Archive | executions

13 August 2015 ~ Comments Off on State of Texas executes Daniel Lopez

State of Texas executes Daniel Lopez

Last night, the State of Texas put Daniel Lopez to death for killing 20-year veteran Corpus Christi Police Department Lt. Stuart Alexander with his truck during a high-speed chase in 2009.  Lopez asked the courts to expedite his execution. At least 28 other individuals on death row in Texas have been put to death after deciding to forego further appeals in their cases.

The State of Texas has executed 10 people to date in 2015; a total of 19 executions have taken place nationwide.

Another execution is scheduled to occur later this month: Bernardo Aban Tercero, a Nicaraguan national, is scheduled to be put to death on August 26, 2015. He was convicted of robbing a dry cleaning store and killing customer Robert Keith Berger in 1997 in Houston. Tercero argued the shooting was an accident. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2014.

According to Amnesty International, the jury in Tercero’s trial did not hear critical mitigating evidence about the deplorable conditions of his childhood in Nicaragua and his attorneys did little to investigate the case.  An Urgent Action issued by Amnesty states that the poor quality of legal representation he received at trial and during state-level appeals is at the center of his clemency petition.

To read the full Urgent Action from Amnesty International, which includes additional background information , please click here (PDF).

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12 August 2015 ~ Comments Off on U.S. Supreme Court declines to halt execution of Daniel Lopez; Tracy Beatty receives stay

U.S. Supreme Court declines to halt execution of Daniel Lopez; Tracy Beatty receives stay

The State of Texas scheduled two executions to take place on consecutive nights this week – August 12th and 13th – but the second execution was called off by the state’s highest criminal court earlier today.

Tracy Beatty, who was scheduled to be put to death on August 13th, received a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. His attorneys argued Beatty had deficient legal help at his 2004 trial and during early appeals and that prosecutors used improper testimony at his trial. Beatty is the seventh person to receive a stay of execution in Texas this year. He was convicted of killing his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, in Smith County in 2003.

Tonight’s scheduled execution of Daniel Lopez is likely to proceed now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene.  He was convicted of killing 20-year veteran Corpus Christi Police Department Lt. Stuart Alexander with his truck during a high-speed chase in 2009.

Lopez asked the courts to expedite his execution date. At least 28 individuals on death row in Texas have been put to death after deciding to forego further appeals in their cases.

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03 August 2015 ~ Comments Off on TCADP’s 2015 August Alert: Death penalty continues to fall out of favor

TCADP’s 2015 August Alert: Death penalty continues to fall out of favor

In this edition:

Scheduled executions and case updates: Back-to-back executions scheduled to take place in Texas next week

In case you missed it: How one Texas death penalty case raised taxes; the latest editorial from the Dallas Morning News

Last call for applications: TCADP seeks North Texas Outreach Coordinator

Upcoming events: New episode of CNN’s “Death Row Stories” will focus on wrongful execution in Texas

Support TCADP: Become a Sustaining Member today!


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

  • Daniel Lopez is scheduled to be executed on August 12. He was convicted of striking and killing 20-year veteran Corpus Christi Police Department Lt. Stuart Alexander with his truck while the officer was laying down spike strips to stop Lopez’s vehicle during a high-speed chase in March 2009.  Earlier this year, the 5th Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Lopez is competent to waive his appeals. He has requested several times that the courts expedite his execution date. At least 28 individuals on death row in Texas have been put to death after deciding to forego further appeals in their cases.
  • Tracy Beatty is scheduled to be executed on August 13 for the 2003 slaying of his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, in Smith County.  He would be the second person from Smith County put to death this year.
  • Bernardo Aban Tercero, a national of Nicaragua, is scheduled to be executed on August 26. He was convicted of robbing a dry cleaning store and murdering customer Robert Keith Berger in 1997 in Houston. Tercero argued the shooting was an accident. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2014.

The State of Texas accounts for half of the 18 executions that have occurred nationwide to date in 2015.  At least six more executions are scheduled to take place this year.

