Texas executed 15 people in 2012, two more people than in 2011. 73 percent of the people Texas executed in 2012 were people of color, seven African-American and four Hispanics. There were four white people executed by Texas in 2012.
Five people were executed from Dallas County, two from Bexar County, two from Montgomery County, one from Harris County, one from Gregg County, one from Polk County, one from Cherokee County, one from Jefferson County and one from Tarrant County.
Since December 7, 1982, the state of Texas has executed 492 people. There have been 253 executions in Texas since Rick Perry took office in December 2000.
2011 saw the lowest number of executions in 15 years dating back to 1996. The highest number of executions was 40 in 2000.
So far, 9 people have been sentenced to death in 2012 in Texas – one more than in 2011. New death sentences have declined from their high in the late 90s. In 1999, there were 48 people sentenced to death. Harris County, where Houston is located, did not send anyone to death row in 2012.
After three convictions and death sentences, all of which were at least partially overturned on appeal, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced in August 2012 that it would drop efforts to execute Anthony Pierce, who had been on death row since 1978.
88.8 percent of the nine new death sentences handed out in 2012 in Texas have been given to people of color. Of the nine people sentenced to death so far in Texas in 2012, seven are African-American, one is Hispanic and one white. One of the nine persons is a woman.
The number of new death sentences has declined over the last several years in large part because people who serve on juries are increasingly choosing life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty, because members of juries have read about so many mistakes in the system when innocent people have been convicted only to be exonerated years later.
Cathy Henderson, who has been on death row in Texas for 17 years, was granted a new trial in 2012. The trial court said in its ruling in May that she “has proven by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted her of capital murder in light of her new evidence”. Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg has said she will retry Henderson.
In September, Texas executed Cleve “Sarge” Foster who had received three previous stays of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court. Read a report from Gloria Rubac, who was with Foster’s family in Huntsville on the day of the execution.
John Balentine received a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court in August 2012, less than an hour before he was due to be put to death in Texas. Balentine argued he deserved a reprieve because an ineffective trial lawyer failed to present mitigating evidence, such as emotional problems and a difficult upbringing, that could have led to a life sentence.
Two people on death row died in custody in 2012: Santos Minjarez from San Antonio died Jan. 14, 2012 in Galveston, six days after he was transferred from death row. The cause of death was septic shock and multiple organ failure. Selwyn Davis of Austin was found dead in his death row cell on July 20, 2012 of suicide.
More than three decades after he was sent to death row, Delma Banks Jr. in 2012 agreed to accept a life sentence for the 1980 slaying of acquaintance Richard Whitehead – a murder he has long maintained he did not commit. Banks, who is black, was convicted by an all-white jury of the slaying of 16-year-old Whitehead (white) near Nash, Texas, in 1980.
After 12 years of organizing and lobbying by ordinary grassroots Democrats across the state as well as by exonerated former death row inmates, the Texas Democratic Party has adopted a platform that calls for repealing the death penalty in Texas. “Democrats Against the Death Penalty”, which was formed by members of Texas Moratorium Network in 2004, held a meeting at the TDP State Convention in June 2012. Watch a powerful video of Clarence Brandley, an innocent man who spent ten years on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit, speaking at the meeting of “Democrats Against the Death Penalty” on June 8, 2012 at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in Houston.
In July, the Austin Human Rights Commission passed a resolution calling for Texas to repeal the death penalty and for a statewide moratorium on executions.
In July, Texas changed to a one drug method to carry out executions instead of its previous three-drug method, because of short supply in drugs that was caused by pressure on drug companies from people in the drugs producing countries who are opposed to executions.
In October, Todd Willingham’s family officially requested a pardon for him from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry. No action has yet been taken on the request.
According to KTBC in Austin, hundreds of people rallied at the Texas Capitol at the 13th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on November 3, 2012. Three death row survivors from Witness to Innocence attended the march, including Ron Keine (watch video).