Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr has filed legislation to abolish the death penalty in Texas. This is the first time a state senator has ever filed legislation to completely abolish the death penalty in Texas. It happened because organizations in Texas held the Statewide Texas Lobby Day to Abolish the Death Penalty on March 3 and death row survivors Ron Keine and Sabrina Butler from Witness to Innocence and Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network met with Senator Lucio’s general counsel and requested that Senator Lucio file abolition legislation.
(There was an abolition bill filed in the Texas Senate in 1969, but it would not have completely abolished the death penalty.)
Here is a report from the Austin American-Statesman on our successful lobby day, which was widely covered in the media, including the Dallas Morning News, potentially reaching hundreds of thousands of people in Texas with our message.
Last summer, Senator Lucio attended the Democrats Against the Death Penalty caucus at the Texas Democratic Party state convention. The caucus has been held every year since 2004 when it was started by Scott Cobb. The caucus has proven to be an effective method for persuading Texas Democrats to make abolishing the death penalty a higher priority among both elected officials and ordinary people in the Texas Democratic Party.
In the coming weeks, we will be working with Senator Lucio’s staff as well as staff of the House sponsor of the abolition bill, to prepare for committee hearings on the abolition bills. When a hearing is held in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, it will be the first time ever for a hearing on abolishing the death penalty in the Texas Senate. It will be up to the chair of the committee to decide if a hearing is scheduled.
Here are links to the two pieces of legislation filed by Senator Lucio. One is a regular bill (SB 1661) and the other is a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 54).
Thank you to all the groups and people from across Texas who participated in our lobby day, including Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Students Against the Death Penalty, and Witness to Innocence.
Thank you also to State Rep. Harold Dutton, who sponsored the Day of Innocence and who has filed an abolition bill in the Texas House of Representatives every session since 2003.
If anyone would like to thank Senator Lucio for filing his abolition proposals, you can contact him through this form on his website.
By: Lucio S.J.R. No. 54
A JOINT RESOLUTION
proposing a constitutional amendment abolishing the death penalty.
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Article I, Texas Constitution, is amended by
adding Section 13a to read as follows:
Sec. 13a. A penalty of death shall not be imposed against
SECTION 2. Section 4(b), Article V, Texas Constitution, is
amended to read as follows:
(b) For the purpose of hearing cases, the Court of Criminal
Appeals may sit in panels of three Judges, the designation thereof
to be under rules established by the court. In a panel of three
Judges, two Judges shall constitute a quorum and the concurrence of
two Judges shall be necessary for a decision. The Presiding Judge,
under rules established by the court, shall convene the court en
banc for the transaction of all other business and may convene the
court en banc for the purpose of hearing cases. The court must sit
en banc during proceedings involving capital cases [punishment] and
other cases as required by law. When convened en banc, five Judges
shall constitute a quorum and the concurrence of five Judges shall
be necessary for a decision. The Court of Criminal Appeals may
appoint Commissioners in aid of the Court of Criminal Appeals as
provided by law.
SECTION 3. Section 5(b), Article V, Texas Constitution, is
amended to read as follows:
(b) [The appeal of all cases in which the death penalty has
been assessed shall be to the Court of Criminal Appeals.] The
appeal of all [other] criminal cases shall be to the Courts of
Appeal as prescribed by law. In addition, the Court of Criminal
Appeals may, on its own motion, review a decision of a Court of
Appeals in a criminal case as provided by law. Discretionary review
by the Court of Criminal Appeals is not a matter of right, but of
sound judicial discretion.
SECTION 4. This proposed constitutional amendment shall be
submitted to the voters at an election to be held November 3, 2015.
The ballot shall be printed to provide for voting for or against the
proposition: “The constitutional amendment abolishing the death