Texas Judge Rules State Death Penalty Unconstitutional







On December 19, Dallas District Court Judge Teresa Hawthorne held that Texas’s death penalty was unconstitutional because it could lead to death sentences that were arbitrarily sought and obtained.  In ruling in favor of a defense motion, Judge Hawthorne acknowledged that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and other courts have upheld the statute, but judges still have the obligation to review the law based on its current practice.  The judge found parts of Texas’s statute regarding findings of future dangerousness and the definition of mitigating evidence to be vague or misleading.  The prosecution has filed a motion to recuse Judge Hawthorne from the case.  In 2010, another Texas judge, Kevin Fine of Harris County, found the same statute unconstitutional because it posed too great a risk of resulting in the execution of an innocent person. Judge Fine withdrew his ruling and began hearings on the issue until ordered to stop by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.





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