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10 April 2012 ~ Comments Off on TCADP Press Release: Death Row Survivor Juan Melendez Tours San Antonio

TCADP Press Release: Death Row Survivor Juan Melendez Tours San Antonio

April 10, 2012
CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, Executive Director

Death Row Survivor Tours San Antonio

Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon visits at critical moment in Bexar County dialogue about the death penalty

Austin, TexasJuan Roberto Melendez-Colon, who survived nearly 18 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, will share his story of wrongful conviction and ultimate exoneration with people of faith, students, and community members throughout San Antonio from April 12-15, 2012. “Death Penalty No Más” is sponsored by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP), a statewide grassroots membership organization, with support from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.


A native of Puerto Rico, Mr. Melendez spent 17 years, 8 months, and 1 day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. He was exonerated and released from death row on January 3, 2002 after the discovery of a long-forgotten transcript of a taped confession by the real killer. No physical evidence ever linked Mr. Melendez to the crime, and his conviction and death sentence hinged on the testimony of two questionable witnesses (one of those witnesses later recanted and the other is deceased).


Since 1973, 140 people – including 12 in Texas – have been exonerated from death rows nationwide due to evidence of their wrongful conviction. On May 2, 2012, Anthony Bartee, who was convicted in Bexar County of the 1996 murder of David Cook, may be put to death by the State of Texas, despite the fact that DNA testing ordered recently by State District Judge Mary Román has not been completed or considered by the courts.  Mr. Bartee has consistently maintained that although he was present at the house, he did not kill Mr. Cook.


“Mr. Melendez will be visiting Texas at a critical time, as concerns about the risk of wrongful conviction continue to call into question the reliability and fairness of the state’s death penalty system,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of TCADP. “Increasingly diverse voices, including those of law enforcement, religious leaders, murder victim family members, and state legislators all have called for an end to this arbitrary and error-prone form of punishment.”


This tour is part of the Bexar County Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty, a community organizing effort that seeks to reframe the debate about the death penalty by focusing on its local impact as an expensive public policy that diverts scarce resources from effective crime prevention measures and meaningful victims’ services.


“Bexar County can be smart on crime while also using taxpayer dollars to invest in public safety and in the human resources of our community,” said Anita Grabowski, Bexar County Campaign Coordinator. “We see that attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting as public confidence in the ultimate form of punishment continues to erode. This tour aims to encourage dialogue among concerned citizens and community leaders about the wisdom, efficacy and virtue of the death penalty as a means of confronting crime and achieving justice.”


Since 1976, Bexar County juries have sentenced 75 people to death, the third-highest number among all counties in Texas, behind Harris and Dallas Counties. Of these death sentences, 36 have resulted in execution, 21 have been commuted to sentences other than death or otherwise removed from death row, and 18 are still pending. New death sentences in Bexar County have dropped in recent years, however, reflecting both statewide and national trends. Overall, new death sentences in Texas have declined more than 70% since 2003, and remained at a historic low level in 2011, when just eight people were sentenced to death statewide.


Bexar County has sentenced three people to death since 2007, with the most recent sentence in 2009. In this same time period, Bexar County juries rejected the death penalty in two capital murder trials, opting instead for the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.


The full schedule of events for “Death Penalty No Más” is available at

More information about Juan Melendez is available at


For more information about the tour, please contact Bexar County Campaign Coordinator Anita Grabowski at 512-496-6695 or or TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé (512-441-1808 [office], 512-552-5948 [cell], or To arrange an interview by phone or in person with Juan Melendez (English or Spanish), please contact Anita Grabowski.


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02 December 2011 ~ Comments Off on December 2011 Alert: Activist Training, Special “Incendiary” Screening, Annual Conference

December 2011 Alert: Activist Training, Special “Incendiary” Screening, Annual Conference

In This Edition:
In the News
Upcoming Events


The State of Texas executed 13 people this year. While no further executions are scheduled for 2011, 6 executions already have been scheduled for 2012.

