Former Prosecutor Says Texas Should Abolish the Death Penalty


Photograph by Dan Winters, Texas Monthly

Former Texas prosecutor Tim Cole is calling for Texas to join the nineteen states that have abolished the death penalty.

A four-term District Attorney for Archer, Clay, and Montague counties with a reputation as a “no-holds-barred lawman,” Mr. Cole in a July 23 guest column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegraphdescribed the “astonishing shift” from 48 death sentences in Texas in 1999 to zero so far this year. Only three death penalty cases have been tried in Texas this year, and all three resulted in life sentences.

Jurors are rejecting death in favor of life without parole because it has become clear that the death penalty cannot be administered fairly or reliably. “Even those who support the death penalty in theory surely would not argue that keeping it is worth the state taking even one innocent life,” Mr. Cole wrote, observing the “rising number of condemned men” who have been exonerated in recent years.

Mr. Cole told the Dallas Morning News that his support for abolition is based on years of seeing the justice system’s deep flaws and the arbitrariness of capital punishment. He expressed optimism that prosecutors will continue to seek fewer death sentences: “It’s become more acceptable for a district attorney not to seek death.”

Life without parole punishes offenders, protects public safety, and provides justice to victims’ families without the risks inherent in the death penalty. As to capital punishment, Mr. Cole concluded, “Jurors across this state are sending the message that Texas can live without it.”