Judge Rescinds Death Penalty Ruling

A Houston judge who ruled the death penalty is unconstitutional has rescinded that ruling. His decision allows attorneys on both sides of a death penalty case to present briefings on the validity of capital punishment. Laurie Johnson reports.


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Last Thursday, State District Judge Kevin Fine sent shockwaves through the legal community when he ruled the death penalty is unconstitutional because innocent people could be executed.

He rescinded that ruling, after outcries from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Attorney General and Governor Rick Perry.

Professor Geoffrey Corn with South Texas College of Law says it seems fairly clear the ruling would have been reversed
on appeal.

“And the way the authorities, the government authorities, lined up to indicate they would fight the ruling maybe gave him some pause. Maybe he thought he had made his point, which is to raise the visibility of the question of the constitutionality of the death penalty, but realizes that ultimately it’s kind of futile.”

Corn says if the judge was trying to make a point about the death penalty, his ruling and subsequent abeyance of the
decision could actually work against him.

“The fact that he has reversed his initial ruling adds credibility to proponents of the death penalty who can now argue that he saw the wisdom of the law and realized he had made a mistake. But certainly any time that a judicial officer calls into question the propriety of law, it has got to have some effect on the public discourse and the public consciousness of the issue.”

Judge Fine rescinded his ruling until after April 12th, when he’ll receive briefs from prosecutors and defense attorneys
in a Harris County death penalty murder trial.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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