In the News

Thank the Governor of Oregon for Stopping Executions!

On November 22, 2011, the Governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber, announced a ban on executions during his time in office. In a prepared statement, he declared “It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach. I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am Governor.”  Under his authority, Governor Kitzhaber granted a reprieve to Gary Haugen, who had been scheduled for execution on December 6, 2011.  This would have been the first execution in the state in 14 years. Read more and take action today to thank Governor Kitzhaber for his principled leadership on this issue.

Upcoming Events

Bexar County Campaign Community Activist Training

The training will take place this Saturday, December 3 from 10:00-2:00pm. It is open to all community members who want to learn more about the death penalty and get involved in efforts to end this practice in Bexar County.

The Community Activist Training will include a panel discussion about the state of the death penalty in Texas and our strategy for change, an interactive messaging workshop, a special lunch time program, and afternoon breakout sessions to strategize about local opportunities for engaging and educating other concerned community members through faith outreach, civic outreach and campus organizing.  Get more information and register today.

Austin Area: Join TCADP for a Special Screening of “Incendiary”

Described as “equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama,” the new documentary film “Incendiary” focuses on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed by the State of Texas in 2004.  At least nine fire experts have questioned the evidence used to convict him of arson, and the case created quite a stir within the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

Please join TCADP for a special screening of this film at the Cinemark Cedar Park on Wednesday, December 14 at 7 PM.  The filmmakers, Steve Mims and Joe Bailey, will join us for a Q & A after the film to discuss the most recent developments in the Willingham case.  Tickets must be purchased in advance by December 13.

Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2011

TCADP will release its annual report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2011, on December 15, 2011. The report presents information on new death sentences, executions, and stays; legislative developments; and other issues affecting the criminal justice system in the nation’s most active death penalty state. Updated maps depicting death sentences by county also will be available. See for more details.


TCADP Announces Annual Award Winners to be Recognized at Annual Conference

The TCADP Board of Directors is pleased to announce the following 2012 TCADP Annual Award Winners, who will be recognized at the 2012 TCADP Annual Conference – Seizing the Momentum… Creating the Climate for Change on Saturday, February 18, 2012  at the University of the Incarnate Word Sky Room.  Please make plans to join us in celebrating these extraordinary individuals!

Courage:  Jan Brown
Media:  Jordan Smith, Austin Chronicle
Appreciation:  Brother Brian Halderman

Appreciation: Kelly Epstein
Founder’s Award:  Bishop Joe Wilson

Read more about the winners.

Individuals and organizations are invited to place an ad in the conference program to promote your work or congratulate the award winners.  We also invite you to exhibit at the conference.  Download Form.

In addition to the annual awards luncheon, the conference features:

  • General membership meeting
  • Workshops
  • Networking with TCADP members and allies
  • Panel discussion: Impact of Texas’ Changing Demographics on the Death Penalty

Pre-register for the conference today and book your hotel! Special rates for TCADP members and students.

Remember TCADP in Your Year-End Giving!

Check your mailboxes later next week for TCADP’s year-end appeal, which includes reflections on another momentous year for our movement to end the death penalty. We are grateful for the contributions that so many of you have made already this year and ask for your additional support so that TCADP can continue to engage the citizens of Texas – and our elected officials – in a critical conversation about the death penalty. Save a stamp by making an end-of-the-year, tax-deductible donation today using our secure online system!  Thank you for your support and generosity.



1    TCADP Table at Dallas Peace Center Annual Dinner

3    Community Activist Training in San Antonio

4    Odessa Chapter Meeting, 4 PM

7    Anniversary of the Resumption of Executions in Texas in 1982

10  International Human Rights Day

14   Screening of “Incendiary” and Q & A with Filmmakers

15  TCADP Annual Report Release

19  El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7 PM


30 Last Day to Book Block Rate Hotel rooms for TCADP Annual Conference


1 Last Day to Receive TCADP Annual Conference Registration Early Bird Rates

For more information about these events or to volunteer, email

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