THE EXECUTION CAPITAL….I think it’s safe to say the culture of life is not exactly thriving in the state of Texas.
This year’s death penalty bombshells — a de facto national moratorium, a state abolition and the smallest number of executions in more than a decade — have masked what may be the most significant and lasting development. For the first time in the modern history of the death penalty, more than 60 percent of all American executions took place in Texas.
Over the past three decades, the proportion of executions nationwide performed in Texas has held relatively steady, averaging 37 percent. Only once before, in 1986, has the state accounted for even a slight majority of the executions, and that was in a year with 18 executions nationwide.
As it turns out, it’s not that Texas has experienced a sudden boost in blood thirst; it’s that most of the country has stemmed the execution tide. There were 42 executions over the last year, from a total of 10 states. Nine states carried about a combined total of 16 death sentences, while Texas executed 26 people. No other state killed more than three.
University of Houston law professor David Dow, who has represented death-row inmates, told the NYT we will likely reach a point in which practically all executions in the United States will take place in Texas.
“The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions,” he said, “is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have.”
Yglesias added, “In theory, I think you could have a fair system that involved some number of executions. In practice, though, it barely seems doable and Harry Blackmun’s conclusion that he had to simply refuse to ‘tinker with the machinery of death’ seems more and more sensible to me as time goes on.”
I’m not sure about the possibility even existing of a fair, error-free system, but the latter point certainly rings true.