Texas death penalty debate halted by appeals court

A photograph of the Texas state flag.

The death penalty debate has been halted by the Texas Court of Appeals – for now. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Brian L. Romig/Flickr)

Defense attorneys for John Edward Green say they’re determined to continue fighting after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today pulled the plug because District Judge Kevin Fine allowed an in-case debate over the constitutionality of the death penalty to go on while the prosecution stood mute, reports the Houston Chronicle. The prosecution had argued via an emergency appeal that Judge Fine had “overstepped his boundaries.” Now both sides will have 15 days to respond and file briefs to Texas’ highest criminal court regarding Green’s case.

Dispute centers on flaws in other death penalty cases

Allowing evidence from other death penalty cases should not get started to John Edward Green’s case, argued the Harris County district attorney. While the interruption may only be a temporary stay in the case, Green’s defense voiced great disappointment. Attorney Casey Keirnan told the Chronicle that if it is necessary, the case will be taken all the way to the Supreme Court.

However, the debate regarding the constitutionality of the death penalty – and specifically the safeguards in place to prevent innocent people from wrongful execution – may still continue on the state level. Yet Houston defense lawyer Steven Halpert, who has been observing the case, does not believe at this point that Texas will allow the death penalty debate to continue.

“It’s a shame, because a free debate, a well-rounded debate on these issues is certainly overdue, and we may never get that opportunity,” he said.

Stand mute until appeals

The Harris County District Attorney’s office had chosen to stand mute before Judge Fine’s hearing, reserving comment for the appeals court. The office’s motion to postpone the hearing was granted on the grounds that the evidence Judge Fine was hearing did not get started directly to Green’s potential exoneration. Defense attorneys argued that while different cases were involved, the principles were much the same.

The district attorney’s initial refusal to participate in the hearing drew catcalls from the defense that the state was afraid it would lose. The defense attorneys believe that the body of evidence and experts they had compiled would prove that not only is exoneration common, but the reasons behind the exonerations would give any jury enough information to conclude that John Edward Green was innocent.


Houston Chronicle

FOX News coverage of Texas death penalty case


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