Archive | execution

11 March 2015 ~ Comments Off on State of Texas executes Manuel Vasquez

State of Texas executes Manuel Vasquez

The State of Texas carried out its fourth execution of the year tonight, putting Manuel Vasquez to death for the 1998 murder of 51-year-old Juanita Ybarra in San Antonio.  It was the 41st execution involving an individual convicted in Bexar County since 1982 and the 2nd this  year. Read more about Vasquez from the Texas Tribune.

News broke earlier this week that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice only has enough compounded pentobarbital to carry out this execution and one more scheduled for next week. According to the Associated Press, the agency “is scrambling to find a supplier to replenish its inventory of execution drugs” but will not disclose information regarding any potential sources.

We appreciate everyone who participated in vigils around the state today.



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13 February 2015 ~ Comments Off on Attorneys for Rodney Reed file new appeal

Attorneys for Rodney Reed file new appeal

Yesterday, attorneys for Rodney Reed filed a new appeal in Bastrop County based on new witness testimony and forensic evidence that supports their client’s innocence.  Reed is scheduled to be put to death by the State of Texas on March 5 for the 1996 murder of Stacy Stites.  Reed claims that he and Stites were romantically involved.  His supporters point to another suspect with a history of violence: Stites fiancé,  Jimmy Fennell, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for raping a woman in his custody as a Georgetown police officer in 2007.

According to the Texas Tribune, three out-of-state forensic examiners who reviewed the case believe that Stites was likely killed hours earlier than previously thought and that her body was moved after she was killed. Terri Langford writes “If true, those findings significantly challenge the timeline prosecutors used to convict Reed of Stites’ murder during his 1998 criminal trial.”

On November 25, 2014 a state district judge in Bastrop County denied Reed’s request for expanded DNA testing of evidence in his case.

Reed’s attorneys also filed affidavits from two new witnesses who confirmed Reed’s affair with Stites.

Attorneys ultimately expect the Texas  Court of Criminal Appeals to consider this latest filing.

Read more from the Texas Tribune and the Austin American-Statesman.

Read a press release from the Innocence Project and take action to stop the execution of Rodney Reed.  Email the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott through an action sponsored by the Innocence Project.

On Sunday, February 15th, the Friends Meeting of Austin will host a Press Conference and Meeting with Sister Helen Prejean in Support of Rodney Reed.  The event will take place from 2:00 PM until 4:30 PM at the Meeting House (3701 E MLK Blvd, Austin).  Sister Helen Prejean (acclaimed author of Dead Man Walking and TCADP Advisory Board member), Reed’s attorneys, and other Austin clergy are scheduled to speak. Family members of Reed and of Stacey Stites, will attend the event, as well. More information is available here.

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05 February 2015 ~ Comments Off on State of Texas executes Donald Newbury; Supreme Court stays execution of Lester Bower

State of Texas executes Donald Newbury; Supreme Court stays execution of Lester Bower

Last night the State of Texas carried out its third execution of the year, putting Donald Newbury to death for the 2000 murder of Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins.  Newbury was serving a 99-year sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon when he and six other inmates broke out of the Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas on December 13, 2000. The “Texas Seven” made their way to North Texas, where on Christmas Eve they robbed a sporting goods store at gunpoint and killed Officer Hawkins.

Two of Newbury’s co-defendants have already been executed, one committed suicide, and three others remain on death row. Read more from the Texas Tribune.

Texas accounts for three of the seven executions to date in the United States this year.

*Breaking news* The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution to Lester Bower “pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari.” Bower was scheduled to be executed next week on February 10th for the shooting deaths of four men at an ultralight airplane hangar near Sherman in 1983.  Bower, a former chemical salesman with no prior criminal history, has consistently maintained his innocence.  He has spent more than 30 years on death row in Texas.

