"Deadly Statistics," is Jordan Smith's report for the Austin Chronicle.
While Harris County retains its rank as the county that has sent the most defendants to Death Row since reinstatement in 1976, in recent years Dallas County has surged forward, earning it the top spot for new death penalty sentences since 2008, according to a report released this morning by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Of the 55 inmates condemned to die since 2008, Dallas sent 20% (11 defendants) to Death Row during the last five years, according to the annual TCADP report. That distinction is unsettling, given that Dallas County also leads the state in the number of exonerations established through DNA evidence, with 24 men exonerated through mid-2012. "While most of Texas is moving away from the death penalty, Dallas County has emerged as a major outlier in its pursuit of the ultimate punishment, particularly for defendants of color," Kristin Houlé, TCADP executive director, said in a press release. "These troubling patterns directly counter Dallas' reputation as a leader in criminal justice reform."
Indeed, while the number of new death sentences handed out in Texas remained low in 2013 – just nine new sentences were delivered, the same as in 2012 (up by one over the eight delivered in 2010 and 2011) – geographically, the use of the death penalty remains isolated, and the imposition of the ultimate sentence on minority defendants remains high.
TCADP will be hosting a Tweet Chat today (Tuesday, Dec. 17), from 3-4pm, at #2013TXDP, with yours truly – @chronic_jordan – serving as a moderator. We'll be ready to discuss the implications of Texas' use of the death penalty and eager to answer #deathpenalty related questions.