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Death Row Information

Death Row Facts

History

Death row was located in the East Building of the Huntsville Unit from 1928 to 1952.  From 1952 until 1965, the electric chair was located in a building by the East Wall of the Huntsville Unit.

The men on death row were moved from the Huntsville Unit to the Ellis Unit in 1965. Death row remained at the Ellis Unit until 1999. In 1999, the TDCJ moved death row to the Polunsky Unit. The Polunsky Unit houses death row offenders separately in single-person cells, with each cell having a window. Death row offenders are also recreated individually. Offenders on death row receive a regular diet, and have access to reading, writing, and legal materials. Depending upon their custody level, some death row offenders are allowed to have a radio. The women on death row are housed at the Mountain View Unit. Offenders on death row do not have regular TDCJ-ID numbers; they have special death row numbers.

Hanging was means of execution from 1819 to 1923.

The State of Texas authorized the use of the electric chair in 1923, and ordered all executions to be carried out by the State in Huntsville. Prior to 1923, Texas counties were responsible for their own executions.

The State of Texas executed the first offender by electrocution on February 8, 1924. Charles Reynolds (Red River County) was executed. On that same date, four additional offenders, Ewell Morris, George Washington, Mack Matthews, and Melvin Johnson were executed.

The State of Texas executed brothers on six occasions:

  • Frank & Lorenzo Noel electrocuted July 3, 1925;
  • S.A. & Forest Robins electrocuted April 6, 1926;
  • Oscar & Mack Brown electrocuted July 1, 1936;
  • Roscoe & Henderson Brown electrocuted May 6, 1938;
  • Curtis (July 1, 1993) & Danny (July 30, 1993) Harris (both by lethal injection);
  • Jessie (September 16, 1994) & Jose (November 18, 1999) Gutierrez (both by lethal injection).

One of the most notorious offenders to be executed was Raymond Hamilton, a member of the "Bonnie and Clyde" gang. He was sentenced by Walker County and executed on May 10, 1935, for murder. Hamilton and another man had escaped from death row, only to be captured and return to death row.

The State of Texas executed the last offender, Joseph Johnson (Harris County), by electrocution on July 30, 1964.

A total of 361 inmates were electrocuted in the State of Texas.

When capital punishment was declared "cruel and unusual punishment" by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 29, 1972, there were 45 men on death row in Texas and 7 in county jails with a death sentence. All of the sentences were commuted to life sentences by the Governor of Texas, and death row was clear by March 1973.

In 1973, revision to the Texas Penal Code once again allowed assessment of the death penalty and allowed for executions to resume effective January 1, 1974. Under the new statute, the first man (#507 John Devries) was placed on death row on February 15, 1974. Devries committed suicide July 1, 1974, by hanging himself with bed sheets.

The State of Texas adopted lethal injection as means of execution in 1977.

The State of Texas executed the first offender by lethal injection on December 7, 1982. Charlie Brooks (Tarrant County) was executed for the kidnap/murder of a Fort Worth auto mechanic.

Effective January 12, 1996, close relatives and friends of the deceased victim were allowed to witness executions.

Information from here to the bottom of the page relates to death row after 1973. For information relating to death row from 1923-1973, click here.

Texas Capital Offenses:

Pursuant to Texas Penal Code Section 19.03, the following crimes are Capital Murder in Texas:

  • murder of a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
  • murder during the commission or attempted commission of kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat;
  • murder for remuneration or promise of remuneration or employs another to commit murder for remuneration or promise of remuneration;
  • murder during escape or attempted escape from a penal institution;
  • murder, while incarcerated in a penal institution, of a correctional employee or with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination;
  • murder while incarcerated in a penal institution for a conviction of murder or capital murder;
  • murder while incarcerated in a penal institution serving a life sentence or a 99 year sentence for a conviction of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated robbery;
  • murder of more than one person during the same criminal transaction or during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct;
  • murder of an individual under ten years of age; or
  • murder in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court.

United States Capital Punishment:

The death penalty is currently authorized by 30 states, the Federal Government, and the U.S. Military. While Maryland and New Mexico no longer have death penalty statutes, they do currently incarcerate death-sentenced offenders.  The law abolishing the death penalty in these states was not retroactive, it only applies to offenders sentenced after the law was passed.  Additionally, the death penalty statute in New York is undergoing judicial review.

Texas leads the nation in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

California, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania have the largest death row populations.

As of December 31, 2013, 2,979 offenders were under sentence of death in the United States.

There are five methods of execution in the United States: lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, and firing squad.

Jurisdictions without death penalty statutes: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

For more on capital punishment in the United States, visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics-Capital Punishment and the Death Penalty Information Center.

Lethal Injection Consists Of:

Single drug protocol of Pentobarbital

Average Time on Death Row prior to Execution:

10.87 years

Shortest Time on Death Row Prior to Execution:

Shortest Time on Death Row Prior to Execution
Name County TDCJ Number Time on Death Row Execution Date
1. Joe Gonzales Potter 999177 252 days 09/18/1996
2. Steven Renfro Harrison 999229 263 days 02/09/1998


Longest Time on Death Row Prior to Execution:

Longest Time on Death Row Prior to Execution
Name County TDCJ Number Time on Death Row Execution Date
1. David Lee Powell Travis 612 11,575 days (31 years) 06/15/2010
2. Lester Bower Grayson 764 11,346 days (31 years) 06/03/2015

Average Age of Executed Offenders:

39

Youngest at Time of Execution:

Youngest at Time of Execution
Name County TDCJ Number Age Execution Date
Jay Pinkerton Nueces 686 24 05/15/1986
Jesse De La Rosa Bexar 713 24 05/15/1985
Toronto Patterson Dallas 999178 24 08/28/2002


Oldest at Time of Execution:

Oldest at Time of Execution
Name County TDCJ Number Age Execution Date
Lester Bower Grayson 764 67 06/03/2015
William Chappell Tarrant 960 66 11/20/2002
William Rayford Dallas 999371 64 01/30/2018