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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Governor commutes death sentence of Virginia inmate Ivan Teleguz

Ivan Teleguz
Ivan Teleguz
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe called a 3:30 p.m. press conference to make a public statement “regarding his review of Ivan Teleguz’s petitions for a pardon and for commutation of his death sentence.”

Teleguz was scheduled to be executed on April 25.

“As a result of the thorough review process that we have gone through I have decided to deny Mr. Teleguz’s petition for a pardon,” McAuliffe said. “However, I am commuting his capital sentence to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole.”

“Mr. Teleguz will spend the rest of his life in a jail cell,” McAuliffe added.

“What has come to light, however, in my review of the circumstances regarding his death sentence, is that the sentencing phase of his trial was terribly flawed and unfair,” he said.

The governor said that false information was presented regarding an alleged murder and mob ties.

“Our judicial system is based upon fairness,” McAuliffe said.

Teleguz, 38, was convicted in a 2001 murder-for-hire plot in Harrisonburg which involved ex-girlfriend Stephanie Sipe, a 20-year-old mother of a young child.

After the case went cold for years, evidence implicated Michael Hetrick as the person who committed the murder, and he, along with two others, implicated Mr. Teleguz as having paid for the murder of Sipe.

Prosecutors argued Teleguz ordered his ex-girlfriend murdered so he could avoid paying child support.

His attorneys have argued for years that Teleguz in an innocent man.

“Two witnesses critical to the prosecution’s case have now admitted in sworn, written statements they lied at the trial,” Peiffer Elizabeth, with the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, said earlier this month. “They have no reason to believe that Mr. Teleguz was involved in this crime.”

DNA evidence linked Hetrick to the crime, and he made a deal with prosecutors to testify against Teleguz in exchange for an agreement not to seek the death penalty. Hetrick was sentenced to life in prison for the crime; however, Teleguz was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

“American values demand that every person, no matter their crime, be given due process of law,” McAuliffe said. ” In this case, we now know that the jury acted on false information, and that it was driven by passions and fears raised – not from actual evidence introduced at trial – but from inference. To allow a sentence to stand based on false information and speculation is a violation of the very principles of justice our system holds dear.”

Source: WTVR news, April 20, 2017

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