Archive | death penalty

02 March 2015 ~ Comments Off

TCADP March 2015 Alert: Join us at the State Capitol on Monday, March 9th

In this edition:

– Scheduled executions
– Death penalty case developments
– Faith leader advocacy at the 84th Texas Legislature
– Amplify Austin
– Recap of TCADP 2015 Annual Conference
– Upcoming events

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

  • On March 11, Manuel Vasquez is scheduled to be put to death for the 1998 murder of 51-year-old Juanita Ybarra in San Antonio. His execution initially was set for August 6, 2014, but the state agreed to a stay.
  • The State of Texas is scheduled to put Randall Mays to death on March 18.  He was convicted of the fatal shootings of Sheriff’s Deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn outside his home in Henderson County in May 2007.

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

Death penalty case developments
Here are updates on several cases involving Texas death row inmates:

  • On February 23, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Rodney Reed a stay of execution to consider new evidence that supports his innocence in the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites.  Six judges agreed to the stay, which is “pending further order of this court.”  Read more.

    When asked about the court’s decision, Governor Greg Abbott reiterated his support for what he calls “an effective death penalty in Texas.” He went on to say, “I think that this is a healthy process that the court announced what it did so we can put beyond the shadow of any doubt whatsoever that he really is guilty of the crime for which he was convicted.” Read more from KEYE-TV.

  • On February 25, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a rare hearing to Linda Carty to review claims of prosecutorial misconduct in her case. Carty, a British citizen and native of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, was sentenced to death for plotting the 2001 murder of her neighbor, Joana Rodriguez, in order to steal Rodriguez’s newborn baby.  According to the Houston Chronicle, “a DEA agent and two of Carty’s co-defendants allege that Harris County prosecutors crossed ethical boundaries and threatened them to ensure Carty’s conviction.”
  • Antonio Williams, who was sentenced to death in 2007 for the murders of Vincent Williams and Yolanda Styles, was found dead in his cell in the Harris County Jail on February 19.  He was back in Houston to attend hearings for his appeals. Last November, two witnesses recanted their testimony naming Williams as the shooter; the two women said they were pressured by prosecutors and investigators to lie. Williams’ death was ruled a suicide.

Faith Leader Advocacy Day and Press Conference
TCADP’s first-ever “Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty” will take place on Monday, March 9 at the State Capitol, in partnership with Texas Impact, the oldest and largest statewide interfaith network in Texas. TCADP and Texas Impact will hold a press conference at 11:15 AM on the South Steps of the Capitol to release an Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty, which has been endorsed by nearly 600 faith leaders across Texas. Participants will also meet with legislators to voice their support for House Bill 1527, which calls for abolition of the death penalty in Texas.  State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) filed HB 1527 on February 17.

Learn more about the advocacy day and RSVP here.

We invite all TCADP supporters to participate in the press conference that morning.  Other opportunities for constituent advocacy at the 84th Texas Legislature will be announced soon as we push for a House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing on HB 1527.

Amplify Austin: Help TCADP three-peat! 
Amplify Austin, a 24-hour online fundraising festival, will take place from 6 PM on March 5th to 6 PM on March 6th.  You can help us win a $1,000 bonus prize for the third year in a row by donating between 1:00 and 2:00 PM Central Time on Friday, March 6. You might consider donating at:

1:12 PM for the 12 people exonerated from Texas death row
1:19 PM for the 19 jurisdictions (18 states and the District of Columbia) that don’t allow the death penalty
1:20 PM for the 120 supporters who attended the TCADP 2015 Annual Conference
1:39 PM for the 139 countries that have abolished the death penalty in law or practice
1:50 PM for the 150 death row exonerations nationwide

Check out TCADP’s profile page and set your alarm for Friday afternoon.  Last year, we raised more than $4,000 through this event!  (Can’t contribute on Friday?  Donations anytime during the 24-hour giving period are welcome and appreciated.)

Advocates gather in Austin for TCADP 2015 Annual Conference
TCADP is grateful to everyone who participated in our 2015 Annual Conference on February 21st in Austin!  It was wonderful to see so many new faces and longtime supporters, hear our inspiring speakers, and honor our incredible award recipients. We are excited to continue our work together to draw attention to death penalty fault lines. Photos from the day will be available soon on TCADP’s Facebook page.

