El Paso County, TX Recommending a Moratorium on State Executions
Status: Adopted on 10/30/06
Vote: In Favor - 4 Opposed - 1
WHEREAS, it is not only the right, but the duty of counties, which are an arm of the State, to advise the Governor and State Legislature on matters of concern to them when the action of the state directly affects the counties; and
WHEREAS, the Governor, Legislature and County officials are striving to improve the administration of justice in Texas, with Governor Rick Perry organizing in March of 2005, a blue-ribbon Criminal Justice Advisory Council; and
WHEREAS, this Council was charged with making recommendations to lessen the possibility that someone would be wrongly convicted, including those persons arrested for a capital crime; and
WHEREAS, these safety measures have not yet been put into effect and there IS the possibility of executing an innocent person with county taxpayers liable under certain circumstances; and
WHEREAS, the death penalty is expensive for counties, which bear the cost of the first trial and mandatory appeal: each execution costs about three times as much as life in prison without parole (Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992); and
WHEREAS, El Paso County budgets $265,000 each year for defense -- not counting prosecution for one death penalty case and in one year there were two and two death penalty appeals, a small county could be bankrupted by one case; and
WHEREAS, Chris Ochoa of El Paso, who was completely innocent of rape and murder, but who confessed under the threat of the death penalty, was wrongly convicted in Travis County. He was later awarded a settlement against Travis County and the City of Austin for $5.3 million and his alleged accomplice, Richard Dunziger, $9 million, paid for by the taxpayers with bonds; and
WHEREAS, this resolution is not to criticize in any way the excellent work by particular elected individuals in the state, including District Attorneys, County Sheriffs and law enforcement officers, especially those of El Paso County; nor is it to minimize the profound pain that the families of murder victims suffer.
NOW, THERE BE IT RESOLVED the El Paso County Commissioners Court recommends to the Governor and Texas State Legislature that there be a moratorium on executions in the state until it can be shown that no innocent persons are put to death and that there are no adverse economic consequences of the death penalty. An ongoing monitoring would be in effect such that no significant safety problems would result from this moratorium.