Archive | Carlos Deluna

04 August 2014 ~ Comments Off on TCADP August 2014 Alert: Another look at two wrongful Texas executions

TCADP August 2014 Alert: Another look at two wrongful Texas executions

In this issue of TCADP’s August 2014 Alert:

Scheduled executions
Case updates
Re-examining wrongful executions
Summer 2014 Newsletter
In case you missed it

Scheduled executions and ongoing lethal injection debacle
No executions are scheduled to take place in Texas this month.  There currently are four executions scheduled in September and October and six in the first few months of 2015. Officials in Arizona were responsible for the nation’s third botched execution this year.  The execution of Joseph Wood on July 23 lasted for nearly two hours as he reportedly gasped and snorted on the gurney.  Arizona used the same combination of drugs – hydromorphone and midazolam – that led to Ohio’s botched execution of Dennis McGuire in January.  Records reveal that Wood was injected with 15 doses of the lethal drugs.

Like Arizona, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has shrouded our state’s lethal injection protocol in secrecy, refusing to identify the source of the drugs now used to carry out executions. In an interview last week,U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that death row inmates should have the right to know what drugs the state is using in executions.

For in-depth analysis of the controversy surrounding lethal injections, check out “Does it matter how a condemned man dies?” by Alex Hannaford, which appears in British GQ.

Case updates
Retired judges support appeal of Rodney Reed
On July 21, eight retired federal and state judges petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to accept an appeal from Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to be executed on January 14, 2015. Among them are Royal Ferguson of Texas, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Charles Baird, who served eight years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and four years as a state district judge in Austin. Read more.

Another look at two wrongful Texas executions
Evidence undermines “pillar” of Cameron Todd Willingham conviction
New evidence in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham significantly undermines the credibility of Johnny Webb, the jailhouse informant whose testimony was instrumental in Willingham’s conviction.  Willingham was executed in 2004 for the 1991 arson murder of his three daughters in Corsicana, despite compelling evidence of his innocence.

Maurice Possley, writing for The Marshall Project, a new nonprofit news organization focused on the criminal justice system, exposes the fact that the man who prosecuted Willingham, John H. Jackson, worked for years “to alter Webb’s conviction, speed his parole, get him clemency and move him from a tough state prison back to his hometown jail.” Possley notes “Had such favorable treatment been revealed prior to his execution, Willingham might have had grounds to seek a new trial.”  The Innocence Project has filed a grievance against Jackson with the State Bar of Texas. Read the full article in the Washington Post.

Questions continue to haunt case of Carlos DeLuna 
From the moment of his arrest to the night of his execution just six and a half years later, Carlos DeLuna maintained his innocence in the 1983 murder of convenience store clerk Wanda Lopez in Corpus Christi.  A 2012 article in the Columbia University Human Rights Law Review shed new light on his case and sought to resolve whether Texas executed the wrong person for this brutal and senseless crime.  Cataloguing in minute detail everything that went wrong in DeLuna’s case, this groundbreaking study by Columbia Law School Professor James Liebman and a team of students is now available as a book, The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution.

The book and its accompanying website comprise one of the most comprehensive investigations into a criminal case in U.S. history.  It also provides compelling evidence of the identity of the real killer: Carlos Hernandez, a violent and dangerous man well known to law enforcement yet ridiculed by prosecutors as a “phantom” of DeLuna’s imagination during his trial.  As an editorial in theDallas Morning News observes, the wrongful execution of DeLuna “should haunt us still today.”

TCADP Summer 2014 Newsletter now available online
In the Summer 2014 issue of our quarterly newsletter, Seizing the Momentum, you’ll find commentary by contributor Rex Castle on why he (and you) should sit on a death penalty jury; reflections by Rev. Jeff Hood on his 200-mile pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin; and highlights of recent TCADP activities.  Page 3 lists exciting special events on the horizon, as well as ongoing opportunities for your involvement.  Download it now!

In case you missed it
Death penalty not reserved for “worst of the worst” according to new study
new study of 100 people executed in 2012 and 2013, published in The Hastings Law Journal, shows that the death penalty system has failed to identify and execute “the worst of the worst.”  According to researchers, the overwhelming majority of those executed had deficits of at least one kind, such as intellectual disability, severe mental illness, or severe childhood trauma. Professor Charles Ogletree summarizes the data in an opinion editorial that appeared in theWashington Post. View an infographic and coverage of the study.

California’s death penalty ruled unconstitutional
An unprecedented ruling last month by U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney held that California’s death penalty is so dysfunctional and arbitrary that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Vacating the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who has been on death row for almost 20 years, Judge Carney said the punishment cannot serve the purposes of deterrence or retribution when it is administered to a random few, decades after their sentencing.  Read the press release issued by our colleagues at Death Penalty Focus.

