Archive | death penalty

28 October 2010 ~ 4 Comments

Anthony Graves Exonerated and Released!!!

This just in… Anthony Graves, whose case was featured in Texas Monthly and in the TCADP 2010 Fall Newsletter, has been exonerated and released from the Burleson County Jail, where he was awating retrial.  Prosecutors dropped all charges against Graves and declared him innocent, after conducting their own investigation of the case.  Graves had been convicted solely on the testimony of Robert Carter, who also was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death.  Carter recanted many times before his execution in 2000.

Anthony Graves spent 12 years on death row and another four years in jail for a crime he did not commit.  He is the 12th person in Texas to be wrongfully convicted and released from death row.  TCADP congratulates the legal team, investigators, students and professors with the University of St. Thomas, and everyone else who worked tirelessly on this case.

Read more in the Houston Chronicle.

Additional News Coverage:

Dallas Morning News
More from Houston Chronicle
Austin American Statesman
Press Conference with ABC News

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18 October 2010 ~ Comments Off on Court of Inquiry Ruling Postponed

Court of Inquiry Ruling Postponed

On October 14, 2010, State District Judge Charlie Baird convened a court of inquiry into whether Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed and whether or not state officials committed a crime in how they handled his case prior to the execution.  Despite a motion filed by Navarro County District Attorney, Lowell Thompson, asking Judge Baird to recuse himself from the case, Baird allowed the proceedings to take place, stating that, in fact, Thompson was not a party to the case and therefore the motion would not stand.

Attorneys for the Willingham family called two witnesses—John Lentini and Dr. Gerald Hurst—both of whom are among the leading fire experts in the country who have spoken out regarding the flaws in the forensic science used to convict Willingham.  The Willingham family attorneys also presented to the court their argument that the testimony from jailhouse snitch Johnny Webb was not credible on its face.

The proceedings concluded on Thursday afternoon.  Any potential ruling has been delayed, however, due to another motion filed by the Navarro County DA — this time with the 3rd Appeals Court of Austin, which granted an emergency stay giving the Willingham family attorneys until October 22 to respond.

Read more at:

“Court Blocks Ruling on Case”

“Appellate Court Orders Halt to Willingham Inquiry”

“Court of Inquiry on TX Man’s Execution Gets Underway”

“Austin Appeals Court Issues Stay Order in Willingham Probe”

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12 October 2010 ~ 5 Comments

Stay of Execution: Gayland Bradford

Gayland Bradford, scheduled for execution on Thursday, October 14, has received a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court.   The temporary stay, granted by Justice Antonin Scalia on October 8, will give Bradford’s attorneys time to file a full appeal.  They contend that their client is mentally deficient and that he received inadequate legal representation in some of his earlier appeals.

Read more from CNN.

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12 October 2010 ~ Comments Off on Bexar County Jury Rejects the Death Penalty

Bexar County Jury Rejects the Death Penalty

On Thursday, October 7, 2010, a Bexar County jury rejected the death penalty for Keith Evans, who was convicted of the capital murder of Mohammed “Moe” Omar during a failed robbery attempt of a convenience store in San Antonio.  Evans had admitted his guilt in the attempted robbery and murder, but testified that he had not intended to shoot and kill Mr. Omar.

This is the third case in 2010 in which a Texas jury has rejected the death penalty and opted instead for the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In 2009, a Bexar County jury rejected the death penalty for Russell Knowles in a  similar case involving a botched robbery of a convenience store.

There have been six new death sentences to date in Texas in 2010.

Read more about this case in the San Antonio Express-News.

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30 September 2010 ~ Comments Off on El Paso Hosts Successful Tour with Juan Melendez

El Paso Hosts Successful Tour with Juan Melendez

From September 25-27, 2010 El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty
(EPADP), a chapter of TCADP, was proud to host !La Pena de Muerte No Mas!, a speaking tour featuring Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon, an internationally-known death row exonoree.

Sharing a story described as “remarkable” by one EPADP member, Juan
spoke to over 500 concerned El Pasoans at five separate venues. At the
end of each talk, Juan invited audience members to “join me in my
dream” of no more death penalty.  These speaking events led to new coalition partners and heightened visibility for the chapter.  According to EPADP Coordinator Karen Peissinger-Venhaus, “people are aware of us now!”

