FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2005
AUSTIN,TX--Today Texas juries were potentially given two options in capital murder cases by the Texas Senate after Senate Bill 60 was amended to remove life with the possibility of parole after 40 years and instead were given life without parole in addition to the death penalty. The Senate voted 25 to 6 in favor of the legislation, which must now be approved by the House.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., author of SB 60, accepted the amendment from Sen. Steve Ogden that allows jurors to give life without parole sentences when there are mitigating circumstances in a capital case, but the offender is not considered a future danger to society. If the offender is considered a future danger to society and there are no mitigating circumstances, then the jury can impose a death sentence.
"Although I would have preferred to give Texas juries three options, I am grateful that families of murder victims can feel a sense of justice with the bill we vote on today," said Sen. Lucio. "The option of life with the possibility of parole offers no certainty to these families because they know that the criminal could one day walk the streets again. Young offenders between the ages of 17 to 25 comprise one of the highest crime demographics and yet, under current law, would be the ones most likely to reach parole eligibility."
Sen. Lucio also went on to say that 'life without parole means certain punishment. With this bill, the state of Texas doesn't have to be concerned about future Supreme Court rulings abolishing the death penalty, or about parole hearings or early releases for capital murderers. It is final, definitive and certain!"
Calling his bill tough on crime, Sen. Lucio said SB 60 enhances the ability of the state to permanently remove dangerous criminals from our streets. He explained, "This proposed law not only allows for life without parole as a sentencing option in capital cases where the prosecution is seeking the death penalty, but it also offers this option in those capital cases where the death penalty is not sought."
Additionally, Sen. Lucio noted that the Criminal Justice Policy Council reported in 2003 that the longer-term costs incurred from incarcerating and caring for life without parole inmates will only be a marginal increase from the costs presently incurred from inmates serving life sentences.
The Senator also mentioned the most recent Scripps-Howard Texas Poll, in which 78 percent of the respondents favor changing the law to life without parole.
Sen. Lucio added, "To strengthen our criminal justice system, to safeguard our neighborhoods, Texans want the sentence of life without parole available to juries in capital murder cases."