StandDown Texas Project

The StandDown Texas Project identifies and advocates best practices in the criminal justice system. To stand down is to go off duty temporarily, especially to review safety procedures. That is what Texas needs to do with its death penalty.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Question of Future Dangerousness

A central factor during the sentencing phase of a capital murder trial in Texas deals with the question of future dangerousness --- the jury must determine that the person will represent a future danger to society. It's important to note that the society under consideration is the prison society of other inmates, guards and prison employees.

Texas is one of only two states that places such an emphasis on predictions of future danger. Recently, Texas Defender Service published a report, "Deadly Speculation: Misleading Texas Capital Juries with False Predictions of Future Dangersousness." Of the 155 cases examined, the report showed that expert predictions about an individual's future dangerousness were incorrect 95% of the time. That's one the reason the American Psychiatric Association has condemned the practice of expert testimony on the issue since 1983. To view the report, visit TDS' website:

An editorial in today's Austin American-Statesman recognizes that clemency decisions should be based on the facts, rather than highly inaccurate predictions. The Statesman editorial board faults the Texas clemency process for failing to take into account the way James Allridge has lived and worked on death row for 17 years.


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