For the first time in the state’s history, Texas will examine whether its troublesome habit of executing innocent people means the death penalty should be ruled unconstitutional. At a hearing scheduled for this coming Monday, lawyers for John Edward Green Jr., a man accused of fatally shooting a Houston woman in a 2008 robbery, plan to draw attention to aspects of the Texas legal system that increase the risk of wrongful convictions. The lawyers intend to prove that there has been “a lack of safeguards to protect against mistaken eyewitness identification, faulty forensic evidence, incompetent lawyers at the appellate level, failures to guard against false confessions, and a history of racial discrimination in jury selection” — you know, just a few niggling impartialities baked into the system that determines the fate of a man’s life.
It’s unsurprising that a challenge to the constitutionality of the death penalty would come from a defense team whose client is trying to avoid it. And there’s strong public support in Texas behind capital punishment. But based on the evidence that will be presented, a recent case in which the piece of hair used to convict and execute Claude Jones was proven to belong to the victim, and four commissions set up by the state government that acknowledged the risk of wrongful convictions, opponents predict that the judge, Kevin Fine, will rule the death penalty, in which 70 percent of the 464 people executed have been minorities, unconstitutional. Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, told the Huffington Post, “We’re seeing in case after case that the system is just inherently prone to the risk of wrongful convictions and has a complete inability to correct its mistakes.”