For as long as the death penalty is an applicable punishment in Texas, the LWV supports reform of the capital punishment system in Texas with the following measures:
- establish a moratorium on all executions in Texas while an official study of the capital punishment system is conducted
- prohibit the execution of persons with intellectual/developmental disability, the mentally ill, and juveniles under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed, establishing clear, uniform and clinical standards consistent with accepted professional practice to determine intellectual/developmental disability and mental illness
- observe the provisions of the Vienna Convention of 1848 by providing foreign nationals access to consular officials from their native country
- provide the options of life imprisonment and life without parole to juries in capital cases
- require the Board of Pardons and Paroles to adopt guidelines and substantive criteria upon which to base its clemency recommendations, to hold open meetings and to give explanations for its decisions
The issue of capital punishment has been in the foreground of debate in Texas for many years. The availability of DNA testing, the rising number of inmates found innocent and released from other states' death rows, as well as an increasing number of Texas executions, have made many in Texas question the death penalty and its effectiveness.
A study of Capital Punishment Reform was adopted at Convention 2001.
The study compared:
(1) outcomes for defendants with court-appointed lawyers to those who hire their own attorneys
(2) costs of execution to the costs of life imprisonment
(3) the potential of wrongful executions and the impact of new technology
(4) possible sentencing alternatives.
A study committee produced a Facts & Issues, CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Capital Punishment in 2002 that was distributed to League members, public officials, agencies, and other interested groups and individuals.
A limited consensus was reached in the fall of 2002 and the state board approved the new position in January 2003.
At the LWVUS Convention in 2006, delegates voted include support for the abolition of the death penalty in their positions. LWV-Texas Convention 2010 voted to remove references to capital punishment sentencing from our position in order to bring our position in line with LWVUS.
A program review committee formed in 2012 recommended that several changes be made to Capital Punishment Reform position. The committee produced a background paper supporting the changes that was distributed to local Leagues, and the changes were approved by concurrence at a statewide convention in 2013. The changes included wording changes and reordering of bullet items to clarify that the LWV-TX position to support reforms to the capital punishment system does not conflict with the LWVUS position to support abolition of the death penalty, to change the term "mental retardation" to "intellectual/developmental disability" and include a statutory of intellectual/developmental disability for purposes of screening accused murderers, to include both life imprisonment and life without parole as sentencing options, and to require the Board of Pardons and Paroles to adopt guidelines and criteria for its recommendations.