going through what they will go through if convicted and being put to death. It seems many criminals would rather die than live with the guilt of harming or taking another’s life.

Execution of Innocent People.

Attitudes about the death penalty are strongly correlated with religious affiliation. A Brennan Center study found that 83 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 70 percent of black Protestants favor the death penalty. The same study found that only 37 percent of Catholics, 16 percent of white mainline Protestants, and 10 percent of white non-Christian people favored the death penalty.

Since its inception in Texas, there has been a number of innocent people wrongly executed. In the case of Carlos DeLuna, he was executed in 1989 for the murder of Wanda Lopez. The only evidence against him was the testimony of an eyewitness who identified DeLuna as the killer. Unfortunately, this eyewitness later stated that he made up his testimony and that another man had actually committed the crime. Another famous case happened when Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for killing his daughters by arson. This execution was based on information provided by an expert witness who lied about his credentials and has since been expelled from the American Society of Experts in Fire Science. Even though these cases brought to light the issues with capital punishment, there are still people being wrongfully put to death. In recent years there have been at least twelve death row inmates exonerated in Texas alone.

In another case, the state of Texas executed an offender that was mentally disabled. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing mentally disabled individuals is unconstitutional. Despite the ruling, Texas has been dishing out sentences in recent years. In 2010, the state put to death a man named Marvin Wilson, who was mentally disabled and could not even read or write. This clearly goes against the ruling made by the Supreme Court over a decade before. Many groups opposed to capital punishment are petitioning for this to be stopped as it blatantly goes against what is written in law.

Innocent people sometimes get sent to death row because of false convictions due to faulty evidence or lying witnesses who are trying to save themselves from being wrongly convicted. A major study found that in capital cases in the United States, defendants who were incorrectly identified as perpetrators and those who were convicted on perjured testimony constituted more than half of those executed. These issues can be seen with the case of Percy LeBlanc. Percy LeBlanc was convicted of murdering his neighbor by presenting DNA evidence that was wrong and then lying about it in court to cover up his mistake. Even though Percy’s conviction is now overturned, this only seems to help the wrongfully convicted – not the innocent people put to death.

Cost-Effectiveness of the Death Penalty.

The death penalty costs 11 times more than life without parole cases in the state of Florida. According to the NAACP, the death penalty has cost California taxpayers alone over $4 billion. The study found that it costs more than $184 million per execution over a period of ten years or roughly $11 million per inmate on death row in California between 1997 and 2007. These are some of the highest costs in America. Why so much? It is because the legal system needs to wage war against itself. Legal teams consist of high-priced attorneys, and judges need time to decide on the case. For example, the Justice Dept. has to hire a team of attorneys to defend the death penalty. It costs $115 per hour for each attorney, and they are paid this rate regardless of whether or not they work on a case (Carver, 2009). These teams must be experienced and skilled in capital law. For example, attorneys handling such cases as Louisiana usually have at least ten years of experience in capital litigation. The same is true for the prosecutors on both sides who will argue their cases at trial and before appellate courts after conviction.

More than 80% of counties in the US spend more money on death penalty cases than life without parole cases which do not involve executions or extended time on death row. Each death penalty case in Texas costs taxpayers about $2.3 million. That is about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years (Carver, 2009). The state’s death penalty costs about $2.4 billion annually, and the ACLU, along with taxpayer advocates, have called for Texas to cut back on executions or face bankruptcy. For the number of prisoners, the price tag is much more expensive than it is for life without parole cases in which an individual can be held for an extended period but insecure confinement without access to legal representation.

The death penalty has always cost more than life without parole cases where people stay locked up at a lower security level for years. In Texas, life without parole costs about $142 per prisoner per year. The death penalty costs over three times that amount: A bit over $500 per prisoner per year in Texas. Michigan has a $1.4 billion backlog in deferred maintenance for schools, roads, bridges, and more. A major cause of this is that the state spends more than $1 billion on the prison system annually. In 2011, over half of Michigan’s prisoners were housed in for-profit facilities even though these facilities are not as safe as public ones, and rehabilitation efforts have been sharply curtailed because of this.

