EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/53/93
EXTRA 56/93 Death Penalty 10 June 1993
USA (Texas): Denton CRANK
Amnesty International is concerned that two prisoners are scheduled to be
executed imminently in Texas, USA. Denton Crank, white, is scheduled to be
executed on 15 June 1993, and Markham Duff-Smith, also white, on 29 June 1993.
Markham Duff-Smith was convicted on charges that he allegedly hired a third
party to murder his mother. He was sentenced to death in August 1981. A
co-defendant was also sentenced to death, and is currently awaiting retrial
after his death sentence was reversed on appeal.
Denton Crank was sentenced to death on 25 June 1985 for the murder of a white
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation
of the right to life, and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment or punishment, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
Amnesty International has mounting concerns regarding the death penalty in
Texas. The state leads the nation in carrying out executions; many prisoners
do not have legal representation to present their appeals; and it continues
to schedule executions of juvenile offenders, flouting international standards.
Most prisoners under sentence of death in Texas were sentenced under a statute
which severely restricted the consideration of mitigating circumstances at
their sentencing hearing. In September 1991, this statute was changed to allow
for the consideration of any mitigating circumstance to be taken into account.
However, the new law has not been applied retroactively. A major study on
racial discrimination conducted in the 1970s found that, in Texas, offenders
who killed white victims were several times more likely to be sentenced to
death than offenders who killed black victims. Under Texas clemency rules,
the governor may commute a sentence of death only if she receives a favourable
recommendation from a majority of the Board. Apart from a number of
commutations granted in the 1980s as the result of a key court ruling, the
Board has never recommended clemency in any death penalty case in recent years.
Texas has the largest number of people under sentence of death than any other
US state. As of 20 April 1993, there were 376 prisoners under sentence of
death in Texas. The most recent person to be executed was Christopher Sawyers,
on 18 May 1993. The method of execution is lethal injection.