Image: Rick Perry
Harry Cabluck  /  AP
Until now, Texas juries have been able to sentence capital murder convicts to either death or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a law taking away the parole option.
updated 6/17/2005 4:04:27 PM ET 2005-06-17T20:04:27

Gov. Rick Perry signed into law Friday a new life-without-parole sentencing option for Texas juries in capital murder cases.

Texas juries have been able to sentence capital murder convicts to either death or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. The new law will take away the option of parole.

"I believe this bill will improve our criminal justice system because it gives jurors a new option to protect the public with the certainty a convicted killer will never roam our streets again," said Perry, a Republican.

Texas leads the nation in executions, with nine this year and 345 since the state resumed the practice in 1982. Of the 38 states with executions, Texas and New Mexico are the only ones that lacked the life-without-parole option.

The Legislature approved the change in the session that ended May 30. The law takes effect Sept. 1.

Opponents of the change argued the current parole option gives convicts a reason to behave in prison if good behavior will help them get out.

Supporters called the change "truth in sentencing," since convicts sentenced to life are guaranteed never to be freed. Bill sponsors had failed to pass the measure in previous years, but they felt their case was bolstered this time around by recent Supreme Court rulings that banned the executions of juvenile and mentally retarded murderers: Under the old law, such killers automatically had the possibility of parole because they could not be executed.

While some prosecutors were opposed to an earlier version of the legislation that would have kept the possibility of parole, many decided to support the bill once the parole option was removed.

A Scripps-Howard poll in October found that 75 percent of Texans support the death penalty and 78 percent favored giving juries the option of life without parole.

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