TCADP January 2017 Alert: The death penalty’s demise

In this edition:

Scheduled executions: Three executions scheduled for January in Texas
TCADP 2017 Annual Conference: Check out some of our workshop sessions.
In case you missed it: Coverage of the death penalty’s demise in Texas and nationwide; judge recommends new trial in 1993 Houston death penalty case
Featured events: Join TCADP members and staff for MLK Day events in Austin and Houston; membership meeting in San Antonio
Year-end fundraising results: Thank you for your generous gifts!


Quote of the month
“…individuals who are executed are not the ‘worst of the worst,’ but, rather, are individuals chosen at random, on the basis, perhaps of geography, perhaps of the views of individual prosecutors, or still worse on the basis of race.”
-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting in Henry Perry Sireci v. Florida on December 12, 2016


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

  • On January 11, 2017, Christopher Wilkins is scheduled to be put to death for the 2005 murders of Mike Silva and Willie Freeman in Fort Worth. His October 2015 execution date was withdrawn at the request of Tarrant County prosecutors, who sought the delay after the Texas Forensic Science Commission raised concerns about DNA statistics and the interpretation of mixed DNA evidence.  It is the first execution scheduled to take place in the United States this year (an execution scheduled to occur in Ohio on that same day was stayed by Governor Kasich).
  • On January 25, Kosoul Chanthakoummane is scheduled to be put to death for the 2006 murder of real estate agent Sarah Ann Walker in a model home in McKinney (Collin County).  Read a response to Ms. Walker’s murder from her father, Joe Walker, who was profiled in 2012 by our partners at Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation.
  • On January 26, Terry Edwards is scheduled to be put to death for the robbery and murders of Subway employees Mickell Goodwin and Tommy Walker in 2002 in Dallas. In May 2015, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Edwards’ appeal that his Dallas County trial judge gave improper instructions to jurors during jury selection. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Edwards’ case in November 2015. Edwards had two execution dates in 2016.

At this time, there are six additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through June 2017.

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


TCADP 2017 Annual Conference
The TCADP 2017 Annual Conference – a must-attend event for anyone interested in ending the death penalty in Texas – will take place at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin on Saturday, February 18, 2017.  Take advantage of pre-registration rates until February 8, 2017.

If you can’t join us for the full day, consider purchasing a ticket for our awards luncheon and keynote address by Brian Stolarz. Stolarz served as habeas corpus counsel to Alfred Dewayne Brown, who was exonerated in June 2015 after spending 10 years on Texas’ death row. Stolarz’s book about his relationship with Brown, Grace and Justice on Death Row: The Race Against Time and Texas to Free an Innocent Man, is a Washington Post best-seller.  Brown is the recipient of our 2017 Courage Award.

Here’s a preview of some of the workshop sessions we’ll be offering during the conference:

  • The national death penalty landscape
  • An in-depth look at wrongful convictions
  • Mobilizing networks to create change
  • Legislative advocacy
  • The intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system

Learn more about the conference, including details on our panelists, keynote speaker, sponsors, and award winners. Register today!


In case you missed it
Ongoing coverage of the death penalty’s demise 
Media outlets continue to take note of the trends highlighted in our annual report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2016: The Year in Review, and the remarkable decrease in executions and death sentences in Texas and nationwide. We particularly liked these recent pieces from the Dallas Morning News:

We also recommend this piece from the New York Times.

For more information on national death penalty developments, read the year-end report from the Death Penalty Information Center.

Judge recommends new trial based on false ballistics testimony
Last month, State District Judge Mark Kent Ellis ruled that Arthur Brown deserves a new trial because of false testimony by a Houston Police Department ballistics expert during his 1993 death penalty trial. Brown’s October 2013 execution date was withdrawn to allow for additional testing on the firearms used in the 1992 drug-related killings of Jose Tovar, Jessica Quinones, Audrey Brown, and Frank Farias in Houston. Judge Ellis found that ballistics expert Charles Anderson testified falsely as to whether bullets found at the murder scene matched two pistols connected to Brown.  The Texas Court of Criminal will now decide whether to follow Judge Ellis’ recommendation and grant Brown a new trial.  Read more in the Houston Chronicle.


Featured events
Attend one of these local or statewide events:
January 10: 85th Texas Legislature convenes.  Stay tuned to TCADP for legislative updates.

January 11: TCADP member meeting in San Antonio, Travis Park United Methodist Church. Contact Chris Hockman at tcadpsa@gmail.com for details.

January 16: TCADP will provide an information booth at the 24th Annual MLK Community Celebration in Austin at Huston-Tillotson University.  The festival will take place from 11 AM to 3 PM.  Email TCADP Communications Coordinator Vanessa Akins at Vanessa@tcadp.org if you would like to help with the booth.

January 16: TCADP members will march in the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Houston. For more information about the parade and celebration, please visit https://www.blackheritagesociety.org/.

January 24 and 25: Join the TCADP Lobby Corps as we deliver copies of the TCADP year-end report to all 180 legislative offices at the State Capitol.  A brief orientation session will take place at 9:30 AM both mornings in the Capitol Extension.  Email TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle at khoule@tcadp.org to volunteer.

February 18: TCADP 2017 Annual Conference; St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin; 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

March 2-3: Amplify Austin, an annual community-wide day of online giving. Help us win a $1,000 bonus prize for the fifth year in a row!  Contact Kristin if you are interested in creating an individual fundraising page to support TCADP.

March 28: Join TCADP and Texas Impact at the State Capitol in Austin for our second Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty.  Together, we will make sure legislators hear the loud and growing chorus of voices in opposition to the death penalty. Register online today.


Thank you for your generous support
We are incredibly grateful to everyone who donated to our organization in 2016.   To date, we have raised more than $18,000 in response to our year-end appeals. We invite you to take your support to the next level by becoming a TCADP Partner for Justice or a Sustaining Member.