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01 April 2013 ~ Comments Off on April 2013 Alert: 5 Scheduled Executions, Legislative Session Mid-Point, Conference Videos and New Voices on the Death Penalty

April 2013 Alert: 5 Scheduled Executions, Legislative Session Mid-Point, Conference Videos and New Voices on the Death Penalty

In This Edition:
Scheduled Executions
Action Opportunities
Legislative Updates
In the News
Featured Events

Five executions currently are scheduled to take place in Texas this month; the April 3 execution date of Kimberly McCarthy has now been moved to June 26, 2013 upon an order from State District Judge Larry Mitchell. Those still scheduled for execution include Rigoberto Avila, whose attorneys are pursuing a claim of actual innocence. Read more on our blog and stay tuned to TCADP for information and action requests regarding these cases.

Action Opportunities
Join the Call for a New Sentencing Hearing for Duane Buck
On March 20, 2013, more than 100 prominent individuals from Texas and throughout the country, including civil rights leaders, elected officials, former prosecutors and judges, and clergy representing seven faith denominations, released a statement urging the Harris County District Attorney to provide a new, fair sentencing hearing for Texas death row inmate Duane Buck. The jury was told that Mr. Buck was more likely to pose a future danger to society because he is African American. Former Texas Governor Mark White, one of the signatories, delivered the statement to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Houston.  Read more.

Another signatory to the statement, Linda Geffin, one of Mr. Buck’s trial prosecutors, started an online petition on, which calls for a new, fair sentencing hearing for Mr. Buck.  Sign the petition now (if you haven’t done so already) and share it with your friends and family!

Read an editorial by the Houston Chronicle (“Race and the death sentence,” March 26, 2013), which urges Senator John Cornyn and Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson to show leadership in this matter and calls for a new sentencing hearing for Duane Buck.

Join the TCADP Social Media Rapid Response Team!
Help TCADP expand its reach and communicate important messages online!  Sign up today to be a part of the TCADP Social Media Rapid Response Team. (You don’t have to be in Texas to be helpful!)

After you sign up for the Rapid Response Team, support the Duane Buck resentencing campaign on Thunderclap Register with your FB and Twitter accounts.  The action will take place on Wednesday!

Watch Videos from TCADP Annual Conference Panel Discussion
Prof. James Liebman of Columbia Law School on the Carlos DeLuna case –

Also airing on Austin Access TV – Live Streaming availableVideo of Anthony Graves at the TCADP Annual Conference airing on Austin Access. Channel 16 – Wed April 3rd 8:00am; Channel 10 – Monday April 1st 6pm, Tues 2nd 9pm, Fri 5th 7pm. Live Streaming!

Legislative Updates
Texas 83rd Legislature Passes Halfway Mark
Members of TCADP’s Lobby Corps continue to visit the State Capitol weekly to meet with legislative offices and discuss repeal of the death penalty. Two additional legislators, State Representative Alma Allen (District 131–Houston) and State Representative Lon Burnam (District 90–Fort Worth) have signed on with State Representative Jessica Farrar as joint authors of House Bill 1703, which calls for abolition of the death penalty.   Please thank these legislators for their leadership:, and We expect the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to schedule a hearing on HB 1703 in the coming weeks.

Read about other legislative initiatives aimed at limiting the application of the death penalty and reducing the risk of wrongful convictions in an editorial by the Dallas Morning News (“With death penalty bans gaining steam, what’s next for Texas?” March 21, 2013).

Maryland Ends the Death Penalty!
On the national front, on March 15, 2013, Maryland’s House of Delegates voted 82-56 to end the death penalty. This followed passage in the Maryland Senate earlier in the month, by a vote of 27-20. The bill will go to Governor Martin O’Malley, who has already promised to sign it and make it law. In doing so, Maryland will become the sixth state in six years to end the death penalty. Read more from the Baltimore Sun.

Right next door, the Delaware Senate voted 11-10 on March 26, 2013 in favor of legislation repealing the death penalty. The bill now moves to the House for consideration, where it has 12 bipartisan sponsors. Read more.

In the News – New Voices on the Death Penalty
New Group Questions the Alignment of the Death Penalty with Conservative Principles
A diverse group of state and national leaders gathered at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to launch a new entity, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. This self-described “national network of conservatives questioning the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles” includes Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, and Richard Viguerie, known as the “Funding Father” of the conservative movement, and TCADP Board Member Pat Monks, a long-time Republican Precinct Chair in Houston. Read some of the media coverage of this new group here and here.

