Sunday, April 15, 2007
Risk of innocent Texan executed "profoundly troubling" to 5th Circuit judge
Texas' death penalty is fast becoming the central focus of the national debate over capital punishment, both in the media and at the US Supreme Court - the poster child for a practice that's declining in most other states and nations. The American Constitution Society blog has a good preview of three Texas capital cases awaiting review by the US Supreme Court, authored by Ana Otero of Texas Southern University law school. Her article quoted 5th Circuit Judge Carolyn Dineen King who finds "profoundly troubling"
the risk that an innocent man will be executed. I must say that from my experience with capital cases, there is usually a great deal of evidence that the defendant is, in fact, guilty. But the lengthy investigation of the Houston crime lab, which exposed evidence of serious problems such as falsified test results, including DNA test results, and the tailoring of report to fit police theories certainly suggests that even scientific evidence, to which we normally attach considerable confidence, can be flawed. Only God’s justice is perfect justice. The assessment of the death penalty, however well designed the system for doing so, remains a human endeavor with a consequent risk of error that may not be remediable.” (South Texas Catholic News, Oct. 20, 2006)
That's awfully strong stuff from a federal circuit court judge whose jurisdiction includes the Lone Star State. Those interested should see an additional preview of one of the cases from the American Bar Journal. Meanwhile, Doc Berman points to coverage of the death penalty today in the Dallas Morning News, including a call by the editorial board for abolishing capital punishment in Texas. The News article was particularly informative, and included this chart showing that Texas has accounted for a whopping 40% of executions nationwide over the last 10 years.