ill Meier says he can’t remember exactly how he arrived at the deadly question, back in 1973.
“I frankly don’t have the kind of memory that would allow me to remember just what was said,” he said.
Meier is a Texas lawyer whose deep drawl makes it easy to imagine him wooing a jury. He now sits as a judge on the Texas Second Court of Appeals, but back in the 1970s, he served as a state senator. He’s a colorful character who’s made Texas Monthly magazine’s top 10 legislators list both as one of the state’s best and as one of its worst. In 1973, the magazine called him open-minded, highly accessible, and never dogmatic. It later panned him as a legislator who “masqueraded as one who would advance the cause of conservatism; in fact, his cause was himself.” Meier holds the record for the nation’s longest filibuster after talking for 43 hours, wearing house slippers to ease his aching feet and an “astronaut bag” to prevent bathroom breaks to try and stop a bill that he believed would erode public records laws.
Back in 1973, Texas legislators were wrestling with how fix one of the state’s most infamous institutions––its death penalty. The previous year, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, finding it was too arbitrary, too riddled with discrimination and racism. The case put a stop to executions nationwide and sent state legislatures scrambling to write new laws to fix these flaws. Most states passed laws that allowed juries to consider past behavior and crimes, but Texas focused on predicting the future. Before jurors could sentence someone to death, they must first decide if the person will be a future danger.