If you would like to become involved in conservative outreach efforts in Texas, please contact TCADP Program Coordinator Vicki McCuistion at

Former District Attorney of Montague County, Texas Asks Whether the State Needs to Take a Life to Make a Point
The March issue of Texas Monthly magazine features a personal essay by Tim Cole, who served four terms as the District Attorney of Montague, County (“The Death Penalty Has a Face: A DA’s Personal Story,” March 18, 2013), in which he discusses his personal experience with a local death penalty case. He writes, “Over the years I have come to believe that the time for the death penalty has passed. As more and more states abolish the sentence, or declare moratoriums on carrying it forward, the death penalty will be given less and less until the day comes when the state no longer needs to take a life to make a point.” Read the essay.

Featured Events
April 11: Sister Helen Prejean in Fort Worth
Texas Wesleyan University is proud to present for its 2013 Willson Lecture, Sister Helen Prejean, on Thursday, April 11, 2013, at 7:00 p.m. in the Polytechnic United Methodist Church Sanctuary (church on campus at 1310 S. Collard St, Fort Worth, 76105). The lecture is free and open to the public and there will be a book sale/signing immediately after.  Learn more. Sister Prejean is the author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the U.S. and The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.

April 13: Texas State Meeting of Amnesty International USA
The 2013 Texas State Meeting of Amnesty International USA will take place on Saturday, April 13, 2013 from 10:30 am – 5:30 pm at the University of Texas-Austin Student Activity Center. TCADP Board Member Les Breeding will lead a workshop on Lobbying 101.  Other workshop topics include Human Rights 101, Texas Death Penalty Abolition, and Immigrant Rights. For more information and to RSVP, go to or email Savannah Fox at

May 1: Webinar – Addressing the Needs of Victims in Death Penalty Cases: The Role and Responsibility of the Defense
with Tammy Krause, Kelly Branham and Dick Burr
What application does restorative justice have in the highly-charged, adversarial context of death penalty cases? Is it possible to do more to engage the families of homicide victims in these cases and in doing so, to help address their needs? What can and should the defense team do in these situations? This webinar will take place from 3:30-5:00 PM Central Daylight Time (USA) and cost $10.  Registration is limited to the first 100 registrants, so sign up today!


2-4: National Catholic Educational Association Conference, Houston
3: Scheduled Execution: Kimberly McCarthy
6: Pax Christi Texas Conference, Houston; Texas Junior State of America, Houston
9: Scheduled Execution: Rickey Lewis
10: Scheduled Execution: Rigoberto Avila, Jr.
11: Sister Helen Prejean at Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, 7:00pm
13: Texas State Meeting of Amnesty International USA, Austin 10:30am
15: El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm,
16: Scheduled Execution: Ronnie Threadgill
17: Dallas Religious Organizing Committee 6:00pm, Chapter meeting 7:00pm,
24: Scheduled Execution: Elroy Chester
25: Scheduled Execution: Richard Cobb

For more information about these events or to volunteer to staff a table at an outreach event, email

Support all of the programs and initiatives described here with a generous donation to TCADP today!

TCADP is on Facebook – become a Fan today!  On Twitter, follow us!  And on LinkedIn – Join Us!

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20 February 2013 ~ Comments Off on Abolitionists Gather in Austin for 2013 Annual Conference

Abolitionists Gather in Austin for 2013 Annual Conference

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            
Wednesday, February 20, 2013                       

CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, TCADP Executive Director
512-441-1808 (office); 512-552-5948 (cell);


Abolitionists Gather in Austin for Annual Conference

Local filmmakers to receive 2013 Media Award

(Austin, Texas) — More than 150 activists and supporters from across Texas will gather this Saturday, February 23, 2013 at St. Edward’s University in Austin for the annual conference of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP).  This event, “Changing the Conversation,” will feature workshops and a panel discussion on how instances of wrongful convictions and evidence of wrongful executions are changing the conversation on the death penalty.  Panelists include:

  • Karen Boudrie, an award-winning journalist, news director, and public relations consultant who covered the capital trial of Carlos DeLuna in Corpus Christi in 1983 and was the last person to speak with him before his wrongful execution in 1989;
  • Anthony Graves, a motivational speaker and legal consultant who spent 18 years in prison, including 12.5 years on death row, before being exonerated in 2010;
  • Professor James Liebman, Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law, and the lead author of Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution

TCADP Board Member Estrus Tucker, an independent consultant from Fort Worth, will moderate the discussion.

