Texas juries will be able to send capital murderers to prison for life without the chance of parole under a measure approved by the House yesterday, says the Austin American-Statesman. The bill was touted as a way to keep the state’s most heinous murderers behind bars forever. The proposal won on a 104-37 vote after an emotional debate. Advocates said it would make Texas streets safer and sentences more truthful; critics said it would be a reckless, do-nothing law that will make prisons even more dangerous.
If signed by Gov. Rick Perry, the proposal would be the most significant change in Texas’ death penalty sentencing in years. Instead of the current options of execution and life with the possibility of parole, Texas’ worst murderers would face either death or prison for the rest of their lives. “It makes life mean life,” said Rep. Terry Keel, a former prosecutor who supports the change. Because the House added several provisions to the measure, it goes back to the Senate for approval. Will Harrell of the American Civil Liberties Union said the vote “confirmed we have a problem in Texas and that is the contemptuous culture of prosecutors, one of meanness.”