88th LegislatureCriminal JusticeIssuesDemocratic Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Abolish Death Penalty in Texas

Texas executed a 61-year-old man last week for murdering his mother in Smith County nearly two decades ago.
November 15, 2022
Days after winning reelection to the Texas House, state Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) filed a bill to abolish capital punishment.

Monday was the first day for state lawmakers to file proposed legislation for the upcoming regular session, which convenes on Tuesday, January 10.

Moody’s bill would repeal the death penalty by making capital murder committed by an adult punishable by a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Under Texas law, only murders committed under certain circumstances are capital crimes — such as when the victim is a child under 15 years old or when the murder was committed for remuneration.

The State of Texas has executed 577 prisoners since the Legislature reinstated capital punishment in 1976. The most recent execution was last Wednesday, when an inmate was given a lethal injection at the Huntsville Unit for the murder of his mother in Smith County almost two decades ago.

The state’s criminal justice system became the subject of national scrutiny earlier this year when Moody and other lawmakers, led by Rep. Jeff Leath (R-Plano), called on Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) to halt the execution of inmate Melissa Lucio.

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Lucio is under a sentence of death for the murder of her two-year-old daughter, but her attorneys asserted that her confession was improperly obtained and that her trial was tainted by errors. Days before Lucio was scheduled for lethal injection, the CCA stopped her execution and ordered the trial court to inquire further into her claims.

Reps. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) and Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) also introduced bills on Monday to limit the use of the death penalty. Toth’s bill would prevent death sentences in cases with only one eyewitness; Thompson’s bill would prohibit a person with an intellectual disability from being sentenced to death.

Moody was the speaker pro tem in the Texas House until July 2021. Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) terminated him from that role after he fled Austin with his colleagues in a quorum break to block election reform legislation.

A copy of Moody’s bill can be found below.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."