According to KXII News 12 in Sherman, attorneys for Bower presented three arguments to the Justices:

1. Whether the former Texas special issues for death penalty sentencing allowed the jury to consider mitigating evidence of good character;

2. Whether evidence disclosed by the state after the trial that the rare specialty ammunition prosecutors said Bower used to commit the murders was not really all that rare constitutes a due process clause violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution; and

3. Whether executing a defendant whom has served more than 30 years on death row constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Bower’s trial took place before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Johnny Paul Penry, which determined that jurors must be given an opportunity to consider mitigating evidence in the punishment phase of death penalty trials.  Dozens of people on death row in Texas have received new sentencing hearings as a result of that ruling.

Read more from KXII.

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29 January 2015 ~ Comments Off on State of Texas Executes Robert Ladd

State of Texas Executes Robert Ladd

Tonight, the State of Texas carried out its second execution of the year, putting Robert Ladd to death for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner in Tyler (Smith County).  Late this afternoon the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal that evidence of Ladd’s intellectual disabilities should bar his execution, in accordance with the Court’s own ruling in Atkins v. Virginia (2002).  According to the Associated Press, “the court also rejected an appeal in which Ladd’s attorney challenged whether the pentobarbital Texas uses in executions is potent enough to not cause unconstitutional pain and suffering.”

In Atkins v. Virginia, the Court left it to each state to set forth criteria for determining whether an individual is intellectually disabled.  As a result, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined its own, unscientific standards, known as Briseno factors, which were based in part on the character of Lennie in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men.

Ladd’s execution occurred just two days after the State of Georgia put Warren Hill to death, in spite of evidence of his lifelong intellectual disabilities. Georgia’s standard requires proof of disabilities “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Here’s the press release from the ACLU, which represented Ladd in his final appeals:

Texas Executes Intellectually Disabled Man, Violating Constitution
January 29, 2015
CONTACT: Alexandra Ringe,
NEW YORK – Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was executed tonight at 7:02 pm CT in Huntsville, Texas. His death violates the Supreme Court’s rulings that the Eighth Amendment prohibits executing the intellectually disabled as cruel and unusual punishment. In any other state Mr. Ladd would be considered ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability. 
Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project and Mr. Ladd’s attorney, had this comment:
“Texas aggressively pursued Mr. Ladd’s execution, despite the fact that our constitution categorically prohibits the use of capital punishment against persons with intellectual disability. Mr. Ladd, whose IQ was 67, was executed because Texas uses idiosyncratic standards, based on stereotypes rather than science, to determine intellectual disability. His death is yet another example of how capital punishment routinely defies the rule of law and human decency.  
“We are eager for a court to address the fact that Texas’ unscientific standards can’t be reconciled with the Supreme Court’s decision in Hall v. Florida, mandating that states must use universal medical diagnostic practices rather than inaccurate and self-invented methods for determining intellectual disability. However, no future ruling can undo the unconscionable fact that tonight Texas ended the life of an intellectually disabled man who deserved the protection of the Constitution.”

Two executions are scheduled to take place in Texas next month.

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07 January 2015 ~ Comments Off on Texas schedules 13 executions, despite dwindling drug supply

Texas schedules 13 executions, despite dwindling drug supply

TCADP January 2015 Alert

In this edition:
Scheduled executions: State’s drug supply dwindling as legal challenges continue
TCADP 2015 Annual Conference: Register now for this important statewide gathering
In case you missed it: Outgoing Maryland Governor commutes death sentences
Upcoming events: TCADP seeks volunteers for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations
Year-end fundraising campaign: Thank you for your generous support for TCADP!

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

  • On January 21, Arnold Prieto is scheduled to be executed for the 1993 robbery and murders of Rudolfo and Virginia Rodriguez and Paula Moran, a family friend, at the home of the San Antonio couple.  Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez were relatives of Prieto’s two companions, brothers Guadalupe and Jessie Hernandez.
  • On January 28, Garcia White is scheduled to be put to death for the 1989 stabbing deaths of Bonita Edwards and her 16-year-old twin daughters, Annette and Bernette, in their Houston home. He was convicted in 1996.
  • On January 29, Robert Ladd is scheduled to be executed for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner in Tyler (Smith County).

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.

Although at least 10 additional executions are scheduled to take place in Texas by the end of May, records obtained from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) last month revealed the state has only enough pentobarbital – the sole drug used in lethal injections here – for the first five executions of the year. According to TDCJ spokesperson Jason Clark, the department “continues to explore all options including the continued use of Pentobarbital or an alternate drug(s) in the lethal injection process.”

