TCADP November 2017 Alert: Lowest public support for death penalty in 45 years

In this edition: 
Scheduled executions: Texas set to violate international law with execution of Mexican national this month; Swearingen execution postponed
Announcements: TCADP hires new North Texas Outreach Coordinator; TCADP 2018 Annual Conference morning panel announced
In case you missed it: Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty releases new report; Gallup poll: Support for death penalty drops to lowest level in 45 years; Duane Buck removed from death row; United States Supreme Court hears the case of Carlos Ayestas
Featured events: Lighting the Star in El Paso; TCADP San Antonio Chapter meeting


Quote of the month
“We failed Robert Pruett in not addressing his childhood poverty, abuse and neglect; we failed Robert Pruett in treating him as if he’d been as culpable as his adult father when he was 15; and we failed Robert Pruett by immersing him in a culture of prison violence at 16. We can and must do better by our children, even when they commit a crime.”

– Professor Cara H. Drinan, Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America

“We failed Robert Pruett from childhood on. Then Texas executed him.” USA Today, October 19, 2017.


Scheduled Executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute one person this month:

  • On November 8, Ruben Cardenas is scheduled to be put to death for the 1997 murder of Mayra Laguna in Hidalgo County. In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, as a Mexican-national, Cardenas had the right to contact the Mexican consulate upon arrest. He was unaware of this right. As a result, he was interrogated and confessed without any form of legal representation.

Take action: Write letters to Governor Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to stop the execution of Ruben Cardenas. For talking points and case details from Amnesty International, click here.

Texas accounts for 6 out of the 21 executions nationwide thus far in 2017. Currently, there is one execution scheduled in Texas in December.

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

Other case updates

  • Larry Swearingen was originally scheduled to be executed on November 16. His execution has been postponed due to a clerical error. Recently, Swearingen was granted DNA testing.
  • A jury in Tarrant County recently rejected a death sentence for Miguel Hernandez. The same jury convicted Hernandez of capital murder for the murder and attempted burglary of James Bowling in 2014. This marks the third time this year that a North Texas death penalty trial has resulted in life without parole.
  • Two individuals have been sentenced to death in Texas this year, in Jefferson and Walker Counties.

Announcements
TCADP hires new North Texas Outreach Coordinator
TCADP is delighted to announce we have hired Jim Webner to serve as our North Texas Outreach Coordinator. A 2016 graduate of Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University, Jim holds a M.Div. as well as a B.S. in English from Towson University in Maryland and a M.A. in English from the University of Delaware. He first became involved in the death penalty abolition movement in Texas when he began organizing vigils at his seminary in 2014. Before moving to Texas to attend seminary, he worked in the Washington, D.C. area as a communications manager for a homeless services nonprofit and as a high school English teacher. Jim lives in Fort Worth. You can reach him at jwebner@tcadp.org.

TCADP 2018 Annual Conference morning panel announced
The TCADP 2018 Annual Conference – “Transforming the Landscape” – will take place on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas. Register today!

More than 30 men have been exonerated in Dallas County for crimes they did not commit. Our morning panel will feature several individuals who were wrongfully convicted and exonerated.  They will discuss transformations they’ve seen with criminal justice reform since their exonerations, as well as improvements that still need to be made to the system. Confirmed panelists include Christopher Scott, Johnnie Lindsey, and Johnny Pinchback.


 In case you missed it
Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty releases new report
On October 25, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP) released “The Right Way,” a new report chronicling the growing number of Republican legislators supporting death penalty repeal. The report collected data from every death penalty repeal bill since 2000. Among other findings, the report states that Republican support for repeal has increased dramatically since 2012.

In a piece published on Huffington Post, radio and TV host Ken Price commented on this change, “The conservative movement against the death penalty is not reactionary or illogical. It actually makes perfect sense for a people that fundamentally claim to distrust government.”

You can read the full report here and view the press conference featuring TCADP 2016 Annual Conference Keynote Speaker, Colby Coash, here.

Gallup poll: Support for death penalty drops to lowest level in 45 years
According to the most recent Gallup poll data, only 55% of U.S. adults support the death penalty. This represents the lowest amount of support since 1972, which was influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Furman v. Georgia. The poll also found that only 51% of respondents believe the death penalty is applied fairly. Results from this poll further illustrate the ongoing trend of decline in support of the death penalty.

Duane Buck removed from death row
In a court hearing in Harris County on October 3, 2017, Duane Buck pled guilty to two counts of attempted murder, including the shooting of his stepsister, in a deal that exchanged the death penalty for a life sentence plus two 60-year terms.  He will be removed from Texas death row, where he has spent the last 20 years.

On February 22, 2017, in a 6-2 decision in Buck v. Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Buck deserved a new sentencing hearing based on the racially biased testimony of an expert witness and the inadequate representation he had received from his trial attorneys.  The Court sent the case back to Harris County for resolution.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg explained in a statement that “After reviewing the evidence and the law, I have concluded that, 22 years after his conviction, a Harris County jury would likely not return another death penalty conviction in a case that has forever been tainted by the indelible specter of race.”

U.S. Supreme Court hears the case of Carlos Ayestas
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Ayesta v. DavisCarlos Ayestas is a Honduran national who was sentenced to death in Harris County in 1997 for his role in the 1995 murder of 67-year-old Santiaga Paneque during an apparent robbery.

During his original trial, Ayestas’ attorneys failed to present mitigating evidence about his substance abuse and mental health issues.  They provided two minutes of testimony during the punishment phase. The fact that a jury never heard this mitigating evidence – and federal courts have denied attorneys the funds to investigate it – is at the heart of the claim before the Court.


Featured Events
The Fourth Annual Lighting of the Star on the Mountain in El Paso will take place on Sunday, November 26 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM in the parking lot of the Center for Careers & Technology (1170 N. Walnut Street), in solidarity with the Restorative Justice Ministry of the EP Diocese, El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty, and Cities for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty. For more information, contact Pat Delgado at phdelgado@hotmail.com.

The TCADP San Antonio Chapter will host a member meeting at the Law Alumni Room in the Sarita Kenedy East Law Library (1 Camino Santa Maria St.) at St. Mary’s Law School on Wednesday, November 14. The meeting will begin at 6:30 PM. For more information, please contact sanantonio@tcadp.org. The TCADP San Antonio Chapter meets on the second Wednesday of every month.