Web-scraping the Texas Executed Offenders List

Due date: 1:00 PM, 2017-02-09

Points: 20

A web-scraping exercise using a mirror of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s executed offenders page:


The relevant reading about web-scraping in Python is here:

Beautiful Soup - HTML and XML parsing

This homework revisits the data that we used in: Contrived Clueless Command Line Data Crunching

Although this is just an exercise in web-scraping, here are some examples of what has been done with scraping death penalty related data:


Send an email to me with this subject: compciv-2017::your_sunet_id::texas-executed-scrape

It should contain 3 scripts as attachments (details are described below):

  • when-who.py
  • young-old.py
  • religious-last-words.py

Use this mirror of the Texas executed offenders page:


1. when-who.py: Print out date and race of executions

When I run your Python script like this:

$ python when-who.py

It should parse the Executed Offenders HTML table and print out 2-column CSV output of the date and the race of each executed offender. You can leave date in its plaintext format as found on the HTML page.

Thus, the first five lines of output should look like this:


The last 5 lines should look like this:



Look at the whitespace

Note the exact expected output, including the white space.

Specifically, your first 5 lines should NOT look like this:

Hispanic ,10/6/2015

(use the string object’s strip() method to remove trailing whitespace)

2. young-old.py: Oldest and youngest executed offenders

When I run your Python script like this:

$ python young-old.py

I expect to see this output:

Youngest offender to be executed was 24-year-old Toronto Patterson from Dallas County, on 08/28/2002
Oldest offender to be executed was 67-year-old Lester Bower from Grayson county, on 06/03/2015

Note that this is a lesson about sorting, which we did in the last assignment.

Relevant reading: - Sorting Python collections with the sorted method

For each BeautifulSoup row element, you need to tell the sorted function what to sort them by. The first row, then, will be the row element that belongs to the youngest executed offender (by age). The last row element is the offender with the highest age.

For example, if I wanted to sort inmates by last name, and just print out their full name, I might start out like this (again):

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import requests
url = 'http://wgetsnaps.github.io/tdcj-executed-offenders/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html'
soup = BeautifulSoup(requests.get(url).text, 'lxml')
rows = soup.select('tr')[1:]

Then I would think of how to write a one-line function that would express how I want each “row” to be represented when doing a comparison:

def xfoo(thing):
    cols = thing.select('td')
    return cols[3].text

And then I would use the sorted() function and specify that the key function be xfoo:

sortedrows = sorted(rows, key=xfoo)

And then loop through each element of sortedrows and print out the relevant columns:

for row in sortedrows:
    cols = row.select('td')
    lastname = cols[3].text
    firstname = cols[4].text
    print(firstname, lastname)

3. religious-last-words.py

When I run your Python script like this:

$ python religious-last-words.py

I expect to see a comma-delimited list of first name, last name, and absolute URL of each inmate who mentioned a religious word in their last words, e.g. “God” or “Lord”. I leave it to you to decide what those words are.

The output should look something like this:



In the past text-crunching assignment: Contrived Clueless Command Line Data Crunching

Re-read the problem “State of Texas executions by year”, and remember how you extracted a list of executions by year by treating the webpage as just text patterns to be parsed.

To get the count of executions by year, we had to extract the date pattern, which looks like this:

$ curl -s http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html \
    |  ack -o '\d{2}/\d{2}/\d{4}'

Now that we know that HTML is something that can be parsed with Python’s BeautifulSoup, let’s do this date extraction the “proper” way.

Import the libraries:

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import requests

SRC_URL = 'http://wgetsnaps.github.io/tdcj-executed-offenders/death_row/

Download the page, and parse it as a BeautifulSoup object:

html = requests.get(url).text
soup = BeautifulSoup(html, 'lxml')

At this point, I encourage you to visit the executed offenders webpage in your browser and to view the source. I give one example of how to select the desired rows, but it is based on an assumption that every table row (<tr>) contains what we want, except for the very first table row, which is the header row:

rows = soup.select('tr')[1:]

How do we just print the date of each execution? Look at the webpage, and figure out which child element of each row (i.e. <td>) contains the date of each execution. By my count, it is the 8th column:

for row in rows:
    cols = row.select('td')
    datecol = cols[7]

Absolute versus relative URLs

For the exercise in which you have to visit each “Last statement” page, you’ll notice that each href value is something like this:


However, your browser resolves that relative address to an absolute one:

Python, nor BeautifulSoup, does this automatically for you. What you need to use is the built-in urllib.parse library:


Which has a urljoin() function:


An example of usage:

>>> from urllib.parse import urljoin
>>> base_url = 'http://www.example.com'
>>> full_url = urljoin(base_url, 'dan/cat.jpg')

Please test this out for yourself and make sure you know what type of objects are being slung around. Do not do this in your program:

base_url = 'http://www.example.com'
some_relative_href = 'dan/cat.jpg'
full_url = base_url + some_relative_href

(because manually constructing URLs is menial work that should be delegated to a library!)



from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import requests
url = 'http://wgetsnaps.github.io/tdcj-executed-offenders/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html'
html = requests.get(url).text
soup = BeautifulSoup(html, 'lxml')
rows = soup.select('tr')[1:]

for r in rows:
   print(r.select('td')[8].text + ',' + r.select('td')[7].text)


from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import requests
url = 'http://wgetsnaps.github.io/tdcj-executed-offenders/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html'
html = requests.get(url).text
soup = BeautifulSoup(html, 'lxml')
rows = soup.find_all('tr')[1:]

rows = sorted(rows, key=lambda r: int(r.find_all('td')[6].text))

oldstr = "Oldest offender to be executed was {age}-year-old {firstname} {lastname} from {countyname} county, on {date}"

youngstr = "Youngest offender to be executed was {age}-year-old {firstname} {lastname} from {countyname} County, on {date}"

r = rows[-1].find_all('td')
o = oldstr.format(age=r[6].text, firstname=r[4].text, lastname=r[3].text,
              date=r[7].text, countyname=r[9].text)

r = rows[0].find_all('td')
y = youngstr.format(age=r[6].text, firstname=r[4].text, lastname=r[3].text,
              date=r[7].text, countyname=r[9].text)


from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
from urllib.parse import urljoin
import requests

SRC_URL = 'http://wgetsnaps.github.io/tdcj-executed-offenders/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html'

def extract_last_words_url(inmate_tr):
    tds = inmate_tr.select('td')
    lastword_td = tds[2]
    link = lastword_td.select('a')[0]
    href = link.attrs['href']

    return urljoin(SRC_URL, href)

def has_religious_words(txtstr):
    RELIGIOUSWORDS = ['God', 'Lord', 'Savior', 'Soul', 'Allah', 'Prophet', 'Heaven', 'Hell']
    for word in RELIGIOUSWORDS:
        if word in txtstr:
            return True
            pass # keep on going
    # if for loop ends, that means all
    # religiouswords were tested
    return False

def fetch_inmate_rows():
    html = requests.get(SRC_URL).text
    soup = BeautifulSoup(html, 'lxml')
    inmate_rows = soup.find_all('tr')[1:]
    return inmate_rows

for row in fetch_inmate_rows():
    lastwords_url = extract_last_words_url(row)
    if 'no_last_statement' not in lastwords_url:
        # fetch page
        lastwordsresp = requests.get(lastwords_url)
        txt = lastwordsresp.text
        if has_religious_words(txt):
            cols = row.find_all('td')
            print(cols[4].text, cols[3].text, 'is religious:', lastwords_url)