While in El Paso, Juan also had the opportunity to meet with elected officials, including Mayor John Cook, an opponent of the death penalty and the recipient of a TCADP Courage Award in 2009.

Read more about the tour and about Juan Melendez inthe El Paso Times (“Ex-inmate: End the Death Penalty,” September 26, 2010)  in English or Spanish. Additional coverage is available from KTSM – NewsChannel 9 and All Voices.

We congratulate all the members of EPADP on the success of this tour and thank them for their commitment to raising awareness about the death penalty in West Texas!  We also thank Juan and Judi Caruso for sharing their time and passion with us.

For information on upcoming events and activities in El Paso, please contact EPADP Coordinator Karen Peissinger-Venhaus at

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23 September 2010 ~ 3 Comments

Anthony Graves – Justice Denied?

TCADP has followed the Anthony Graves case for many years and remains concerned about his wrongful conviction.

In 2007, TCADP recognized University of St. Thomas Associate Professor of Communications Nicole Casarez and her students for their efforts to investigate Graves’ innocence claim and their contributions to the  overturning of his conviction.  Professor Caserez and her students were presented with an Appreciation Award during the 2007 TCADP Annual Conference.

Anthony Graves walked off of death row on September 6, 2006, with his conviction overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The charges against him could have been dismissed after the federal court thoroughly discredited the testimony that had put him on death row.  But four years later, he still sits in a Burleson County jail awaiting a new trial with a $1 million bail.  His retrial is set to begin in February and the state once again intends to seek the death penalty.

Read the Texas Monthly article and decide for yourself:

Innocence LostTexas Monthly, October 2010 –

Editorial: Justice, Delayed and Denied” – Miami Herald, September 22, 2010

Editorial:  “Murder conviction chock full of holesDallas Morning News, September 15, 2010.

More info from TCADP on Anthony Graves (blog posts, print fact sheet)

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02 September 2010 ~ Comments Off on Gov. Commutes Death Sentence of Kevin Keith!

Gov. Commutes Death Sentence of Kevin Keith!

Great news!  Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has commuted the death sentence of Kevin Keith to life without parole.  Here’s an excerpt from his statement:

“… despite the evidence supporting his guilt and the substantial legal review of Mr. Keith’s conviction, many legitimate questions have been raised regarding the evidence in support of the conviction and the investigation which led to it.  In particular, Mr. Keith’s conviction relied upon the linking of certain eyewitness testimony with certain forensic evidence about which important questions have been raised.  I also find the absence of a full investigation of other credible suspects troubling.”

Read the entire statement.

Read more about Kevin Keith.

TCADP thanks everyone who contacted the Ohio Parole Board and Governor Strickland on behalf of Kevin Keith.  We’ll be in touch with any follow-up actions you can take.

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01 September 2010 ~ Comments Off on El Paso to Host Death Row Exonoree Juan Melendez

El Paso to Host Death Row Exonoree Juan Melendez

Death row survivor Juan Melendez will share his gut-wrenching story of wrongful conviction and ultimate exoneration with audiences throughout El Paso from September 25-27, 2010.   This bilingual tour is sponsored by El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty (EPADP), a chapter of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

A native of Puerto Rico, Juan 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 Juan 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).

Mr. Melendez will be visiting West Texas at a critical time, as concerns about the likely wrongful execution of Cameron Todd Willingham and ongoing exonerations continue to call into question the reliability and fairness of our state’s death penalty system. Since 1973, 138 people – including 11 Texans – have been exonerated from death rows nationwide due to evidence of their wrongful conviction.  Mr. Melendez is the 99th person on this list.

EPADP Coordinator Karen Peissinger-Venhaus writes: “We are very excited about Juan Melendez coming to El Paso for the ¡La Pena de Muerte No Mas! speaking tour!  In addition to hearing Juan’s compelling talk, attendees will have the opportunity to write a postcard to their Texas representative in support of death penalty repeal, and to register to vote.  Not only is this event a great outreach and education opportunity, it maintains the momentum towards repeal of the death penalty in Texas.”

All events are free and open to the public.  See the Tour Schedule and spread the word.

El Pasoans: There’s still time to schedule an event with your faith community, class, or civic group! Contact Karen at or 915-740-7076.  You can also support the tour with a generous donation to TCADP.

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