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

Other case updates
We learned this morning that Cathy Henderson, who spent nearly 20 years on death row in Texas, died over the weekend in a hospital in Austin.  She was convicted of capital murder in the death of three-month-old Brandon Baugh in 1994. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Henderson’s conviction in 2012 based on scientific advances that cast doubt upon expert testimony about the baby’s cause of death.  Henderson maintained it was an accident.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office planned to retry Henderson this fall on capital murder charges but did not intend to seek another death sentence. On June 12, however, Henderson pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.  According to the Austin American-Statesman, she could have been released in four years with credit for time served. Henderson was just two days away from being executed in 2007 when the Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay and ordered an evidentiary hearing.

Earlier this summer we learned of the death of John Matamoros.  According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, he died of natural causes on June 12, 2015 while still on death row.  He was convicted of the murder of Edward George Goebel during a 1990 home burglary in Houston.


In case you missed it
Ron Paul’s statements ring true 
In a June opinion column, former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul called the death penalty “the ultimate corrupt, big government program.” He went on to say, “It is hard to find a more wasteful and inefficient government program than the death penalty.” To support his statements, Paul referred to a costly case in Jasper County which resulted in higher taxes. PolitiFact Texas checked the claim and found it was indeed true. Read the full report from Politifact as well as the original column from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Still no new death sentences in Texas in 2015
Last week, the Dallas Morning News published an editorial, “Living without the death penalty in Texas,” regarding declining use of the death penalty in Texas.  The piece features excerpts from an interview with former District Attorney and TCADP 2015 Annual Conference keynote speaker Tim Cole.

The editorial asserts that the death penalty is falling out of favor both with juries and prosecutors and cites the growing list of wrongfully convicted men in Texas as one reason for the shift. Cost and geography also play a role, as explained by Cole: “It comes down to the call of a single elected official whose annual budget may or may not bear the expense of a murder trial.” Read the full editorial, as well as an opinion piece by Cole on this topic that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.


TCADP seeks North Texas Outreach Coordinator
TCADP is still accepting applications for our new North Texas Outreach Coordinator position.  We seek a motivated and experienced individual to develop and implement a campaign aimed at reducing use of the death penalty in Dallas and Tarrant Counties. Apply by August 17th.


Upcoming events
“Death Row Stories”
The next episode of “Death Row Stories” on CNN will focus on the case of Ruben Cantu, who was executed by the State of Texas on August 24, 1993. Cantu’s conviction was based largely on the testimony of a single eyewitness who later changed his story.  Cantu was 17 years old at the time of the crime.  (The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders until 2015.) The episode is scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday, August 9th at 10pm across all time zones.  We expect to see interviews with several TCADP Advisory Board members who are intimately connected to this case.

Conferences
TCADP will participate in the following conferences this month as part of our community outreach efforts:

El Paso Meeting
The next monthly meeting of El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty will take place on Tuesday, August 25 at 7 pm in the Pedro Maldonado Room at St. Pius X Church, 1050 N. Clark.  Members will be planning fall activities, including outreach to interfaith groups and elected officials.


Support TCADP
Thanks to everyone who has contributed towards our summer fundraising campaign. We are delighted to report we have raised $2,430 towards our goal of $2,500.  Your gift today will put us over the top!

Consider taking your support to the next level by becoming a TCADP Sustaining Member.  Sustaining Members pledge an annual gift that recurs every year on the day of your choosing.

Another easy way to support TCADP is through Amazon Smile. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to us, as long as you designate TCADP as your charitable organization of choice.  Over the last year, we’ve raised nearly $200 through this program. This covers the cost of our participation in the conferences listed above.

Thank you for standing with us as we shift the ground under the death penalty in Texas!

