blogadmin | 06 March, 2010 11:43
The throngs visiting the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are missing the best show in town. If I were them, I'd consider hopping on the MetroRail and heading for the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, where Judge Kevin Fine is causing a bigger ruckus than the Xtreme Bulls competition.
The jurist was in a spotlight brighter than Kenny Chesney's Thursday after ruling favorably on a motion in a low-profile murder trial. Why all the fuss? Fine's ruling made the death penalty illegal in the jurisdiction of his 177th District Criminal Court.
Beneath the robes: Judge Kevin Fine
I'm sorry I missed Fine's special session the following day in which he explained his ruling. The next best thing is the raw footage of his 12-minute statement, at http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/video?id=7314442.
“Based on the moratorium in Illinois, the Innocence Project and more than 200 people being exonerated nationwide, it can only be concluded that innocent people have been executed,” Fine said. “It's safe to assume we execute innocent people.”
Fine agreed with defense attorneys for Edward Green Jr. that the Texas law governing instructions to a jury violates the Eighth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibit cruel and unusual punishment and guarantee due process.
His decision came under fire for flauting existing case law, but he pushed back, saying, "There is no precedent to guide me in resolving this particular issue."
Fine praised the integrity of Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, whose office is seeking the death penalty in Green's case. The basis for his ruling, he said, is his role as a trial judge to be a gatekeeper for society's evolving standards of decency and fairness.
The next time to be on the 19th floor of the Criminal Justice Center where Fine presides may be on Wednesday, when he is expected to rule on prosecutors' motions that he reconsider his ruling.
Meanwhile, I'm sending him a mash note:
Dear Judge Fine:
As of today, I’m proud to be a Houstonian. Thanks to you, I can point to incontrovertible evidence that at least one jurist in my city has moral courage and the intellectual wherewithal to use it wisely on the bench.
Anyone who thinks Gregg v. Georgia has corrected the random and capricious application of capital punishment in the U.S. ignores the shameful, overwhelming evidence that race and class remain the only valid predictors of who we condemn for murder.
Thank you for being brave enough to point out the emperor’s lack of attire. I’ll be following the aftermath avidly.
Elizabeth Ann Stein
Senior Producer, Execution Watch
P.S. With the Rodeo in full swing at the time of your ruling, I’m reminded of something Mark Twain said: “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
Elizabeth Ann Stein produces EXECUTION WATCH on KPFT FM Houston 90.1, HD-2 and www.executionwatch.org. The program, hosted by Ray Hill, airs at 6 p.m. Central Time any day Texas executes someone. It is designed to counteract the virtual news blackout in the mainstream media when prisoners are executed. She has worked as a political reporter for United Press International, police reporter at a daily newspaper, and an editor for PC Week.