In six years, Texas has built a “lifer’s row” filled with 398 prisoners who will never be released through parole – a fast-growing group that already has outpaced the number of inmates serving a death sentence in state, says the Houston Chronicle. Houston’s Harris County prosecutors, who historically have led the state in seeking death sentences, have been the most aggressive in pursuing capital murder charges and obtaining mandatory life without parole sentences in capital cases.
Texas became the last of the death penalty states to approve life without parole in 2005, after Harris County prosecutors dropped their opposition. The law applies only to offenders convicted of capital murder. For the first time, it gave jurors and prosecutors a non-death sentence that guaranteed someone convicted of killing a child, killing multiple victims, slaying a police officer or committing another capital crime could not be released on parole. In all, 110 Harris County offenders have been sentenced to life without parole since the law took effect, compared with 11 death sentences. “Harris County is a tough law and order county on the really bad actors. That hasn’t changed,” said First Assistant District Attorney James Leitner.