Thursday, February 5, 2009

Does Innocence Matter on Texas’ Death Row?

A column by Lisa Falkenberg in today’s Houston Chronicle digs into the case of Texas death row inmate Larry Swearingen – who is seeking DNA testing that could prove his innocence or guilt – and asks if Texas has an official position on the execution of innocent people.

Falkenberg writes that in her search for an answer, she read the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Herrera v. Collins, and was "appalled.”

The State of Texas argued before the nation’s highest court that it was OK to execute an innocent person, as long as he got a fair trial. 

The most chilling exchange came when a justice asked the assistant attorney general arguing for Texas, Margaret Griffey, whether the state would maintain that same position if video evidence conclusively proved the person didn’t commit the crime. The justice wanted to know: Is there a violation of that person’s constitutional rights if he were executed anyway because no court would hear the video evidence?

“No, Your Honor, there is not,” Griffey replied.

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