At some point tonight, Texas is scheduled to execute its 500th prisoner since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. As a woman, one of ten on the state's death row, Kimberly McCarthy is an unusual recipient of the punishment. As a black woman from Dallas County, she's anything but. Using the state's detailed list of its executions, we compiled the demographics of all 500 prisoners to see what patterns emerge. Here's what we found.
Executions by time
It took the state a few years to warm up the lethal injector. It wasn't until eight years after the state reintroduced capital punishment that the first convict was executed, a black man named Charlie Brooks who was convicted of murder. The pace picked up slowly for a decade, becoming much more common in the mid-1990s.
Executions by race
While McCarthy and Brooks are black, the plurality of inmates put to death are white. 225 of those put to death were white, compared to 187 black people and 86 Hispanics.
As a function of the state's population, however, black people are vastly overrepresented. While blacks comprise 37.4 percent of those executed, they are only 11.8 percent of the state's population.
Executions by age
73 percent of those executed by the state fall in the age range of 31 to 50, as you might expect. Somewhat surprisingly, only one inmate, the 287th executed, was over the age of 65. (McCarthy is 52.)
Executions by location
Looking at the counties in which each convict committed his or her crime, something remarkable jumps out. Nearly 23 percent of all of those executed came from Houston's Harris County. The rest of the executions are largely centered around the state's urban areas: Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin.
Which helps explain, to some extent, the racial disparity. More crimes resulting in capital punishment occurred in urban areas. Texas' cities are home to a larger segment of the state's African-American population. Houston's one-quarter black; Dallas is the same.
But it doesn't explain the entire disparity. In 2000, the Texas Defender Service released a report documenting racial bias in the state's sentencing process. Before the report was issued, 34 percent of those executed were black. After the report came out, it jumped to 41 percent.
Photo: Composite of McCarthy and the facility where she will be executed. (AP)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.