Further complicating matters, on December 11, 2014, State District Judge Darlene Byrne granted summary judgment in favor of three attorneys who filed a lawsuit last year seeking to force TDCJ to disclose the name of the drug supplier under the Texas Public Information Act.  Judge Byrne ruled that the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying lethal injection drugs for Texas executions must be released because it is public information. TDCJ is appealing the ruling.

TCADP 2015 Annual Conference
Register now for the TCADP 2015 Annual Conference, which will take place in downtown Austin on Saturday, February 21st. Take advantage of our pre-registration rates of $55 for TCADP members, $60 for non-members, and $25 for students. Rates will increase again after February 13th.

Our 2015 Keynote Speaker Tim Cole is a former district attorney with more than 20 years of experience in the courtroom. He 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.

The morning panel discussion will feature attorneys Jen Moreno and Brian Stull and will address these issues:

  • lethal injection challenges in Texas;
  • conservative concerns about the death penalty; and
  • public outcry about the innocent on death row.

Learn more about the conference, including details on our award winners, hotel information, and sponsorship opportunities.  Are you part of an organization or group that would like to share information about your work with conference participants?  Sign up to be a conference vendor or place an ad in our program.

In case you missed it
On December 31, 2014, outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced his decision to commute the sentences of the four men still on death row in that state. While Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013, the law applied only to new cases. In re-sentencing the condemned men to life without parole, O’Malley said that leaving their death sentences in place would “not serve the public good of the people of Maryland — present or future.”

In an editorial, the New York Times called the Governor’s action “a mark of how quickly the death penalty debate in America has shifted.”

Thank Governor O’Malley for finishing the job of repeal through this action sponsored by Equal Justice USA.

Upcoming Events
We invite your participation in these events taking place in communities throughout Texas on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 19, 2015:

  • In Austin, TCADP will sponsor a booth at the 21st Annual MLK Community Celebration at Huston-Tillotson University; the festival will take place immediately following the March until 3 PM. Contact Kristin at if you would like to help with our booth.
  • TCADP members in Houston will assemble at 9 AM at the corner of Hamilton and Chartres in downtown Houston and will march in the MLK Day parade, which starts at 10 AM.
  • In San Antonio, which hosts one of the largest MLK commemorations in the country, TCADP will sponsor an information booth at Pittman-Sullivan Park, 1101 Iowa St., starting at noon. Contact Kristin at if you would like to help TCADP Member Casey Magnuson, who is leading our activities that day.

Stay tuned for announcements about our bi-monthly luncheons in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston, among other upcoming events.

End-of-Year Fundraising Update
TCADP is immensely grateful to everyone who donated to our organization in 2014.  Responses to our year-end appeal topped all previous records and exceeded our goal of raising $20,000 in December!  We invite you to take your support to the next level by becoming a TCADP Partner for Justice or a Sustaining Member. Thank you!

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07 December 2014 ~ Comments Off on December 7, 1982

December 7, 1982

Thirty-two years ago today, 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.

All eyes were on Texas that day, much as they were this past week, as our state prepared to carry out the execution of Scott Panetti on December 3rd. 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.  His case received an outpouring of support from mental health advocates, conservative leaders, faith leaders, Texas legislators, the American Bar Association, editorial boards, and many others.  As a headline on declared, “Social Pressure Works.”

Less than eight hours before his execution was scheduled to take place, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay in order to consider the “complex legal questions” surrounding Panetti’s competence to be executed.  Read this statement in response from Panetti’s incredible legal team, Greg Wiercioch of the University of Wisconsin Law School and Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service, who worked tirelessly to prevent this travesty of justice.

Since December 7, 1982, the State of Texas has executed 518 people; of these, 279 occurred during the administration of Governor Rick Perry, more than any other governor in U.S. history.

Yet Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is moving away from the death penalty.  This year, the State of Texas carried out its fewest executions since 1996, putting 10 people to death. New death sentences also remain at much lower levels, largely relegated to a few counties statewide.  These trends and other developments in 2014 will appear in TCADP’s year-end report, which will be released later this month.

