GOVERNOR SIGNS LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE INTO LAW
On Thursday, July 7, Gov. Rick Perry (seated) signed into law Senate Bill 60, the Life Without Parole Bill, in his reception office at the Texas Capitol. Those attending are: front row, left to right, Cindy "Sun" Gatto, Lynn Walters, Bernadette Ruiz, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., Author of SB 60, Rep. Tony Goolsby, Rep. Terry Keel, Paula Kurland, Steve Hall. Back row, left to right, Andrea Keilen, Keith Hampton, Josh Houston, Barry Macha, Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr., Fritz Reinig (Rep. Goolsby's Chief of Staff)
AUSTIN, TX--Today Gov. Rick Perry signed into law Senate Bill 60 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., that gives Texas for the first time a life without parole option in capital cases.
"I am thankful to the many individuals who helped make this sentencing option a reality during the 79th legislative session," said Sen. Lucio. "Now Texas juries and families of victims of these heinous crimes will know that the perpetrator will never walk the streets again in cases where capital punishment is not imposed."
Sen. Lucio again extended his appreciation, as he has in the past, to Sen. Rodney Ellis, Sen. Juan Hinojosa and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, co-authors of the bill. He also congratulated Rep. Tony Goolsby, the House sponsor, for his tireless efforts on this issue.
Others also given kudos by Sen. Lucio for their support are Sen. John Whitmire, Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and his counterpart, Rep. Terry Keel, Chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Describing family members of victims as "deserving of praise," Sen Lucio credited them for pushing this measure and having the courage to come to the Capitol to share their experiences with their legislators.
"To me this is a huge victory for Texas victims," said Ms. Paula Kurland, advocate for the rights of crime victims and mother of a 21-year-old woman killed in 1986. "This is history in the making; victims' families will finally have truth in sentencing."
Several other provisions were added to the bill during debate in the House. While most of the changes were of a technical nature, the provision that now codifies the U.S. Supreme Court ban prohibiting the death penalty for juveniles who commit a capital crime when younger than 18 is the most noteworthy. With the federal prohibition on the death sentence for juveniles in capital cases, SB 60 has become an even more critical piece of legislation.
Currently 47 states offer life without parole as a sentencing option. Moreover, 36 of the 38 states that allow the death penalty offer life without parole as a sentencing option. Only Alaska and New Mexico had stood with Texas in not having this option available.
A 2004 Scripps-Howard Texas Poll has indicated that 78 percent of the respondents favor life without parole. The same Texas Poll shows that support for the death penalty actually increases slightly with the additional option of life without parole.
Sen. Lucio added, "Texans want the sentence of life without parole available to juries in capital murder cases to strengthen our criminal justice system and safeguard our neighborhoods."