Fewer Death Sentences in Texas: A story in the Houston Chronicle by Michael Graczyk reports that significantly fewer Texas murderers received a death sentence this year. The annual review from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty noted that 18 executions were carried [out] this year compared with 26 in 2007. The group's Executive Director said "...officials' zeal for executions was not matched by public desire for new death sentences, as evidenced by the continued steep decline in the number of new inmates arriving on death row." What was not noted is that homicide rates in the state's two largest cities are down for the second year in a row. A Dallas Morning News story by Tanya Eiserer reports a whopping 22% drop in that city's homicides. Houston's rate was down 7% last year according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, and had continued to decline last spring. The evacuation of Houston and devastation caused there by Hurricane Ike in September may also contributed to lower a homicide rate this fall.I don't agree that falling murder rates entirely explain the decline in new death sentences. Two other factors - the creation of "life without parole" as the only option to death in capital cases, and changing jury attitudes in the big death penalty counties, especially Harris - IMO have more to do with Texas' recent capital trends.
In 2007, TDCJ received 51 new capital convicts, but 37 of them received sentences of LWOP - only 14 went to death row.