During the conference, TCADP will present the 2013 Media Award to Joe Bailey, Jr. and Steve Mims, the filmmakers behind “Incendiary,” a 2011 documentary about the case of Cameron Todd Willingham.  Willingham was executed in 2004 for setting a fire in 1991 in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters.  Serious questions persist regarding his culpability.  “Incendiary” exposes the political manipulation of the Texas Forensic Science Commission as it sought to determine whether flawed forensic science played a role in Willingham’s conviction and ultimate execution.

TCADP will present Appreciation Awards to JC Dufresne, of Cibolo, Texas, who played an instrumental role in the Texas Democratic Party’s decision to endorse abolition of the death penalty in its 2012 Party Platform, and to the members of the Methodist Federation for Social Action-Southwest Texas Chapter, for their years of involvement and ongoing contributions to the abolition movement.

“The theme of this year’s conference reflects our conviction that it is no longer a question of whether we should or will end the death penalty but, rather, what it will take to hasten its demise,” said Kristin Houlé, the Executive Director of TCADP.  “We encourage all elected officials in Texas to engage with us in this important conversation and evaluate the impact of the death penalty on our counties and the state as a whole.”

The 2013 TCADP Annual Conference, co-sponsored by Campus Ministry of St. Edward’s University, will take place in the Mabee Ballroom, which is located on the Third Floor of the Robert and Pearle Ragsdale Center at St. Edward’s University, 3001 South Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas, 78704, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  The awards ceremony will take place from 12:30 to 2:00 PM.  All are welcome.

For more information, visit

TCADP is a statewide, grassroots advocacy organization based in Austin.


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01 February 2013 ~ Comments Off on February 2013: Two Executions Stayed, Legislative Update, Important Conference Reminders, and More!

February 2013: Two Executions Stayed, Legislative Update, Important Conference Reminders, and More!

In This Edition:
Scheduled Executions and Case Updates
Upcoming Events
In the News


The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Carl Blue on February 21, 2013 for the murder of his former girlfriend, Carmen Richards-Sanders, in College Station in 1994.  If it proceeds as scheduled, this will be the first Texas execution this year. Read more about this case in the Bryan-College Station Eagle.

Respond to this scheduled execution by attending vigils in your community:

Update on Other Cases
Two Texas Death Row Inmates Receive Stays of Execution
On January 29, 2013, a state district judge stayed the execution of Kimberly McCarthy five hours before it was scheduled to take place. It would have been the fourth Texas execution involving a female since 1982.  Judge Marshall granted the stay to provide McCarthy’s attorneys with more time to pursue an appeal based on racial discrimination in the jury selection process. The execution has been reset for April 3.  Read more, including a statement from one of McCarthy’s attorneys. Thanks to everyone who made calls to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office about this case!

On January 30, 2013, State District Judge Kelly Case withdrew the February 27 execution date of Larry Swearingen in order to give his attorneys more time to pursue DNA testing. Swearingen was convicted of the 1998 rape and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, a student at Montgomery Community College.  Her body was discovered in the Sam Houston National Forest on January 2, 1999, nearly a month after she disappeared from campus.  Swearingen was in police custody on unrelated charges for the three weeks preceding the discovery of Trotter’s body and has maintained his innocence. Read more on the TCADP blog.

Mistrial Declared in Capital Murder Case
On January 28, 2013, after a 55-day delay, District Judge Ken Keeling declared a mistrial in the capital murder trial of John Ray Falk, Jr. The trial, which had been moved from Walker County to Brazos County, came to a halt in December pending a legal dispute over jury instructions. The Walker County District Attorney remains determined to pursue the death penalty in this case. Read more in the Bryan-College Station Eagle

Upcoming Events

TCADP 2013 Annual Conference – Register today to Change the Conversation
Changing the Conversation will take place on Saturday, February 23 in Austin, Texas at St. Edward’s University. If you register by February 1 (TODAY) you can attend for a reduced rate; TCADP members receive an additional discount in gratitude for your support throughout the year!

Check out this year’s schedule:

9:00 General Membership Meeting

10:30 Panel Discussion: How are instances of wrongful convictions and evidence of wrongful executions changing the conversation on the death penalty? Karen Boudrie, journalist; Anthony Graves; Professor James Liebman, Columbia University School of Law; and Estrus Tucker, Moderator

12:30 Lunch, Keynote and Award Presentations
Appreciation: JC Dufresne, Texas Democratic Party; Appreciation: Methodist Federation for Social Action-Southwest Texas Chapter; Media: Joe Bailey, Jr. and Steve Mims, Filmmakers of “Incendiary”

2:00 Workshops / Small Group Conversations
·         Beginners Guide to Legislative Advocacy
·         Collaborating to Drive Down Death Sentences and Executions
·         Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (small group conversation)
Plus, other small group conversations as proposed by participants during pre-registration

3:45 Workshops/ Small Group Conversations
·         The Habits of the Heart: Bridging the Divide and Building Common Ground
·         How to Answer the Tough Questions
·         Increasing Awareness of the Needs of Murder Victims’ Family Members
Plus, other small group conversations as proposed by participants during pre-registration

5:00 Closing Session

Conference Hotel Discounted Room Block ends today!
Wyndham Garden Hotel – A limited number of rooms have been blocked for Friday and Saturday nights at $109 a night. The Hotel will have a free shuttle available to the conference location. If you have trouble making reservations, please call the hotel at 512-744-4831 Booking info on TCADP website.

Help TCADP with Social Media for the Annual Conference:

PLEASE SHARE- Copy Links that can be posted on Twitter and Facebook:

Sample Tweet
@TCADPdotORG 2013 Conference #changingconversation Feb 23 Austin #StEdwardsUniversity

Registration is open for the TCADP 2013 Annual Conference – Feb 23 (Austin). Discounted rates for TCADP members. NEW- Participants are invited to submit discussion topics during their registration.

Invite your friends to the event posted on Facebook (does not count as registration):

Happenings at the 83rd Texas Legislature
The 83rd Texas Legislature convened on January 8, 2013 and is now in full swing. Check out the newly appointed members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which will consider most death penalty-related legislation.
The TCADP Lobby Corps has already been active at the Capitol. On January 22-23, 2013, we visited all 181 legislative offices and shared copies of TCADP’s 2012 year-end report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review. Lobby Corps members engaged in many positive conversations with legislators and their staffs. Please stay tuned to TCADP for updates on legislation and opportunities for you to take action during the session!

In the News
Last month, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins declared his interest in passing a Racial Justice Act in Texas, which would allow death row inmates to pursue appeals based on evidence of racial bias in their cases. Similar legislation has been passed in Kentucky and North Carolina. An editorial from the Dallas Morning News notes that “something underlies the statewide pattern of sending mostly minorities to death row in recent years, and lawmakers should explore the reasons.” Read the editorial and additional coverage from The StandDown Texas Project.


1: TODAY: Last Day to Receive TCADP Annual Conference Registration Early Bird Rates; Last Day to Book Block Rate Hotel rooms for TCADP Annual Conference

2: Workshop: “The Exonerated and Wrongfully Convicted,” San Antonio 1:00-4:00pm, St. Mary’s University – AT&T Center, Room 108. Free CEU’s. More details.

10-11:  Mass Incarceration Symposium and Lobby Day, ACLU of Texas. Register –

18-21: TCADP and EJUSA booth at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor – Clergy and Lay Leadership Conference, Dallas. More details.

18: El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm,

20: Dallas Religious Organizing Committee 6:00pm, Chapter meeting 7:00pm,

21: Scheduled execution – Carl Blue

23: TCADP 2013 Annual Conference, Austin Register today.

25: Rev. Carroll Picket to speak at Austin Presbyterian Seminary

27: El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty (EPADP) and UTEP’s Religious Studies Program present: “48 Hours Mystery: Grave Injustice,” the story of Anthony Graves. Food will be provided. 11:30- 1:00pm, UTEP Union Cinema

For more information about these events or to volunteer to staff a table at an outreach event, email

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12 December 2012 ~ Comments Off on TCADP Report: Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas

TCADP Report: Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, Executive Director
512-441-1808 (office); 512-552-5948 (cell)

Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas,
According to New Report by TCADP

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex led state in pursuit of the death penalty in 2012

(Austin, Texas) — More than half of all new death sentences were imposed in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this year, while no new death sentences were imposed in Harris County for the third time in five years, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s (TCADP) new report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review.

New death sentences in Texas have declined more than 75% since 2002 and remain near historic low levels in 2012.  To date this year, juries have condemned nine new individuals to death in Texas, a slight increase over 2011 and 2010, when new death sentences fell to their lowest number since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas’ revised death penalty statute in 1976.  The verdict in a capital murder trial in Brazos County, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, has been delayed indefinitely pending a legal dispute over jury instructions.

Tarrant and Dallas Counties each accounted for two new death sentences and Johnson County accounted for one.  Dallas County now leads the state in new death sentences since 2008, accounting for nearly 20% of sentences imposed in the last five years.  Dallas County also led the state in executions, accounting for 5 of the 15 executions carried out this year.

“While most of Texas is moving away from the death penalty, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was a major outlier both in new death sentences and executions this year,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  “2012 exemplified the arbitrariness that pervades the death penalty system in Texas.  Not only does it remain geographically isolated to just a few jurisdictions statewide, but it continues to be applied in a haphazard and unfair way, particularly when it comes to individuals with intellectual disabilities or severe mental illness and people of color.”

