HALL: The State of New Jersey, having abolished its death penalty, just a little bit over a year ago, the State of New York, their death penalty was
ruled unconstitutional by the state's high court, and the legislature has subsequently refused to make any changes that would bring the death penalty back, so just in the last few years we've
had two states abolish its death penalty.
HALL: We've also seen a number of states, North Carolina, Maryland, California, some others, have moratorium, and in those three states, the moratorium
is continuing to this day, and here we are at the beginning of February 09 and state legislatures across the country are meeting.
HALL: Texas' -- of course -- legislature only meets every other year. Most states, they have annual sessions.
HALL: And we're seeing only five states with significant abolishment movements, Maryland, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, where there's a real
debate going on of whether to abolish the death penalty.
HALL: It's probably too early, certainly, to know what's going to happen with those states, but it's really pretty astounding the speed with which that
snowball gathered momentum, and I think that it's, I think it's quite likely that at least one of those states will abolish its death penalty this year.
HALL: And I think you're only seeing the beginning of that. I think that you're going to see other states really examining their system, particularly
because of cost.
HALL: And I think you're going to continue to see those states with small death rows that have very few or no executions. And you're going to see
them abolish their death penalty and in some cases change that maximum sentence from death to life in prison without parole.
HALL: And I think that in some ways you're seeing a crumbling of the support that has existed for the death penalty over the last quarter of the century
and you're seeing it crumble pretty quickly.
HINZ-FOLEY: Jennifer do you have any questions…?
HINZ-FOLEY: No? (inaudible)
BACON: I think you actually kinda covered everything I was thinking of.
HINZ-FOLEY: an you talk just very briefly maybe about what the life without parole option has done here in Texas?
HALL: It's really done two things. The law changed in 2005 and so now a person charged with a capital crime faces two possible sentences, death or life
without parole. In some cases you've seen juries give that life without parole sentence rather then death. I think each of the last two years, Texas had roughly twelve to fourteen death
sentences. Last year Harris County, once the belt buckle of the death belt, didn't have a single capital conviction, a single death sentence …I-I-the other way that law has had its impact is in
charging decisions by district attorneys. And you're seeing more and more cases where the district attorney chooses not to seek death… to simply seek life without parole or to enter into a plea
agreement uh for a life without parole sentence. And so I think that it's having a really significant impact in cutting the number of death sentences in Texas.
HINZ-FOLEY: Okay, is there anything you'd like to add or statement you'd like to make…
HALL: Well I think we may have said it before, we may have covered it, you know Texas remains far and away the most active execution chamber in America.
We've executed 428 men and women since 1982 over 37% of all the executions in America, but it is important to realize that even so, Texas is mirroring the national trends of fewer death
sentences and fewer executions. And while the death penalty remains prominent in Texas and a handful of other southern states uh you are seeing a real ational change, and eventually it's gonna
have the same impact in Texas. I think that policy makers will ask the same questions that are being asked in other states today by their legislatures, and I think that you're going to continue
see change, improvement and better safeguards.
HINZ-FOLEY: I think I wanted to ask really quickly, whereas you bring up the trends of you know these changes and improving things, and I brought across this
with your organization and also the Texas Moratorium Network, and my question is why moratorium instead of just pushing for abolition why -- or why is the distinction and why one and not the
HALL: Well, for one thing, I'm an associate member of the American Bar Association and very supportive of the American Bar Association's work. The A.B.A.
passed a resolution calling for moratorium and it's been very successful in working with state bars and local bar associations in a number of states to examine the individual states'
application of the death penalty.
HALL: And part of it has had real value in its public education. It has raised awareness of the problems that are in the criminal justice system not unique
to the capital system, but certainly prevalent in the capital system. And I think that that's driven a good deal of the reforms that we've seen.
HALL: I think that there are clearly citizens, policy makers, legislators who are supportive of the death penalty who have in some cases moved from a belief
that nothing is wrong with our system, we find our problems and correct them, to a greater awareness of problems we do have with our criminal justice system and the need for reforms and
safeguards to protect the innocent.
HALL: The wave of exonerations particularly through D.N.A. testing has really changed the landscape. And it's changed the attitude of the prosecutors,
judges, policy makers, law makers—Judge Barbara Herby on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last year pulled together a ad hoc group of the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit.
HALL: For several years she has been concerned about these innocence issues and how to correct that. And I think that her work in the last few months, is
again bringing a lot of awareness to the law enforcement and the legal community and we do have some problems that we can fix, that will make our system better and stronger.
HALL: And so, I think that it's been really a moving process of educating people making them aware of problems and making them aware of solutions…so I think
that the moratorium effort has really had a substantial impact in helping to reform criminal justice systems in many of the states.
HINZ-FOLEY: (Inaudible) I can listen to your stories forever so—(Inaudible)
HALL: No if you , if after going over the tapes—the transcripts—if there are thing that you wanna pick back—
Steve Hall is the director of StandDown Texas Project, which advocates "a moratorium on executions and a state-sponsored review of Texas' application of the death penalty." In Video 1, Mr. Hall describes the renewal of capital punishment in Texas, which he facilitated and witnessed in his capacity as Chief of Staff for Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox from 1983 to 1991. Texas executed thirty-six people during this period. Hall also draws on his experience, between 1993 and 1996, working for the Texas Resource Center, which was charged with both directly representing and recruiting pro bono lawyers to represent inmates on death row. In Video 2, Hall continues to discuss major issues in death penalty jurisprudence and politics. In Video 3, Hall identifies signs that the death penalty may be disappearing. This interview took place on January 28 and February 4, 2009 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.
3 of 3
Steve HallRole: Narrator
Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
Sabina Hinz-FoleyRole: Interviewer
Kimberly Ambrosini-BaconRole: Videographer
Students of the Introduction to Qualitative Research class (2009) taught by Dr. Janet Armitage, St. Mary's CollegeRole: Transcriber
Texas After Violence Project
University of Texas Libraries
2009/01/28 - 2009/02/04
North America--United States--Texas
North America--United States--Texas--Austin
Type of Resource:
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