Archive | 2012

18 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

Year-end report from DPIC shows “capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country”

Today, December 18, 2012, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) released its year-end report, The Death Penalty in 2012.  According to the report, the number of new death sentences in 2012 was the second lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.  Several states, including North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina, did not impose any new death sentences this year.

For the second year in a row, 43 executions took place in the United States – just four states (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona) accounted for more than 75% of executions in 2012.

The report notes that for the eighth consecutive year, Texas executed more inmates than it sentenced to death, “foreshadowing a decline in executions in the future.”   Texas carried out 15 executions this year; nine individuals were sentenced to death.

Read the press release from DPIC.

Read the full report.

Read coverage by CNN, which also features a video clip of  Joel Osteen, Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, discussing his views on the death penalty.

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12 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

TCADP Report: Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, Executive Director
512-441-1808 (office); 512-552-5948 (cell)
khoule@tcadp.org

Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas,
According to New Report by TCADP

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex led state in pursuit of the death penalty in 2012

(Austin, Texas) — More than half of all new death sentences were imposed in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this year, while no new death sentences were imposed in Harris County for the third time in five years, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s (TCADP) new report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review.

New death sentences in Texas have declined more than 75% since 2002 and remain near historic low levels in 2012.  To date this year, juries have condemned nine new individuals to death in Texas, a slight increase over 2011 and 2010, when new death sentences fell to their lowest number since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas’ revised death penalty statute in 1976.  The verdict in a capital murder trial in Brazos County, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, has been delayed indefinitely pending a legal dispute over jury instructions.

Tarrant and Dallas Counties each accounted for two new death sentences and Johnson County accounted for one.  Dallas County now leads the state in new death sentences since 2008, accounting for nearly 20% of sentences imposed in the last five years.  Dallas County also led the state in executions, accounting for 5 of the 15 executions carried out this year.

“While most of Texas is moving away from the death penalty, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was a major outlier both in new death sentences and executions this year,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  “2012 exemplified the arbitrariness that pervades the death penalty system in Texas.  Not only does it remain geographically isolated to just a few jurisdictions statewide, but it continues to be applied in a haphazard and unfair way, particularly when it comes to individuals with intellectual disabilities or severe mental illness and people of color.”

Seven of the new death row inmates in 2012 are African-American, one is Hispanic, and one is a white female.  Over the last five years, nearly 75% of death sentences in Texas have been imposed on people of color – 46% African-American and 28% Hispanic.  In Dallas County, this pattern is even more pronounced – of the eight men sentenced to death there since 2008, five are African-American and two are Hispanic.

Of the 15 men executed in Texas this year, seven were African-American, four were Hispanic, and four were white.

“Although Texas is using the death penalty less, the state still uses it disproportionately on people of color,” said Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service.  “This is a recurring problem and Texas’ failure to fix it demonstrates how broken its capital punishment system is.”

Troubling questions also persist regarding the arbitrary determination of who receives the ultimate punishment.  Cases involving individuals with comparable backgrounds or who presented similar legal arguments received vastly different treatment by the criminal justice system this year.

As one example of this arbitrariness, several death row inmates with diagnosed severe mental illnesses were scheduled for execution this year.  The executions of Steven Staley and Marcus Druery were halted pending unresolved issues related to their mental competency, while the execution of Jonathan Green, who reportedly suffered from schizophrenia, proceeded on October 10, 2012 after significant legal wrangling.

This disparate treatment was also evident in terms of issues related to intellectual disabilities.

Two inmates with recognized intellectual disabilities received reduced sentences and were removed from death row this year: Roosevelt Smith, convicted in 2007, and Anthony Pierce, who spent more than three decades on death row.  On the other hand, Marvin Wilson was executed on August 7, 2012 despite being diagnosed with an IQ of 61, well below the threshold of 70 for mental impairment.  His case created an international uproar and starkly illustrated the woefully inadequate and unscientific standards used by the State of Texas to determine which defendants with intellectual disabilities are protected from execution.

