After the execution of Kelsey Patterson, a schizophrenic who killed two people, Texas has begun considering ways to fine-tune the application of the death penalty, says the Los Angeles Times. It is an unusual step for the state that executes the most inmates in the nation. While many states have inched away from capital punishment, Texas executes an inmate every 12 1/2 days, on average. The state is responsible for about a third of the nation’s executions. Some officials here who favor capital punishment – sheriffs, judges, prosecutors, and state legislators – are calling for a more measured approach. They want juries to have the option of sentencing defendants to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Texas juries currently have two options when a defendant is convicted in capital murder cases: life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years, and death by lethal injection. Texas is one of three states that applies the death penalty but does not allow juries to sentence a defendant to life in prison without parole. “Texas is Texas,” said state Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, a Democrat who supports the death penalty. “We used to hang horse thieves, and hang ’em high – make a public display of it. That has carried over, and we have established a type of reputation. But we have a golden opportunity to show the rest of the country that we are a compassionate state.” Lucio will propose giving juries the option of sentencing defendants to life in prison without parole. A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry said he believed that the proposal deserved consideration and could be a way to “improve the criminal justice system.”