Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson Gives Her "Little Dog" Report From The State Capitol

Monday, March 09, 2009

House Bill 1152 Press Conference

The 81st Legislature will have another opportunity to hear the controversial issue of whether mentally retarded offenders should be executed in Texas. In 2001 state lawmakers passed legislation that would ban the execution of capital offenders with mental retardation. The bill was later vetoed by the Governor. Since that time, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Atkins v. Virginia, that executions of mentally retarded criminals were "cruel and unusual punishments", prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Currently, Texas does not provide a provision that would set the foundation for determining the guidelines necessary to implement the federal law and the US Supreme Court's decision in Atkins.

Because of this, I eagerly accepted the opportunity to file House Bill 1152. This bill would allow the defendant in a capital case, before the trial begins, to request a hearing to determine whether or not the defendant was a person with mental retardation at the time of the offense. In addition, House Bill 1152 prohibits the court from sentencing a person with mental retardation to death. Senate Bill 167, is an identical bill filed by Senator Ellis.

Prior to the Atkins decision, Congress adopted legislation to ban the execution of individuals with mental retardation and eighteen states passed laws in compliance with federal law. Since the 2002 judgment, eight states have changed their statutes to comply with the Supreme Court's decision. Texas leads in the number of executions. However, regardless of your position on the death penalty, I would like to think that Texans from all backgrounds would discourage a potential record where we lead in the number of executions of individuals who are mentally retarded.

On March 10, 2009 I will be holding a press conference in the Speaker's Committee Room (2:00 PM - 3:00 PM). Experts from various backgrounds will provide information on the importance of passing HB 1152 and will be available to answer questions.


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