The Texas criminal justice system is not doing everything it can to ensure the death penalty is applied fairly.
That's according to a report released today by the American Bar Association’s Texas Capital Punishment Assessment Team, which claims Texas fails to meet national standards in all phases of implementing capital punishment.
The report is the product of a two-year, comprehensive evaluation by Texas legal experts. The full report can be read at the American Bar Association website.
“The report finds that Texas’s system not only falls short of [American Bar Association] benchmarks, but reflects outlier practices, rejection of best available science, and a significant absence of transparency to foster public confidence in the system’s fairness,” says Jennifer Laurin, committee chairwoman and law professor at UT-Austin.
Specific problematic practices identified by the committee include:
- Confessions filmed without context or credibility
- Prosecutors not disclosing evidence that proves innocence
- Unerfunded and ill-equipped crime laboratories
- Refusal to allow new DNA testing of convicts following sentencing
The committee claims that these poor practices cause unnecessary harm to both the wrongfully accused and the general public. According to Paul Coggins, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, the state has paid out $60 million to wrongfully convicted individuals since 1992.
Former Governor Mark White adds, “Our team’s guiding principle is that if the system is going to take a life, it must first give justice.”
Texas has executed 503 inmates since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976 – more than any other state. Texas has exonerated 12 prisoners in that time. Anthony Graves is the twelfth and most recently exonerated prisoner. Today, he is an ardent supporter of the Texas Capital Punishment Assessment Team.
The State of Texas is set to execute Robert Garza tomorrow.