As of last week, Texas juries had condemned eight new individuals to death in 2009. If this number remains unchanged, says the Grits for Breakfast blog in Austin, it will represent the lowest number of new death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas’ revised death penalty statute in 1976. A report from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty notes that this year Texas once again accounted for half of all U.S. executions.
Texas has executed 447 people since 1982, out of 1,186 executions nationwide since 1977. Prosecutors in Austin’s Travis County have announced their intent to seek the death penalty 15 times in the past decade. Two of those defendants pleaded guilty in exchange for life sentences, and juries gave life prison terms to six others. Six defendants received the death penalty. One case is pending. One death penalty was overturned on appeal, meaning that in nearly 2/3 of cases in which Austin prosecutors sought the death penalty, they did not succeed in securing it, says Grits for Breakfast, quoting the Austin American-Statesman.