Texas is a death penalty state, though death penalty cases have been relatively rare since 1999. However, Harris County accounts for many cases, and the penalty is still “on the table.” Executions continue to occur, and some percentage of criminal defendants remain at risk.
In fact, Texas continues to have the third-largest death row population in the nation, with 184 people still awaiting execution.
Some of those executions included individuals who were later found to be innocent.
But when would a criminal defendant be facing the death penalty?
In Texas, capital murder is the only felony eligible for the death penalty. Capital murder is described in section 19.03 of the Texas Penal Code. A murder is a capital murder when:
- The person murders a peace officer or fireman acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty, and they knew they were killing a police officer or firearm.
- They committed the murder during committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threats.
- The person commits the murder for money or the promise of money or employs someone else to do so.
- They murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution.
- They murder while incarcerated, and that person is employed in the operation of the institution
- If already incarcerated for murder and murdering again
- If murdering while incarcerated for a life sentence
- A person murders more than one person during a criminal transaction
- A person murders someone below the age of 15
- The murder is committed in retaliation, and the victim is a judge or justice of the court
Even if you are being charged with a capital crime, there are several defenses we can use on your behalf. In addition, we may be able to have your charges reduced so that you are no longer facing the death penalty.
When defending these crimes, the normal defenses against a homicide charge apply, including self-defense.
In addition, those who are awaiting a death sentence receive an automatic appeal to the Texas Court of Appeals. Other appeals take place once an execution date gets set.
Prevailing at any step of a capital case requires a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you are being charged with a crime that might carry the death penalty, contact us immediately to get help today.
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