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02 April 2015 ~ Comments Off on TCADP April 2015 Alert: State of Texas prepares to carry out four executions, despite growing opposition to the death penalty

TCADP April 2015 Alert: State of Texas prepares to carry out four executions, despite growing opposition to the death penalty

In this edition of our monthly alert:

Scheduled executionsState of Texas obtains new supply of lethal injection drugs while two pharmaceutical associations discourage members from participating in the execution process 

Advocacy at the 84th Texas Legislature: Abolition bill filed for first time in Texas Senate

In the newsStrong message from Pope FrancisNational Latino Evangelical Coalition calls for abolition; Amnesty International issues report on death penalty worldwide

Upcoming eventsJoin TCADP at a meeting or event in your community

[…]

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02 February 2015 ~ Comments Off on TCADP’s February 2015 Alert: Execution updates; advocacy opportunities; and the 2015 Annual Conference

TCADP’s February 2015 Alert: Execution updates; advocacy opportunities; and the 2015 Annual Conference

In this edition:
Scheduled executions
TCADP 2015 Annual Conference: Pre-register by February 13th
84th Texas Legislature
Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty
In case you missed it
Welcome, Vanessa!

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

  • Donald 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 in 2000. He and his co-defendants robbed a sporting goods store at gunpoint, killing Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Two of the co-defendants have already been executed, one committed suicide, and three others remain on death row. Newbury was scheduled to be executed in February 2012, but was spared by the U.S. Supreme Court.  His execution is scheduled for February 4, 2015.
  • After thirty years on death row, Lester Bower Jr. is scheduled to be executed on February 10, 2015. Bower was convicted of the shooting deaths of four men at an ultra-light airplane hangar near Sherman in 1983. He was sentenced to death in Grayson County in 1984, making him one of the longest serving inmates on Texas death row. Bower, a former chemical salesman with no prior criminal history, has consistently maintained his innocence.

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

At least eight additional executions are scheduled to take place in Texas by the end of May.

TCADP 2015 Annual Conference: Register by February 13th
Register today for TCADP’s 2015 Annual Conference – Death Penalty Fault Lines: A Seismic Shift in Ground. The conference will take place on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin.  Go online to pre-register.  (Note: Rates will increase after February 13th).

If you can’t join us for the full day, consider attending the awards luncheon and keynote address by former District Attorney Tim Cole.  You won’t want to miss it!

Also, please note that anyone wishing to place an ad in the conference program, reserve an exhibitor table, or sponsor a table at the awards luncheon must do so by this Friday, February 6th.

84th Texas Legislature
During the 84th Texas Legislature, which convened on January 13th, TCADP again will work to repeal the death penalty and engage in dialogue with elected officials about the flaws and failures of our state’s capital punishment system. Stay tuned for updates on the abolition bill, which will be filed soon by State Representative Jessica Farrar (District 148-Houston).  If you have questions about our legislative agenda, please contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle at khoule@tcadp.org.

Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty
TCADP is excited to announce our first-ever “Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty,” which we are organizing in partnership with Texas Impact, the oldest and largest statewide interfaith network. On Monday, March 9, 2015, TCADP and Texas Impact will hold a press conference at the State Capitol to release an Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty, which has been endorsed by more than 500 faith leaders across Texas (there’s still time to sign if you haven’t done so already!).  Participants then will meet with legislators to voice their concerns about the death penalty.  Learn more and RSVP today.

We also encourage all faith leaders to download “The Death Penalty in Texas: A study guide for Texas faith communities,” which was published recently by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy. The guide includes discussion questions, faith statements on the death penalty, and resources for faith and lay leaders.

In case you missed it
Who qualifies as intellectually disabled?
On January 29, the State of Texas put Robert Ladd to death in spite of evidence of his intellectual disabilities.  His attorneys argued that his IQ of 67 should have prohibited his execution in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia.  A new article from Maurice Chammah and Dana Goldstein with The Marshall Project, “The Life-or-Death Test,” examines the history and science of IQ testing and its use in determining whether certain individuals should be exempt from execution.

