Public Confidence iun the Administration of the Death Penalty in Texas: An Assessment of Public Attitudes and the Need for Evaluation

Scott Vollum, Sam Houston State University
Dennis Longmire, Sam Houston State University

Recent media and political attention has raised public awareness of the extant issues surrounding the death penalty. Questions regarding innocence, fair trials, and equitable access to counsel and the appeals process are ubiquitous in the news media's reporting on death penalty cases. The degree to which such factors have impacted public confidence in the administration of the death penalty is unknown. As part of both the 2000 and 2001-2002 Texas Crime Poll, questions ascertaining confidence in the administration of the death penalty and support for a moratorium and associated evaluation of the death penalty process were asked. Specifically, confidence in regard to adequacy of counsel, access to appeals, racial and socioeconomic disparity, and protection of the innocent was gauged. Furthermore, support for a moratorium in light of these factors was examined. Descriptive analyses of public opinion on these matters as well as more in-depth analyses of the factors related to public support of and confidence in the death penalty are presented. Finally, the implications of these findings in regard to the future of the death penalty as a criminal sanction and a potential moratorium and evaluation of the administration of the death penalty are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006