If you are under investigation for, or facing criminal charges for a homicide crime in Texas, you will be very interested in learning about the state’s death penalty law and how it may relate to your case.
For starters, we want to define capital felonies in Texas because they are relevant to the death penalty. A capital felony is where a defendant intentionally takes someone else’s life, but under specific circumstances, which we’ll describe below.
Essentially, if a defendant is found guilty or convicted of a capital felony, he or she may be subject to the death penalty. Under the following circumstances, a defendant may face the death penalty in Texas:
- Murdering a judge;
- Murder for hire;
- Murder while escaping from prison;
- Murdering a child under the age of six;
- Murdering multiple people;
- Murdering a police officer or firefighter in the line of duty;
- Murdering a correctional officer;
- Murdering while serving a life sentence; or
- Murder while committing specific felonies, such as arson, aggravated rape, burglary, robbery, and kidnapping;
In Texas, juvenile offenders are not subject to the death penalty; a defendant must have committed the crime while they were 18 or older to be subject to the death penalty.
Appealing the Death Penalty
Suppose a defendant is found guilty; once the verdict is rendered, the defendant’s case is automatically appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
If the defendant loses his or her case in the Court of Criminal Appeals he or she has the option of appealing their case to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Lastly, the defendant can take their case to the United States Supreme Court.
When the defendant has exhausted all of their options, they have a last resort; the Governor of Texas may be able to grant clemency (mercy, lenience) to the defendant, but under limited circumstances.
Up until 1923, Texas executed its death row prisoners by hanging. From 1924 to 1977 the state executed prisoners by the electric chair. Since 1977, Texas has been executing prisoners by means of lethal injection.