Fetch latest updates on Texas death row

An exercise in scraping and parsing HTML about criminal justice events.
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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice publishes a variety of data about who it imprisons and executes, including lists on past and upcoming executions.

Let’s say you want a reminder of when the next execution comes up. Or how many days since the last one.

The third variation of the script is only slightly more complicated: instead of just doing a day count, it returns all the relevant meta data about the executions, such as the condemned’s name, age, and case file.

As you get into the business of making apps, you’ll find that it’s worth taking the extra step to structure the scraped information.

In this example, I’ve only done a small amount of work translating the HTML table columns into JSON attributes; for example, converting the birthdate attribute from 10/11/1969 to 1969-10-11. The result of this script is a JSON file that can be read by a web app. I leave it to the web app designer to come up with their own “X days until John Smith, age 42, is executed” type message:

  "next": {
    "exdate": "2015-06-18",
    "link": "http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/death_row/dr_info/russeaugregory.html",
    "first_name": "Gregory",
    "race": "B",
    "birthdate": "1969-10-11",
    "last_name": "Russeau",
    "tdcj": "999430"
  "previous": {
    "exdate": "2015-06-03",
    "link": "https://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/death_row/dr_info/bowerlester.jpg",
    "first_name": "Lester",
    "race": "White",
    "age": "67",
    "last_name": "Bower",
    "tdcj": "000764"