Texas Justice: The End of Hang ‘Em High?

The State of Texas executes more criminals than any other state in the union. Since 1819 Texas has executed 1215 offenders, all male, with the exception of six females. As of 1982 the mode of execution is by lethal injection. Prior to 1982 Texas used other methods including hanging, until 1924, electrocution until 1964 and by firing squad, during America’s civil war.

However, a legal challenge set to be heard on December 6, 2010 may signal the end of capital punishment in Texas. The applicant will be arguing that capital punishment is unconstitutional based on the number of men in Texas who have been put to death and later found to be innocent, usually on the basis of DNA evidence.

The test case is Texas v. Green, where John Edward Green Jr. shot a 34 year-old woman in the course of a robbery in Houston. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in Green’s case, which has attracted the attention of famed lawyer Barry Scheck from the New York Innocence Project. Other arguments expected to be made will include the lack of safeguards in respect of false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, incompetent lawyers, the increased rate of wrongful convictions in Texas and the overwhelming number of African- Americans who are on death row.

The timing of this case could not be better since just last week lawyers for executed murderer Claude Jones learned that a strand of hair that was the only link between him and a liquor store robbery and murder in 1989, was not his hair as alleged by experts in Court, but the hair of the victim. A co-accused who had testified against Mr. Jones also recanted, but it was too late.

Mr. Jones was executed in December 2000. He maintained his innocence right to the end. His application for a stay of the death penalty was refused by then Governor Bush, who was not informed by his lawyers that DNA testing of the critical evidence had not been performed and was being sought. Several weeks earlier Governor Bush had stayed an execution to permit DNA testing to be done.

There have been 139 men in the United States freed from death row on the basis of new evidence. Twelve of those inmates were convicted in Texas. These numbers ought to shock right-thinking Americans. I applaud the lawyers who spend years assisting innocent death row inmates through Innocence Projects throughout the United States.

As one death row inmate said “Capital punishment. Those who have no capital, get the punishment.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

6 thoughts on “Texas Justice: The End of Hang ‘Em High?

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