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Dallas County: Center of Death Sentences

DALLAS (CN) - Dallas County's reputation as a criminal justice reformer is belied by its disproportionately high number of death sentences, death penalty critics say.

In a new report , the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says Dallas County is the state's most active death penalty jurisdiction. Dallas County has accounted for 20 percent of death penalty sentences in the state since 2008, according to "Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2013: The Year in Review."

"While most of Texas is moving away from the death penalty, Dallas County has emerged as a major outlier in its pursuit of the ultimate punishment, particularly for defendants of color," Kristin Houlé, executive director of the TCADP, said in a statement. "These troubling patterns directly counter Dallas's reputation as a leader in criminal justice reform."

Dallas County has handed down nearly twice as many death sentences in the past six years as Harris County (Houston) has. Death sentences statewide have declined by more than 75 percent in the past decade - less than 10 a year for past five years.

Despite the decline, Texas conducted 42 percent of the executions in the country this year - twice as many as any other state. Texas has executed 269 people under Gov. Rick Perry - more than any other governor in U.S. history.

Half of all new death sentences in the state are imposed on blacks, TCADP says.

"In Dallas County, this pattern is even more pronounced - of the 11 men sentenced to death there since 2008, 8 are African-American and 2 are Hispanic," the TCADP said in a statement. "All three of Dallas County's new death sentences in 2013 were imposed on African-American men."

Seven inmates scheduled for execution this year have received reprieves, either stays or withdrawal of execution dates. Four other condemned inmates were granted date changes but were executed this year.

Based in Austin, TCADP is a grassroots anti-death penalty advocacy group, according to its website.

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