Other highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review:

  • The State of Texas accounted for more than a third of U.S. executions this year, a smaller percentage than in the past but nearly three times as many as any other state.  Texas has executed a total of 492 people since 1982 – 253 executions have occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001 – present), more than any other governor in U.S. history.
  • Six inmates scheduled for execution in 2012 received reprieves.  In addition, three execution dates were withdrawn.
  • Death-qualified juries rejected the death penalty in the sentencing phase in four trials this year and instead opted for life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In all four cases, the jury determined that the defendant did not pose a future danger.  Over the last five years, death-qualified juries have rejected the death penalty in at least 20 capital murder trials.
  • According to research by TCADP, the Texas death row population stands at its lowest level since 1989.  As of November 16, 2012, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice counted 289 death row inmates, which includes 10 women.

“Attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting as public confidence in the ultimate punishment continues to erode,” said Houlé.  “As we approach the start of the 83rd Texas Legislature, TCADP urges concerned citizens and elected officials to confront the realities of this irreversible punishment and reconsider the efficacy and cost of the death penalty as a means of achieving justice.”

TCADP is a statewide, grassroots advocacy organization based in Austin.

Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review is available online at www.tcadp.org/TexasDeathPenaltyDevelopments2012.pdf.  Contact report author Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org to receive a copy directly via email.  See the report for tables illustrating Texas’ highest-use counties from 2008-2012, the race of defendants sentenced to death in the last five years, and additional graphs depicting recent trends.

See http://tcadp.org/2008-2012-new-death-sentences/ for a map of new death sentences by county from 2008 to 2012.

See http://tcadp.org/1976-2012-county-map/ for a map of death sentences by county from 1976 to 2012.

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07 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

Thirty Years Ago Today…

Thirty years ago today, December 7, 1982, the State of Texas officially resumed executions, putting Charlie Brooks to death for the 1976 murder of David Gregory.  That was also the nation’s first execution by lethal injection, a new method concocted by a legislator and former chief medical examiner in Oklahoma.

Reverend Carroll Pickett, who served as the chaplain at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, spent all day with Charlie Brooks and stood at the foot of the gurney as he was executed.  In his memoir, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, he writes about the immediate aftermath of the execution:  “All that remained was an air of stunned silence – testimony to the fact that none of those who had witnessed penal history being made had really been prepared for what they had seen.”

Since 1982, the State of Texas has executed 492 people; 253 of these executions have occurred during the administration of Governor Rick Perry, more than any other governor in U.S. history.  This year, the State of Texas carried out 15 executions, a slight increase over last year and nearly three times as many as any other state in the country.

Yet Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is moving away from the death penalty.  New death sentences remain near record-low levels, and death-qualified juries have rejected this punishment in at least 18 trials in the past five years.

Use of the death penalty has been relegated to just a few jurisdictions statewide; in fact, only 11 counties in the entire state of Texas imposed new death sentences in the last two years.  These trends and other developments in 2012 appear in TCADP’s year-end report, scheduled to be released next week.

With your support, TCADP is educating Texans about the fatal flaws of our state’s death penalty system and equipping our members to serve as powerful citizen advocates for abolition.  Together, we are hastening the day that we mark the anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

Thank you for your support and steadfast commitment to this issue.

p.s. We had the pleasure of meeting Charlie’s son Keith in Dallas on Tuesday. Keith’s family is holding a memorial service today in Fort Worth for Charlie Brooks. The memorial will be held from 12 to 3:00 p.m. at the Riverside Community Center, 3700 Belknap Street, Fort Worth. The program will include lunch and reflections. Everyone is welcome.

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05 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

CCA Overturns Conviction of Cathy Lynn Henderson, Orders New Trial

Today the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the recommendation of Judge Jon Wisser that Cathy Lynn Henderson should receive a new trial based on evolving scientific understanding of infant head trauma.  Henderson was convicted and sentenced to death in Travis County for the 1994 murder of three-month-old Brandon Baugh.  While she was baby-sitting him, Brandon suffered from a head injury that prosecutors said was deliberately caused by Henderson but that she claimed was an accident.

