US SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS THREE TEXAS DEATH SENTENCES
May 26, 2007: the United States Supreme Court overturned the death sentences of three Texas inmates in separate 5-4 rulings today. In all three cases, the juries had been prevented by the Texas statute (since changed) from fully considering the mitigating evidence presented by the defendants, evidence such as their low IQ or other mental deficiencies. In Smith v. Texas (No. 05-11304), the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had reconsidered Smith's death sentence after the case had been previously reviewed and sent back by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Texas court held that any error on the mitigation issue was harmless and therefore did not require a reversal. The Supreme Court rejected that analysis and remanded the case for a new sentencing hearing.
In Abdul-Kabir v. Quarterman (No. 05-11284) and Brewer v. Quarterman (No. 05-11287), the trial juries had likewise been prevented from fully considering the defendants' mitigating evidence. Their death sentences were affirmed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and by lower federal courts on habeas corpus review. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, holding that it had not properly applied the holdings of prior cases in which the High Court made it clear that "sentencing juries must be able to give meaningful consideration and effect to all mitigating evidence that might provide a basis for refusing to impose the death penalty on a particular individual, notwithstanding the severity of his crime or his potential to commit similar offenses in the future." (Abdul-Kabir). The Justices for the majority and in dissent in all three cases were the same. There are 47 remaining Texas death row inmates who were sentenced under the same flawed statute, which was amended in 1991.
Those removed from death row are:
LaRoyce Smith, then 19, now 36. he was convicted in 1991 in Dallas County for the 1991 robbery/ shooting, stabbing of Jennifer Soto, 19 at a fast-food restaurant.
Brent Ray Brewer, then 21, now 36. he was convicted in 1991 in Randall County for the 1990 robbery/ stabbing death of Robert Doyle Laminack, 66, after he gave him a ride.
Jalil Abdul-Kabir, formerly known as Ted Calvin Cole, then 31, now 50. he was convicted in 1988, in Tom Green County after he confessed to the 1987 strangulation death of Raymond Carl Richardson. (Sources: Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, 26/04/2007)