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The State of Capital Punishment in Texas

            The State of the Capital Punishment in Texas.
             "Slavery, criminal justice, lynchings, and capital punishment are historically closely intertwined in the United States. Texas is no exception."".
             -James Marquart.
             From 1819 to 1923 Texas executed convicts through local communities and individual counties, and execution was done by hanging. Then in 1924 executions fell under the jurisdiction of the state, and in that same year, Texas switched from the rope to the electric chair to appease concerns that prisoners were being treated inhumanely. In the two decades following World War II, there was a decline in executions mainly due to a heightened awareness about injustice and inequity during the civil rights movement. Apprehensions concerning the unfair application of the death penalty were addressed in a landmark decision in 1972, Furman vs. Georgia. In this case, the Supreme Court concluded in a five to four decision that capital punishment "as was then administered, was arbitrary and capricious and opened the door to discriminatory practices- (408 U.S. 238 [1972]). It felt that current sentencing guidelines violated the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and Fourteenth Amendment, which ensures equality of citizenship and due process of law. The Court then asserted that the death penalty statute needed more restrictive guidelines, and Texas quickly responded. It proposed legislation instituting the use of lethal injection, but more importantly passed House Bill 200, which clearly defined the six homicides eligible for capital punishment: murder of a peace officer or fireman; murder during the course of kidnapping, burglary, robbery, forcible rape or arson; murder by employment; murder while escaping from a penal institution; murder of a fellow incarcerated prisoner; or the murder of more than one person (Texas Penal Code, Section 19.03 [1974]). Their proposal satisfied the concerns of the Furman decision and re-opened the door to capital punishment in 1976.

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