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Lethally Deficient: Direct Appeals in Texas Death Penalty Cases

Resource type: Research Report

Texas Defender Service |

The system in Texas for providing representation for indigent defendants appealing their death penalty convictions is broken and in dire need of reform, according to this report from the Texas Defender Service.

Researchers based their conclusion on an examination of six years of direct death penalty appeals, which uncovered problems such as inadequate resources, excessive attorney caseloads and inadequate briefing.  

To deal with the current deficits in Texas’ death penalty appeals system, the report recommends:

  • Establishing a statewide capital appellate defender office to represent convicted death penalty defendants before the Court of Appeals.
  • Creating a statewide appointment system with effective caseload controls and uniform compensation.
  • Requiring the appointment of two lawyers to represent convicted death penalty defendants on direct appeal.

Researchers say that these three reforms are key to addressing the “majority of the unsound practices now plaguing direct appeals in Texas death penalty cases.” 

Texas Defender Service is an Atlantic grantee.

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Death Penalty, Human Rights & Reconciliation

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