News & Developments — Texas Overturns Death Sentence of Charles Brownlow

On February 12, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the death sentence imposed on Charles Brownlow, Jr. in Kaufman County in April 2016. The appeals court ruled that Brownlow’s jury had been prevented from properly evaluating his claim of intellectual disability.

Brownlow had attempted to present evidence that he was ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability. However, the trial judge instructed the jury that it was to evaluate his intellectual disability claim using a state-law standard that the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently struck down as unconstitutional. The trial court also required the expert witnesses in their case to tailor their testimony to that standard.

The appeals court concluded “that [Brownlow] was harmed by the pervasive influence of the [unconstitutional] standard at his trial and, thus, he is entitled to a new punishment hearing.”