When a defendant was found guilty of a capital crime and given a death sentence, a death warrant was issued. Death sentences were routinely appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Until the initial appeal was decided, inmates remained in the county jail. If the conviction was affirmed, the offender was brought a second time before a trial judge, who pronounced a sentence of death and then set an execution date, which could not be less than 30 days later.

It was an unbroken custom from to for Texas governors to grant a day stay of execution beyond the initial date.


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The offender was then transported to Huntsville to await execution. In , judicial challenges to capital punishment resulted in a de facto moratorium on executions in the United States. In , the U. Supreme Court declared that capital punishment, as it was employed at the time at the state and federal level, was unconstitutional in the landmark case, Furman v.

Georgia U. Georgia, Jackson v. Georgia, and Branch v. In nine separate opinions, and by a vote of five to four, the Court held that Georgia's death penalty statute, which gave the jury complete sentencing discretion, could result in arbitrary sentencing.

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The Court held that the scheme of punishment under the statute was therefore "cruel and unusual" and violated the Eighth Amendment. As a result, on June 29, , the Supreme Court effectively voided 40 death penalty statutes, thereby commuting the sentences of death row inmates around the country and suspending the death penalty because existing statutes were no longer valid. At that point, 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. The Supreme Court also suggested new legislation that could make death sentences constitutional again, such as the development of standardized guidelines for juries that decide sentences.

Advocates of capital punishment began proposing new statutes that they believed would end arbitrariness in capital sentencing.


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  7. Some states began by providing sentencing guidelines for the judge and jury when deciding whether to impose death, which allowed for the introduction of aggravating and mitigating factors in determining the sentence. These guided discretion statutes were approved in by the Supreme Court in Gregg v. Texas U. Florida U. This decision held that the new death penalty statutes in Florida, Georgia, and Texas were constitutional and reinstated the death penalty in those states. The Court also held that the death penalty itself was constitutional under the Eighth Amendment.

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    The decommissioned electric chair, made by prison workers, was moved to storage at the Walls Unit Death House before being donated to the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville. As of November , California, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania have the largest death row populations in the country, with Texas leading in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated. Sources include: James W. The agency manages offenders in state prisons, state jails and contracted private correctional facilities.

    The agency also provides funding and certain oversight of community supervision and is responsible for the supervision of offenders released from prison on parole or mandatory supervision. In , in the landmark case of Furman v. Supreme Court declared that capital punishment, as it was employed at the time on the state and federal level, was unconstitutional.

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    In , the Supreme Court approved new statutes toward ending arbitrariness in capital sentencing and the death penalty was reinstated in Texas. These records were created to document convicts on death row in the Texas, and consist of historical death row files of convicts sentenced to be executed by electrocution pre-Furman decision by the state of Texas, starting with the file for execution number one in and culminating with the file for execution number in Files are also included for death row convicts who had their sentences commuted.

    Dates covered are , , with gaps in the years reflected. The bulk of the records are dated between and The records primarily comprise intake forms and data sheets for individual convicts which could include information such as family data, work and military history, mental status, recreational interests, and personal history; photographs of convicts at the time of intake; fingerprint records; compiled criminal histories by the Bureau of Intelligence, and later the Federal Bureau of Intelligence; administrative correspondence and documents; and death certificates.

    Other records include court documents judgments, appeals, motions, orders, verdicts etc. A record type unique to the files of convicts who had their sentences commuted is a pre-printed form, dated about , sent by Representative Jacob Edgar "Jake" Johnson, Texas House of Representatives, titled "To the Men on Death Row.

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    The files document each inmate's case. The kinds of records contained within files vary with each convict and files of more notorious inmates tend to be several inches thick. Typically files from earlier years tend to have minimal documentation and could include inmate photographs, fingerprints, a description of the convict upon arrival and a brief biography of the convict which could contain minimal family information such as the names of parents and family members.

    Subjects covered include the prison housing and execution processes of the time, the social and psychological backgrounds of convicts, and the perception of capital punishment in society, particularly demonstrated in newspaper clippings found in files from later years. File for individuals such as Kenneth McDuff, whose sentence was commuted in and was eventually executed at a later date for other capital crimes, are not included in these files. Because of the possibility that portions of these records fall under Public Information Act exceptions including, but not limited to: information about inmates created by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Texas Government Code, Section The researcher may request an interview with an archivist or submit a request by mail, fax, or email including enough description and detail about the information requested to enable the archivist to accurately identify and locate the information requested.

    If our review reveals information that may be excepted by the Public Information Act, we are obligated to seek an open records decision from the Attorney General on whether the records can be released. The Public Information Act allows the Archives ten working days after receiving a request to make this determination. The Attorney General has 45 working days to render a decision. Alternately, the Archives can inform you of the nature of the potentially excepted information and if you agree, that information can be redacted or removed and you can access the remainder of the records.

    This exception applies to the commuted death row files, which are restricted and will have to be reviewed by an archivist before they can be accessed for research. As of September , information about an inmate's family members, when listed as living in the death row historical files dated January and later, will need to be redacted by Archives Staff Texas Government Code, Section The names of family members may be released for earlier files through Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.

    Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.

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    Copyright Law Title 17 U. Researchers are required to wear gloves provided by the Archives when reviewing photographic materials. The following materials are offered as possible sources of further information on the agencies and subjects covered by the records. The listing is not exhaustive. Identify the item and cite the series , Texas Department of Criminal Justice death row historical files execution files. Texas State Archives staff completed an appraisal of the death row historical files execution files at the Department of Criminal Justice in November The files were determined to be archival.

    The death row historical files were microfilmed by the Department of Criminal Justice, but not in their entirety. There was no record of which files were microfilmed or when. Staff members were also uncertain about the legibility of the microfilm and whether it was done in keeping with archival standards. The microfilm was not transferred to the State Archives.

    Repository Browse List. Contact Us. Accessing Materials Described Here. The state of Texas first authorized the use of the electric chair in , and ordered all executions to be carried out by the state in Huntsville. In , in the case of Furman v. Supreme Court declared that capital punishment, as it was employed at the time at the state and federal level, was unconstitutional.

    In the Court held the new death penalty statutes in Florida, Georgia, and Texas as constitutional and reinstated the death penalty in those states. These records consist of death row files of convicts sentenced to be executed by electrocution pre-Furman decision by the state of Texas, starting with the file for execution number one in and culminating with the file for execution number in Dates covered are , , bulk These materials are written predominately in English with one document in Spanish. These records are listed in the original order as maintained by the agency.

    The files are in chronological order starting with execution number one in and continue through to execution number in TCA is organized to anticipate and respond to the needs of our members, clients and the general public. Our TCA conference planning committee is hard at work wrapping up our agenda to make the Special Populations conference one that will exceed your expectations. Registration is open, and the hotel is ready to take your reservations, and our agenda is posted.

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