Upcoming events

  • TCADP’s Houston Chapter will meet on Tuesday, March 3 at 7 PM at Central Market (3815 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77027).  Dr. Betty Gilmore, Director of the Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management at Southern Methodist University, will speak about the book that she and former death row prisoner, Nanon Williams, co-authored. The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisonsaddresses the widespread impact of extreme isolation experienced by thousands of incarcerated individuals in Texas prisons.
  • Dr. Sanaz Alasti, Assistant Professor in the Criminal Justice Program at Lamar University in Beaumont, will deliver the talk “The Future of the Death Penalty” on Monday, March 9 from 2:00 to 4:00 PM as part of the Phi Beta Delta – Beta Xi Colloquy.  The event will take place in the Landes Auditorium at the Galloway Business Building.
  • “A Faith Leader Conversation About the Death Penalty” with Rev. William Lawson, Pastor Emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, will take place on Tuesday, March 17 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Jones Building, Room J-204, 5501 Main Street; Houston, TX 77004).  This free event, the first in a series of conversations for faith leaders about their understanding of and response to capital punishment in Texas, is sponsored by TCADP’s Houston Chapter; brunch will be provided by the Houston Mennonite Church. Register here.
  • El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty meet on the last Tuesday of the month.  The next meeting will take place on March 31 at 7:00 PM at St. Pius X Church in the Pedro Maldonado Room (1050 North Clark Drive).

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01 December 2014 ~ Comments Off

Outpouring of support for Scott Panetti; updates on the TCADP 2015 Annual Conference; and Judge Tom Price calls for abolition

panetti profile picture-01TCADP December 2014 Alert 

In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Scott Panetti; Rodney Reed
TCADP 2015 Annual Conference: Keynote speaker, panelists, and award winners
In case you missed it: TCADP’s Fall 2014 Newsletter: Judge Tom Price calls for abolition
Upcoming events & important dates: Year-end report; Faith Leader Advocacy Day
Support TCADP

Scheduled executions
There has been an outpouring of support for Scott Panetti, a severely mentally ill man who is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.  Those calling for clemency include the nation’s largest grassroots advocacy organization on mental illness, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); NAMI’s Texas affiliate; Mental Health America; 10 state legislators; 8 active and retired United Methodist Bishops in Texas; former U.S. Representative Ron Paul; more than 50 Evangelical Christians; and the European Union, which represents 28 nations.  Several editorial boards from major Texas newspapers also have called for officials to stop this execution.  The change.org petition from Vicki Panetti has generated more than 90,000 signatures (thanks to everyone who has signed and promoted the petition).

As of this writing, a sharply divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Panetti a stay of execution in two separate rulings.  Read attorney statements and background information on the TCADP blog and please check our website and Twitter feed for breaking news on this case.  *Update* Attorneys for Panetti have now appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution.

Barring a stay, vigils will take place on Wednesday in communities throughout Texas.

Eleven executions already have been scheduled for 2015.  This includes Rodney Reed, who was convicted of killing Stacey Stites in Bastrop in 1996. Compelling evidence substantiates his claim of innocence and points to another suspect with a history of violence. Read Jordan Smith’s terrific piece, “Is Texas Getting Ready to Kill an Innocent Man?” in The Intercept.

On November 25, a judge denied Reed’s request for expanded DNA testing of evidence in his case but granted a separate motion delaying his execution date from January 15 to March 5. 2015.

TCADP 2015 Annual Conference
TCADP is delighted to announce the following keynote speaker and panelists for our 2015 Annual Conference, which will take place on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.

Keynote speaker: Tim Cole
Tim Cole is a former district attorney with more than 20 years of experience in the courtroom. He has tried over 100 felony jury trials in North Texas, including every level of felony charge. Tim was elected to four terms as 97th District Attorney (Archer, Clay & Montague Counties; 1993 to 2006) and served as assistant district attorney in the 271st District (Wise, Jack Counties; 2010-2014). He also served as Counsel to Governor Clements in 1990 and General Counsel for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association from 1988 to 1990.

Tim’s work in high-profile cases has been written about and documented in major publications. He also wrote about his personal experience in a death penalty case, “The Death Penalty Has a Face,” which was published by Texas Monthly in March 2013.

