Texas House Committee hears bills to end death penalty

A House Committee is about to hear testimony on two bills aimed at putting an end to the death penalty in Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas -- The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence took up bills Monday to end the death penalty and ban the Law of Parties. 

The Law of Parties allows someone to be held criminally responsible for the actions of another person in certain cases. Representative Harold Dutton (D-Houston) filed HB147 to prohibit a person being sentenced to death if they are found guilty under the Law of Parties. 

The families of two men in that very situation spoke in favor of the bill. Terri Been's brother, Jeff Wood, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. 

A man Wood was with killed a convenience store clerk in 1996. Wood wasn't in the store when the murder happened. 

"Absolutely people should be punished for their crimes. However, my brother committed no murder," said Been. "He never conspired to commit murder, he had no knowledge that a murder would even occur. So how is that right or fair to be punished for another man's crimes?"

Wood has faced execution twice. Last summer Representative Jeff Leach, a conservative republican, joined the fight to prevent his execution. Leach is teaming up with Dutton to back HB147, saying this is an issue that goes beyond party politics.

Scott Cobb, Executive Director of the Texas Moratorium Network, says five people have been executed in Texas under the Law of Parties.

The Committee will also hear HB64 by Dutton to abolish the death penalty. Dutton, an attorney, says if the state executes even one innocent person, it's one too many.

Yancy Escobar Balderas testified in support of HB 64 on Monday Night. Her husband was convicted of capital murder and has spent the last 3 years on death row. She believes the death penalty is based more on vengeance than justice.
She told KVUE "We can not continue this government program that's not working. It's executed innocent people before, there's innocent people on death row right now. It will continue to execute innocent people. Why take the chance?"

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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