Figure 1

Racial Bias in Capital Punishment.

The death penalty is racially biased. A recent NAACP report from California confirmed that race continues to be a significant factor in who gets sentenced to death and who doesn’t. In California, of the 408 inmates on death row, only 35% were convicted of killing a white victim. 62% of the condemned inmates were convicted in cases with black victims. The report stated that 60% of all homicide victims in California are black, and over half the death sentences since 1978 have involved murders of black people.

There are also concerns that minorities are more likely to get the death penalty than whites who commit similar crimes. After adjusting for factors like a prior criminal record and the seriousness of the crime, researchers found that blacks were 4.4 times more likely to face a potential death sentence than whites. It is estimated that only 32% of the general population in the U.S. is black, yet a disproportionate number of people on death row are black. For example, all nine defendants executed in Texas over the past ten years were black. By contrast, the state’s population is 24% black, according to U.S. Census data.

Furthermore, with racial minorities who commit crimes being sentenced more harshly than white criminals convicted of similar crimes, there are concerns about a focus on race rather than on crime when it comes to determining whether someone will be put to death for their crime and how they will be sentenced. Although the Federal government is no longer executing people for committing crimes, it was not always this way. Between 1930 and 2003, 1,348 federal prisoners were executed. Of these executions, 56% were carried out for offenses against non-white victims.

In Texas alone, for every white person executed for killing a white person, four are executed for killing a black person. In cases such as the “Trial of the Century,” Clarence Brandley, who was black, was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death for killing a school child. He was executed in 1989, even though there is no evidence that he killed the officers in acts of terrorism. In Texas, 28% of all death sentences were handed down to blacks, even though they make up only 15% of the total population.

Figure 2

Figure 3

The Morality of the Death Sentence.

The death penalty has become a major issue in the U.S. debate on capital punishment. As stated earlier, most people in the U.S. are in favor of capital punishment, but they have strong arguments against it for its own sake, but also as a violation of human rights and an unethical practice that punishes the innocent along with the guilty person. There are many reasons to oppose capital punishment, which also cause concern among many people and organizations because of its arbitrariness, lack of proportionality and irreversibility of some punishments, discrimination on the basis of race or nationality (between US citizens and foreign nationals), the risk to human life to justify capital punishment (fear of wrongful conviction), use of archaic laws (e.g., laws of the 13th century) and lack of respect for personal dignity and human rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana invalidated the death penalty as unconstitutionally cruel because it is applied with racial and economic bias against minority groups, but there were no statistics on this, as well as the risk to innocent people (for example, innocent people are executed because another person was wrongly convicted), such concerns have decreased over time as more states abolished capital punishment between 1965 and 2010 (only 13 states currently have capital punishment). However, the Supreme Court’s decision in 2005 in addition to the death penalty for certain crimes involving juvenile offenders, became controversial because it was based on immaturity and the immaturity of minors is not a reason to exempt them from capital punishment. On the other hand, as for cases that involve people whose mental disabilities are so severe that they could not have committed the crime, many studies show that mental disabilities do not always determine innocence.

In Texas, the question of the ethical basis of the death penalty is brought up recently with the case of Marlin G. Woodard, who was sentenced to die for fatally stabbing his neighbor. Woodard is intellectually disabled and developmentally disabled. The defense pointed out that Woodard did not fully understand why he committed the crime. However, it does not mean that he should be exempt from the punishment because of his inability to fully comprehend all of its consequences and, therefore, that this would be unfair or unconstitutional. Therefore, the state has not ruled that Woodard should be exempt from the death penalty, and the judge has ruled that he is guilty of both murder and capital murder. Many people are concerned about this case because of its arbitrariness and potentially devastating consequences for him.

Another controversial issue is the effects of capital punishment on the families of those who are executed. It is known that many families have been deeply affected by the execution of a family member. The emotional, financial, and spiritual costs of losing a loved one to death in such an arbitrary manner can be quite difficult to bear for this reason. Therefore, some people think that there should be an alternative to capital punishment, which would hurt even less than the execution of a loved one.