According to the Austin American-Statesman (“Henderson granted new trial in baby’s 1994 death,” December 5, 2012), former medical examiner Roberto Bayardo “testified at Henderson’s trial that it was ‘impossible’ to attribute the boy’s extensive head injury to an accidental fall. Later, Bayardo said advancements in the understanding of pediatric head injuries indicate that relatively short falls onto a hard surface could produce injuries similar to those he discovered during Brandon’s 1994 autopsy.”

The Austin Chronicle reports that three judges disagreed with the appeal court’s finding (“Henderson Granted New Trial,” December 5, 2012):

Presiding Judge Sharon Keller and Judge Michael Keasler joined in Judge Barbara Hervey’s conclusion that just because science has changed and evolved – and thus, cast doubt on a conviction – that doesn’t mean that there is any “ground on which relief should be granted.”

The case now returns to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who must decide whether to retry Henderson – and more importantly, whether to again seek the death penalty.

Henderson is one of 10 women on death row in Texas.

Read more in the Austin Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman.  (Thanks to Steve Hall at StandDown Texas for providing these links.)

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03 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

December 2012 Alert: Announcing the 2013 Award Winners and Annual Conference Panelists, the Year-End Report, and More!

In This Edition:
Scheduled Executions
Announcements  – Including Conference Panelists!
Upcoming Events
In the News
Calendar

Executions

The State of Texas executed 15 people this year. Five executions already have been scheduled for 2013.

Announcements

TCADP Announces Annual Award Winners!

The TCADP Board of Directors is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2013 TCADP Annual Awards.  These individuals and organizations will be recognized at the TCADP 2013 Annual Conference – Changing the Conversation – on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.  Please make plans to join us in celebrating these extraordinary individuals and organizations!

AppreciationJC Dufresne, who played an instrumental role in the Texas Democratic Party’s decision to endorse abolition of the death penalty in its 2012 Platform.

Appreciation: Methodist Federation for Social Action-Southwest Texas Chapter, for their years of involvement and ongoing contributions to the abolition movement.

Media: Joe Bailey, Jr. and Steve Mims (pictured), Filmmakers of “Incendiary”, a documentary about the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 despite serious flaws in the forensic science used to convict him and doubts about his guilt.

Read more about the winners.

We invite individuals and organizations to place an ad in the conference program to promote your work and congratulate the award winners.  We also invite you to exhibit at the conference, or sponsor a table at the awards luncheon. Download  Exhibitor – Advertiser Form.

In addition to the annual awards luncheon, the conference will feature a plenary session on how instances of wrongful convictions and evidence of wrongful executions are changing the conversation on the death penalty. Confirmed panelists are:

  • Karen Boudrie, an award-winning journalist, news director, and public relations consultant who covered the trial of Carlos DeLuna in Corpus Christi in 1983 and was the last person to speak with him before his wrongful execution in 1989;
  • Anthony Graves, a motivational speaker and legal consultant who spent 12.5 years on death row before being exonerated in 2010; and
  • Professor James Liebman, Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law, and the lead author of Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution

 

Pre-register for the conference today and book your hotel by February 1!  Special rates are available for TCADP members and students.

Coming Soon: TCADP’s Year-End Report – Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012

What Texas County accounts for the most death sentences in the last five years? Who received stays of execution in 2012? What U.S. Supreme Court cases are impacting death row inmates in Texas? All of these questions will be addressed in TCADP’s forthcoming annual report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review. More details will be sent to you the week of December 10. Previous reports are available online.

Remember TCADP in Your Year-End Giving!

Check your mailboxes for TCADP’s year-end appeal, which includes reflections on another momentous year for our movement to end the death penalty. We are grateful for the contributions that so many of you have made already this year and ask for your additional support so that TCADP can continue to engage the citizens of Texas – and our elected officials – in the conversation about the death penalty. Save a stamp by making an end-of-the-year, tax-deductible donation today using our secure online system! Thank you for your support and generosity.

Complete a TCADP Member Survey Today!

