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December 19, 2011

Interesting local data on LWOP sentencing and capital cases in Texas

Thanks to this post at Grits for Breakfast, I saw this fascinating local article from the Odessa American in Texas. The piece is headlined "Capital cases up since 2005 law change," and here is how it begins:

Capital murder cases are on the rise ever since a law was enacted to allow for an automatic punishment of life in prison without parole. However, District Attorney Bobby Bland said it may not necessarily be a cause/effect situation.

In the six years prior to a 2005 law that gives automatic life in prison for capital murder convictions, only six capital murder cases were filed, according to the Office of Court Administration.  From the time after the law was enacted through October, 35 capital murder cases have been filed.

Before the law, those convicted faced a minimum of 40 years in prison for capital murder.

When asked about the difference, Bland said because he was not the district attorney until 2006, he was not able to speak to the number of capital murder indictments before that time.  Bland said it could have been that not as many murders occurred in that time.  According to the Uniform Crime Report website, with statistics compiled by the FBI from local agencies, Odessa police and the Ector County Sheriff’s Office reported 17 more murders from 2005 through 2010, a total of 41, than from 1999 through 2004, a total of 24.

Local criminal defense attorney Jason Leach said the change represented a crucial shift in the way he sees prosecutors throughout the state pursuing cases.  “I think the attractiveness of holding the life sentence over the head of the defendant is going to result in more capital cases being filed,” he said.  If convicted of capital murder, after the death penalty has been waived, a defendant will spend their entire life in prison without the possibility of parole.  “The risk is really high for a defendant when life means life.  It’s the ‘never’ element.”

December 19, 2011 at 08:20 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Perhaps this is on the periphery,
but at least in Texas, with a realistic prospect of the Death Penalty,
a murderer is motivated to admit his guilt and the state better able
to convict and suitably sentence him.

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 19, 2011 11:26:34 AM

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