Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Hearing on Constitutionality of Texas Death Penalty - Monday Dec. 6 in Houston Judge Fine's Courtroom

A hearing on the constitutionality of the Texas death penalty will be held in Judge Kevin Fine's courtroom in Houston on Monday, December 6, at 9 AM. If you live in Houston or can be there, there will be a demonstration against the Texas death penalty outside the courthouse at 8 AM on Monday (RSVP on the Facebook event page) We will go inside for the hearing at 9 AM.

Location: Harris County Criminal Justice Center
               1201 Franklin, 19th Floor
               Houston, Texas  77002

Texas' use of capital punishment will undergo legal scrutiny at this hearing. Evidence and arguments will likely be presented that there is substantial risk that the state's death penalty law does not adequately protect against the execution of an innocent person.

John Edward Green, Jr., the defendant in Texas v. Green, is charged in the fatal shooting of a 34-year-old Houston woman during a 2008 robbery. Green’s defense attorneys will argue that a number of factors in Texas' death penalty system increase the risk of wrongful executions in Texas, including a lack of safeguards to protect against mistaken eyewitness identification, faulty forensic evidence, incompetent lawyers at the appellate level, failures to guard against false confessions and a history of racial discrimination in jury selection.

State District Judge Kevin Fine of the 177th Criminal Court in Harris County (Houston) set the hearing for Dec. 6 as part of a pretrial motion in which two defense attorneys for a Houston man facing a possible death sentence asked that Texas' death penalty statute be declared unconstitutional.

In March, on a motion filed by attorneys for John Edward Green Jr. (facing death for the 2008 robbery and murder of Huong Thien Nguyen in Houston), Fine ruled that capital punishment as practiced in Texas is unconstitutional for failing to adequately protect the innocent. Fine quickly rescinded that original order, but he has granted Green's attorneys the right to a hearing on the matter. Green's attorney Casey Keirnan told the Associated Press that he expects the hearing could last up to two weeks and that death penalty experts from around the country will likely testify. "I think everybody in the United States would agree that the possibility exists" that an innocent person has already been executed, he said.

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