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death penalty

The death penalty—also known as capital punishment—refers to the process of state and federal courts sentencing persons convicted of the most serious criminal offenses (capital offenses or capital crimes) to death. The specific crimes and circumstances for which the death penalty is a potential punishment (usually murder) are defined by state and federal statutes enacted by state legislatures and the United States Congress, respectively.

These death penalty or capital punishment statutes are often located in the penal or criminal code, and often in the same statute that defines a criminal offense such as murder. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia do not have the death penalty as a potential punishment for any criminal offense.

In Texas, the death penalty is a legal form of punishment for certain capital offenses, primarily for cases involving murder under specific circumstances. The Texas Penal Code outlines the criteria for what constitutes a capital offense, such as murders that are premeditated and involve aggravating factors, including but not limited to the murder of a public safety officer or firefighter, murder during the commission of certain felonies, or murder for hire. Texas has one of the most active death penalty systems in the United States and carries out capital punishment through lethal injection. The state's procedures and laws regarding the death penalty are subject to both state statutes and federal constitutional standards, which require due process and equal protection under the law. Despite the ongoing national debate over the morality and efficacy of the death penalty, it remains a legal sentencing option in Texas for those convicted of the most serious crimes.

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