Dec 6 - A Houston judge on Monday convened a hearing on the legality of the death penalty in Texas, which executes more convicts than any other U.S. state.
The following are some facts and figures about capital punishment in Texas.
* Texas has executed 464 convicted criminals since 1982. This is over a third of the national total of 1,233 executions that have been carried out in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a temporary ban on the practice in 1976.
* Not one of these executions has ever been declared wrongful by a judge. But several legal experts and judicial activists believe that Texas may have wrongfully executed Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 for the arson murders of his three young children and Claude Jones in 2000 for a murder robbery committed in 1989.
* In Willingham’s case, doubts have been raised by the forensic methods that the findings of arson were based on; in Jones’ case, subsequent DNA testing has raised questions about his conviction.
* Twelve people who have been sentenced to death in Texas in the modern era have been exonerated. Since 1973, there have been a total of 138 exonerations in 26 states nationwide.
* The death penalty in Texas is carried out by lethal injection.
* There are 317 offenders on death row in Texas.
* In the modern era, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who assumed office in December 2000, has overseen 224 executions, far more than any of his peers. This is partly because the Texas governor’s powers of pardon are more constrained than they are in some other states but also because the state’s judicial system and culture bring far more offenders to the execution chamber.
Sources: Reuters, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Death Penalty Information Center