TCADP May 2015 Alert: “The death penalty has worn out its welcome.”

In this edition:
-Scheduled executions: Six executions; six stays to date in 2015
-Advocacy at the 84th Texas Legislature: House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee considers testimony on abolition bill
-In the news: A District Attorney’s rationale for not seeking the death penalty plus “87 Reasons To Rethink the Death Penalty”
-In case you missed it: Recent articles from the Huffington Post on Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty and the toll the death penalty takes on those involved in executions; TCADP’s Spring 2015 newsletter
-Upcoming events: Calling all members in Houston and El Paso!

Scheduled executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to carry out one execution this month:

• Derrick Charles is scheduled to be put to death on May 12, 2015. He was convicted of killing his 15-year-old girlfriend, Myiesha Bennett, her mother Brenda Bennett, and her grandfather, Obie Lee Bennett in 2002 in Harris County. Charles was 19 years old at the time.

The State of Texas has carried out six executions to date in 2015. Two individuals scheduled to be executed last month – Robert Pruett and Richard Vasquez – received stays of execution. Six people have received stays of execution this year, although the stay granted to Lester Bower by the U.S. Supreme Court has been lifted and his execution has been rescheduled for June 3, 2015. At this time, no executions have been scheduled past June 18, 2015.

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

Advocacy at the 84th Texas Legislature
“The death penalty has worn out its welcome.” That’s the message Anthony Graves delivered to members of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence during his testimony last week in support of House Bill 1527. The hearing on HB 1527 – State Representative Jessica Farrar’s abolition bill – took place on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Anthony went on to tell the committee the death penalty does not work and what happened to him and his family should concern all of us.

The committee also heard powerful testimony from these individuals and organizational representatives:

• Grant Jones, who served as the District Attorney for Nueces, Kleberg and Kenedy Counties from 1983 to 1991
• Bishop Joe A. Wilson, who served as Bishop of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, headquartered in Fort Worth, from 1992 to 2000, and as Bishop-in-Residence at Southwestern University in Georgetown from 2001 to 2013
• TCADP Board Member Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood
• TCADP Lobby Corps member Rev. John Yeaman and TCADP member Alison Dieter
• Patrick Ryan, Communications Director for the Texas Catholic Conference
• Joshua Houston, General Counsel/Director of Government Affairs for Texas Impact
• TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé

We are grateful to Rep. Farrar and her wonderful staff for their hard work on last week’s hearing. We also extend our gratitude to all of our witnesses, to the two-dozen individuals who registered in favor of the bill, to the TCADP Board Members and Lobby Corps members who attended the hearing, and to everyone who contacted members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence to express their support for ending the death penalty in Texas.

HB 1527 was left pending. You can watch a recording of the committee hearing online at http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/committee-broadcasts/84/. Scroll down until you find the listing for the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 29th. Testimony on HB 1527 began around 5:30 PM that day.

In the news
“In his own words: DA Alan Nash talks about the decision to not seek death for Eddie Routh”
Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash recently provided his reasons for seeking life without parole rather than the death penalty for Eddie Routh. In February, a jury convicted Routh of the murders of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield.

Simply put, Nash did not seek the death penalty because, [he did] “not believe the higher courts will ever allow Routh to actually be executed.” Due to Routh’s mental illness and military service, Nash felt a death sentence would only be “symbolic.” He cites time as another reason: “trial in a death penalty case would have taken at least eight, likely up to 12 weeks…non-death trial—[takes] two and a half weeks.”

Nash also brings up the costs to counties during and after death penalty trials: “if a jury imposed the death penalty—the appeal process takes an average of 10 to 15 years [and] the county must foot most of the [defendant’s] attorney, psychiatrist, and other bills.” To read the piece in its entirety in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, please visit http://bit.ly/1GUQQtA.

“87 Reasons To Rethink the Death Penalty” & “Put Yourself in the Jury Box”
On May 4, Stephanie Mencimer, writer for Mother Jones, published two companion articles highlighting information from “The Failure of Mitigation,” a study published in the Hastings Law Journal last year. Mencimer’s articles and “The Failure of Mitigation” focus on 100 recent executions and the requirement of extreme culpability. When looking at the histories, Mencimer points out, “the files are full of stories about men who were fed alcohol as toddlers, beaten brutally as children, shot at by stepfathers, abandoned by psychotic or drug-addicted parents, sexually abused… details of these cases make for painful reading, but they go a long way toward helping explain what makes someone a killer.” For the full articles, please visit http://bitly.com/1E8TSGc and http://bit.ly/1FKTymx.

In case you missed it
“America’s death row population is shrinking”
Recently the Pew Research Center released information showing positive trends for the abolition movement. Death row populations continue to drop and death sentences are decreasing nationwide.

“This Is What It Feels Like To Spend Your Life Working On Death Row”
TCADP Advisory Board Member, Rev. Carroll “Bud” Pickett, was featured in a Huffington Post article profiling four people involved in the death penalty system. Rev. Pickett explains the toll the process takes on all involved: “standing by the gurney almost 100 times, and watching innocent men killed, watching repentant men killed, and seeing the pain among families and men and my employee friends, cannot leave my memories.”

“More Conservatives Are Coming Out Against The Death Penalty”
Another recent Huffington Post article highlights the views and efforts of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCADP). Marc Hyden, Coordinator for CCADP, says he often hears a similar confession from fellow conservatives: “I’ve been against the death penalty for 30 years…I just never told anyone.”

Seizing the Momentum: TCADP’s Spring 2015 Newsletter now available online
The Spring 2015 issue of our quarterly newsletter, Seizing the Momentum, is now available online. In this issue, you’ll learn about TCADP’s Faith Leader Advocacy Day and release of the Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty. You can also read two participants’ experiences on lobby day, meet our new board members, and find out more about our Lobby Corps members.

Upcoming Events
*Tomorrow* TCADP’s Houston Chapter will meet on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 7 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. The chapter meets every other month on the 1st Tuesday of the month, starting in January.

El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty, a chapter of TCADP, meet on the last Tuesday of the month. The next meeting will take place at 7 PM on May 26, 2015 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.

Thank you for supporting TCADP!