A new report from the American Bar Association raises new questions about the use of capital punishment in Texas, the most active death penalty state in the country, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Former Governor Mark White, who is one of the authors of the report, told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board the biggest issue is the state needs to come up with policies for dealing with killers with intellectual disabilities.
"We do not have any standards as to what that means on a statewide basis," he said. "How we go about determining mental retardation."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that states cannot execute people who are 'mentally disabled.' But the justices did not spell out exactly what that means, and Texas has executed people who are found to have low IQs. One man who was set to be executed even asked that a portion of his last meal be set aside, so he could 'finish it later.'
White oversaw 19 executions during his term as governor in the mid 1980s. He says it is critical that 'the public have confidence in the adequacy of the criminal justice system to that task.'
"Texans cannot accept less than the strongest system of checks and balances to ensure that our capital punishment system is fair and minimizes the risk of wrongful convictions and unjust executions," said Jennifer Lauren, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
The report also cites the number of people who have been released from Death Row over the last few years after scientific evidence proved that they were innocent. Since 1992, Texas has paid more than $60 million to people who were wrongly convicted and imprisoned.
"This money would have been better spent bringing actual perpetrators to justice," the report says.
The report also recommends that jurors in capital cases be given better information about the options that are available to them, saying there have been cases where jurors have sentenced a person to death because they were 'confused about the law in the case.'
The4 report says the clemency process in the state need reform, because it allows for only 'minimal review' and places all of the authority in the hands of the governor, not the board of pardons and paroles.
Also recommended is 'fair deadlines' for death row inmates to appeal. In 2008, an inmate was executed because his attorney's request for an appeal arrived at the doors of the appellate court at 5 minutes after 5 PM, and the judge assigned to review appeals had locked her office door and gone home.
"There are many ways to deal with these issues," White said. "When you are one of the biggest states in the nation, if you can't handle that, there is something wrong with you."