Panel discussion: “Shifting the Ground Under the Death Penalty”
Confirmed panelists:
Jen Moreno is a Staff Attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at UC Berkeley Law, where she has worked exclusively on challenges to lethal injection as a method of execution.  She has consulted with attorneys litigating lethal injection challenges in more than twenty jurisdictions.

Brian Stull is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. As trial and appellate counsel in capital cases in North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas, he has represented several clients who were wrongfully convicted, including Manuel Velez, an innocent Texas man recently released from prison (and recipient of our 2015 Courage Award), and Max Soffar, an innocent man dying of liver cancer on Texas’s death row.

Register now to attend TCADP’s 2015 Annual Conference.  Advance registration rates are available through December 31, 2014 (rates will increase on January 1st and again after February 13th). Interested in providing an information table or placing an ad in the conference program to congratulate our award recipientsDownload more information.

In case you missed it
TCADP’s Fall 2014 Newsletter
In the Fall 2014 issue of our quarterly newsletter, Seizing the Momentum, you’ll find an interview with Dorothy Van Soest, the author of Just Mercy, as well as information about a pen-pal program organized by St. Gabriel’s Ministry to the Imprisoned.  Check out photos from the dozens of events we organized this fall and read our cover story about Manuel Velez.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Tom Price calls for abolition
Last week in his dissent in the Panetti case, GOP Judge Tom Price of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals says he believes the death penalty should be abolished:

“Having spent the last forty years as a judge for the State of Texas, of which the last eighteen years have been as a judge on this Court, I have given a substantial amount of consideration to the propriety of the death penalty as a form of punishment for those who commit capital murder, and I now believe that it should be abolished.”

Read more from BuzzFeed and WOAI-AM.

Upcoming events & important dates 
Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2014: The Year in Review
TCADP’s year-end report will document the many noteworthy developments with the death penalty this year, including an in-depth look at trends in specific counties.  Look for more details later this month.  Previous reports are available online.

December 31, 2014: Last chance to make tax-deductible donations to TCADP in 2014 and to take advantage of advance registration rates for the 2015 Annual Conference

February 21, 2015TCADP 2015 Annual Conference, Austin, Texas

March 9, 2015: Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty.  More details will be announced soon; in the meantime, please encourage all faith leaders you know to sign the Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty.

Support TCADP
Between now and the end of the year, TCADP seeks to raise $20,000 so that we can continue our advocacy efforts on behalf of all Texans who oppose the death penalty. Save a stamp by making your end-of-the-year, tax-deductible donation today!

If you shop on Amazon, please consider designating TCADP as your charitable organization of choice. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to us, as long as your account connects with TCADP.

Thank you for your support and generosity!

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03 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

Registration for TCADP’s 2015 Annual Conference now open and other updates…

In this edition of our monthly alert for November 2014:

Scheduled executions
Support clemency for Max Soffar
TCADP 2015 Annual Conference
In case you missed it
Upcoming events
Support TCADP through AmazonSmile

Scheduled executions
Outrageously, the State of Texas just set a December 3, 2014 execution date for Scott Panetti. Panetti, who has suffered from severe mental illness for more than 30 years, has a fixed delusion that Satan, working through the state, is trying to kill him for preaching the Gospel.  Read background information on his case and watch “Executing the Insane: The Case of Scott Panetti,” which includes heartbreaking interviews with several members of his family.

We will provide updates on this case as they become available.  Please contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org or 512-441-1808 for more information.

Support clemency for Max Soffar
Imagine spending 34 years in prison – most of them on death row in Texas – for a crime you didn’t commit.  Now imagine being told by doctors that in a matter of months, maybe weeks, you will die of liver cancer.  That’s the situation facing Max Soffar, who will die behind bars before any court can exonerate him.  The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recently denied his petition for clemency, citing the absence of an execution date. Read more from Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, and join him and Sister Helen Prejean in calling on Governor Rick Perry to grant clemency to Max so that he can die at home.  Sign this change.org petition!

TCADP 2015 Annual Conference
Registration for the TCADP 2015 Annual Conference – Death Penalty Fault Lines: A Seismic Shift in Ground – is now open!  The conference will take place on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.  Take advantage of our advance registration rates by December 31st. (Rates will increase on January 1st and then again after February 13th).  Renew your membership or join TCADP today to receive our special member rates. Look for an announcement from us later this month regarding our panelists, keynote speaker, workshops, and award recipients.

