Executions in Texas, nation on the decline

DA La Hood: "We want to make sure we get it right"

SAN ANTONIO – In a state widely known for its liberal approach to the death penalty, it was assessed by a Bexar County jury in only one case in 2015. Mark Anthony Gonzalez was convicted of capital murder and the jury set the death penalty for the execution-style slaying of Bexar County Deputy Kenneth Van.

Gonzalez has yet to be formally sentenced pending a competency hearing set for later this week.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center 28 people nationwide were executed in 2015. That is down from a high of 98 in 1999. Texas leads the way with 531 executions since its reinstatement in 1976.

In Texas, 13 convicted killers were executed in 2015 and the Court of Criminal Appeals granted 14 stays of execution.  Two were later reinstated.

When he took office last year Bexar County District Attorney Nicholas “Nico” La Hood established a conviction integrity unit.

“To me seeking justice is getting it right,” he said.

The unit reviews old convictions.

“If there’s credible evidence, objective credible evidence, that might show that someone is being over-punished when they shouldn’t be,” he said, as he explained how the unit operates.

La Hood was quick to add that not every past conviction will be reviewed, only cases that meet the criteria of credible and objective.

“We’re not going to pass the buck; push it down the road,” La Hood said. “We’re going to be part of the solution, not the problem.”

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