Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas during the Modern Era

By Jon Sorensen; Rocky Leann Pilgrim | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3

Incapacitation:
Does It Keep Them from Killing Again?

It is, of course, not easy to predict future behavior. The fact that such a determina-
tion isdiffi cult, however, does not mean that it cannot be made. Indeed, prediction
of future criminal conduct is an essential element in many of the decisions rendered
throughout our criminal justice system. The decision whether to admit a defen-
dant to bail, for instance, must often turn on a judge's prediction of the defendant's
future conduct. Any sentencing authority must predict a convicted person's probable
future conduct when it engages in the process of determining what punishment to
impose. For those sentenced to prison, these same predictions must be made by parole
authorities. The task that a Texas jury must perform [during the sentencing phase
of a capital murder trial] in answering the statutory question [whether there is a
probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would
constitute a continuing threat to society] is thus basically no different from the task
performed countless times each day throughout the American system of criminal
justice. What is essential is that the jury have before it all possible relevant infor-
mation about the individual defendant whose fate it must determine.

JUSTICE STEWART IN JUREK V. TEXAS

During a public hearing in the Texas House of Representatives concerning the reimplementation of capital punishment in 1973, justifi cations offered in support of the death penalty most often focused on its efficacy in preventing similar crimes from being committed by someone other than a particular defendant. Some of this debate, however, spilled over into the related issue of preventing those convicted of crimes from committing additional offenses. The exchange between Tom Hanna, the district attorney of Jefferson County, and Representative Baker shows that those supporting the bill did not always draw a clear distinction between the two related goals, both of which focus on protecting society from further criminal acts:

-49-

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Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas during the Modern Era
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Lethal Injection xv
  • Chapter 1 - The Modern Era 1
  • Chapter 2 - Deterrence: Does It Prevent Others from Committing Murder? 20
  • Chapter 3 - Incapacitation: Does It Keep Them from Killing Again? 49
  • Chapter 4 - Retribution: Do They Deserve to Die? 76
  • Chapter 5 - Administration: is the Death Penalty Carried Out Impartially, Reliably, and Efficiently? 104
  • Chapter 6 - Conclusion 159
  • Appendix 165
  • Notes 169
  • References 203
  • Index 215
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