FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2003
AUSTIN, TX - State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) today inched Texas closer to tougher penalties for capital murder by passing his life without parole bill, Senate Bill 348, in the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice with a five to two vote.
This is a TOUGH ON CRIME measure that would enhance the ability of the state to permanently remove dangerous criminals from Texas streets, explained Sen. Lucio.
In Texas, persons convicted of a capital felony offense (e.g., capital murder) can be punished with a sentence of life in prison or they can be sentenced to death. However, under current Texas law, a person sentenced to life in prison may become eligible for parole after serving 40 years. The law can be problematic for juries who do not believe that the defendant should be sentenced to death, but who also oppose parole.
SB 348 would give jurors, for the first time in Texas history, a third option of a true life sentence with no possibility of parole. The legislation also adds a sentencing option of life without parole in capital cases where the state does not seek the death penalty.
Texas jurors should be offered every option when making one of the most important decisions that our judicial system has to make, said Sen. Lucio. This bill is a tough on crime measure that should in no way alter the death penalty. It will help ensure justice for the victims of crime and closure for their families.
Currently 46 states offer life without parole as a sentencing option. Moreover, 35 of the 38 states that allow the death penalty offer life without parole as a sentencing option. Texas is one of only four states in the nation that does not offer life without parole. A February 2003 Scripps Howard Texas Poll found that 72 percent of Texans favor changing the law to allow life without parole.
SB 348 would help guide a jurys deliberations and ensure that they have all the tools they need to render the important decision that they must unanimously make, said Sen. Lucio. Since each defendant and each crime is unique, jurors should be equipped with all available options in order to select which punishment appropriately fits the crime, without weakening our penal system.
Note: Staff member handling legislation is Ms. Laura Garcia, general counsel.