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State of Texas: The Road to 500 Executions

by Published on

State of Texas May 2013


Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.

  • Petra De Jong

    Pruett’s execution is on hold indefinitely (see here for several sources: Wednesday’s execution was the 498th. The 500th would now be Kimberly McCarthy on June 26. Way to go Texas. What an appalling “milestone”.

  • Dave Mann

    Hi Petra,

    Thanks for pointing this out. We originally produced this info graphic in mid April for the May edition of our print magazine, and I neglected to update this with the developments in Pruett’s case when we posted it online. I apologize for that oversight.

  • Margot Schips

    Wouldn’t these comparisons be more meaningful if adjusted for population? Your chart implies that TX has executed nearly 5 times as many people as VA, but with ~3x as many residents, the actual difference is closer to 1.5 more people executed per capita in TX.

    I’m not for a second defending Texas; 500 is appalling no matter how you slice it. But to use these raw numbers to compare states is misleading.

    • David Busi

      appalling yes – but do not misuse statistics to justify relative idiocy in a race to the lowest common denominator. Try say California or gee how about NY or Canada or the UK? Lock these miscreants up safely in a box for life and forget about them – revenge is something that does nothing, changes nothing and is too expensive – change these barbaric rednecks into civilized people.

    • David Busi

      Ok then how about comparing Texas by population to say California? Texas is by any measure a state of WHACK jobs and in recent years republicans who want to be president such as Bush II and Rick Perry who use the popularity of the death penalty in America to show how tough they are by signing so many death warrants. Bush got caught mocking Karla Fay Tucker before he killed her – he was laughing in derision at her. They view the death penalty as being good politics and good political business. With all these executions – they don’t seem to have any deterrent effect – In Texas they like revenge and killing retarded people – and even innocent people – Todd Wilkenson being a prime example – and they squash the legitimate work to prove his innocence – because that would be bad for business. The whole world locks up miscreants like these for life and forgets about hem- Texas kills them after playing with them for ten or fifteen years. Sort of like a cat with a mouse…. they put them in a small box then one fine day – they come and haul their asses out of that box, strap them to a gurney and pump chemicals in them to kill them.

  • PietSmit

    confusing – the graph says 37% African-American vs 45% ‘Anglo’, the text talks about disproportoionally more Afro-Americans. Maybe that’s correct, relatively, but the story could do with some more explanation…

  • dudleysharp

    It was the Cornell study that found that Texas was in the middle, based upon executions per murder, which would seem the proper context.

    White murderers are twice as likely to be executed as are black murderers.

    Please review:


  • BTeboe

    If you kill somebody in Texas, we kill you back. Don’t expect Texas to kiss your behind for committing heinous acts. I see nothing wrong with the death penalty and personally I think public executions should be reinstated. Maybe it would give the ones who think they can murder at will a reason to stop.

  • Guest

    If the victim of a murder killed their attacker, as their final act of life, nobody could legitimately complain;
    the state acts for the victim, carrying out that which they themselves would have done in self-defense,
    had they been able.

Texas will soon execute its 500th person since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. If the current schedule holds—barring any stays or reprieves—the 500th execution will take place in June. Texas uses the death penalty more than any state, and it isn’t even close. No. 2 on the execution list is Virginia, which has killed just 110 people—and only five since 2010. Texas has executed more people than the next six states—Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Alabama and Georgia—combined. It wasn’t always so. Texas executed fewer than 10 people a year until 1992, when executions spiked under then-Gov. Ann Richards. They peaked under George W. Bush, who sent 37 people to the death chamber in 1997 and 40 in 2000. The Texans put to death are disproportionately African-American.

Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice and The Death Penalty Information Center

Illustration by Joanna Wojtkowiak