Speeches delivered by Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, discussing certain phases of contemplated legislation Page: 39 of 61
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five million people, averaged more than one thousand murders
a year. This appalling contrast but emphasizes the necessity for an
immediate and effective remedy for the present laxity in the enforcement
of the law in Texas. We have in this State too many killings
and too few convictions. In Germany 95 per cent of those who take
human life are convicted; in Texas, 2 per cent. In England few cases
remain untried beyond ninety days, and if the case is appealed it is
passed on ordinarily within a month. It takes almost two years to
dispose of the average hotly contested criminal case in Texas, and
about half of them have to be tried the second time, at which trial the
defendant, having worn out his case, is found not guilty. In short,
in other countries criminal cases are tried and convictions had and
for that reason their morning papers are not filled with accounts of
the bloody murders of the preceding day. The operation of the criminal
law in Texas is a disgrace to the State. A traditional and parasitic
growth of technicalities have sucked the life blood out of the
Penal Code of Texas. We need legislation in the interest of the citizens
and against criminals. The law no longer has terror for evil
doers. We have minimized punishment for crime until it has stripped
the law of its power. We should revivify, revitalize and re-electrify our
THE SUSPENDED SENTENCE LAW.
We have had in this State since 1913, what is known as the Suspended
Sentence Law. It permits the jury to convict a person and
at the same time set the verdict aside. Texas is the only State in the
Union that permits a jury to find a person guilty and at the same
time release him from punishment. The purpose that prompted the
passage of the law was good. The practical workings of the law
prove it a failure. It is an incubator for evil doers. It makes of
the law a shield for crime. It furnishes a loophole through which
convicted criminals escape. It undermines the law. It robs the courthouse
of its power, respect and dignity. It produces criminals. It
has caused many of our young men to follow crime as a commercialized
profession. Paraphrasing the dying. words of Madam Roland as she
was led to the guillotine, well might we exclaim: "Oh laws, oh laws,
how many crimes are committed in thy name." Let us take lawlessness
out of our laws and give to them a deterrent influence. The
Suspended Sentence Law is responsible in a large measure for the
carnival of crime in Texas. During the past four years more than
four thousand convicted criminals in Texas escaped punishment by
means of the Suspended Sentence Law. The farce and fraud of giving
these four thousand convicted criminals the suspended sentence
cost the taxpayers of Texas considerably more than one million dollars.
During the past four years more criminals were convicted and
given the suspended sentence than were convicted and sent to the
penitentiary. The Suspended Sentence Law should be repealed and
shoveled into the junk-pile.
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Neff, Pat M. Speeches delivered by Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, discussing certain phases of contemplated legislation, book, 1923; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5835/m1/39/: accessed March 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .