Judge clarifies death penalty ruling

March 5, 2010 4:18:38 PM PST
It's not something a judge does every day, but Judge Kevin Fine was clear in defending and explaining his own ruling. "That is, we execute innocent people," he said Friday.

The remark was in response to his historic ruling Thursday which granted a standard defense pre-trial motion to declare the death penalty unconstitutional. Judge Fine, in a 15-minute speech, posed this rhetorical question.

"Whether we as a society, knowing that we execute innocent persons, desire to continue to ignore that reality," he said.

However, the Harris County district attorney says there is another reality to consider

"I see this as unnecessarily delaying justice," said Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos.

Prosecutors have already filed their own motions, asking the judge to reconsider. Regardless of the outcome, the Harris County DA's office says Judge Fine's ruling will not cause judicial upheaval.

"It is our considered opinion it will have no impact on any of the cases currently pending in courts other than the 177th district court of Harris County," said Lykos.

The capital murder case involved defendant John Green, accused of shooting two sisters. One of them died. The crime happened in front of the victim's two children. The defense believes Judge Fine's ruling will have historic consequences.

"I think this is the first step in what I think is the beginning of the end of the death penalty in the state of Texas," said defense attorney Casey Keirnan.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released the following statement on the judge's ruling:

    "In an act of unabashed judicial activism, a state district judge ignored longstanding U.S. Supreme Court precedent and improperly granted John Edward Green's request that the court declare the death penalty unconstitutional. The Attorney General's Office has already offered to provide help and legal resources to the Harris County District Attorney's Office--which is handling the Green prosecution--and will take appropriate measures to defend Texas' capital punishment law. We regret that the court's legally baseless order unnecessarily delays justice and closure for the victim's family--including her two children, who witnessed their mother's brutal murder."

In the meantime, the Harris County DA has filed a motion with the appellate court to overturn Judge Fine's ruling. It's also filed two motions for the judge to reconsider.


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