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December 7, 2010

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halts lower court hearing on death penalty's constitutionality

As detailed in this new piece in the Houston Chronicle, the "Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted an unprecedented death penalty hearing late Tuesday after an emergency appeal from the Harris County District Attorney's Office argued that a Houston judge was overstepping his boundaries." Here are more details on the latest development in a high-profile capital proceeding:

The hearing on the constitutionality of the procedures surrounding the death penalty in Texas will be stopped to allow both sides 15 days to respond and file briefs in the state's highest criminal court. State District Judge Kevin Fine had acknowledged that the appellate court may have been considering whether to order him to halt the proceedings in a preliminary hearing in the death penalty trial of John Edward Green.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers will now argue whether the hearing should take place. The district attorney's office said in its brief that Fine was exceeding his authority by allowing evidence regarding flaws in past death penalty cases to decide issues in Green's case....

Defense lawyers for Green said they were disappointed in Tuesday's decision, but vowed to fight on. "We will never quit on this issue and will defend him all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary," said Casey Keirnan, one of Green's attorneys.

Arguments at the appellate court could end or may just delay what has turned in to a full-fledged accounting of the safeguards of the procedures available used to convict and execute inmates in Texas.

Steven Halpert, a Houston defense lawyer who has been watching the proceedings, said he does not believe the hearing will 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," Halpert said.

December 7, 2010 at 11:18 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"...a free debate, a well-rounded debate on these issues is certainly overdue, ..."

I do not mean to go high school on that lawyer. However, if he is correct, high school civics teaches, the place for it is in the Texas legislature, by elected representatives, with adequate research resources. The court of an eccentric, biased jurist with a preset agenda, and preset conclusions to propagandize is not the place.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 8, 2010 6:46:20 AM

SC you must be KIDDING consding the 1,000's of WORSE than useless laws our so-called legislatures come up with...the last place you'd want to do anything is there.

Could only be a hell of a lot better in a court room where anyone who has something to say has to walk in...take an OATH and be in a position to be found CRIMINALLY LIBLE for their hyperbole!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 8, 2010 10:23:31 AM

Witnesses in legislative hearings can also be placed under oath and prosecuted for perjury if they lie. In Congress, lying by a witness is a crime even if not under oath.

Those of us old enough to remember Watergate may remember how many people were surprised when some of the defendants were charged with the crime of lying to Congress. The anomaly that lying to Congress is a crime while lying in Congress is a constitutional privilege (Art. I ยง6) did not go unnoticed.

The Texas Legislature itself is probably not the ideal place to have this hearing, but S.C.'s assessment of this judge and this hearing hits the bulls-eye. There is enough myth being accepted as reality at this point that a fair, neutral investigative body is probably a good idea.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 8, 2010 12:41:10 PM

Q: When is a hearing not a hearing?

A: When it's an abolitionist circus.

Thank you to the Texas Court of Appeals for putting an end to this one.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 8, 2010 4:06:34 PM

Lost in all of this is the victims. Judge Fine is figuratively spitting in their faces. It is appalling. Par for the course for the Democratic Party.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 8, 2010 9:53:54 PM

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