In case you missed it
Gallup Poll finds decreasing support for death penalty among Republicans
According to the annual Gallup Poll, support for the death penalty among Republicans has dropped nine points over the last decade.  Read more about the reasons behind the decline.

Pope Francis condemns the death penalty
On October 24th, while addressing a group of members of the International Association of Penal Law, Pope Francis called on all people of good will to fight for abolition of the death penalty in “all of its forms” and for the improvement of prison conditions.  Learn more from the National Catholic Reporter.

Upcoming events

If you haven’t done so already, please vote on Tuesday, November 4th!

Texas Families for Justice Rally
On Friday, November 7th at 1:00 PM, Texas Inmate Families Association, Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, and TX CURE will host a Texas Families for Justice Rally on the South steps of the State Capitol in Austin. Add your voice to the call for criminal justice reform and stand in solidarity with hundreds of family members, formerly incarcerated individuals, and supporters from across the state.

Fair & Just Luncheon in Houston
Join us on Tuesday, November 18th for the next installment of our bi-monthly Fair & Just Lunch Series in Houston, 12:30 to 1:30 in the St. Joseph’s Room at St. Anne’s Catholic Church.  RSVP and order lunch today.  More details coming soon.

Victim Offender Mediation Training
The Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue seeks applicants for its upcoming Victim Offender Mediation Training.  This three-day skill-based training is designed to give participants tools to conduct victim-centered Victim Offender Mediation for low-level crimes, neighborhood and community disputes, and issues involving juveniles and young adults. The training will take place in Austin from December 4-6, 2014 and costs $300.  Download more information and the registration form.

Information about other upcoming events is available here.

Support TCADP through AmazonSmile
If you shop on Amazon, please consider sharing some of your purchase power with TCADP.  Amazon will donate 0.5% of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to TCADP, if you designate us as your charitable organization of choice. Note:  You must log into your account through amazonsmile.com for your purchases to benefit TCADP.

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02 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

Support clemency for Texas death row inmate Max Soffar

Imagine spending 34 years in prison – most of them on death row in Texas – for a crime you didn’t commit.  Now imagine being told by doctors that in a matter of months, you will die of liver cancer.  That’s the situation facing Max Soffar, who will die behind bars before any court can exonerate him… unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Texas Governor Rick Perry step in.

There is no evidence whatsoever connecting Soffar to the horrific murders of three people in a bowling alley in Houston in 1980.  His conviction and death sentence hinged solely on a confession he gave to police – one of three inconsistent statements he provided after three days of intense interrogation.  According to the National Registry of Wrongful Convictions, false confessions have played a role in 13% of exonerations nationwide.

Equally troubling is the fact that Max Soffar did not remotely resemble the description of the perpetrator provided by eyewitness and surviving victim Greg Garner.  Substantial evidence supporting the alternative theory of suspect Paul Dennis Reid has never been considered by a jury.

Attorneys for Max Soffar are asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Governor Rick Perry commute Soffar’s death sentence so that he may live his final days at home.

Texans: please sign this petition urging Governor Rick Perry to grant clemency to Max Soffar!

Non-Texans: please sign this petition in support of Max Soffar’s clemency petition!

Many prominent individuals, including former district attorneys, judges, and faith leaders are supporting Max Soffar’s clemency petition.  Among those calling for compassionate release are former Gov. Mark White and Judge William S. Sessions.  Read their letter here.   Also read an editorial by the Dallas Morning News, which states that “the clemency request serves a righteous purpose.”

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19 June 2014 ~ Comments Off

Southern Baptist Minister Rev. Jeff Hood to Finish Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin to Abolish Death Penalty

Rev. Jeff Hood will conclude his 200-mile pilgrimage from Texas’ death row to the State Capitol in Austin today.  Please join us at the Capitol at 5 PM for a press conference and at University Baptist Church at 7 PM to hear Rev.Hood talk about his journey.  Check out this coverage of the pilgrimage in the Huffington Post, courtesy of Shane Claiborne at Red Letter Christians, and in the Bryan-College Station Eagle.  

