Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas during the Modern Era

By Jon Sorensen; Rocky Leann Pilgrim | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 5

Administration: Is the Death Penalty Carried
Out Impartially, Reliably, and Efficiently?

[O]ne can object to the execution of innocent people based on their race or ethnicity
without opposing capital punishment per se. Similarly… one can support con-
stitutional principles of a fair trial and due process irrespective of one's views on
the merits of the death penalty.

SCOTT ATLAS, HABEAS COUNSEL FOR RIICARDO ALDAPE GUERRA, IN [HOW
CAN WE BE SURE?] (2003)

Public opinion polls show that Texans, like Americans generally, are not philosophically opposed to capital punishment. When asked if they support the use of capital punishment, the majority of Texans invariably say yes. However, when asked specific questions about the application of the death penalty under particular circumstances, their level of support decreases. Most believe that capital punishment is an appropriate governmental response to particularly egregious murders, but their concerns about how the death penalty is implemented in particular cases gives rise to a certain amount of skepticism regarding its actual use. The greatest concern related to the implementation of capital punishment is whether the sanction is carried out impartially and reliably.

Whether the death penalty is parceled out to defendants impartially is a perennial question. The question implicates a host of factors potentially related to the disparate application of death sentences because of inappropriate considerations, such as the gender or economic status of the capital murderer. Gender and economic status tend to be of little consequence, since nearly all capital murders, as currently defined, are committed by males of lower socioeconomic status, which accounts for most of the perceived disparities in income and gender. Of greater concern is whether the death penalty is imposed against racial minorities, merely because of their minority status, more often than against whites. The historical pattern of executions has led to the inescapable conclu

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