After spending 20 years on death row, inmates Roy Gene Smith and David Lewis had their death sentences thrown out by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on April 28. The state’s highest criminal court ruled that jurors who convicted Smith were erroneously kept from hearing testimony about his upbringing in a crime-ridden Houston neighborhood. The court also determined that Lewis should have been able to present evidence of his damaged eyesight and that he began using drugs and alcohol with his abusive mother at the age of 13. The decisions were in keeping with rulings made by the U.S. Supreme Court since the defendants’ trials regarding Texas’s mishandling of death penalty cases. Smith and Lewis may face re-trials in Harris County and Angelina County, respectively.

Texas leads the country in executions with 454, including almost half of the executions carried out in 2009-10.

(M. Graczyk, “Two condemned Texas killers win new punishment trial,” Associated Press, April 28, 2010). See also Arbitrariness. Read U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding the death penalty.