Administration of the Death Penalty

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is routinely asked to rule that the death penalty in unconstitutional in Texas. A majority of the CCA has always rejected that contention.

However, in 2015, the reconstituted CCA stayed a large number of death penalty executions. See Texas' top criminal court halted far more executions in 2015, Dallas Morning News, December 31, 2015 ("The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted an unprecedented number of execution stays in 2015, the first year on the court for three judges elected in 2014.").

While no current member of the CCA openly asserts that the death penalty is facially unconstitutional, there was an ongoing debate among the CCA judges in 2015 regarding whether the death penalty should be further limited. For example, see Ex parte Moore, No. WR-13,374-05 (CCA 2015) (Alcala, dissenting) ("As recommended by the habeas judge, it is time for Texas to reevaluate the decade-old, judicially created standard in Ex Parte Briseno ....").

As stated in his responses to various candidate surveys, Steve Smith believes that the Texas Legislature, not the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is the proper body to make changes, if any are needed, to the administration of the death penalty in Texas.