Texas juries are following a nationwide trend of sending fewer convicted criminals to death, but the state still leads the country in executions by a wide margin, according to a new study released today.
Both in Texas and across the country, death sentences declined for the seventh straight year, according to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital-punishment group.
Both in Texas and nationwide, the number of executions carried out rose this year. Out of 53 people executed by states in 2009, 24 occurred in Texas. Last year, there were 37 executions nationwide, with 18 in Texas. There was a four-month death penalty moratorium last year while the Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of lethal injections.
"The fact is those 24 people will never murder anyone again," said William "Rusty" Hubbarth, an Austin attorney and vice president of Justice for All, a victims' advocacy group. "That in itself is a real good deterrent."
Nationwide, 106 people were sentenced to death this year, the lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the report.
Texas also reached its lowest point in over 30 years, with juries giving just nine death sentences, including Erick Davila, who was sentenced in February for gunning down a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother during a birthday party in southeast Fort Worth.
Texas accounts for 8 percent of the country's death sentences, an amount in proportion with the state’s population.
California, however, is bucking that nationwide trend. The state's death sentences more than doubled, from 14 in 2008 to 29 this year
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