Saturday 04 December 2010
Signs from a rally against the death penalty in
John Edward Green, Jr., the defendant in Texas v. Green, is charged in the fatal shooting of a 34-year-old
Green's attorneys have filed a pretrial motion in Harris County District Court. Judge Kevin Fine will hear arguments that the death penalty is unconstitutional because it creates an unacceptable risk of executing innocent people
Green's attorneys contend that a number of factors in
According to the defence, these include a lack of safeguards to protect against mistaken eyewitness identification, faulty forensic evidence, incompetent lawyers at the appellate level, failures to guard against false confessions, and a history of racial discrimination in jury selection.
Paul Cates, director of communications for the Innocence Project, told IPS, "The Innocence Project will be participating in the hearing specifically to put on evidence about the cases of Claude Jones and Cameron Todd Willingham. Both Jones and Willingham were executed in
He said, "In the case of Claude Jones, DNA evidence has proven that critical physical evidence (a hair sample) used to place him at the scene of the crime did not belong to Jones. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed even though a prominent arson scientist notified the Governor and the appeals court prior to his execution that the critical testimony of the arson investigator was based on outdated arson science."
Both Ernest Ray Willis and Cameron Todd Willingham were convicted of murder by arson and sentenced to death on the basis of junk fire science. Mr. Willingham is dead and Mr. Willis is alive -- and free -- because a pro bono law firm took his case.
The Innocence Project has been responsible for freeing numerous prisoners from death row, largely through its use of DNA evidence.
Maurie Levin, a law professor at the University of Texas and an expert on capital punishment, said she would not be surprised if Judge Kevin Fine ruled the death penalty to be unconstitutional in
"I would think that Judge Fine would have substantial basis in the evidence that I'm aware of that would lead to a conclusion that the Texas death penalty is unconstitutional as applied," she told the Huffington Post.
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, writing in the
Since 1976, 12 people have been exonerated from death row in Texas out of 139 nationwide, and four study commissions set up by the Texas government have formally recognised the serious risks of wrongful convictions there.
Out of the 464 people executed in
The defence motion focuses on the factors they say increase the risk of wrongful convictions and executions in Texas, including
At next week's hearing, expert witnesses will testify about "the numerous flaws that leave
They add that the clemency process fails in its role as the last safeguard against executing the innocent. Claude Jones was executed in 2000 based on false evidence. During the clemency review, then-Governor Bush was not informed that Jones had requested DNA testing that might have exonerated him.
Ten years after Jones's execution, a DNA test showed that the hair sample at the crime scene was not his.
Four study commissions set up by the three branches of Texas government have formally recognised the serious risks of wrongful convictions, but virtually nothing has been done to fix the problem.
Nationwide, since 1976, 139 people have been exonerated from death row. Twelve of them were in
States executing the most prisoners since 1976 were
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs