Archive | death penalty

19 November 2010 ~ 3 Comments

National Poll Finds Changing Attitudes Toward Death Penalty

Earlier this week, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) published the results of a national poll about Americans’ views on the death penalty.  Here are some of the key findings:

  • The poll showed growing support for alternatives to the death penalty when compared with previous polls.
  • 61% of voters would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder.
    • 39% would choose a sentence of life without the possibility of parole and with restitution to the victim’s family.
    • 13% would choose life with no possibility of parole.
    • 8% would choose life with the possibility of parole.
  • In states with the death penalty, 62% of voters said that it would make no difference in how they voted if a representative supported repeal of the death penalty.
  • Costs associated with the death penalty emerged as a strong concern for a majority of voters.
  • 65% of respondents said that they would favor replacing the death penalty with life without parole if the money saved were used to fund crime prevention programs.
  • Hispanic voters were among those most willing to replace the death penalty with an alternative punishment.
  • Some of the top concerns about the death penalty were: it was applied unevenly and unfairly; it subjects victims’ families to lengthy trials and years of appeals that interfere with the healing process; it risks executing the innocent.
  • Moral or religious objections to the death penalty were strong among Latino and Catholic voters.

According to Richard Dieter, Executive Director of Death Penalty Information Center, “For decades, politicians have equated being tough on crime with support for the death penalty, but this research suggests voters want their elected officials to be smart on crime, use tax dollars wisely, and fund the services they care about the most. Capital punishment is not a high priority for voters and is not the ‘third rail’ of politics.”

More information about the poll can be found at http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/pollresults.

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11 November 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Breaking News in the Case of Claude Jones

The Texas Observer is reporting today on the results of DNA testing of evidence that was used to convict and execute Claude Jones on December 7, 2000. The one-inch strand of hair was the only physical evidence that tied Jones to the crime scene and murder of liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager.  According to the Observer, the DNA results show that the hair belonged to the victim, not to Jones, as a forensic expert had testified as his trial.

Earlier this summer,  State District Judge Paul Murphy granted a motion from The Innocence Project and the Observer and ordered local prosecutors to turn over the hair sample for testing.

In his earlier reporting on the story, Dave Mann of the Observer noted that “questions about Jones’ guilt have long lingered”  and that the case against him included fuzzy eyewitness testimony and the questionable testimony of two other suspects, both of who were spared the death penalty for their testimony.

The results of this DNA testing raise yet more questions about the reliability and fairness of the Texas death penalty system.  It comes on the heels of the exoneration of Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in person – including 12 on death row- for a crime he did not commit.  Graves is the 12th person to be exonerated from death row in Texas and the 139th nationwide.

Read the exclusive story in The Texas Observer.

Read an earlier TCADP blog post on this subject.

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03 November 2010 ~ Comments Off on More Coverage of Graves Exoneration

More Coverage of Graves Exoneration

“I’m looking forward to the rest of my life.”

Reading those words from Anthony Graves gave me chills.   The fact that he spent 18 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit is unthinkable, and the challenges of adjusting to the free world seem daunting.  Yet by all accounts, Graves is handling his newfound freedom with the same grace and courage he demonstrated throughout his years in prison.

There’s been a great deal of media coverage in the wake of Graves’ exoneration last week:

Read an update from Pamela Colloff, whose article in the October 2010 issue of Texas Monthly shed important light on this case.

Read an account of how Graves learned he was a free man in The Bryan College Station Eagle, (“Freedom ‘heaven’ for Graves,” October 31, 2010).

An article in the Houston Chronicle, “A mother always knows,” (October 30, 2010) addresses the toll that Graves’ wrongful conviction took on his family, who stood by him throughout his ordeal.

Another interesting article in the Chronicle offers insights from three other men who used to be on Texas’ death row, “Life after death row” (October 30,2010).  Graves is now the 12th person in Texas to be exonerated from death row, and the 139th nationwide.

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Please help TCADP spread the word about the flaws and failures of our state’s death penalty system by sharing information about Anthony Graves with everyone you know!

  • Download a fact sheet on Graves for use at tabling events or other public education opportunities.
  • Post the links above on your Facebook page.
  • Submit a letter to the editor or add online comments in response to these articles.
  • Contact TCADP for more ideas!

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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”
http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/10/14/2548412/court-blocks-ruling-in-death-penalty.html

“Appellate Court Orders Halt to Willingham Inquiry”
http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/courts/entries/2010/10/14/willingham_hearing_could_begin.html

“Court of Inquiry on TX Man’s Execution Gets Underway”
http://www.heraldonline.com/2010/10/14/2532438/court-of-inquiry-in-texas-mans.html

“Austin Appeals Court Issues Stay Order in Willingham Probe”
http://corsicanadailysun.com/local/x1324604421/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 elpaso@tcadp.org.

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