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Capital Punishment on Trial in Texas

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Texas flag by Scott Bruns on Flickr

Texas flag by Scott Bruns on Flickr

The constitutionality of the death penalty hasn’t been explicitly addressed in a courtroom for quite a while, but that is about to change in a Texas federal district court today.

The Huffington Post has reported that defense attorneys for John Edward Green, Jr., who is accused of the murder of a woman during a robbery in 2008, will argue that the death penalty is unconstitutional in Texas because of the high number of wrongful convictions in the state. Lawyers are poised to argue that “a number of factors in Texas’s legal system increase the risk of wrongful executions there, 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.”

According to the Huffington Post, this will be the first time that the issue of innocent people being executed in Texas will be dealt with during the course of a criminal trial.

What are the chances that the presiding judge rules the death penalty unconstitutional? Pretty good, according to Maurie Levin, University of Texas law professor, who told the Huffington Post, “I would think that Judge Fine would have substantial basis in the evidence that I’m aware of that would lead to a conclusion that the Texas death penalty is unconstitutional as applied.”

Since its reintroduction into American jurisprudence in 1976, the death penalty has been carried out in Texas 464 times; 70% of those executed were minorities. Moreover, 12 people in Texas out of 139 across the country have later been found to have been innocent of the crime for which they were placed on Death Row.

How do you feel about capital punishment? Are there circumstances in which it is an appropriate punishment or is it always wrong?

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December 6th, 2010 at 11:22 am