The constitutionality of the death penalty is currently under review in Texas, the state where more than half of U.S. executions are committed, according to various sources. As the Houston Chronicle indicates, some Texas lawmakers aren’t too keen on the idea of the death penalty being labeled unconstitutional. Local Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos reportedly ordered prosecutors to stand mute during a hearing intended to determine whether the death penalty is unconstitutional in the state.
Death penalty and risk to innocent lives
The case involving 25-year-old defendant John Edward Green, who faces the death penalty after being accused of a 2008 robbery and slaying in southwest Houston, is the first case in Texas legal history where the constitutionality of the death penalty is being argued in the context of the risk of convicting an innocent man. Green’s defense team maintains the client’s innocence.
However, Pat Lykos and the prosecution team’s decision to stand mute in response to the defense team’s argument that the death penalty is unconstitutional brought the case to the brink of deadlock. District Judge Kevin Fine claimed he would not allow the prosecution to stand mute at first, but then allowed the case to continue rather than deadlock it by encouraging the defense to continue to present their case while the prosecution sits silently at counsel tables, unable to object, cross-examine or call witnesses.
“It’s arrogant, and it’s contemptuous for the state to decide to not participate when they’re trying to put my client to death,” said defense lawyer Casey Keirnan while in court.
Prosecution said Green lacked standing to argue against death penalty
Before Harris Country prosecutors stood mute at the death penalty unconstitutionality hearing, they had argued that “the law surrounding the death penalty is well-settled.” Furthermore, the prosecution stated its position that because the defendant had yet to be convicted thus far, he “lacks standing” to argue whether the death penalty is unconstitutional.