On Tuesday, people who once faced a death sentence called on Texas lawmakers to end to the state’s death penalty. They were supporting House Bill 1032, proposed by State Representative Harold Dutton, which would abolish the death penalty in Texas. “As a legislator I didn’t want to be in the death penalty business,” said Dutton. Sabrina Butler spent several years on death row before she was exonerated of the murder of her nine-month-old son. “I don’t want anyone to be put in the same position that I was in,” said Butler.
Texas leads the nation in the frequency of the use of the death penalty, and every year, one state legislator works to abolish it.
On Tuesday, Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) filed bills, for the seventh time, that aim to abolish the death penalty in Texas. Dutton has filed bills every legislative session since 2003.
“Texans have become less and less confident in the legal systems to protect the innocent,” Dutton said. “Texas has not fixed it’s legal processes, so that we cannot guarantee someone who is innocent does not get executed.”
Supporters of eliminating the death penalty gathered at the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday. Several death row exonerees spoke at this year’s “Day of Innocence,” including Sabrina Butler, convicted when she was 17 years old in 1990 for killing her baby.
“I still feel like a prisoner,” Butler said. “He stopped breathing, and I tried to apply CPR and applied it the wrong way.”
Butler spent six and a half years in prison.
“They pretty much knew what they wanted to do before they saw me,” Butler said of her trial and conviction.
Medical findings eventually determined her baby had a disease that caused the damage they initially thought she had done.
Despite being the only woman in the U.S. exonerated after being sentenced to death, Butler’s life will never be the same. She has trouble finding employment, because she must still admit her conviction on job applications.
“That’s the part that makes me feel still like I’m in prison, because this will affect my life, not only my life, my children’s life,” Butler said. “The first thing on my mind when I got exonerated, I wanted to see my older son.”
Ron Keine, another death row exoneree, was sentenced to death in New Mexico, until a police officer admitted he actually committed the murder.
“He went to the nearest church and confessed,” Keine said. “That’s what got me out. It wasn’t any maneuvering by lawyers.”
Dutton believes the bill will pass eventually and said he’ll keep filing it until it does.