Halt in Death Penalty Hearing

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.

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