News 12.01.10

The Death Penalty on Trial

A highly anticipated hearing next week in Houston is set to examine the substantial risk of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases and determine whether executions are constitutional.

 

Attorneys for John Green, who is charged with capital murder, are expected to argue on December 6 that Texas’ system is inherently unreliable and unconstitutional as applied. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on Monday that the hearing could go forward. (Download

the CCA order

and

a brief from Green’s attorneys

arguing the merits of the hearing.) This hearing will come on the heels of a big week in death penalty news.

A bill to abolish executions in Illinois

passed a key committee yesterday but stalled today before reaching a vote in the full House. Supporters said they were just a few votes short and will push for a vote during a final lame duck session in early January.

 

Earlier this week, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens penned

an essay in the New York Review of Books

explaining  that the real possibility of wrongful convictions and executions played a key role in his shift from supporting the death penalty when he first joined the court to his belief today that our capital punishment system is unconstitutional. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert expanded on Stevens’ views in a column yesterday titled

“Broken Beyond Repair.”


 

The work of the Innocence Project in recent months has shed light on two men who were executed in Texas based on faulty evidence –

Cameron Todd Willingham

and

Claude Jones

. The upcoming hearing in John Green’s case could provide a forum to examine whether a system fraught with such risk and error should be responsible for life and death.

The Innocence Project

supports a moratorium on capital punishment

while the causes of wrongful convictions are fully identified and remedied.

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