Today's San Antonio Express-News publishes an OpEd by Jordan Steiker, "Fewer executions but Texas still the death penalty leader." He is the Judge Robert M. Parker endowed chair in law and director of the Capital Punishment Center, at the University of Texas School of Law. Here's an excerpt from this must-read:
How did Texas become the leader of American executions?
Executions require something of a perfect storm. Prosecutors must seek death; defense lawyers must fail in their quest for a plea or a life sentence at trial; appellate judges must find the underlying trial to have been fundamentally fair; statewide prosecutors must defend the resulting death verdicts; post-conviction courts must sign off on the adequacy of representation and the conduct of prosecutors at trial; and executive officials must stand aside and permit the execution to go forward. While it rarely rains in Texas, this sort of perfect storm has become the norm rather than the exception.
To perform more than 500 executions, a state needs a lot of death sentences, and Texas was very successful in this regard for nearly a quarter-century, never falling below 20 a year from 1980 to 2004.