A man convicted in 1993 of killing four people in Houston is scheduled to be executed on Thursday, March 9.
Arthur Brown Jr. and two others were convicted in connection with the slayings of several family members and their neighbor in 1992. He recently filed for a stay of execution, claiming Harris County prosecutors withheld evidence during his trial.
Both Brown and a co-defendant were sentenced to death. The co-accused was executed in 2006. The other co-accused is serving a life sentence.
The other man scheduled for execution in Texas this week, Gary Green, was sentenced to death in 2010 for stabbing his wife and drowning her six-year-old daughter in their home.
Richard Dieter is executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. He said there is one thing in common between the two people scheduled to be executed this week.
“They both have mental health issues, whether it’s intellectual disability or severe mental illness. That’s what happens with the arbitrariness of the death penalty,” he said. “You don’t always get the worst. You rarely get the worst.”
Green had a history of suffering from paranoia and anger issues. The Texas Observer writes he checked into a psychiatric hospital in Dallas a month before the murders. His defense argued that he probably had schizoaffective disorder, although this argument was unsuccessful.
Brown was in special education classes as a child, and the Houston Chronicle writes records show his mother admitted to drinking alcohol on a weekly basis while pregnant with him.
“When you have a punishment or policy that’s open to a lot of discretion, sometimes you see racial disparities as well. This is especially the problem with the death penalty,” Dieter said.
In 2022, there were 18 executions in the United States. In the same year, there were over 20,000 murders.
Dieter said even Texas executes relatively few people, and often it’s hard to predict who will be executed without knowing the geography of where they were sentenced and the politics behind it. The Information Centre’s research shows that execution can potentially be used as a way of showing toughness against crime.
“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or a coincidence that before the 2020 election, all of a sudden there were federal executions,” he said. “There hadn’t been a federal execution in 20 years. But suddenly there were 13 in 6 months.”
The Information Center’s studies consistently find that the death penalty is also more expensive than alternative punishments. Dieter said life without parole is one of many options that can avoid key problems with the death penalty, including the risk of executing an innocent person.
“The criticism of the death penalty is not ‘we shouldn’t spend money on it’, but we should determine if it is an effective use. If it is an effective use,” he said.