Seven of the new death row inmates in 2012 are African-American, one is Hispanic, and one is a white female.  Over the last five years, nearly 75% of death sentences in Texas have been imposed on people of color – 46% African-American and 28% Hispanic.  In Dallas County, this pattern is even more pronounced – of the eight men sentenced to death there since 2008, five are African-American and two are Hispanic.

Of the 15 men executed in Texas this year, seven were African-American, four were Hispanic, and four were white.

“Although Texas is using the death penalty less, the state still uses it disproportionately on people of color,” said Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service.  “This is a recurring problem and Texas’ failure to fix it demonstrates how broken its capital punishment system is.”

Troubling questions also persist regarding the arbitrary determination of who receives the ultimate punishment.  Cases involving individuals with comparable backgrounds or who presented similar legal arguments received vastly different treatment by the criminal justice system this year.

As one example of this arbitrariness, several death row inmates with diagnosed severe mental illnesses were scheduled for execution this year.  The executions of Steven Staley and Marcus Druery were halted pending unresolved issues related to their mental competency, while the execution of Jonathan Green, who reportedly suffered from schizophrenia, proceeded on October 10, 2012 after significant legal wrangling.

This disparate treatment was also evident in terms of issues related to intellectual disabilities.

Two inmates with recognized intellectual disabilities received reduced sentences and were removed from death row this year: Roosevelt Smith, convicted in 2007, and Anthony Pierce, who spent more than three decades on death row.  On the other hand, Marvin Wilson was executed on August 7, 2012 despite being diagnosed with an IQ of 61, well below the threshold of 70 for mental impairment.  His case created an international uproar and starkly illustrated the woefully inadequate and unscientific standards used by the State of Texas to determine which defendants with intellectual disabilities are protected from execution.

Other highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review:

  • The State of Texas accounted for more than a third of U.S. executions this year, a smaller percentage than in the past but nearly three times as many as any other state.  Texas has executed a total of 492 people since 1982 – 253 executions have occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001 – present), more than any other governor in U.S. history.
  • Six inmates scheduled for execution in 2012 received reprieves.  In addition, three execution dates were withdrawn.
  • Death-qualified juries rejected the death penalty in the sentencing phase in four trials this year and instead opted for life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In all four cases, the jury determined that the defendant did not pose a future danger.  Over the last five years, death-qualified juries have rejected the death penalty in at least 20 capital murder trials.
  • According to research by TCADP, the Texas death row population stands at its lowest level since 1989.  As of November 16, 2012, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice counted 289 death row inmates, which includes 10 women.

“Attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting as public confidence in the ultimate punishment continues to erode,” said Houlé.  “As we approach the start of the 83rd Texas Legislature, TCADP urges concerned citizens and elected officials to confront the realities of this irreversible punishment and reconsider the efficacy and cost of the death penalty as a means of achieving justice.”

TCADP is a statewide, grassroots advocacy organization based in Austin.

Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review is available online at  Contact report author Kristin Houlé at to receive a copy directly via email.  See the report for tables illustrating Texas’ highest-use counties from 2008-2012, the race of defendants sentenced to death in the last five years, and additional graphs depicting recent trends.

See for a map of new death sentences by county from 2008 to 2012.

See for a map of death sentences by county from 1976 to 2012.


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07 December 2012 ~ Comments Off on Thirty Years Ago Today…

Thirty Years Ago Today…

Thirty years ago today, December 7, 1982, the State of Texas officially resumed executions, putting Charlie Brooks to death for the 1976 murder of David Gregory.  That was also the nation’s first execution by lethal injection, a new method concocted by a legislator and former chief medical examiner in Oklahoma.

Reverend Carroll Pickett, who served as the chaplain at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, spent all day with Charlie Brooks and stood at the foot of the gurney as he was executed.  In his memoir, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, he writes about the immediate aftermath of the execution:  “All that remained was an air of stunned silence – testimony to the fact that none of those who had witnessed penal history being made had really been prepared for what they had seen.”

Since 1982, the State of Texas has executed 492 people; 253 of these executions have occurred during the administration of Governor Rick Perry, more than any other governor in U.S. history.  This year, the State of Texas carried out 15 executions, a slight increase over last year and nearly three times as many as any other state in the country.

Yet Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is moving away from the death penalty.  New death sentences remain near record-low levels, and death-qualified juries have rejected this punishment in at least 18 trials in the past five years.

Use of the death penalty has been relegated to just a few jurisdictions statewide; in fact, only 11 counties in the entire state of Texas imposed new death sentences in the last two years.  These trends and other developments in 2012 appear in TCADP’s year-end report, scheduled to be released next week.