TCADP is grateful to everyone who joined with us to send the message that the execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line. Let’s hasten the day we mark the anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

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12 November 2014 ~ Comments Off on Clemency Petition Filed Today: Execution of Scott Panetti Would “Cross a Moral Line”

Clemency Petition Filed Today: Execution of Scott Panetti Would “Cross a Moral Line”

For Immediate Release: November 12, 2014
Contact: Laura Burstein, 202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c)
For More Information:

Dozens of Mental Health Organizations and Experts, Former Prosecutors, Evangelicals and the American Bar Association Urge Texas Governor to Commute Death Sentence of Severely Mentally Ill Man Facing Imminent Execution

Clemency Petition Filed Today: Execution of Scott Panetti Would
“Cross a Moral Line”

(Austin, Texas, November 12, 2014) Today, dozens of prominent organizations and individuals from Texas and across the country called on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to stop the December 3rd scheduled execution of Scott Panetti, a severely mentally ill man who has suffered from schizophrenia for more than 30 years.

Mr. Panetti, who represented himself at his capital trial wearing a cowboy costume, will be executed unless a commutation is granted or a court intervenes.  Mr. Panetti has suffered from serious mental illness for over 30 years. He was hospitalized more than a dozen times for psychosis and delusions in the 14 years leading up to the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death. At his 1995 trial he attempted to call over 200 witnesses, including John F. Kennedy, the Pope, and Jesus Christ.

The commutation requests were submitted to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Perry as part of a clemency petition filed by Mr. Panetti’s attorneys this morning, which states: “The case of Scott Louis Panetti is a judicial disaster that has attracted national and international outrage – and for good reason.  Evidence of his incompetency runs like a fissure through every proceeding in his case – from arraignment to execution…The execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line.”

The clemency petition can be accessed here:

Letters urging clemency in Mr. Panetti’s case come from several of the nation’s and Texas’ leading mental health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America and Disability Rights Texas; experts on mental health issues in the law; a former Texas Governor, state Attorneys General, U.S. Attorneys and others with experience in the criminal justice field; 50 Evangelical faith leaders, including Rev. Sam Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, Lynn Hybels of the nationally prominent Willow Creek Church, Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and other faith leaders; Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation; and the American Bar Association, among others.

“As law enforcement and criminal justice professionals, we are deeply troubled that a capital sentence was the result of a trial where a man with schizophrenia represented himself, dressed in a costume,” stated the letter signed by 30 prominent individuals, including former federal and state court judges and prosecutors, Department of Justice officials, parole board members, and other notable legal practitioners from Texas and across the country. “We come together from across the partisan and ideological divide and are united in our belief that, irrespective of whether we support or oppose the death penalty, this is not an appropriate case for execution.”

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before he shaved his head and killed his in-laws, Amanda and Joseph Alvarado.  During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s medical history can be found in a mental illness timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits:

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

“In his state of severe mental illness, Mr. Panetti should never have been permitted to represent himself at his capital trial,” states the letter from leading national and Texas mental health organizations and experts. “…[T]he fact that he did not have counsel renders his conviction and sentencing even more problematic in light of the delusional nature of his illness.”

In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge court stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately found the Fifth Circuit’s standard for determining competency to be executed unconstitutional in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). Notwithstanding that decision, Texas continued to contest Mr. Panetti’s competence to be executed. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit again found him competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

On November 6, 2014, the trial court in Kerrville, Texas refused a request by Mr. Panetti’s attorneys to withdraw or modify the execution date so that they would have a meaningful opportunity to contest his competency for execution.

Mr. Panetti has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years. He has a fixed delusion that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the State of Texas, to put an end to his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“The execution of Scott Panetti would be a cruel injustice that would serve no constructive purpose whatsoever,” states the letter signed by more than 50 notable Evangelical Christian faith leaders, including 20 from Texas. “When we inflict the harshest punishment on the severely mentally ill, whose culpability is greatly diminished by their debilitating conditions, we fail to respect their innate dignity as human beings.”

