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April 01, 2015

Texas Death Penalty

ABA President William C. Hubbard expressed the ABA’s support last month for bills pending in the Texas Senate and House of Representatives that seek to ensure that attorneys who represent condemned inmates receive notice when an execution date has been sought or has been set for their clients. In a March 30 letter to the leaders of the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, Hubbard explained that while the ABA takes no position on capital punishment generally, the association has taken the position that governments should take great care to ensure that death penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially in accordance with due process, and minimize the risk that innocent persons may be executed. In addition, he said the ABA has “extensive policies and best practice standards regarding the operation of U.S. courts and criminal cases that support the notion that meaningful and timely notice of motions and decisions of the court helps ensure basic fairness and allows defense lawyers to meet their obligations to their clients.” The bills, Senate Bill 1071 and House Bill 2110, would align Texas law with ABA best practices and require all Texas courts and prosecutors to follow consistent notice practices when seeking an execution date, Hubbard said. “To the extent that capital defense counsel in Texas are not consistently receiving immediate notice of execution dates as they are set, or there is any confusion about who or what entity is specifically under a duty to notify the representatives of the condemned, this legislation provides an easy correction and helpful clarification regarding what should happen at this final stage of a capital case in Texas,” he wrote. The Senate committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 1071 on April 7; the House committee held hearings on the House bill April 15.

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