From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 8, 1998
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

Statement of Senator Rodney Ellis Following Death Row Tour

Gatesville (4/8/98) -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today pledged to submit legislation to reform the use of the death penalty in the State of Texas. The announcement comes following a tour of Mountain View State Prison for women in Gatesville with the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

"When we look at the way the death penalty is applied in Texas, a general question of fairness immediately comes to mind. I think that there are three issues that must be addressed. We must give Texas juries the option of life without the possibility of parole, and we must improve the way Texas supports the indigent criminal defense system. Also, we should explore the use of an evidentiary hearing for death penalty appeals before the Texas Board of Pardons of Paroles.

"In the next session of the Texas Legislature, I will submit legislation to ensure that Texas juries have the option to sentence criminals to life without the possibility parole.

"Let me be clear. I favor the death penalty, but am concerned about fairness of how it is applied. We have to give juries the option of life without the possibility of parole. If, after they have reviewed all the facts and heard all the testimony, the jury still gives the death penalty, that is their choice. But right now some death sentences are handed down because our juries don't believe a criminal is going to stay behind bars.

Texas is one of only 11 states that do not give juries the option of life without parole. Since 1982, when Texas reinstated the death penalty, 147 persons have been executed, fully one-third of all executions in the United States. There are currently 448 inmates on death row in Texas, including 7 women on death row at Mountain View.