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Death Row In Texas

Cost per Day per Offender:

$61.58 (based on FY2002)


Death row was located in the East Building of the Huntsville Unit from 1928 to 1952. From 1952 until 1965, the electric chair was located in a building by the East Wall of the Huntsville Unit.

The men on death row were moved from the Huntsville Unit to the Ellis Unit in 1965. Death row remained at the Ellis Unit until 1999. In 1999, the TDCJ moved death row to the Polunsky Unit. The Polunsky Unit houses death row offenders separately in single-person cells measuring 60 square feet, with each cell having a window. Death row offenders are also recreated individually. Offenders on death row receive a regular diet, have access to reading, writing, and legal materials. Depending upon their custody level, some death row offenders are allowed to have a radio. The women on death row are housed at the Mountain View Unit. Offenders on death row do not have regular TDCJ-ID numbers, but have special death row numbers.

Hanging was means of execution between 1819 and 1923.

The State of Texas authorized the use of the electric chair in 1923, and ordered all executions to be carried out by the State in Huntsville. Prior to 1923, Texas counties were responsible for their own executions.

The State of Texas executed the first offender by electrocution on 2/8/1924. Charles Reynolds from Red River County was executed. On that same date, four additional offenders, Ewell Morris, George Washington, Mack Matthews, and Melvin Johnson were executed.

State of Texas executed brothers on six occasions:
Frank & Lorenzo Noel electrocuted 7/3/1925;
S.A. & Forest Robins electrocuted 4/6/1926;
Oscar & Mack Brown electrocuted 7/1/1936;
Roscoe & Henderson Brown electrocuted 5/6/1938;
Curtis 7/1/1993 & Danny 7/30/1993 Harris (both by lethal injection);
Jessie 9/16/1994 & Jose 11/18/1999 Gutierrez (both by lethal injection).

One of the most notorious offenders to be executed was Raymond Hamilton, member of the "Bonnie and Clyde" gang. He was sentenced from Walker County and executed on May 10, 1935, for murder. Hamilton and another man had escaped from death row, only to be captured and return to death row.

The State of Texas executed the last offender by electrocution on 7/30/1964. Joseph Johnson from Harris County was executed.

A total of 361 inmates were electrocuted in the State of Texas.

When capital punishment was declared "cruel and unusual punishment" by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 29, 1972, there were 45 men on death row in Texas and 7 in county jails with a death sentence. All of the sentences were commuted to life sentences by the Governor of Texas, and death row was clear by March 1973.

In 1973, revision to the Texas Penal Code once again allowed assessment of the death penalty and allowed for executions to resume effective 1/1/1974. Under the new statute, the first man (#507 John Devries) was placed on death row on 2/15/1974. Devries committed suicide 7/1/1974 by hanging himself with bed sheets.

The State of Texas adopted lethal injection as means of execution in 1977.

The State of Texas executed the first offender by lethal injection on 12/7/1982. Charlie Brooks of Tarrant County was executed for the kidnap/murder of a Fort Worth auto mechanic.

Effective January 12, 1996, close relatives and friends of the deceased victim were allowed to witness executions.


Texas Capital Offenses:

The following crimes are Capital Murder in Texas: murder of a public safety officer or firefighter; murder during the commission of kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, or obstruction or retaliation; murder for remuneration; murder during prison escape; murder of a correctional employee; murder by a state prison inmate who is serving a life sentence for any of five offenses (murder, capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated robbery); multiple murders; murder of an individual under six years of age.


United States Capital Punishment:

As of December 31,1999, the death penalty was authorized by 38 states and the Federal Government.

Texas leads nation in the number of executions since death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Texas, California, and Florida have the largest death row populations.

3,581 offenders were under sentence of death in the United States as of December 31, 2001.

There are five methods of execution in the United States: lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, and firing squad.

Jurisdictions without death penalty statutes: Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin.

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