Texas CCA Ends Judge Fine Hearing on Death Penalty

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled today that Judge Fine does not have the authority to conduct a court hearing on the constitutionality of the death penalty in the state and put an end to the legal proceeding that was raised as part of John Edward Green Jr’s Capital murder trial.

John Edward Green Jr., charged with robbing and killing a Houston woman in 2008, had challenged the Texas death penalty law because “its application has created a substantial risk that innocent people have been, and will be, convicted and executed.”

The Texas CCA ruled 6-2 that Fine exceeded his authority and ordered him to dismiss Green’s challenge. Texas law does not allow judges to hold pretrial hearings on the constitutionality of a law, said the opinion by Judge Cathy Cochran.

In addition, until the death penalty statute is applied against Green, he does not have legal standing to challenge the law, the court ruled.

Last spring Fine initially declared the Texas death penalty statute unconstitutional during  the hearing held as part of Green’s capital murder case in his court. Under heavy criticism, Fine clarified, then rescinded his ruling and ordered the hearing, saying he needed to hear evidence on the issue.

The hearing, which was set to last up to two weeks, began last month but prosecutors won a temporary stay from an appeals court.

More media coverage:

KPRC: http://www.click2houston.com/news/26466410/detail.html

Austin American Statesman:  http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/courts/entries/2011/01/12/houston_death_penalty_challeng.html?cxntfid=blogs_austin_legal

Houston Chronicle:  http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/top/all/7378143.html

The opinion in Lykos v. Fine:  http://cca.courts.state.tx.us/OPINIONS/PDFOPINIONINFO2.ASP?OPINIONID=20520&FILENAME=AP-76,470&76,471.PDF