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 19, 2014

A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Livingston to Austin

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Board Member, Center For Theological Activism Executive Director and Southern Baptist Minister Rev. Jeff Hood Concludes 200-Mile Walk

CONTACT:
Rev. Jeff Hood, TCADP Board of Directors
404-210-6760 (cell)
jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com

EVENTS:
Austin, Thursday, June 19 at 5pm and 7pm

5pm                 

Brief Statement and Press Conference at the Conclusion of the Pilgrimage on the steps of the South Entrance of the Texas State Capitol

Members of University Baptist Church and other friends will join Rev. Hood at the conclusion of his walk at the State Capitol and will walk with him to the concluding Faithful Conversation at University Baptist.

7 to 9pm

A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Rev. Jeff Hood at the Conclusion of his Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin
University Baptist Church
2130 Guadalupe St.
Austin, Texas 78705

Of the pilgrimage, Rev. Jeff Hood remarked:

“Through walking in prophetic imagination, Jesus changed the world. On my pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin, I follow Jesus’ lead and with every step remind my fellow Texans that you cannot love your neighbor as your self and execute them.  It is my hope to ignite the moral imagination of my fellow Texans so that we might all rise up together with one courageous voice and declare the death penalty to be no more.”

Information:

The statements, press conferences and events are all open to the public.  An expanded version of the press release, with previous events, bio of Rev. Hood, and further info can be found here.

For more information on A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty contact Rev. Jeff Hood, TCADP Board Member, at (404) 210-6760 or jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com

Jeff will provide updates on his pilgrimage on twitter // @revjeffhood and on the Facebook pages of Center for Theological Activism // https://www.facebook.com/centerfortheologicalactivism and Texas Coalition to Abolish Death Penalty // https://www.facebook.com/tcadp

For more information on the death penalty in Texas, contact Kristin Houlé, TCADP Executive Director, at 512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948 (cell) or khoule@tcadp.org

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09 June 2014 ~ Comments Off

TCADP Board Member to Embark on 200-Mile Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin

MEDIA ADVISORY
June 9, 2014

CONTACT:
Rev. Jeff Hood, TCADP Board of Directors
404-210-6760 (cell)
jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com

A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Livingston to Austin

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Board Member, Center For Theological Activism Executive Director and Southern Baptist Minister Rev. Jeff Hood to Conduct 200-Mile Walk

 Dallas, Texas – Moved to pilgrimage in prayer for the abolishment of the death penalty, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Board Member Rev. Jeff Hood will conduct “A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Livingston to Austin” from Friday, June 13, 2014 to Thursday, June 19, 2014. The approximately 200-mile walk will begin at noon on June 13, 2014 with a brief statement and prayer outside of the Polunsky Unit 3872 FM 350 South, West Livingston, TX 77351, where individuals on death row are incarcerated, proceed through Huntsville, Texas, where individuals are executed, and College Station, Texas and conclude at 5pm on June 19, 2014 with a brief statement and prayer on the steps of the South Entrance of the Texas State Capitol.  Rev. Hood encourages people to interact with him along the journey and also at organized faithful conversations that will be taking place along the way at Wesley Memorial UMC in Huntsville, Santa Teresa Catholic Church in Bryan and University Baptist Church in Austin.

Of the pilgrimage, Rev. Jeff Hood remarked:

“Through walking in prophetic imagination, Jesus changed the world. On my pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin, I follow Jesus’ lead and with every step remind my fellow Texans that you cannot love your neighbor as your self and execute them.  It is my hope to ignite the moral imagination of my fellow Texans so that we might all rise up together with one courageous voice and declare the death penalty to be no more.”

WHAT:
A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Livingston to Austin

Starting with a Brief Statement and Prayer in Livingston

Faithful conversations at Wesley Memorial UMC in Huntsville, Santa Teresa Catholic Church in Bryan and University Baptist Church in Austin.

Concluding with a Brief Statement and Prayer in Austin.

WHEN:
Friday, June 13, 2014 at Noon to Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 5pm

WHERE:
Friday June 13, 2014: Livingston 

Noon
Brief Statement and Prayer
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
West Livingston, TX 77351

Pilgrimage along US-190 W

Saturday June 14, 2014: Huntsville
Pilgrimage along US-190 W

7 to 8pm
A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Rev. Jeff Hood on his Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin
Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church
700 Texas 30
Huntsville, TX 77320

Rev. Hood will walk to pray outside the Walls Unit after the event.

Sunday June 15, 2014: Huntsville to College Station
Pilgrimage along TX 30

Monday June 16: College Station

Pilgrimage along TX 30

Members of Santa Teresa Catholic Church will join Rev. Hood around 11:30 and will walk with him to their congregation.