With your support, TCADP is educating Texans about the fatal flaws of our state’s death penalty system and equipping our members to serve as powerful citizen advocates for abolition.  Together, we are hastening the day that we mark the anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

Thank you for your support and steadfast commitment to this issue.

p.s. We had the pleasure of meeting Charlie’s son Keith in Dallas on Tuesday. Keith’s family is holding a memorial service today in Fort Worth for Charlie Brooks. The memorial will be held from 12 to 3:00 p.m. at the Riverside Community Center, 3700 Belknap Street, Fort Worth. The program will include lunch and reflections. Everyone is welcome.

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01 June 2012 ~ Comments Off on June 2012 Alert: On the Road to Abolition, Abundant Evidence of Wrongful Convictions/Executions, and More!

June 2012 Alert: On the Road to Abolition, Abundant Evidence of Wrongful Convictions/Executions, and More!

n this monthly alert, you will find opportunities to get involved on the local level and recent death penalty developments. We encourage you to attend upcoming events and become a TCADP member today. Thank you for joining us as we seize the momentum to end the death penalty once and for all!

In This Edition:

Scheduled Executions
Upcoming Events
Recent News


There are no executions scheduled to take place in Texas this month.

On July 18, 2012, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Yokamon Hearn, who was convicted in Dallas County of the 1998 carjacking and murder of Frank Meziere.

Update on Anthony Bartee (granted stay of execution on May 2, 2012):
According to a recent article in the San Antonio Express-News (“Decision adds to scrutiny of death penalty cases,” May 26, 2012), DNA testing has been conducted on drinking glasses and cigarettes collected at the crime scene: “Last week the Bexar County crime lab’s testing found on the evidence the DNA
of three people – two men and one woman so far unidentified. The results will now be sent through the state and federal databases. As prosecutors hunt for DNA matches, the civil rights case lingers in federal court.” Read more from the Express-News.

Upcoming Events

For anyone attending the Texas State Democratic Convention this week at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, please stop by the TCADP information table – booth #119 in the Exhibitors’ Hall E, close to the registration counters. We also invite delegates to attend a workshop on “Progress Towards Repealing the Death Penalty in Texas,” which we are hosting from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Friday, June 8, in Room 360 ABC.   The workshop will feature remarks from death row exonoree Anthony Graves and State Representative Jessica Farrar, among other friends. For more information about the convention, contact Kristin at

Recent News
Additional Coverage of the Wrongful Execution of Carlos DeLuna

Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, which provides the most compelling evidence to date that the State of Texas executed an innocent man, continues to generate significant attention. For a good overview of the case of Carlos DeLuna, who was executed in 1989, read an opinion piece by the author of the study, James S. Liebman, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times on June 1, 2012 (“You can’t fix the death penalty”) or watch a short piece by PBS NewsHour (“Carlos DeLuna Case: the Fight to Prove an Innocent Man Was Executed,” May 24, 2012).   Also worth reading is an editorial by the Houston Chronicle, which cites the DeLuna case in affirming its call for the abolition of the death penalty (“Death penalty perils,” May 24, 2012).

For more background information on Carlos DeLuna, visit Visit TCADP for information on other wrongful executions and wrongful convictions.

First-of-its-kind National Registry of Exonerations

On May 21, 2012, the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law released the National Registry of Exonerations, which documents 894 exonerations since 1989. Of these, 89 occurred in Texas, the second-highest number of exonerations among all states. Read more on the TCADP blog and visit the Registry for a list of all Texas exonerations and other details.

Ever wish you were a fly on the wall?

The June issue of Texas Monthly magazine features a fascinating roundtable discussion that took place recently among some of the most pivotal players in our state’s criminal justice system. Texas Monthly sat down with six individuals – a police chief, a district attorney, a special prosecutor, a death row exonoree, a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and a State Senator – to talk about Texas’ abysmal record of wrongful convictions. Read more from the TCADP blog.  (At this time, the online article is only available for subscribers; you can pick up a copy of Texas Monthly from your local newsstand or bookstore.)

Reposted From the Death Penalty Information Center:

Public Finds Death Penalty Less Morally Acceptable in New Gallup Survey
Posted: May 31, 2012

Gallup recently released its Values and Beliefs survey regarding American moral views on a variety of social issues.  The results revealed a significant decline in the percentage of the public that finds the death penalty “morally acceptable.”  This year, only 58% of respondents said the death penalty is morally acceptable, down from 65% last year.   (Click on graph to enlarge.)This marks the lowest approval rating for capital punishment since this survey was first administered 12 years ago. Among Democrats, only 42% found the death penalty morally acceptable.  Generally, support for the death penalty falls below 50% when the public is offered alternative punishments.  In 2010, Gallup asked which is the better punishment for murder: the death penalty or life in prison without parole?  Less than half (49%) chose the death penalty, while 46% chose life without parole.

