Texas Executed 10 People in 2014, the Lowest Number Since 1996

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
California's lethal injection room.
The number of executions and new death sentences continued to drop in the U.S. in 2014, even in Texas, which killed 10 prisoners this year, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center.

That's the lowest number since 1996, when three men received lethal injections. (The 1996 figure comes with an asterisk. The state was in the midst of a legal battle regarding changes made to the capital case appeals process by the Legislature. As a result, there ended up being a de facto death penalty moratorium from March 1996 to January 1997. After the changes were upheld, the state killed 37 people during the remainder of 1997.)

The 10 executions still matched Missouri for the most in the country but represented a significant drop from 2013, when 16 convicted murderers were killed. Texas juries only handed out 11 death sentences this year -- the latest being given Eric Williams in Kaufman County on Wednesday. That's down from a 1998 high of 48.

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El Paso State Rep Calls for Full Decriminalization of Marijuana

Thumbnail image for MarijuanaFlickrBlindNomad.jpg
Flickr user Blind Nomad
A bill filed Monday in advance of the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature would make the maximum penalty for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a $100 fine. The fine would not count as a criminal conviction and could not considered as such by anyone performing a background check.

Current Texas law classifies the possession of any amount of marijuana less than 2 ounces as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $2,000. In 2007, the state passed a law allowing for marijuana users to cited for the misdemeanor and released. Harris, Dallas and Tarrant, the three biggest counties in the state, have not adopted cite-and-release, but Dallas has signaled its intention to do so as part of a January 2015 pilot program.

See also: Dallas County Will Experiment with Not Arresting People Caught with Marijuana

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Greg Abbott Leads Texas into Immigration Lawsuit Fight With Feds

Thumbnail image for GregAbbottDiscoGageSkidmoreFlickr.jpg
Gage Skidmore
Just over a week ago, on November 24, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the "odds were in favor" of the state suing the federal government to stop President Obama's executive action on immigration. Wednesday afternoon, the governor-elect cashed that bet, announcing that he'd been joined by 16 other states in filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

"The president's job is to enforce the law, not to make them," Abbott said.

Allowing certain undocumented persons who've been in the United States for more than five years to work and live in the country without the threat of deportation would cause irreparable damage to Texas, Abbott says. The state has already incurred tremendous costs from DACA, President Obama's program that allows individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children to stay in the country, so it has unique standing to challenge the executive action.

See also: Texas Likely to Sue Obama Over Immigration

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Texas Likely to Sue Obama Over Immigration

Gage Skidmore
Plotting his final act as attorney general.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, soon to make his home in the governor's mansion, says the "odds are in favor" of Texas suing the federal government to prevent the implementation of President Obama's proposed executive or to stop the deportation of certain undocumented immigrant who have been in the country for more than five years.

"The president has crossed the line from politics to endangering the constitutional structure," Abbott said Monday afternoon.

The United States' immigration system is broken, Abbott acknowledged, but an "executive fiat" is not the way to fix i. The president is not exercising prosecutorial discretion, the attorney general argued, because the number of people affected is so large. If Obama's action is allowed, Abbott suggested that a future Republican president could similarly act on things like taxes and environmental regulations.

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Rafael Anchia Just Wants to Confirm That No One Wants a Trinity Toll Road

Mark Graham
Rep. Rafael Anchia and Mike Rawlings
Last week, we told you about an internet survey pushed out by Dallas state representative Rafael Anchia asking residents their opinion about the Trinity Toll Road. We speculated that Anchia's sudden interest might signal forthcoming action in Austin, likely an attempt by supporters to fund the currently unfunded (and unneeded) project. After speaking with Anchia, that seems even more likely.

See also: Rep. Rafael Anchia Just Released a Trinity Toll Road Survey. Why?

"It's pretty simple: We're just gathering information from the community to get a sense of where they are on this thing," he told Unfair Park. "If it turns out that it becomes a funding request in the legislature, I need to know what the sentiment is of the constituents I represent."

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Former Dewhurst Crony Pleads Guilty to Stealing $1.8 Million from Campaign

Patrick Michels
Couldn't have beaten eggs.
As if the state needed more reason to be ashamed about the 2012 Republican Senate primary -- you know, the one that ended with Ted Cruz basically being handed a national platform on a silver platter -- Buddy Barfield, longtime top aid to Cruz's runoff opponent, David Dewhurst, has admitted to siphoning almost $2 million from Dewhurst's campaign.

From 2008-2012, Barfield filed fake invoices with the David Dewhurst Committee and Dewhurst for Texas. When money was paid to the front companies he created, Barfield used it to pay for things like his mortgage and his kids' school tuition. As you would expect, Barfield did not claim the money he embezzled on his taxes -- in 2008, a year he grabbed more than $650,000 from the Dewhurst piggy bank, he claimed zero taxable income -- so he also admitted to tax evasion.

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How Texas' New Abortion Restrictions Have Actually Impacted Access to the Procedure

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas
Planned Parenthood's new Dallas ambulatory surgery center
The number of abortions being performed in Texas has dropped moderately, clinics offering abortions are vanishing rapidly and women seeking abortions must travel much farther to get an abortion, according to almost 18 months of data compiled by researchers looking at the effects of Texas' passage of some of the most restrictive abortion regulations in the country.

A group made up primarily of researchers from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project and Ibis Reproductive Health document the law's impact in a report to be published in an upcoming issue of Contraception, an academic journal. Over the course of the team's study, which concluded in April, almost half of the state's women's health clinics that provided abortions closed.

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Royce West Is Suing One of His Constituents for Defamation

Dallas District Court
The defendant, presumably.

In a lawsuit filed in Dallas' 44th District Court on Thursday, state Senator Royce West claims a resident of his district has consistently defamed him and has, more recently, begun stalking him at campaign and other events, including a pair of funerals.

At the events West cites, Bennie Jeffery held signs accusing West of being a "dirty crook" and verbally harassed the senator, the suit claims.

The most recent incident included in the suit occurred at a public event at the Barack Obama male Leadership Academy on June 6. West claims the defendant "took his ill-will to a new and dangerous level" and that " a barrage a racial epithets and profanity [caused] West to believe he was in imminent danger and fear for his personal safety and welfare."

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Final Texas GOP 2014 Platform Says "Homosexuality Is a Chosen Behavior"

Thomas Nast
Rampaging GOP strikes again.

In month when Texas Republicans seemingly cannot stop saying dumb things about homosexuality, the party's finished 2014 platform makes it clear the state GOP isn't just ignorant about gay life -- it's willfully ignorant. They even put it in writing.

See also: Rick Perry Doubles Down on Stupid Talking About Conversion Therapy

Some of the platform's language is almost unfathomable in 2014. On top of the usual stuff -- God is mentioned 12 times, Judeo-Christian values are mentioned four times -- the new platform contains some especially contentious language about the LGBTQ community.

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Rick Perry Doubles Down on Stupid Talking About Conversion Therapy

Danny Fulgencio
So you're telling me there's no scientific evidence. None?

We should probably be used to it by now. Governor Rick Perry went on CNBC earlier this week and said something that, were it to have come from anyone else, would've been stunning for its intellectual dishonesty.

In the midst of an interview, which you can see in full below, Perry told Squawk Box's Joe Kernan that he doesn't know if non-heterosexuals can change their sexual orientation. Then, he commented on conversion therapy, an endorsement of which was added to the Texas GOP's 2014 platform at the party's recent convention in Fort Worth.

"You know, I don't know," he said. "We'll leave that to the psychologists and the doctors."

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