Senator Lucio's Letterhead

PRESS RELEASE FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2013
CONTACT: Daniel Collins, Press Secretary
Phone: 512-463-0127

Senator Lucio Hosts Japanese Policy Experts To Discuss Life Without Parole

AUSTIN — Today, Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) hosted a contingent of Japanese public policy experts in a discussion of Texas' life without parole sentencing option. Sen. Lucio authored legislation which created the sentencing option.

“The life without parole option gave certainty to victims' families that Texas was able to permanently remove dangerous criminals from our streets. Creation of the option also improved and strengthened the integrity of our judicial system. It offers jurors a tougher non-death penalty option, and, in rare instances where our judicial system leads to a wrongful conviction, allows the courts to right that wrong. Today, fewer prosecutors seek the death penalty because of the certainty provided by the life without parole option,” Senator Lucio said.

Life without parole was added as a sentencing option in capital murder cases by Senate Bill 60, authored by Sen. Lucio during the 79th Texas Legislative Session in 2005. At the time the legislation was filed, persons convicted of capital murder could be punished with either the death penalty or with a sentence of life in prison. However, persons sentenced to life in prison could become eligible for parole after serving 40 years. This was problematic for juries, many of whom did not believe that a defendant should be sentenced to death, but who also did not believe that the defendant should have the possibility of parole. SB 60 allowed a jury to sentence a defendant to a “true” life sentence with no possibility of parole.

The life without parole option additionally provided closure to the families of capital murder victims. Today, the option ensures that a victim’s family does not have to endure a lengthy appeals process associated with death penalty sentences. Families are also spared having to testify before parole board should the person become eligible for parole.

At the time SB 60 was passed, studies showed that a life without parole sentence additionally cost Texas counties less money than implementing the death penalty. Death penalty appeals last years and cost millions of dollars per case to defend. Creation of a life without parole option also gave prosecutors an additional bargaining tool. Prosecutors could more easily dispose of capital cases by offering the option in exchange for a defendant’s guilty plea.

“I was delighted to welcome today's guests to the state Capitol and to tell them about the history associated with creating the life without parole option here in Texas,” Senator Lucio said.

Today's Japanese guests included university professors, defense attorneys, and members of a committee of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA). JFBA has proposed that the Japanese government suspend executions in order to initiate a nationwide debate about the abolition of the death penalty in Japan. As part of this debate, some members of the JFBA have proposed studying the life without parole option.

Today's meeting with Senator Lucio was one of several meetings the group took with Texas experts on criminal justice. The group attended the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's annual conference Saturday at St. Edward’s University in Austin. The group's agenda also includes visits with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Questions about the delegation from Japan should be directed to Kana Sasakura, Ph.D, associate professor of law at Konan University via email to kana.s@center.konan-u.ac.jp.

Photos from Monday’s meeting may be downloaded from at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8iebikxfiwgoz18/klbEYie4PL.

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