Halt in Death Penalty Hearing

Now that the hearing on the constitutionality of the Texas death penalty has been stopped, attorneys on both sides of the issue have 15-days to beef up their stated positions. One expert thinks the court room might not the place to decide the fate of the controversial issue. Pat Hernandez has more.

The state's highest criminal court halted the hearing in a Harris County courtroom that challenged the constitutionality of capital punishment in Texas. The Harris County District Attorney's office had argued that state District Judge Kevin Fine was exceeding his authority to hold such a hearing. He's presiding over the capital murder trial of John Edward Green.

Prosecutors contend the constitutional question has already been settled by case law. Gloria Rubac with the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement was not happy with the stay in the hearing.

"The evidence that's been presented the last two days about how people can be wrongly convicted in Texas and in Harris County are all issues that apply in Mr. Green's case."

Professor Gerald Treece teaches constitutional law at the South Texas College of Law. He says he was surprised that the procedure was taking place, and that Judge Fine was presiding over an issue that was relevant to a murder trial that had not yet started.

"I guess I was less surprised that you have a court intervening, like a judicial time out. No one questions the ability to do this at some place and some time. The only question is where's the place and what is the time."

Treece says if Green is found guilty and sent to death row, his attorneys could better challenge capital punishment through a direct appeal or something called habeas, or a collateral legal attack.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...