Thank you so much for completing this survey for TCADP.  This information, which will be kept confidential, will help us better respond to the needs of our supporters and also utilize your gifts to further our mission of ending the death penalty.

The survey is online at  www.tcadp.org/member-survey/. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete. If you have any questions or comments, please be in touch with the TCADP office at 512-441-1808 or info@tcadp.org.

Upcoming Events

December 4: A  Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Dallas Faith Leaders
On Tuesday, December 4 at 7 PM at Paul Quinn College in South Dallas, Dallas area faith leaders will join together for an in-depth conversation about faith and the death penalty. Learn who is coming, RSVP today for your free tickets, and download a flier for sharing and posting!

Fundraiser for The Last 40 Miles

On December 12, 2012, a group of filmmakers in Austin will premiere the trailer for their animated short, The Last 40 Miles, which follows a Texas death row inmate on his final journey from death row in Livingston to the execution chamber in Huntsville. A fundraising event will take place at the Palm Door event center, 401 Sabine St., Austin, Texas at 7 PM. For more information, go to www.40milesmovie.com.

In the News

110 Nations Endorse Abolition

On November 19, 2012, a record 110 countries voted in support of a resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty during a committee meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. This was up from 107 votes in favor of the resolution two years ago, the last time the UN considered it. Among the 39 countries that voted in opposition to the non-binding resolution are the United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria, and Zimbabwe. Thirty-six countries abstained. Read more from the UN.

Calendar

December

1 Death Row Holiday Card Write-a-thon, SMU Dallas, 11:00-4:00, dallas@tcadp.org

4 “A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Dallas Faith Leaders” Paul Quinn College, Dallas, 7:00pm  RSVP for free tickets today!

6 TCADP Table at Dallas Peace Center Annual Peacemakers Dinner

7 30th Anniversary of the Resumption of Executions in Texas

10 International Human Rights Day

12 Release of TCADP’s Annual Report (scheduled)

17 El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7 PM, St Piux X Catholic Church, elpaso@tcadp.org

19 Dallas Religious Organizing committee 6:00pm, Chapter meeting 7:00pm, dallas@tcadp.org

January

8 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature Convenes at Noon

February

1 Last Day to Receive TCADP Annual Conference Registration Early Bird Rates; Last Day to Book Block Rate Hotel rooms for TCADP Annual Conference

 

For more information about these events or to volunteer to staff a table at an outreach event, email info@tcadp.org.

Support all of the programs and initiatives described here with a generous donation to TCADP today

TCADP is on Facebook – become a Fan today!  On Twitter, follow us!  And on LinkedIn – Join Us!

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30 November 2012 ~ Comments Off

TCADP announces 2012-2013 annual award winners!

Award recipients are chosen each year by the TCADP Board of Directors from nominations received by TCADP members.  The award winners will be celebrated at the 2013 TCADP Annual Conference on Saturday, Februrary 23 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

Media Award:

Steve Mims and Joe Bailey are the filmmakers of “Incendiary,” which focuses on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. The film exposes the political manipulation of the Texas Forensic Science Commission as it sought to determine whether flawed forensic science played a role in Willingham’s conviction and ultimate execution. TCADP has participated in a number of screenings of “Incendiary,” after which Steve and Joe participated in lively Q & A sessions with the audience. “Incendiary” provokes discussion about complex issues, including the role of science in the criminal justice system, the ability for poor people to get a fair trial and the pressure brought to bear on politicians not to be ‘soft on crime’. It also addresses the difficult quest for the truth.

Like many films, “Incendiary” has created opportunities for Texans to engage in a critical dialogue about the human frailties surrounding the administration of justice. Steve and Joe have provided an insightful film that will continue to provoke audiences for a long time to come

Appreciation Awards:

JC Dufresne worked tirelessly within the State Democratic Executive Committee of the Texas Democratic Party to push the party to put the death penalty issue on the 2012 primary ballot. Although that effort was unsuccessful, his efforts led to a robust discussion of the issue within the SDEC. JC then worked with other SDEC members and delegates to the Texas State Democratic Convention to pass district resolutions calling on the party to include abolition of the death penalty in the 2012 platform. Leading up to the convention, he remained in close communication with TCADP and with members of the temporary platforms and resolutions committees to ensure that the death penalty remained on their radar. Due in large part to JC’s efforts, delegates to the State Convention voted overwhelmingly in favor of including a call for abolition of the death penalty in the 2012 platform!