Figure 4

The Death Penalty’s Infringement on Human Rights and Liberties.

Capital punishment is a violation of basic human rights. Individuals have the right to life, the right to physical integrity and personal autonomy, and the guarantee of legal safeguards for their protection. The death penalty should never be imposed on anyone who is against these principles.

The United States is the only Western country to still have capital punishment. The European Union, the United Nations, and the Council of Europe all oppose capital punishment as a violation of fundamental human rights.

In 1981, Amnesty International published a report entitled “The Death Penalty in America,” calling for a moratorium on capital punishment until it can be administered in a fair and equitable manner. The report documented that there are racial disparities in death penalty cases (more than one-half of the executions were for crimes against white individuals) and that there is discrimination against minorities who are more likely to receive the death sentence than whites who commit similar crimes. In a follow-up report in 1988, they reiterated their call for a moratorium.

In the U.S., there are serious concerns about the death penalty as it is applied and imposed. It is clear that the death penalty is applied in a discriminatory manner (racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented on death rows in states that have not abolished capital punishment yet), and there are serious doubts about its fairness, or whether it conforms with “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society. In this case, there is a huge gap between what the Constitution demands and what capital punishment actually does in practice, which democratic governments should strive to close rather than expand. Enforcement of the death penalty violates the principle of equal protection and the principle of a fair trial as put forth in the US Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union has identified at least 68 state and federal legal mistakes that have led to many innocent people being imprisoned or executed.

The United Nations has condemned capital punishment as violating human rights, including Article 3 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In addition, the following international instruments prohibit capital punishment: the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 2), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (article 5), and “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (article 6).

In a reaffirmation of this position in a General Comment of 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that “capital punishment can never be considered a legitimate means of protecting a society.” The Committee explained that the death penalty would violate Article 6 if it were imposed as a result of prejudice or intolerance. The Committee also cited reports by Amnesty International, which documented that racial or ethnic minorities are over-represented on death row in Louisiana.


As shown by the findings above, there is strong evidence that the death penalty is unjust and causes severe harm. Also, the UN and other organizations have strongly condemned it for violating human rights. However, the public and politicians do not always agree with these organizations’ opinions. What is the reason for this? First of all, there are many people who believe that capital punishment is justifiable in some circumstances or at least not so unjustified as claimed by those who oppose it. For example, some people still believe that capital punishment is a natural attempt by society to defend and protect itself against the cruel and violent criminals in our midst. Also, many politicians support capital punishment because they think that it has a deterrent effect on crime that outweighs its negative effects on those who are executed or their families.

There is no doubt that the death penalty does not achieve its purpose effectively in deterring violent crime. For many years, statistics show that there is no discernible correlation between execution rates and murder rates. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, there have been more than 1,300 executions (as of 2012), but homicide rates remained flat or even increased after states reinstated capital punishment. Moreover, the death penalty has a cost to taxpayers and is very expensive. An execution costs Californians $234 million more per year than life without parole. Advocates for the death penalty say that capital punishment should be retained for these so-called “worst of the worst,” but there are concerns that such a policy leads to an arbitrary and discriminatory administration of justice.

Research shows that the cost of a death row case is almost four times the cost of a non-death row case. The death penalty imposes extra costs on states, cities, and counties in the areas of litigation, incarceration, and administration of justice. Capital cases are more expensive than non-capital cases because they require longer pre-trial proceedings and trials. Capital trials are longer than non-capital trials because there are generally more pre-trial motions for discovery as well as extensive expert witness testimony.

The morality of capital punishment is questioned as well because the purpose of execution is to inflict pain and suffering as a penalty for a crime that the person has committed. Although it is true that the accepted methods of execution in today’s society result in relatively painless death, there are still concerns about killing as a form of punishment. Instead of the closure that justice is supposed to give to the victim’s family, the death sentence leaves a period of uncertainty with the victim’s family. Such uncertainty can cause mental strain and other negative effects on a victim’s surviving family members.

