TCADP July 2017 Alert: Death penalty remains arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory.

In this edition:
Scheduled executions: One execution scheduled for July in Texas
Anniversary of Gregg v. Georgia: 41 years later
In case you missed it: Jerry Hartfield released after 35 years without a trial; Alfred Dewayne Brown sues Harris County for compensation; SCOTUS sides with Texas in Davila v. Davis
Legislative update: The Texas Legislature heads into a special session
Invest in justice: Support TCADP today!


Quote of the month
“No one wants hardened criminals roaming our streets. But no one should want a system that unconstitutionally executes the mentally disabled, either — or one that doles out different brands of justice to different types of defendants.”

Dallas Morning News Editorial, “Are Texas juries making a case for the end of the death penalty?” June 5, 2017


AnchorScheduled executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute one individual this month:

  • On July 27, Taichin Preyor is scheduled to be executed for the murder of 20-year-old Jamie Tackett in February 2004 in San Antonio. Preyor was scheduled for execution in July of 2016, but the date was withdrawn. If it proceeds, Preyor’s execution would be the second out of Bexar County this year. Bexar County accounts for 43 executions since 1982.

The State of Texas accounts for four of the thirteen executions nationwide to date this year. At this time, there are four additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through October 2017.  There have been two new death sentences this year.

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.


AnchorAnniversary of Gregg v. Georgia
July 2 marks the 41st anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Gregg v. Georgia (1976), which upheld the newly crafted death penalty statutes of several states (including Texas) and paved the way for the resumption of executions. Just four years earlier, the Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia (1972) that the death penalty system, as administered at that time, was arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory – as random as being struck by lightning. With the Gregg decision, however, the Justices reversed course and took the position that the death penalty did not offend “the evolving standards of decency which mark the progress of a maturing society.”

Three Justices who voted with the 7-2 majority in Gregg – Justices Blackmun, Powell, and Stevens – later changed their minds and no longer believed the death penalty was constitutional. In an interview with NPR in 2010, Justice John Paul Stevens said, “I really think that the death penalty today is vastly different from the death penalty that we thought we were authorizing.”


AnchorIn case you missed it
Jerry Hartfield released after 35 years without a trial
Jerry Hartfield was released from a Texas prison on June 12, 2017, after serving more than three decades without a valid conviction.  He had been convicted and sentenced to death for the 1976 slaying of 55-year-old Eunice Lowe in Bay City.  He allegedly confessed to the crime, “confessed, that is, the way a black man with an IQ later found to be in the 50s or 60s could ever legitimately confess to anything in the South in the 1970s.” (The Marshall Project, “The Man Who Spent 35 Years in Prison Without a Trial,” June 12, 2017).

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) overturned Hartfield’s death sentence and original conviction in 1980 because of improper jury selection. He was granted a new trial, which he did not receive for reasons that remain unclear. Then-Texas Governor Mark White attempted to commute Hartfield’s sentence in 1983. The CCA ruled, however, that he could not commute the sentence because there was no legal conviction. Hartfield spent the next 35 years in prison without a valid conviction in place. Read more about Hartfield’s case in our recent blog.

Alfred Dewayne Brown sues Harris County for compensation
Alfred Dewayne Brown spent more than 12 years on Texas’s death row as an innocent man. All charges were dismissed and Brown was exonerated in 2015, but was denied compensation. Brown’s attorneys have filed a $2 million civil rights lawsuit against the Houston Police and Harris County officials for their part in his wrongful incarceration.

SCOTUS sides with Texas in Davila v. Davis
On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Davila v. Davis, a Texas death penalty case. The Justices ruled 5-4 against Erick Davila, finding that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to counsel in post-conviction proceedings, let alone effective assistance of counsel.

According to SCOTUSblog, the opinion found “that when a state prisoner fails in a state post-conviction proceeding to challenge the effectiveness of his direct-appeal lawyer, he may not raise that claim in a federal habeas petition – even if his failure was caused by ineffective assistance of his post-conviction counsel.”

Another Texas death penalty case will be heard by the Court this fall.


AnchorLegislative update: The Texas Legislature heads into a special session
The 85th Texas Legislature will begin a special session on July 18, 2017. At this time, no bills regarding the death penalty will be addressed. Visit Texas Legislature Online to stream the proceedings throughout the summer.


AnchorInvest in justice: Support TCADP today!
TCADP relies on your investment to educate key constituencies, respond to requests for expert analysis of death penalty developments, and advocate for change with elected officials.  Please support these efforts by donating today.