Houston Rep. Renews Call to Abolish Death Penalty

A Houston Democrat has renewed his battle to abolish the death penalty in Texas, believing public opinion about capital punishment is changing.

“I sat one morning reading the paper about someone had been executed in the name of the state of Texas, and I thought well that includes me, that means they executed in my name, and I don't want anyone executed in my name,” says State Rep. Harold Dutton.

Dutton also cites the growing number of cases being overturned by DNA evidence.  But he also believes doing away with the death penalty is a matter of saving taxpayer dollars.

“For what it costs us to have these capital murder trials, we could put somebody in prison for about 44 years,” he says.

Opponents of House Bill 64 believe lethal injection is still needed for what some consider "the worst of the worst." 

The Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin in 2015 found nearly half of all Texans “strongly” supported capital punishment.  A Gallop poll last year found that six out of ten Americans still believe in the death penalty, though that number was down from 80 percent in 1996.

Just one of Dutton's attempts to abolish or slow down the number of executions carried out in Texas has made it out of committee over the years.  It would have temporarily halted the appeals process.

“It said the Court of Criminal Appeals was not going to send any cases back for two years and a lot of people said they didn't understand that's what it did, it was actually a moratorium on the death penalty,” says Dutton.

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