Any sentence associated with a criminal conviction is a serious issue for an accused. Crimes involving misdemeanors or felonies can mean jail time and fines. Yet, in Texas where the death penalty is alive and well, punishments can be much worse. Certain criminal convictions, specifically murder, might mean that the defendant ends up on death row.

This is exactly what happened to a 33-year-old Texas man when he was sentenced to death by lethal injection 14 years ago. However, a recent court ruling, based on an argument involving proper criminal defense, may save his life.

On Oct. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the scheduled Texas execution of the 33-year-old man. The court issued its opinion approximately two and a half hours before the lethal injection was to occur. The order only requires the execution be stopped so that the justices can decide whether to review the case. If they do review the case, they could completely overturn lower court rulings, releasing the man from the heavy sentence, or they could confirm the rulings of Texas courts. If they decide not to review the case, than the reprieve would be lifted and the man’s execution would resume.

The man was convicted for the murder of a Houston Police Sargent. The officer was shot in the head after he stopped and exited his vehicle in response to an object thrown at his windshield.

The defendant’s current attorney has argued that his legal representation in district court was inadequate. Specifically, it was indicated that the lawyer in the original trial failed to provide proper evidence of the man’s good character to the jury.

It was further stated that prosecutors at the original trial unfairly portrayed the man as an out-of-control and angry individual. Under Texas and Federal law, all individuals are entitled to acceptable representation at trial. If the Court reviews the case, it may find that without proper representation, the man was unfairly tried and his constitutional rights were violated.

Proper representation in any criminal case is vital because of the consequences at stake. Any type of crime can create massive life interruptions, substantial monetary loss and long-term damage to reputation.

Source: Amarillo Globe News, “High court stops execution of Houston cop killer,” Oct.18, 2012