At a hearing next Monday, a district court in Texas will decide whether the death penalty is unconstitutional in the state based on the disproportionately high risk of wrongful convictions in Texas–the first time in the state’s history that a court will examine the problem of innocent people being executed in a capital trial there, reports the Huffington Post. The defendant, John Edward Green Jr., is charged in the 2008 robbery-slaying of a Houston woman. Green’s attorneys will argue that a number of factors in Texas’s legal system increase the risk of wrongful executions there, including 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.
The death penalty in Texas came under fire earlier this month when a DNA test conducted on a single hair undermined the evidence that convicted a Texas man of capital murder over ten years ago. The hair had been the only piece of evidence linking Claude Jones to the crime scene, but the new test results revealed that the hair likely belonged to the murder victim instead of Jones. Maurie Levin, a law professor at the University of Texas and an expert on capital punishment, said she would not be surprised if Judge Kevin Fine ruled the death penalty to be unconstitutional in Texas on Monday. Since 1976, 12 people have been exonerated from death row in Texas (out of 139 nationwide), and four Texas commissions have recognized the risks of wrongful convictions there.