Senator Lucio moves forward bill to correct judges’ instructions for capital punishment juries

Current law requires judges to lie to juries; causes unnecessary death penalty decisions

AUSTIN — The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) commends Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., for filing Senate Bill 1065, which will improve the rights of jurors serving in death penalty sentencing trials. Texas law is intentionally misleading as it requires judges and attorneys to lie to jurors about the level of unanimity required for a death sentence.

“This bill addresses some particularly egregious problems in the current law,” explained Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the TCCB, “just as the Supreme Court has again exposed other difficulties with Texas’ use of capital punishment.” Currently judges must provide capital jury sentencing instructions that conceal a juror's individual capacity to impose a sentence less than death. “While we will continue our efforts to end the use of the death penalty in Texas, this legislation will at least improve the fairness of the current system,” Allmon said.

The bishops of Texas issued a pastoral letter on capital punishment last October. In it, they wrote, “As a Church we accompany our brothers and sisters, children, parents and loved ones as we see them suffer from the heinous and violent actions of others. Only God can console them, yet we offer what comfort we can with our presence and prayer.”

“The bishops’ call for reform of capital sentencing is not a call to deny justice,” Allmon explained. “It is a call for truth in sentencing. If judges are forced to lie to juries to secure a death sentence, that surely does not fulfill justice.”

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is the association of the Roman Catholic bishops of Texas. Through the TCCB, the bishops provide a moral and social public policy voice that includes monitoring all legislation pertaining to Catholic moral and social teaching; accredit the state's Catholic schools; and maintain records that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.