Noon
A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Rev. Jeff Hood on his Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin
Santa Teresa Catholic Church
1212 Lucky St, Bryan, TX 77803

Tuesday June 17: College Station to Austin
Pilgrimage Co Road 324 and 318 

Wednesday June 18: College Station to Austin
Pilgrimage Farm to Market 696 

Thursday June 19: Austin
Pilgrimage Outskirts of Austin and Into Downtown

5pm
Brief Statement and Press Conference at the Conclusion of the Pilgrimage on the steps of the South Entrance of the Texas State Capitol

Members of University Baptist Church and other friends will join Rev. Hood at the conclusion of his walk at the State Capitol and will walk with him to the concluding at University Baptist. 

7 to 9pm
A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Rev. Jeff Hood at the Conclusion of his Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin
University Baptist Church
2130 Guadalupe St.
Austin, Texas 78705

WHO:
Rev. Jeff Hood is a theologian (MDiv and ThM), historian (MA) and bioethicist (MS) by academic training. Presently, Jeff is completing a doctorate in theology at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. A graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeff is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. A passionate activist, Jeff serves as the Executive Director of Center for Theological Activism, on the Board of Directors of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, on the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and as a spiritual advisor on Texas’ Death Row. Jeff is married and has three young sons- twin toddlers and an infant.

Information:
The statements, press conferences and events are all open to the public.

For more information on A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty contact Rev. Jeff Hood, TCADP Board Member, at (404) 210-6760 or jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com

Jeff will provide updates on his pilgrimage on twitter // @revjeffhood and on the Facebook pages of Center for Theological Activism // https://www.facebook.com/centerfortheologicalactivism and Texas Coalition to Abolish Death Penalty // https://www.facebook.com/tcadp

For more information on the death penalty in Texas, contact Kristin Houlé, TCADP Executive Director, at 512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948 (cell) or khoule@tcadp.org.

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01 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

May 2014 Alert: Botched Execution, Study 1 in 25 innocent, Events in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Corpus Christi

Support TCADP Through Amazon Smile – If you find yourself shopping for graduation or Mother’s Day gifts on Amazon this month, consider setting up a profile by clicking the image above and designating TCADP as your charity of choice. Thank you for your support!

In This Edition:

Scheduled Executions
Death Penalty Developments
TCADP Spring Newsletter
Featured Events
Calendar and Volunteer Opportunities

Executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Robert Campbell on May 13, 2014. He was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Alexandra Rendon in Houston in 1991. Campbell was just three months past his 18th birthday at the time of the crime; he has spent more than half his life on death row. Co-defendant Leroy Lewis, who also was 18 at the time, pled guilty and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Read more about the case and take action through Amnesty International.

TCADP stands with our colleagues in Oklahoma in calling for an independent and thorough investigation into the horrifically botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014. No more executions should take place in Oklahoma, Texas, or anywhere else in this country until basic questions about lethal injection are answered. Read more, including a statement from former Texas Governor Mark WhiteTwitter users:  please use #DemandFullInquiryOK in your tweets about the Oklahoma execution.

TCADP encourages all members to attend a vigil in your community on the day of Texas executions. Information and updates on these cases will be available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter.

Recent Death Penalty Developments
New study: One out of 25 death sentences imposed on an innocent person
New research published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that over four percent of all those sentenced to death in the United States from 1973 through 2004 were innocent. The percentage of innocent people sentenced to death (4.1%) is more than double the percentage of those actually exonerated and freed from death row during the study period (1.6%). Read more.

Former Supreme Court Justice calls for Constitutional amendment to ban the death penalty
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who just turned 94 years old, has published a new book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. Among other proposals, Stevens calls for changing the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishments” by specifically including the death penalty. Read more from USA Today and the Austin American Statesman.

Strong Majority of Houstonians Support Alternatives to the Death Penaltyhouston survey
According to the 33rd Kinder Institute Houston Area Survey, 69 percent of Houstonians support alternatives to the death penalty for people convicted of first-degree murder. The survey finds “a gradual and continuing drop in support for the death penalty across the years.” You can find previous polling results on the death penalty here.

