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Justice for All

Essay by   •  February 18, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,101 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,135 Views

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In Houston, Texas, on October 13, 1980, a hot dog vender was shot and killed by two men, Willie Williams and Joseph Nichols. Both were arrested and tried for their crime. There was only one problem; only one bullet struck and killed the vender. Both of these men now sit on death row. One might ask why if only one person killed the man why are both scheduled to die (Syndor). The inconsistent and corrupt death penalty system sent a violent yet innocent man to his death.

Texas has been ridiculed and berated for the extremely high number of convicts executed since the death penalty was reinstated nationally in 1976. Statistically, Texas alone accounts for approximately 35% of all executions in the United States, 351 out of a national total of 987. And Texas has nearly four times as many executions as Virginia, the state with the second highest execution rate ("Number of Executions"). There are many theories which try to explain this phenomenon, but whatever the reason the problem must be solved. The death penalty is necessary; I firmly believe there are some people who have committed crimes so heinous that the only punishment conceivable is death. But I also believe Texas courts rely far too heavily on the ultimate penalty. If the state of Texas is to reform its death penalty and spare those who are innocent or not deserving of death then we must identify and rectify the problems.

It is a tragedy when an innocent man or woman finds themselves sentenced with the death penalty. Nationally at least 1% of all death row inmates were found innocent and released, which totaled about 100 prisoners. Statistically more than one of the 351 inmates had to be innocent (Syndor). Currently there are 411 inmates waiting to be escorted to the lethal injection chamber. How many more innocents have been wrongfully accused? Why are so many sentenced to death in Texas? Legally there are several reasons, the first being that appellate judges--judges responsible for retrying prisoners sentenced to death--are elected and not appointed. Judges do not wish to appear weak before those who elect them and are more willing to sentence convicts to death. Elected judges also tend to be less qualified than their appointed counterparts, which often leads to overlooked evidence (Walpin). The next important factor which can lead to the conviction of an innocent person is Texas' lack of a public defender system. Currently in Texas all defendants are appointed a lawyer, who is often inexperienced in the death penalty appeal process. In one case the defendant's lawyer fell asleep during the convict's trial (Walpin). Another reason why those not deserving death are sentenced to it is because jurors were not allowed, until recently, to properly examine mitigating evidence such as the suspect's mental health or age at the time of the crime (Walpin). Finally, many convicts sit on death row because life without parole is not a legal sentence in Texas. As of now Texas only has two sentences for capital crimes: life with parole and the death penalty. Interviews with juries indicated that the jury would have chosen a life sentence without parole rather than death if such a sentence existed in Texas (Tolson). So many lives can be spared if these problems are corrected.

Each of the previously mentioned problems with the death penalty system in Texas has a simple enough solution. If Texas were to appoint qualified judges many of the convicts would have a second chance at life. If Texas were to provide qualified lawyers, or better yet allow convicts to hire their own lawyers, the number of unfair trials would dwindle. If Texas retried those convicts who were overlooked by the jury more cells on death row would empty. If Texas were to add life without parole to the list of possible sentences maybe hundreds of prisoners would locked inside a cell instead of a coffin. But unfortunately the Texas legislature is slow



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