A complete listing of the clemency letters and more information about Mr. Panetti’s case, including legal documents, video footage, and more, can be accessed here:

To speak with attorneys for Mr. Panetti, Kathryn Kase of the Texas Defender Service and Greg Wiercioch of the Texas Defender Service and the University of Wisconsin at Madison Law School, or signatories to the letters supporting clemency, please contact: Laura Burstein, Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c).


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30 October 2014 ~ Comments Off on Texas Schedules Execution of Scott Panetti Despite Long History of Severe Mental Illness

Texas Schedules Execution of Scott Panetti Despite Long History of Severe Mental Illness

Breaking: Today, a state district court announced that Texas has set a December 3, 2014 execution date for Scott Panetti, who has a fixed delusion that Satan, working through the state, is trying to kill him for preaching the Gospel. Below is a statement from Mr. Panetti’s attorney followed by background about the case and a link to a video about Mr. Panetti’s three-decade long history of severe mental illness.

Statement of Greg Wiercioch, Attorney for Scott Panetti, a TX Death Row Prisoner with Severe Mental Illness, on the Setting of an Execution Date

“Scott Panetti is not competent for execution and therefore his execution would serve no retributive purpose.  It is unfortunate that an execution date has been set.

“For more than three decades, Mr. Panetti has suffered from severe mental illness. He was allowed to represent himself at his capital trial, wearing a make-believe cowboy outfit and attempting to subpoena Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy. He has a fixed delusion that Satan, working through the State of Texas, is seeking to execute him for preaching the Gospel. His execution would be a miserable spectacle.”

— Greg Wiercioch, Attorney for Scott Panetti

— October 30, 2014


Scott Panetti has suffered from severe mental illness for over 30 years. It first manifested itself at least a decade before the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death in Texas. Mr. Panetti’s severe mental illness has infected every stage of his capital case.

This is the enduring image of Mr. Panetti’s case: a paranoid schizophrenic wearing a TV-Western cowboy costume; on trial for his life; insisting on defending himself without counsel; attempting to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ; and raising an insanity defense. Mr. Panetti’s pro se performance was an abomination and his trial was a mockery of the criminal justice system.

Six years after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Fifth Circuit’s unconstitutional standard for assessing competency for execution in Panetti v. Quarterman (2007), the Fifth Circuit once again held in 2013 that Mr. Panetti is competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

It is undisputed that Mr. Panetti suffers from severe mental illness that pre-dates the crime and it is uncontested that Mr. Panetti’s delusions center on his belief that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the State of Texas, to put an end to his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the condemned.

The Fifth Circuit’s standard trivializes severe mental illness and deems delusions irrelevant by disregarding their iron-grip persistence. Mr. Panetti’s delusional belief system is like a warped lens that distorts everything that passes through it.

By treating delusional beliefs as irrelevant if a court can identify any part of a prisoner’s beliefs about his execution as “rational,” the Fifth Circuit’s standard ignores the diagnostic features and clinical realities of psychotic disorders and fails to protect the truly insane from execution.

The Fifth Circuit’s standard fails to identify the individuals whom the U.S. Supreme Court in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) and Panetti v. Quarterman (2007) intended to protect: prisoners who may possess some cognitive understanding of the reasons for their execution, but who also exhibit delusional thinking that irredeemably distorts the link between their wrongdoing and the punishment they are about to suffer.

Prominent mental health organizations and others have discussed how Mr. Panetti’s execution would be “a miserable spectacle” that would not satisfy the retributive goal of capital punishment.

For example, Ron Honberg, National Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), writes:

George Parnham, a prominent Houston attorney who has represented many defendants with severe mental illness, including Andrea Yates, writes:

Please find here the link to the video Executing the Insane: The Case of Scott Panetti:

When a death row prisoner attributes his imminent execution to reasons that only someone suffering from a severe mental illness could espouse – such as Mr. Panetti’s delusion that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels of Jesus Christ – he cannot be said to have the capacity to accept responsibility for his crime.


For more information or to arrange an interview with Mr. Panetti’s attorneys, Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase, or if you would like to speak with mental health experts, please contact Laura Burstein at or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411 (c).

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