Texas Observer article explores decision-making process of a small-town prosecutor
In “To Kill? Or Not to Kill?” reporter Maurice Chammah explores a District Attorney’s decision whether or not to pursue the death penalty in a capital murder case.  Set within the context of declining death sentences, the article probes the pressures and soul-searching that small-town prosecutors often confront in making life and death decisions. Read it now.

TCADP Spring Newsletter
We hope you enjoy this Spring 2014 Issue of Seizing the Momentum, released April 24! Please note that while we will continue to provide this newsletter to members on a quarterly basis, we will print and mail only two issues of “Seizing the Momentum” this year (the winter and fall issues.) All four issues of the newsletter will be available online.  If you have any questions regarding these changes, please contact Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org.  To update your contact information and/or newsletter preferences, please visit our website.

Download – TCADP 2014 Spring Quarterly Newsletter

In this issue:
Cover Story TCADP’s Stategic Plan prioritizes 5 areas of importance for furthering our goals of first decreasing and then ending the use of the death penalty.

Voices of Texas: On page 4, our colleagues at Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation share with us the best ways to respond to those we know touched by violence.

Death Penalty Developments:  TCADP works to stay apprised of new death sentences, stays of executions and emerging trends in Texas’ response to capital punishment, found on page 5.

Can Social Media Increase Anti-Death Penalty Engagement?  Find the answer on page 6 and learn several specific ways to increase your impact and further our efforts.

Thank You, Members, Donors, and Partners for Justice:  Thank you to everyone who supported TCADP during Amplify Austin in March!  TCADP repeated its win of an extra $1000 for most donors during 1:00-2:00pm of the campaign. Celebrate your fellow TCADP members by seeing who gave this quarter.

Featured Events
Carrollton: Witness to Death: A Hearing of Kathy Cox and a Training from Center for Theological Activism to occur May 6 at Holy Covenant UMC at 7:00pm.  Kathy Cox is 90 years old, has witnessed over 60 executions and currently ministers to 40 persons on Texas’ Death Row. For over 65 years, Cox has worked for social change from within her denominational home of the Salvation Army. We will gather to hear Cox’s story, to learn to share our own stories and be activated in the fight to abolish the death penalty. Learn more.
This event is sponsored by Holy Covenant United Methodist Church, Center for Theological Activism and Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty – TCADP.

Dallas: Join TCADP as we launch a new bi-monthly lunch series in Dallas! The first luncheon will take place on Monday, May 19th from 12:00 to 1:00 PM at the Trinity Center, 1444 Oaklawn Ave., Dallas, 75207. Lunch will be catered at a cost of $10 per person to be paid by cash or check at the venue. Please RSVP to reserve your seat!

Houston: The “Fair & Just” Lunch Series returns to Houston on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Susan Truscott, Vice Consul for the British Consulate-General Houston, will share the history of her government’s opposition to the death penalty and her work at the consulate.  Join us from 12:30 to 1:30 at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. Place your order for a box lunch or bring your own. RSVP and reserve your lunch now!

Austin: Please join TCADP Austin for the bi-monthly lunch discussion to be held Wednesday, May 28 12:00-1:00pm in the fellowship hall of Servant Church/Asbury UMC at 1605 E. 38 1/2 St..  Parking is available on Cherrywood, 38 1/2 and in a lot (access from 38 1/2) in the back of the church.  The Fellowship hall is accessible from Cherrywood. Place your order for a box lunch or bring your own. RSVP and reserve your lunch now!

anthony gravesCorpus Christi:  Anthony Graves will speak at a Social Justice Luncheon Friday, June 13. The Methodist Federation for Social Action, SWTX Chapter and the Conference Board of Church and Society of Rio Texas United Methodist Church will host Anthony Graves to speak about “Life After Death Row” during the “Peace and Justice Luncheon.”  The luncheon is being held at the American Bank Convention Center, Henry Garrett Pre-Function area in Corpus Christi during the United Methodist Annual Conference, but all are welcome. Specific action opportunities will be provided for people of faith. Please note:  Pre-Registration required.  Registration form to share or print and mail with payment.   Online Registration.

