Fewer People Being Sent To Death Row

Randall County District Attorney James Farren
Randall County District Attorney James Farren

By Megan Moore
NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - A lack of cash is a chief reason fewer people are being sent to the death chamber in Texas, and in the Panhandle region.

District Attorneys we spoke with say they must be very careful about the cases in which someone could be sentenced to death.

One prosecutor says the anti capital punishment lobby has made seeking death extremely expensive.

Randall County District Attorney James Farren says, "even we in Randall County have to be careful and be sure we have the resources to pursue a death sentence that's absolutely the only appropriate sentence."

Farren cites the Dustin Pool case: He says he did not seek the death penalty for the nine defendants because 1) the evidence suggested pool would have done the same thing to his attackers, and 2) it would have bankrupted the county.

And then, Farren says, "say, after we're finished, someone guns down five kids in a daycare and I have to say to the people of Randall County we can't seek death because we're broke!"

Potter County District Attorney Randall Sims says, "I don't think the 2005 law is the only reason.... Prosecutors are having to be more selective."

He is talking about a law in which Texas made it possible for juries to sentence defendants to life in prison without parole, giving them an alternative to the death penalty.

One example is the recent trial of Levi King, who because of one juror, received life in prison without parole.

Farren says there is a problem with the 2005 law because "no one knows what those words mean until some court tells us what they mean."

Meaning, life in prison without parole could turn into 30 years in prison with the possibility of parole.

In Randall County, Brent Ray Brewer was sentenced to death a second time this year.

Right now Farren is getting ready for another death penalty case against Wilbert Ramon Banks.

He is accused in the double shooting deaths of Stephanie Beard and Daniel Brittain this past April.