TCADP June 2015 Alert: Nebraska repeals the death penalty; implications for other states

In this edition:

Scheduled executions: Only Texas and Missouri carrying out executions this summer

Advocacy at the 84th Texas Legislature: Session officially concludes at midnight tonight

In the news: Nebraska abolishes the death penalty!

In case you missed it: The demise of the death penalty… “even in Texas”

Upcoming events: Attend these gatherings in Austin, El Paso and Houston

Seeking Organizational Affiliates: Are you part of a group or organization that supports our mission to end the death penalty in Texas?

Scheduled Executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to put two people to death this month:

  • After 31 years on death row, Lester Bower Jr. is scheduled to be executed on June 3, 2015. He was convicted of the shooting deaths of four men – Jerry Brown, Bob Tate, Philip Good and Ronald Mayes – at an ultra-light airplane hangar near Sherman in 1983.  In February, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed Bower’s execution but later declined to consider his appeal.Sentenced to death in Grayson County in 1984, Bower, now 67, is one of the state’s longest serving death row inmates.  If his execution proceeds, he will be the oldest man put to death in Texas. Bower, a former chemical salesman with no prior criminal history, has consistently maintained his innocence.  Read more in his recent interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
  • Gregory Russeau is scheduled to be put to death on June 18, 2015. He was convicted of robbing and fatally beating 75-year-old James Syvertson at his Tyler auto-repair shop in 2001.

Texas accounts for 7 of the 14 executions nationwide to date in 2015.  At this time, Missouri is the only other state scheduled to carry out executions; it accounts for three excutions this year.

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.

Legislative Advocacy
TCADP would like to thank all of our supporters – particularly our dedicated Lobby Corps members – for your advocacy efforts during the 84th Texas Legislature, which will officially conclude tonight at midnight.  While legislation to repeal the death penalty did not advance this year, lawmakers passed several important criminal justice reform bills, including establishing an innocence commission to examine cases of wrongful convictions in Texas, increasing access to post-conviction DNA testing, and overhauling the grand jury system, among others.

Regrettably, legislators also passed a bill that will keep secret the identity of any entity providing the drugs used in Texas executions.  The bill has been signed by Governor Greg Abbott and will go into effect on September 1, 2015.

Read more about our efforts this session.

In the News
Nebraska repeals the death penalty
Last week, Nebraska became the 19th U.S. state to abandon the death penalty.  Legislators successfully overrode Governor Pete Rickett’s veto of LB 268, a bill that replaces the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole. Nebraska is the first conservative state to abolish the death penalty in more than 40 years.

TCADP congratulates our good friends at Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, especially Executive Director Stacy Anderson, our colleagues at Equal Justice USA, Senator Ernie Chambers, who sponsored this legislation for the last 40 years, and everyone who worked so hard on this campaign.

Read this editorial from the Dallas Morning News“Red, red Nebraska moves to abolish the death penalty,” regarding the significance of this vote and the critical role conservatives played.  Also worth a read:

The American Spectator: “Nebraska Repeals the Death Penalty”

Omaha World-Herald: “One Nebraska state senator’s long, hard journey from death penalty backer to execution opponent”

The Atlantic: “How Nebraska Banned the Death Penalty”

Other statements against the death penalty
The 2015 Annual Conference of the Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church, which met last week in Houston, passed a resolution that calls upon all local churches, clergy members and lay members of the Annual Conference to work toward repeal of the death penalty in Texas.  Read the full text of the resolution and watch a short video by TCADP Board Member Rev. Susan Buchanan, who introduced the resolution.  Congratulations and thank you, Susan!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation also weighed in recently on the death penalty.  Read this statement by Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

In case you missed it
A number of recent articles and opinion pieces have noted declining use of the death penalty in Texas, particularly the reduction in new death sentences.  Here are some of our favorites:

Columnist Steve Blow: “Even in tough-on-crime Texas, death penalty convictions decline” (May 8, 2015, Dallas Morning News)

Professor Austin Sarat: “Are we witnessing the demise of the death penalty?” (May 15, 2015, Dallas Morning News)

Editor-at-large David Von Drehle: “The Death of the Death Penalty” (June 2015, TIME Magazine)

Follow TCADP on social media for links to other important news items and opinion pieces.

Upcoming Events
Austin: TCADP will host its bi-monthly luncheon on Tuesday, June 16th with special guest, journalist Jordan Smith. The gathering will start at noon at The Clay Pit (1601 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78701). Street parking is available on 15th, 16th & 17th Streets. Please RSVP with an email to vanessa@tcadp.org.

Jordan Smith is a state and national award-winning investigative journalist. She covered criminal justice issues and reproductive health for The Austin Chronicle for more than 13 years. During her time with the Chronicle, Jordan developed a reputation as a resourceful and dogged reporter with a talent for analyzing complex social and legal issues, and is regarded as one of the best investigative reporters in Texas. Her work has also appeared in The NationThe Crime Report, and Salon, among other places.  She now reports for The Intercept.

Read Jordan’s recent article, “Why Is It So Easy for States to Execute the Mentally Ill?”

Houston: TCADP’s Houston Chapter will sponsor an information table at the Houston Pride Festival on Saturday, June 27th from 12 to 7 PM. Contact Nancy Bailey at houston@tcadp.org to volunteer.

El Paso: 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 June 30th 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.

Seeking Organizational Affiliates
A list of TCADP’s Organizational Affiliates is now available online. Currently, 20 organizations statewide, including faith communities and civic organizations, have pledged to publicly support our efforts to end the death penalty and invite their members to become involved.  Are you part of a group that should be on this list?  Download and mail in this form.

Thank you for supporting our efforts!