Texas leads the nation in carrying out the death penalty. For that reason, the death penalty in Texas is facing serious scrutiny. During its 2016-17 term alone, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in 6 Texas death penalty cases. The Court also made clear its displeasure with the manner in which the Texas death penalty is carried out in a couple of strongly worded opinions. Therefore, it is now more important than ever for lawyers to understand the death penalty process in Texas.
This course, presented by Professor Kenneth Williams, a Professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, will provide an overview of the death penalty in Texas. It will include the type of cases that are eligible for the death penalty and the counties where the death penalty is most aggressively sought. The litigation of death penalty cases is very complex. Williams will explain that process, which starts when an individual is arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. After being sentenced to death, the defendant begins a long journey through the state and federal courts. This journey through the state and federal courts will be explained in detail along with the common complex legal obstacles that defendants sentenced to death must overcome in order to obtain relief, including procedural default, exhaustion, and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Finally, the course will explore some of the recurring problems with the administration of the death penalty in Texas including race, ineffective assistance of counsel, mental health, wrongful convictions, and the growing international opposition to capital punishment.
Professor Kenneth Williams is a Professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, where he teaches criminal law and procedure, evidence, capital punishment, international human rights and international criminal law. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Professor Williams is also a national expert on Capital Punishment. He is the author of a recently published book on the death penalty, “Most Deserving of Death?” and has also authored numerous law review articles. Professor Williams was selected as a Fulbright Specialist and during the summer of 2013, he taught a course on the American Legal System at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil. Professor Williams has also taught in summer abroad programs in Argentina, Chile, and Canada and has been invited to participate in lectures abroad. Professor Williams has represented several death row inmates during their federal habeas corpus proceedings. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari that Professor Williams prepared on behalf of his client, Raymond Martinez. He has also been successful before both the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in obtaining relief for inmates who were sentenced to death in violation of their constitutional rights. Professor Williams has made numerous media appearances discussing issues related to criminal law and capital punishment. He has been quoted in the New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Charlotte Observer, Beaumont Enterprise, Texas Tribune and has appeared on FOX 26, KTRK-TV and KUHF-TV and numerous radio shows including National Public Radio.
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