 

The Methodist Federation for Social Action-Southwest Chapter is one of TCADP’s most reliable coalition partners and steadfast organizational members.

This chapter supports our work in myriad ways… it is always the first group to sign up as a co-sponsor of our events, whether special presentations by speakers like Sister Helen Prejean or the annual conference. MFSA – SWTX regularly promotes TCADP’s activities, events, and calls to action in its communications with members and encourages United Methodist Churches in the area to become involved. MFSA-Southwest Chapter also was one of the first groups to sign the Statement of Support and Organizational Affiliation with TCADP.

 

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26 November 2012 ~ Comments Off

Death Penalty Dialogue to Feature Dallas Faith Leaders

MEDIA ADVISORY
November 26, 2012

CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, Executive Director
512-441-1808 (office); 512-552-5948 (cell)
khoule@tcadp.org

Death Penalty Dialogue to Feature Dallas Faith Leaders

Austin, Texas – On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, four prominent Dallas-area religious leaders will gather for the first time to participate in a public conversation about the death penalty. The event, entitled “A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Dallas Faith Leaders”, will take place from 7:00 to 9:00 PM in the Grand Lounge at Paul Quinn College.  It is free and open to the public.

Participating in the event are these faith leaders:

  • Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III Senior Pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church
  • Rev. Dr. Wes Magruder, Chair of the Board of Church and Society of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Stanley J. Meyer, Bishop Assistant for Leadership and Disciple Life in the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Mission Area of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Deacon Charles Stump, Director of Pastoral Services for the Catholic Diocese of Dallas

Their conversation will focus on the challenges of moving Texas away from a culture of vengeance toward a culture of accountability that does not rely on the death penalty; how faith leaders and people of faith can take a more proactive role in educating their congregations about this issue; and the challenges of addressing the death penalty from the pulpit.

This event is occurring at a critical time, as Dallas County now accounts for more death sentences in the last five years than any other jurisdiction in Texas.  Juries in Dallas County imposed eight new death sentences between 2008 and 2012, including two this year.  This accounts for nearly 20% of all new death sentences in Texas over this five-year period. In comparison, Harris County juries imposed 5 sentences in the same timeframe.  Dallas also accounts for more than 30 exonerations based on DNA evidence.

WHAT: “A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Dallas Faith Leaders”

WHEN: Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 7:00 to 9:00 PM

WHERE:  Grand Lounge, Paul Quinn College; 3837 Simpson Stuart Road; Dallas, Texas 75241

“A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty” is free and open to the public.  To RSVP, call (512) 441-1808, email info@tcadp.org, or go to http://tcadp.org/faithful-conversation/.

This event is sponsored by: Catholic Mobilizing Network; Citizens of Mizpah; Dallas Friends Meeting; Dallas Peace Center; Friendship-West Baptist Church; General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church; Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation; North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church Board of Church and Society; Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Mission Area of the E.L.C.A.; Pax Christi Dallas; Texas Catholic Conference; and Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

For information on the death penalty in Texas or background on this event, or to arrange an interview with any of the participating religious leaders, please contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org, 512-441-1808 (office), or 512-552-5948 (cell).  Details on the event are available at http://tcadp.org/faithful-conversation/.

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16 November 2012 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas Executes Preston Hughes III

On November 15, 2012, the State of Texas executed Preston Hughes III for  the 1988 murders of Shandra Charles, age 15, and Marcell Taylor, age 3, in Houston.  It was the 2nd execution carried out by the state this week and the 15th this year.  No further executions are scheduled to take place in Texas in 2012; the state already has scheduled five executions into July of next year.

Hughes proclaimed his innocence and asked his supporters to continue to fight to clear his name. Read more from the Texas Tribune and ABC News/Associated Press.

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