At press time, Texas was set to execute Jesse Hernandez, sentenced to die for the 2001 murder of an 11-month-old boy in Dallas. Hernandez would be the 480th inmate executed by the state since reinstatement of the death penalty. The Court of Criminal Appeals last week rejected a bid to stay the execution; at issue is whether Hernandez's lawyers provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to investigate the final cause of death for the child. Hernandez struck the child in the head with a flashlight, but a recent review of medical records, requested by Brad Levenson, director of the state's Office of Capital Writs, revealed that the child might have lived had the hospital where he was being treated not taken him off life support and administered a fatal dose of barbiturate. If that's the case, Hernandez would still be on the hook for the child's injury but would not be eligible for the death penalty. The ineffective assistance claim was not previously raised, but a ruling last week from the U.S. Supreme Court gave the case new life in ruling that a failure to raise such a claim on initial appeal does not preclude a later appellate review. Levenson has filed with the Supremes asking them to stay the execution.
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