TCADP’s February 2015 Alert: Execution updates; advocacy opportunities; and the 2015 Annual Conference

In this edition:
Scheduled executions
TCADP 2015 Annual Conference: Pre-register by February 13th
84th Texas Legislature
Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty
In case you missed it
Welcome, Vanessa!

Scheduled executions 
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute two people this month:

  • Donald Newbury was serving a 99-year sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon when he and six other inmates broke out of the Connally Unit in 2000. He and his co-defendants robbed a sporting goods store at gunpoint, killing Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Two of the co-defendants have already been executed, one committed suicide, and three others remain on death row. Newbury was scheduled to be executed in February 2012, but was spared by the U.S. Supreme Court.  His execution is scheduled for February 4, 2015.
  • After thirty years on death row, Lester Bower Jr. is scheduled to be executed on February 10, 2015. Bower was convicted of the shooting deaths of four men at an ultra-light airplane hangar near Sherman in 1983. He was sentenced to death in Grayson County in 1984, making him one of the longest serving inmates on Texas death row. Bower, a former chemical salesman with no prior criminal history, has consistently maintained his innocence.

Attend a vigil in your community on the day of executions. Information and updates on these cases will be available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter.

At least eight additional executions are scheduled to take place in Texas by the end of May.

TCADP 2015 Annual Conference: Register by February 13th
Register today for TCADP’s 2015 Annual Conference – Death Penalty Fault Lines: A Seismic Shift in Ground. The conference will take place on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin.  Go online to pre-register.  (Note: Rates will increase after February 13th).

If you can’t join us for the full day, consider attending the awards luncheon and keynote address by former District Attorney Tim Cole.  You won’t want to miss it!

Also, please note that anyone wishing to place an ad in the conference program, reserve an exhibitor table, or sponsor a table at the awards luncheon must do so by this Friday, February 6th.

84th Texas Legislature
During the 84th Texas Legislature, which convened on January 13th, TCADP again will work to repeal the death penalty and engage in dialogue with elected officials about the flaws and failures of our state’s capital punishment system. Stay tuned for updates on the abolition bill, which will be filed soon by State Representative Jessica Farrar (District 148-Houston).  If you have questions about our legislative agenda, please contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle at khoule@tcadp.org.

Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty
TCADP is excited to announce our first-ever “Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty,” which we are organizing in partnership with Texas Impact, the oldest and largest statewide interfaith network. On Monday, March 9, 2015, TCADP and Texas Impact will hold a press conference at the State Capitol to release an Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty, which has been endorsed by more than 500 faith leaders across Texas (there’s still time to sign if you haven’t done so already!).  Participants then will meet with legislators to voice their concerns about the death penalty.  Learn more and RSVP today.

We also encourage all faith leaders to download “The Death Penalty in Texas: A study guide for Texas faith communities,” which was published recently by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy. The guide includes discussion questions, faith statements on the death penalty, and resources for faith and lay leaders.

In case you missed it
Who qualifies as intellectually disabled?
On January 29, the State of Texas put Robert Ladd to death in spite of evidence of his intellectual disabilities.  His attorneys argued that his IQ of 67 should have prohibited his execution in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia.  A new article from Maurice Chammah and Dana Goldstein with The Marshall Project, “The Life-or-Death Test,” examines the history and science of IQ testing and its use in determining whether certain individuals should be exempt from execution.

Record number of exonerations in 2014
The National Registry of Exonerations recorded 125 exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in 2014, according to a new report it released on January 27, 2015.  It was the first time the Registry found more than 100 exonerations in one year.  Texas led all states with 39 exonerations; this included 33 exonerations in drug cases in Harris County.

No doubt for former Supreme Court Justice that Texas executed an innocent man
Last month during a lecture at the University of Florida, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens declared evidence proved “beyond a shadow of doubt” that Texas executed an innocent man, Carlos DeLuna, in 1989.  The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, a book and website by Columbia Law School Professor James S. Liebman, catalogues in minute detail everything that went wrong in DeLuna’s case. Watch Justice Stevens’ remarks in this video (his comments about the DeLuna case begin at 56:00).

Welcome, Vanessa!
TCADP is thrilled to announce that we have hired Vanessa Akins as our new Communications Coordinator. Vanessa, a 2009 graduate of St. Edward’s University, has been volunteering in our office since May and is a critical member of our 2015 Conference Committee.  Her job responsibilities will include maintaining TCADP’s website and social media platforms and producing internal and external communications.   You can reach her at Vanessa@tcadp.org.

Save the date for Amplify Austin, 6 PM March 5th to 6 PM March 6th!  More details coming soon!