Today@Sam - SHSU Campus News Online Sam Houston State University Seal
In the News
SHSU Homepage

SHSU Experts
SHSU Stats
Sam the Man
SHSU History
Austin Hall

Heritage Magazine
Huntsville Item
The Houstonian
Gov. Links
Useful Links
Theater & Dance
SHSU Athletics
Rec. Sports
Request Info
General Info
Then & Now
The President
Public Relations
Post Office
Search SHSU

Texans Give Death Penalty Views in SHSU Crime Poll

Dennis Longmire

The results of the most recent Texas Crime Poll show that a majority of Texans agreed with the recent U.S. Supreme Court's decision to ban the execution of juvenile murderers and an even larger majority supported legislation that would establish a true life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Results from a statewide mail survey completed by the Survey Research Program at Sam Houston State University's College of Criminal Justice show that 3 of 4 Texans (77 percent) continued to support the use of capital punishment in general.

Almost 3 out of 5 Texans (57 percent) agreed with the recent U. S. Supreme Court ruling banning the practice of executing juveniles who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crime.

Almost 7 in 10 (69 percent) of those responding to the survey said they were "strongly" (49 percent) or "somewhat" (20 percent) in favor of legislation establishing a true life sentence without the possibility of parole as an option to give jurors in capital cases.

Under current Texas law, an offender sentenced to prison for a term of "capital life" becomes eligible for parole after being held for 40 years.

"These findings show that most Texans support last week's Supreme Court decision," said Dennis Longmire, director of the Survey Research Program and author of the report.

"It looks like the Court got it right when the majority opinion in Roper vs. Simmons concluded that executing juveniles would offend the sensibilities of most Americans. Even those of us in the most active death penalty state in the nation seem to have reached the same conclusion."

More than 3 of 4 (78 percent) Texans "strongly" (45 percent) or "somewhat" (33 percent) favored creation of a special commission to study different issues related to the state's death penalty system. Such issues included the quality of legal counsel being provided to indigent capital defendants and sufficiency of appellate review of capital convictions.

Almost 9 of 10 (88 percent) supported creation of a commission to look into issues associated with the use of available technology, such as DNA evidence, to increase the certainty that innocent people are not erroneously convicted of capital crime. Only 3 of 8 (37 percent) "strongly" (26 percent) or "somewhat" (11 percent) favored such a commission looking at race as a factor in capital case decisions.

"Texas may be known as a place where criminals can expect 'hard justice' if they're convicted of a crime but it is clear from the survey results that most Texans want to make sure the system distributing it is fair and certain," said Longmire.

The survey also showed that 5 of 8 Texans (83 percent) "strongly" (62 percent) or "somewhat" (21 percent) supported legislation aimed at the creation of a statewide committee to review and accredit forensic laboratories processing criminal evidence.

In the past two years the Houston Police Department Crime lab has had a number of problems including poor training, possible evidence contamination, and evidence chain-of-custody record keeping.

One proposed solution is a Forensic Science Review Committee under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety. Specific legislation concerning these issues was filed recently by state Reps. Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, and Robert Talton, R-Pasadena for this legislative session.

More than 7 of 8 Texans responding to the survey said they would require employees in these labs to meet certification standards and to be routinely re-certified, and that the Department of Public Safety should establish protocols for examination of evidence in a forensic laboratory.

Other items included in the survey focused on possible legislation concerning the certification standards required for sheriffs and constables, the prosecution of murderers convicted of killing a peace officer and restricting the residential choices available for convicted sex offenders.

Additionally, questions were asked about legislation aimed at efforts to insure that foreign nationals who are arrested in Texas are provided access to their country's foreign counsel before being questioned by a police officer.

The survey also included questions addressing issues such as the modification of existing practices by the Board of Pardons and Paroles when they are considering clemency requests from capital cases, issues associated with the execution of the mentally retarded, and revising the state's definition of "criminal insanity."

There were also questions that allow for a comparison of how satisfied Texans are with state, county, and local criminal justice system activities today compared with those same feelings in 2000.

"Questions included in this year's survey were developed to capture citizens' attitudes about a variety of hot-topic issues our state's legislators are likely to be considering during this session," said Longmire.

This is the 38th consecutive year the Texas Crime Poll has been conducted by the Survey Research Program of Sam Houston State University's College of Criminal Justice.

The survey results have a margin of error of (+/-) 3.6 percent and reflect the opinions of 560 adults living in Texas who completed a survey distributed through the mail in October 2004. Surveys were sent to 2,463 households, with a return rate of 22.8 percent.

Copies of the general report and three "special issue" reports available to legislators can be accessed online through the University's Survey Research Program Website.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
March 10, 2005
Please send comments, corrections, news tips to


This page maintained by SHSU's Office of Public Relations
Director: Frank Krystyniak
Assistant Director: Julia May
Writer: Jennifer Gauntt
Located in the 115 Administration Building
Telephone: 936.294.1836; Fax: 936.294.1834