Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Breaking: Tx Ct Crim App Orders New Judge to Reinstate Death Warrant; UPDATE: Execution Ran Out of Time
Update at 10:03 pm -- The prior petition for writ of mandamus was denied, but a new one by Texas prosecutors aimed at the new (transferred-to) Judge just got granted. The Court of Criminal Appeals ordered mandamus to the new Judge below. Download cca20order2008202006.17.2008.pdf This means the death warrant is directed to be reinstated immediately.
Update at 10:27 -- The Austin American-Statesman reports:
The Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered a North Texas judge to reinstate the death warrant for Charles Dean Hood. The warrant had been recalled earlier in the day. Prosecutors in Collin County successfully asked the state’s highest court to order the region’s presiding judge to reinstate the case. Hood could be executed this evening if the order is reinstated by midnight, when the warrant expires.
Later, from the Statesman:
UPDATE, 11:10 p.m.: A North Texas judge has reinstated the death warrant ordering the execution of Charles Dean Hood, said his lawyers. Hood remains in a cell adjacent to the Texas death chamber in Huntsville as prison officials await word on his final appeals.
Update 11:18 -- from Hood's lawyers: The presiding judge signed the warrant, the governor denied reprieve, and "just denied in SCOTUS."
Final update 12:02 am -- Hood's lawyers report that the execution was stopped. They wrote at 11:56: "We just learned from a reporter who is at the prison that the execution has been stopped because prison officials said they ran out of time."
Even if you're a death penalty supporter you can't think it's a good thing for Texas' highest criminal court to rubber stamp executions with such obvious problems in the case, especially when there's a conflict of interest that might implicate them personally. You just don't use a legal technicality to avoid examining possible wrongdoing by your friend, not when somebody's life is literally hanging in the balance.
All of the recent SCOTUS-created restrictions on the death penalty - for juveniles, for the mentally retarded, in cases where black jurors were eliminated because of race - were established because of routine abuses, both real and perceived, allowed in Texas courts by the CCA. In each instance, SCOTUS found Texas' judicial practices so egregious it eliminated the death penalty or ordered new trials for large classes of defendants. I've often thought that if SCOTUS ever does wind up abolishing the death penalty entirely down the line, it might well be because Texas does the most executions and our courts aren't giving these cases enough scrutiny.