In addition, many people believe that capital punishment is unjust because it has serious doubts about its fairness (whether it conforms with “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society”). From this perspective, it is our duty as citizens to eliminate those things that are not fair and do not match our basic moral principles. It seems that the death penalty and the racism and discrimination it brings are unacceptable, as these issues are what offend most people. In other words, it is important for us to try to eliminate any form of injustice, such as racism and discrimination.

The wrongful execution of innocent people is a serious moral and legal issue that plagues the death penalty. In the recent past, it has been shown that there are many people who have been executed who are actually innocent. Despite this, many states have yet to reform their processes by which cases are decided based on judicial review, which is the process whereby state courts review decisions made by juries or administrative boards. This review process is not how courts determine whether a death sentence is valid or whether a death row inmate should actually be executed.


In light of the above conclusions, we recommend that the Texas Legislature abolishes the death penalty. Furthermore, we recommend that the Texas Legislature establish a moratorium on executions in Texas so that it can consider well-founded arguments against the death penalty before proceeding with its implementation. We recommend that the moratorium be extended by the Texas Legislature until any constitutional issues are resolved. We also recognize the findings of the Texas Commission on Capital Punishment, which concluded that under the current law, it would be difficult to ensure that a death penalty sentence is not imposed arbitrarily or in a racially discriminatory manner. Therefore, we recommend that this commission should be continued and its mandate expanded. The objectives of this commission should include an impartial study of all aspects within the criminal justice system to provide consistency in its application and increase public confidence in its fairness. This study should include a review of the racial bias in sentencing and its implications on those executed and on the families of victims.

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Finally, we recommend that the Legislature take all possible steps to reduce the ethnic, racial, gender, and class bias in Texas’ criminal justice system. These steps can be accomplished by directing retroactivity of all legal issues involving capital punishment. The laws concerning capital punishment should be changed so that it is applied uniformly to everyone regardless of ethnicity, race, or gender. In order for this goal to be achieved, each death penalty case should be heard in one trial even if some factors such as an accomplice’s testimony are crucial for a successful prosecution and conviction. In addition, counsel for defendants should have the right to file appeals. At the same time, we recommend that these necessary changes in the laws should not be implemented immediately so as to ensure a smooth transition process.


In conclusion, the death penalty is a radical and inhuman form of punishment. It is clear that the death penalty violates fundamental human rights and causes severe harm to society. Therefore, we recommend that the Texas Legislature abolish this cruel and unjust punishment.

It has a severe psychological effect on those sentenced to death and their families. Also, there is no evidence that it deters violent crime effectively in Texas or anywhere else in the United States or the rest of the world. The death penalty has also caused racial discrimination and ethnic bias. These two factors have caused Texas’ criminal justice system to be unfair, unequal, and arbitrary. In order to prevent any further injustice caused by the application of the death penalty in Texas, the Legislature should carefully consider the above-mentioned recommendations and abolish this barbaric punishment.

Survey Questions

Are you in support of capital punishment or against it?

I am not a supporter of the death penalty in Texas.

Is life in prison a better alternative than the death penalty?

I would say life in prison is a better alternative than the death penalty because there is a possibility that the offender can realize what they did wrong and serve time for their crime instead of having the easy way out; no purpose is served to take another life.

Do you believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent?

No, I don’t believe it is; no one is thinking about the life-changing consequences before they are about to kill someone.

Do you feel the costs of maintaining death row inmates justify the taxpayers’ dollars?

No, not at all. I feel as death row is draining taxpayer dollars

Do you anticipate the costs of capital punishment to continue to soar?

Yes, because it doesn’t seem like capital punishment is going anywhere anytime soon.

Do you feel any of these offenders are actually innocent?

There have been innocent people put to death before, so I can’t say that it’s something that is unheard of.

Do you support DNA testing to exonerate death row inmates?


Do you feel the families of the victims are affected by the death penalty?

Absolutely, it may be a mix of many emotions, but it will definitely impact them in some way, shape, or form.

Do you feel the families of the offender are affected by the death penalty?

Once again, absolutely. When someone is killed, it’s never just the victim involved. The death of a loved one for example has many victims.

Do you think more states will do away with the death penalty all together?

Many states have already, but I would love to see Texas become one of those states one day.


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