Calendar and Volunteer Opportunities

May
6 “Witness to Death: A Hearing of Kathy Cox”, 7:00-9:00pm, Holy Covenant UMC, Carrollton More Info.
13 Scheduled Execution: Robert Campbell
14 TCADP table at Restorative Justice Conference, College of Biblical Studies, Houston*
19 TCADP Lunch discussion, 12:00 to 1:00pm, Trinity Trust Foundation, 1444 Oaklawn Avenue, Dallas RSVP for lunch.
25-27 TCADP info at Texas Annual Conference UMC, Houston*
27 TCADP “Fair and Just” Lunch series, St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Houston, 12:30pm RSVP and Purchase lunch
27 El Paso Chapter Meeting; Juan Diego Room in the Ministry Center of St Pius X Catholic Church, 1050 N Clark St, 7:00pm; elpaso@tcadp.org
28 TCADP Austin Lunch discussion 12:00pm, Servant Church RSVP and Purchase Lunch
31 TCADP Board Meeting, Austin

June
1-3 TCADP info at North Texas Annual Conference UMC, Richardson
13 Anthony Graves to speak at Rio Texas Annual Conference UMC Social Justice Luncheon, Corpus Christi, Noon.* Online Registration
19-22 TCADP booth at Texas Black Expo, Houston*
27-28 TCADP booth at Texas Democratic Party Convention, Dallas*

TCADP encourages all members to attend a vigil in your community on the day of executions.

*For more information about these events or to volunteer to staff a table at an outreach event, email info@tcadp.org.

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

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28 April 2014 ~ Comments Off

New Study Suggests Over 4% of People Sentenced to Death are Likely Innocent

According to new peer-reviewed research published in one of the most authoritative scientific journals in the world – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – over four percent of all those sentenced to death in the United States from 1973 through 2004 were innocent. The percentage of innocent people sentenced to death (4.1%) is more than double the percentage of those actually exonerated and freed from death row during the study period (1.6%).

For the study, The Rate of False Conviction of Criminal Defendants Who are Sentenced to Death, a team of statisticians and legal experts conducted a rigorous statistical analysis of all death sentences from 1973 to 2004. The researchers noted that defendants who are sentenced to death have an extraordinarily high rate of exoneration as long as they remain on death row, under threat of execution. But most capital defendants are eventually taken off death row and resentenced to life in prison. Once that happens, the chances of being exonerated drop by almost 90%.

Read coverage of the study from the Associated Press.

Using survival analysis, a statistical technique common in medical studies, the researchers calculated the proportion of innocent defendants who would have been exonerated if all those sentenced to death remained on death row indefinitely – 4.1%. They conclude that this is “a conservative estimate of the proportion of false conviction among death sentences in the United States.”

This means that the criminal justice system is missing a disturbing number of innocent people who were sentenced to death. While most of these defendants were resentenced to life in prison (where they are likely to languish in anonymity), the study concludes that: “[I]t is all but certain that several of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 were innocent.”

If we apply this statistical technique to Texas, it suggests that at least 11 of the state’s current 272 death row inmates are innocent.  Twelve individuals have been exonerated and released from death row in Texas due to evidence of their wrongful conviction.

Behind the numbers, of course, are real human beings:

  • Glenn Ford, the most recent death row exoneree, spent 30 years on Louisiana’s death row for a crime he didn’t commit; he was defended by inept lawyers with no criminal trial experience.
  • In April, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied a request for a posthumous pardon for Cameron Todd Willingham, despite strong evidence of his innocence of the crime for which he was executed in 2004.  Serious doubts remain as to whether the fire that took the lives of his three young daughters was caused by arson.  In addition, new evidence uncovered by the Innocence Project strongly suggests that jailhouse informant Johnny Webb received a deal from Navarro County District Attorney John Jackson in exchange for his testimony against Willingham at trial.
  • Carlos DeLuna was executed in 1989 for the murder of Wanda Lopez in Corpus Christi despite the fact that there was no physical evidence connecting him to the crime.  His court-appointed attorneys – one of whom had never tried a criminal case in court, let alone a capital murder case – failed to present any witnesses or mitigating evidence during the sentencing phase.  A groundbreaking investigation by the Columbia University Human Rights Law Review in May 2012 provides compelling evidence of the identity of the real killer – Carlos Hernandez – a violent and dangerous man who was well-known to law enforcement yet was ridiculed by prosecutors as a “phantom” of DeLuna’s imagination during his trial.

 

According to the new study, there are over 200 men and women with similar stories, but we don’t know their names. That is the tragic cost of continuing to rely on an error prone system in which one out of every 25 death sentences is imposed on an innocent person.

 

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