Read more



Help Expand TCADP’s Base of Support

Over the next six weeks, TCADP will sponsor information tables at 11 different conventions and festivals across the state, through which we have the potential to reach close to 50,000 people! The cost of participation ranges from $50 to $1,000 in registration fees, staff travel, and printed materials for distribution. These events are vital to our efforts to identify new supporters and raise awareness of the flaws and failures of the Texas death penalty system.   Your donation of $50 or $100 today will underwrite these expenses and advance our ongoing outreach and educational programs!

Austin Area: Month of Faith in Action

If you belong to a faith community in Austin, please talk to your clergy about joining TCADP for our Month of Faith in Action to promote dialogue about the death penalty in Texas. There has never been a more important time for people of faith to engage in education and action on the death penalty, and to take a leadership role in speaking out against this culture of violence and vengeance.

We are encouraging congregations to hold activities and events in solidarity with each other September 15 to October 14, however, you are welcome to schedule an event any time in the year that accommodates your calendar. The Month of Faith in Action will culminate in an interfaith gathering and presentation by Sr. Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, on Friday, October 12, 2012 at St. Edward’s University.

Possible activities include:

  • Distribute information on the death penalty, in keeping with your faith tradition’s perspective on the issue;
  • Collect signatures of support as part of our “Count Me In” campaign;
  • Hear testimony from a murder victim’s family member, exonerated death row inmate, or other speaker;
  • Show a film followed by a discussion (TCADP staff/ volunteers can be available to help facilitate if you wish);
  • Talk with fellow clergy about the death penalty at clergy breakfasts or other professional gatherings.

Printed materials, speakers, films, and discussion guides are available to you at no cost from TCADP. We are happy to work with you on developing a program that fits your needs and capacity. To learn more or to request resources go to: (under Programs, click on “Religious Outreach”) or call the TCADP office at 512-441-1808.



3 Odessa Chapter Meeting, 4:00pm,

3-5 North Texas UMC Annual Conference, Dallas

6 TX UMC Annual Conference—Witness to Innocence, Houston

7-10 SWTX UMC Annual Conference, Corpus Christi

7-10 LULAC Conference, San Marcos*

8-9 Democratic State Convention, Houston

9 San Antonio Pridefest*

14-16 Rio Grande UMC Annual Conference, San Antonio*

15-16 Texas Black Expo, Houston*

16 Soul Food Fest, Grand Prairie

20 Dallas Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm,

20-21 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, Fort Worth*

23 Houston Pridefest*

25 El Paso Chapter Meeting, 6:00pm,

26-July 2 Starving for Justice:  Death Penalty Fast and Vigil Supreme Court Steps, Washington, D.C.


7-12 NAACP National Convention, Houston*

18 Scheduled Execution: Yokamon Hearn

TCADP will staff an information booth at all events marked with a star.  For more information about these events or to volunteer, or to help staff a table, email

TCADP is on Facebook – become a Fan today!  On Twitter, follow us!  And on LinkedIn – Join Us!

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25 May 2012 ~ 1 Comment

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Death penalty perils

This week, the Houston Chronicle affirmed its call for the abolition of the death penalty in an editorial focused on the wrongful execution of Carlos DeLuna (“Death penalty perils,” May 24, 2012).  Here are excerpts:

We have noted before, as have other observers, that the death penalty in Texas is all too often plagued by errors and failings, and defendants, whether guilty or innocent, have most likely been executed on the strength of faulty evidence. We concluded therefore that rather than risk executing an innocent person, we should abolish the death penalty.
Last week, we were confronted by compelling evidence that in all likelihood, the unthinkable had happened and the state of Texas had indeed executed an innocent man: Carlos DeLuna, put to death in 1989 for the stabbing death of Wanda Lopez at a Corpus Christi convenience store.

The editorial ends with this call for Texas to follow the lead of other states in repealing the death penalty:

Texas has made significant changes in the past few years, one of them being the adoption of a life without parole sentencing option in capital cases. This in itself takes away a major incentive for the death sentence. But the fact is, we can never rule out human failings and errors. We need to follow the example of a growing number of states and repeal our death penalty law. Its risks far outweigh its benefits.

Read the full editorial.

Also, watch this wonderful PBS NewsHour piece on the DeLuna case, which includes an interview with Columbia University Law Professor Jim Liebman:

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