Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation published the paper Inviting Common Sense into the Texas Law of Parties Doctrine.

“Texas’s conspirator-party statute creates an end-run around the culpability requirement that is the foundation of Texas criminal sentencing,” said Amanda Marzullo, the paper’s author. “Measures should be taken to limit its application, particularly in murder cases where the rule allows juries to convict an individual of a crime that is more serious than they contemplated and carries the state’s severest punishments.”

Key Points

  • A subprovision of the law of parties allows courts to convict individuals of crimes they neither committed nor intended for anyone else to commit.
  • The law of parties is problematic in murder and capital murder cases, which require evidence that the actual assailant had a high level of intent, but a conspirator may be convicted with a showing that he should have been aware that his co-conspirator would commit the crime.
  • The law of parties undermines the integrity of Texas’s capital punishment system, which must reserve executions for the “worst of the worst” offenders, by providing a mechanism under which individuals who did not kill anyone or intend that anyone be killed may be sentenced to death.
  • The law of parties is also particularly harsh against juveniles and young adults who are prone to impulsive, reckless behavior in group settings but are unlikely to reoffend.

To read the paper in full, please visit: