TCADP April 2015 Alert: State of Texas prepares to carry out four executions, despite growing opposition to the death penalty

In this edition of our monthly alert:

Scheduled executionsState of Texas obtains new supply of lethal injection drugs while two pharmaceutical associations discourage members from participating in the execution process 

Advocacy at the 84th Texas Legislature: Abolition bill filed for first time in Texas Senate

In the newsStrong message from Pope FrancisNational Latino Evangelical Coalition calls for abolition; Amnesty International issues report on death penalty worldwide

Upcoming eventsJoin TCADP at a meeting or event in your community


Scheduled executions and lethal injection updates

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

  • On April 9Kent Sprouse is scheduled to be put to death for killing Ferris police officer Harry Steinfeldt III and bystander Pedro Moreno in 2002 in Ellis County.
  • Manuel Garza is scheduled to be executed on April 15 for the fatal shooting death of San Antonio SWAT Officer John “Rocky” Riojas in 2001.
  • On April 23Richard Vasquez is scheduled to be put to death for killing his girlfriend’s four-year-old daughter, Miranda Lopez, in Corpus Christi in 1998.  Vasquez was 18 years old at the time of the crime; his trial attorneys failed to present mitigating evidence to the jury, including his introduction to drugs at a young age by his parents.
  • On April 28Robert Pruett is scheduled to be put to death for the 1999 murder of correctional officer Daniel Nagle at the McConnell Unit in Beeville.  He received a stay of execution in 2013 after prosecutors agreed to a request for DNA testing; a 2014 execution date also was withdrawn.  Pruett has consistently maintained his innocence.

At least three more people are scheduled to be executed in coming months, including Lester Bower.  The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider his appeal after granting him a stay in February.  Bower, who has maintained his innocence since his arrest in 1983 and has now spent more than 30 years on death row, is scheduled to be put to death on June 3.

Attend a vigil in your community on the day of executions in Texas. Information and updates on these cases will be available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter. (Pictured here: A vigil with members of Holy Covenant United Methodist Church in Carrollton)

Lethal injection developments
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) recently obtained a new supply of pentobarbital from an unidentified compounding pharmacist, which it will use to administer this month’s lethal injections. According to the Associated Press, the agency was “scrambling to find a supplier to replenish its inventory of execution drugs” after nearly running out of pentobarbital last month. TDCJ still refuses to disclose information regarding the source of these drugs.

Meanwhile, pharmacists nationwide appear increasingly reluctant to play a role in lethal injections.  On Monday, the American Pharmacists Association adopted a new policy that discourages its 62,000 members from providing drugs for use in executions, as this runs counter to their role as health care providers. Additional coverage is available from NPR.

The Association’s ethical stand came just days after the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists adopted its own stance discouraging members from preparing or dispensing drugs for use in executions. Read more from the Wall Street Journal.

Advocacy at the 84th Texas Legislature
Legislation that would abolish the death penalty currently is pending in the Texas House of Representatives and – for the first time in our organizational history – in the Texas Senate.  On Friday, March 13, State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., a long-time lawmaker from District 27 in the Rio Grande Valley, filed Senate Bill 1661.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Please thank Sen. Lucio for his leadership on this issue.  You can send him an email at eddie.lucio@senate.state.tx.us or tweet the following: Thank you ‪@SenatorLucio for filing SB 1661, a bill to repeal the ‪#deathpenalty in Texas!

House Bill 1527, filed in February by State Representative Jessica Farrar, has been referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. If you haven’t done so already, please thank Rep. Farrar for her leadership on this issue.  You can send her an email at Jessica.farrar@house.state.tx.us or tweet the following: Thank you ‪@JFarrarDist148 for filing HB 1527, a bill to repeal the ‪#deathpenalty in Texas!

TCADP is calling on both committees to conduct public hearings on these bills.

Members of the TCADP Lobby Corps have been visiting the Capitol on a regular basis to engage in dialogue with lawmakers about death penalty issues.  In recent weeks, we have provided more than 100 legislative offices with copies of our Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty and Texas Rabbis’ and Cantors’ Statement as well as our position papers on the abolition bills. (Pictured here: Participants in our Faith Leader Advocacy Day at the Capitol on March 9; photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell Photography)

Stay tuned for updates on HB 1527 and SB 1661 as well as information on more actions you can take as a Texas voter.

In the news
Pope Francis condemns the death penalty
Pope Francis met with the International Commission Against the Death Penalty on March 20, during which he outlined the Catholic Church’s view on the death penalty. His message was strong and clear: “The death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed.”  In reference to the current debate about execution methods, Pope Francis declared “… there is no humane way of killing another person.”  Read more from The Guardian.

National Latino Evangelical Coalition calls for abolition
On March 27, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) unanimously adopted a position calling for an end to capital punishment. In doing so, it became the first major national association of Evangelical congregations to join efforts to repeal the death penalty. Read more from the Washington Post and Equal Justice USA, including videos from the press conference featuring the President of NaLEC, Rev. Gabriel Salguero.

Amnesty International issues annual global report on the death penalty
According to the international human rights organization, “an alarming number of countries used the death penalty to tackle real or perceived threats to state security linked to terrorism, crime or internal instability in 2014.”  Amnesty’s annual review of worldwide death penalty developments, released on March 31, includes information on executions and death sentences as well as trends toward global abolition in the last year.  Once again, the world’s top five executioners were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the United States.

Upcoming Events 
Arlington
On April 26, TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé will join Marilyn Shankle-Grant at First United Methodist Church of Arlington’s (FUMC) Advocates for Social Justice- Capital Punishment Event. The event will include a look at the United Methodist Church’s position against the death penalty. The discussion will begin at 3:00 PM and take place in the Banquet Room at FUMC of Arlington, 313 North Center Street.

Austin
The Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic, Cornell Death Penalty Project, and University of Texas Capital Punishment Center will host a symposium on “Latinos and the Death Penalty” at the University of Texas School of Law on April 1011. The conference brings together experts from a variety of fields to illuminate a relatively unexplored aspect of the American death penalty. The program is free and open to the public.

The Young Americans for Liberty 2015 State Convention will take place on April 11from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM at the University of Texas at Austin. TCADP will be there with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

TCADP will resume its bi-monthly membership luncheons in Austin on Tuesday, April 21.  We will gather at noon at The Egg & I restaurant (2525 W. Anderson Ln. Bldg 3, Austin, 78757).  Meet other local members and hear updates on our legislative efforts. Please RSVP with an email to vanessa@tcadp.org.

El Paso
El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty meet on the last Tuesday of the month.  The next meeting will take place at 7:00 PM on April 28 at St. Pius X Church in the Pedro Maldonado Room (1050 North Clark Drive). For more information, please contact Pat Delgado at phdelgado@hotmail.com.

Vigils for the April 9, 15, 23, and 28 executions will take place from 12:00 to 1:00 PM in front of the El Paso County Courthouse, 500 E. San Antonio (downtown, between Mesa and Campbell Streets).

Prayer vigils take place in several parishes to pray for those on death row awaiting execution, their families, the victims and their families, all involved in executions and for an end to the death penalty. The vigils are bilingual and are held once a month when there are executions scheduled.  Check the TCADP website for details.

Houston
TCADP’s Houston Chapter meets every other month on the first Tuesday.  The next meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 5 at 7:00 PM at Central Market (3815 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77027).  TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé will give an update on the current legislative session and discuss TCADP’s future plans.

More information on local events is available on the TCADP website.