Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Texas Death Penalty Hearing on Hold

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted an unprecedented death penalty hearing after an emergency appeal was filed by the Harris County District Attorney's Office, reports the Houston Chronicle.

The appeal suggests that Judge Kevin Fine's court will hear testimony to determine if two Texas men, Cameron Todd Willingham and Claude Jones, both convicted of capital murder and executed. Defense attorneys will try to prove that both men were actually innocent.

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.

According to the Chronicle, Judge Fine 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.

Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia law professor, testified Tuesday that the rate of exonerations across the country is now averaging more than one a month, reported the Chronicle.

Seven of the 261 national exonerations came from Harris County, Garrett told the Chronicle.

Lawyers for Green believe the evidence against Green may include an eyewitness, a partial palm print and snitches. Green could face the death penalty. He is alleged to be the gunman in a 2008 robbery and slaying in southwest Houston, reported the Chronicle.

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