Marking 38 Years of the “Modern” Death Penalty Era

Today marks 38 years since the United States Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty and paved the way for the resumption of executions.  The Court’s decision in Gregg vs. Georgia on July 2, 1976 found that the new death penalty laws of several states (including Texas) “promised” to make the process fairer and less arbitrary.

Just four years earlier, the Court had overturned all existing death penalty laws in the case of Furman vs. Georgia, ruling that the death penalty system, as it was being administered, was arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory.  At the time, Justice Potter Stewart said death sentences were as cruel and unusual as being “struck by lightning.” 

We know that the death penalty remains as arbitrary and discriminatory today as it was in 1972, and that the promise of fairness that allowed for its return has not been fulfilled.  Our work to expose the flaws and failures of this broken, irreversible and unjust system is more important than ever, and I am grateful to all of you for standing with us.

I also want to extend a special welcome to those of you who recently stopped by a TCADP information table to pick up materials and join our contact list.  Thank you for supporting our mission to end the death penalty, once and for all.  I look forward to keeping in touch with you about our activities and hope to see you at a future event.

Wishing you a safe and happy July 4th,

– Kristin Houlé, TCADP Executive Director

TCADP July 2014 Alert: 38 Years Ago Today…

In this issue:
Executions
In the News
Featured Events
Calendar

Executions
While we’re in the midst of an unusual three-month reprieve from executions in Texas, other states have proceeded with lethal injections in spite of ongoing concerns about the secrecy shrouding the process. Last month, three executions occurred within a 24-hour period in the states of Florida, Georgia, and Missouri.

The next execution in Texas is scheduled to occur on August 6, 2014. Manuel Vasquez was sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of Juanita Ybarra in San Antonio. Four other executionshave been scheduled between now and the end of the year.  Stay tuned to TCADP for updates and information on vigils in your area.

In the News
Must-read opinion pieces on the death penalty 
Last month, the San Antonio Express-News published two must-read op-eds on the death penalty.  In “In Texas, perfect storm for executions,” UT Law Professor Jordan Steiker reveals how “the lethal combination of undiscerning prosecutors, poor defense lawyering and ‘accommodating’ judges pushed Texas to the forefront of executions” in the United States. And in“Time to end death penalty in Texas,” Sam Millsap, former Bexar County District Attorney, and Roger C. Barnes, Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of the Incarnate Word, discuss how cost and the risk of executing the innocent “drive a growing distrust about the death penalty.”

Pastor walks 200 miles to raise awareness
On June 19, 2014, TCADP Board Member Reverend Jeff Hood, a Southern Baptist pastor, concluded a 200-mile pilgrimage on foot from death row in Livingston to the State Capitol inUniversity Baptist Church, AustinAustin as part of his quest to encourage dialogue about the death penalty.  Along the way, he engaged with other people of faith, concerned citizens, and curious bystanders at events in Huntsville, Bryan, and Austin.  View pictures of these events and Rev. Hood’s journey on TCADP’s Facebook page, and read coverage of the pilgrimage in the Huntsville Item, the Bryan-College Station Eagle, and the Huffington Post. Rev. Hood will offer reflections on his journey in the Summer 2014 issue of our newsletter, which will be published later this month.

Featured Events
Dallas:  TCADP’s bi-monthly luncheon will take place on Tuesday, July 15th at noon at Margaux’s Bridge Bistro (921 N Riverfront Blvd., Dallas 75207).  Photographic artist John Holbrook, who has photographed numerous people on death row, will engage participants through story.  RSVP to Rev. Jeff Hood at revjeffhood@tcadp.org.

Houston: On July 16th, death penalty expert Stephen B. Bright will speak at a special program and reception sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Houston.  The event will take place from 4 to 6 PM at the Federal Courthouse (515 Rusk Avenue, 11th Floor, Houston 77002). Bright, a Yale Law School Professor and President and Senior Counsel at Southern Center for Human Rights, will speak on “The Death Penalty for the Marginalized – and the Complicity that Makes it Possible.” RSVP by July 9th.

Austin: TCADP’s bi-monthly luncheon will take place on Wednesday, July 23rd from 12 to 1 PMat El Mercado Restaurant in South Austin (1302 South 1st St.). Jen Moreno, who is a Staff Attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at UC Berkeley Law and one of the nation’s foremost experts on lethal injection, will be our special guest speaker.  Jen will talk about her work on challenges to lethal injection as a method of execution.  RSVP to khoule@tcadp.org.

Houston: Join us for the next installment of our bi-monthly Fair & Just Lunch Series on Tuesday,July 29th from 12:30 to 1:30 PM at St. Anne’s Catholic Church (2140 Westheimer Road). Meet other supporters in the area and hear from Billy Smith II, a photojournalist and photo editor with the Houston Chronicle.  He will discuss his work on the project “A Human Tragedy,” an interactive photo essay that examines the stories of 24 Texas exonerees who served lengthy prison sentences for crimes they didn’t commit.  RSVP and order lunch from Jason’s Deli.

El Paso: TCADP’s El Paso Chapter – El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty (EPADP) – will meet on Tuesday, July 29th at 6:30 PM in the San Pedro de Jesus Maldonado Room of St. Pius X Church (1015 N. Clark Street). We will be showing the film “Incendiary: The Willingham Case,” the true story of the conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the arson murder of his three children in 1991 and the resulting scientific, legal and political firestorm that rages today. Contact Pat Delgado with questions at elpaso@tcadp.org.

Metroplex: From September 28 through October 2, TCADP will conduct a speakers’ tour in the Metroplex featuring Juan Melendez, who spent 17 years on death row in Florida for a crime he did not commit.  Murder victim family members, family members of death row inmates, and law enforcement officers will participate in the tour, as well.  If you are interested in helping with these events or have an idea for a venue, please contact Kristin at khoule@tcadp.org.  Details on other regional tours coming soon!

TCADP Calendar for July
13: Screening and discussion of the film “Grave Injustice”, the story of Anthony Graves, Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso (4425 Byron St, El Paso, TX 79930) at 10:30 AM
15: Dallas luncheon featuring photographer John Holbrook, 12 to 1 PM
16: ADL event with Stephen Bright in Houston, 4 to 6 PM
23: Austin luncheon featuring Jen Moreno, 12 to 1 PM
29: Fair & Just Luncheon in Houston featuring Billy Smith, 12:30 to 1:30 PM
29: EPADP monthly meeting, with film screening, 6:30 PM