DPIC Analysis: 13 Texas Death Warrants Raise Troubling Questions About U.S. Execution Practices
The cases of the thirteen men scheduled for execution include two with strong claims of innocence, two whom authorities admit did not kill anyone but were sentenced to death under Texas’ controversial “law of parties,” and seven who exhibited significant mental or emotional vulnerabilities as a result of intellectual impairments/brain damage, serious mental illness, or chronic trauma. Three prisoners were age 21 or younger at the time of their crime. (Click on graphic to enlarge.) Four prisoners scheduled for execution had raised claims that their attorneys did not provide them with constitutionally adequate representation, and six received other forms of deficient legal process — including false testimony at their trials, trial before a racially or religiously biased judge, or execution dates that interfered with ongoing judicial review.
Texas’ aggressive execution schedule also illustrates its status as an outlier in its use of the death penalty and the stark differences in approach between the decisionmakers empowered to end prisoners’ lives and those evaluating whether new defendants should be sent to death row. Nationally, executions have remained near historic lows for the past five years, but Texas has carried out more than any other state. In 2018, Texas executed more prisoners than the rest of the United States combined and, if most of the scheduled executions go through, could do so again in 2019.
The state’s disproportionate pace of executions continues even as prosecutors are seeking and capital juries are imposing significantly fewer new death sentences. New death sentences have fallen from an average of more than 40 per year in 1998-2000 to five per year in 2016-2018. Fewer death sentences have been imposed in Texas in the last five years than in any other five-year period in the modern era of capital punishment.
The table below presents key information about each of the individuals who are the subjects of the thirteen Texas death warrants. (For more detail on these cases, see Texas Schedules Thirteen Executions in Last Five Months of 2019.)
|Name||Execution Date||County||Age at Crime||Race of Def.||Race & Sex of Victim(s)||Innocence Claim?||Law of Parties?||Intellectual Disability/Brain Damage?||Serious Mental Illness?||Chronic Trauma?|
|Dexter Johnson||8/15/19||Harris||18||B||AM, AF||Yes||Yes|
|Robert Sparks||9/25/19||Dallas||33||B||BF, 2BM||Yes|
|Stephen Barbee||10/2/19||Tarrant||37||W||WF, WM|
|Randall Mays||10/16/19||Henderson||47||W||BM, WM||Yes|
|Justen Hall||11/6/19||El Paso||21||W||Unknown F||Yes|