Texas court halts death penalty hearing

DALLAS (BestGrowthStock) – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted a hearing on Tuesday into the legality of the death penalty in America’s leading capital punishment state, attorneys for the defendant in the case said.

John Green, 25, is awaiting trial after being charged with murdering a woman during a robbery in Houston in 2008. He says he is innocent.

His lawyers have challenged the constitutionality of Texas’ death penalty, claiming that there is a high probability of wrongful convictions and executions under current trial rules. The hearing before a Houston judge began on Monday and was to have lasted two weeks.

In a statement, Green’s lawyers said the Appeals court had “stayed the hearing in Texas vs. Green until briefs can be filed and the matter can be considered by the entire court.” Court officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Houston Chronicle reported on its web site that all parties had 15 days to respond and file briefs.

While some legal analysts have said the hearing into the legality of the death penalty will apply only to Green’s case, it could render a high-profile judgment that influences the national debate on capital punishment.

The hearing is based on Texas rules that allow defendants to challenge the legality of potential punishments even before trial begins.

The state has executed 464 inmates over the last three decades — far more than any other U.S. state. But death penalty opponents cite two prominent Texas cases in which significant evidence has come to light years after inmates’ sentences were carried out.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard, editing by Greg McCune

Texas court halts death penalty hearing