Singing Loudly: Life Without Parole in Texas

Singing Loudly

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Life Without Parole in Texas

Texas is considering a bill that would create an option for life without possibility of parole as an alternative to the death penalty. Allow me to editorialize a little by saying that it's about time Texas gave a viable option for the death penalty. The Texas system is probably the worst in the country from the public defender system in Texas (Harris County -- Houston -- doesn't even have a state public defenders office), to death sentence prone juries, to the three questions that do little to focus the jurors there isn't much of a chance for you if you're charged with a capital crime.

Adding the option for life without parole will be a step in the right direction. As it is now, the jury can come back with a sentence of life or death if they find a defendant guilty of a capital offense. Jurors aren't told what life means, so they often assume it means they could get parole before in a number of years. Technically it has to be 30 years before the option for parole surfaces. In practice, a convict will not be released on parole. However, the option for release if there, which scares the shit out of many jurors.

If the juror doesn't want to play God, realizes the fundamental errors in the death penalty scheme, or figures out that the entire system is a sham that merely feeds our appetite for blood but doesn't want to see the criminal back on the streets -- that juror has no viable option. That juror is in a bind where voting for the death penalty is the only way she can feel secure regardless of whether she'll be able to sleep at night.

Texas is in the minority of states:

Currently, 46 states offer life-without-parole as a sentencing option. Nearly all of the 38 states that allow the death penalty offer life-without-parole as an option.

Unfortunately this embarrassing isolation from the rest of our nation probably won't change,

Lucio has offered the bill for the past three sessions of the Texas Legislature without success.

Even if it did pass, I'm sure that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals would figure out some unconstitutional creative way to destroy it's applicability.


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