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December 5, 2010

"Death penalty on trial: An examination of the flawed Texas capital punishment system is long overdue"

The title of this post is the headline of this new editorial from the Houston Chronicle.  Here are excerpts from the start and end of thie editorial:

A challenge to the constitutionality of the death penalty as practiced in Texas unfolds in a hearing in state District Judge Kevin Fine's court tomorrow. It's a fitting venue, since Texas has been by far the leading practitioner of capital punishment since its reinstatement in the United States in the '70s, and for years Harris County was the leading source of convictions. Approximately a third of the 316 inmates currently awaiting execution come from here.

The case that prompted the hearing is that of 25-year-old John Edward Green, charged in a 2008 robbery-killing in southwest Houston. Nine months ago Judge Fine, one of a wave of Democratic jurists who broke the all-Republican hold on Harris County district courts two years ago, issued a controversial ruling that the Texas death penalty was unconstitutional because of procedural flaws. After an ensuing furor from county law enforcement officials, Judge Fine backtracked, rescinding his ruling but setting the stage for an in-depth examination of capital punishment practices in the Lone Star state....

According to Green's attorneys, "When the fortuities that lead to the exoneration of every wrongfully convicted and condemned person are taken into account, there is a very strong probability that Texas has executed 12 or more innocent people." Nationally, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, for every nine people executed, one person is exonerated after being sent to death row. The number of wrongly convicted defendants led former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to conclude that "if statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed."

It's clear that the Texas capital punishment system is horribly flawed and carries an unacceptably high likelihood that innocent people have been and will be executed for crimes they did not commit. We look forward to the proceedings in Judge Fine's courtroom as a vital step in identifying the problems and crafting safeguards to prevent the ultimate miscarriage of justice.

December 5, 2010 at 11:13 AM | Permalink


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How ridiculous is this charade?

Posted by: federalist | Dec 5, 2010 11:37:33 AM

Stop all transportation, until the flaws that kill 40,000 innocent people are fixed. Even walking results in hundreds of deaths a year, end pedestrian passage, until fixed.

Stop all medical care. About 2% of clinical decisions are malpractice. No more medical care for anyone until that is fixed.

Ah, there you go. Continue driving and pedestrian walking. Continue medical care. However, when people make harmful mistakes the remedy should be ...?

What, Prof. Berman? What should the remedy be when people make mistakes that harm others?

Torts. End all self-dealt, unconscionable, lawless immunities of prosecutors, of judges. Let them carry insurance to compensate the victims of their carelessness.

Thank you. This subject is covered on day 1 of Torts in 1L, the purposes of torts. Why is it so difficult for the Supreme Court to grasp?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 5, 2010 12:45:13 PM

These people are unbelievable. Even if you accept the DPIC exoneree number, you have to compare the exonerees to those under a death sentence, not those actually executed in order to get the error rate. Another error rate quantification would be to compare those executed to those who were executed AND exonerated. What they do by slight of hand is use the smaller number of those actually executed and their inflated exoneree rate to make it seem like the death penalty error rate exceeds 10%. "If statistics are any indication" indeed.

Posted by: David | Dec 5, 2010 1:02:27 PM

What a waste of time. Courts are always complaining about caseload yet they take time to consider these foolish motions.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 5, 2010 4:46:57 PM

"Death penalty on trial: An examination of the flawed Texas capital punishment system is long overdue"

As is the examination ever stopped.

How 'bout this: "Abolitionism on trial: An examintaion of the Roger Keith Coleman innocence hoax is long overdue."

Any takers?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 5, 2010 6:47:07 PM

"As IF the examination ever stopped."

Sorry for the typo.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 5, 2010 11:06:04 PM

Please, stop kidding

Risinger, D. Michael, Innocents Convicted: An Empirically Justified Wrongful Conviction Rate. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 97, No. 3, 2007. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=931454

Posted by: claudio giusti, italia | Dec 6, 2010 10:38:17 AM

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