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Texas Senate approves life without parole

[JURIST] The Texas Senate Saturday approved Senate Bill 60 [text], which would give jurors in capital murder cases the option of sentencing a defendant to life in prison without parole instead of death. Currently, Texas leads US states in the number of annual executions (24 in 2004); Texas juries can only sentence people convicted of capital murder to either death or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. Bill sponsor Sen. Eddie Lucio has said that public opinion polls indicate there is strong support among Texans for such a law, and the new option is important in light of the recent US Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons [text] that prohibits the execution of murderers whose crimes were committed when they were younger than 18. Opponents say life without parole would make prisons more difficult to manage because inmates with no hope of parole would have no incentive to behave. Among the 38 states with the death penalty, only Texas and New Mexico do not give juries the option of life without parole. The bill is now headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Perry for approval. AP has more.

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