Record number of exonerations in 2014
The National Registry of Exonerations recorded 125 exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in 2014, according to a new report it released on January 27, 2015.  It was the first time the Registry found more than 100 exonerations in one year.  Texas led all states with 39 exonerations; this included 33 exonerations in drug cases in Harris County.

No doubt for former Supreme Court Justice that Texas executed an innocent man
Last month during a lecture at the University of Florida, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens declared evidence proved “beyond a shadow of doubt” that Texas executed an innocent man, Carlos DeLuna, in 1989.  The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, a book and website by Columbia Law School Professor James S. Liebman, catalogues in minute detail everything that went wrong in DeLuna’s case. Watch Justice Stevens’ remarks in this video (his comments about the DeLuna case begin at 56:00).

Welcome, Vanessa!
TCADP is thrilled to announce that we have hired Vanessa Akins as our new Communications Coordinator. Vanessa, a 2009 graduate of St. Edward’s University, has been volunteering in our office since May and is a critical member of our 2015 Conference Committee.  Her job responsibilities will include maintaining TCADP’s website and social media platforms and producing internal and external communications.   You can reach her at Vanessa@tcadp.org.

Save the date for Amplify Austin, 6 PM March 5th to 6 PM March 6th!  More details coming soon!

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23 January 2015 ~ Comments Off on State of Texas executes Arnold Prieto

State of Texas executes Arnold Prieto

The State of Texas carried out its first execution of 2015 on Wednesday, January 21, putting Arnold Prieto to death 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 that night, brothers Guadalupe and Jessie Hernandez.  Jessie Hernandez, who was 16 at the time of the crime, is serving a life sentence, while Guadalupe, the alleged mastermind of the robbery and murders, was never charged due to insufficient evidence.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, “prosecutors offered Prieto a plea deal to testify against him [Guadalupe Hernandez] in exchange for two 30-year sentences” but Prieto rejected the offer.

The State of Texas is scheduled to carry out two more executions next week:

  • 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).  According to Amnesty International, a U.S. District Court judge held an evidentiary hearing in 2005 on Ladd’s claim that his intellectual disabilities should prohibit his execution.  In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v Virginia that individuals with intellectual disabilities are barred from execution.  The Court left it to each state, however, to set forth criteria for determining whether an individual is intellectually disabled.  The District Court judge later ruled that Ladd has “significantly sub-average intellectual functioning” but the evidence of his adaptive deficits was not compelling enough to grant relief.Learn more about his case from Amnesty International and take action to stop his execution by calling the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott.

Four executions have taken place nationwide to date in 2015: Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas each have put one person to death this year. Both Oklahoma and Georgia have scheduled executions for next week, as well.

 

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21 January 2015 ~ Comments Off on Texas prepares for first execution of the year

Texas prepares for first execution of the year

Tonight, January 21, barring any last-minute intervention, the State of Texas will carry out its first execution of 2015.  Arnold Prieto is scheduled to be put to death 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 that night, brothers Guadalupe and Jessie Hernandez.  Jessie Hernandez, who was 17 at the time of the crime, is serving a life sentence, while Guadalupe was never charged due to insufficient evidence. Read more about Prieto in the San Antonio Express-News and from the Austin Chronicle.

Please stand in vigil this afternoon and evening with TCADP members around the state. Vigil locations are available here.

The State of Texas is scheduled to carry out two more executions next week:

  • 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). Learn more about his case from Amnesty International and take action to stop his execution.

Three executions have taken place nationwide to date in 2015: Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma each have put one person to death this year.

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18 December 2014 ~ Comments Off on Texas Executions Drop to Lowest Number Since 1996, According to New Report by TCADP

Texas Executions Drop to Lowest Number Since 1996, According to New Report by TCADP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 18, 2014, 12:01 AM CT

CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, Executive Director
512-552-5948 (cell): 512-441-1808 (office)
khoule@tcadp.org

Texas Executions Drop to Lowest Number Since 1996, According to New Report by TCADP
New death sentences decline nearly 80% since 1999, remain geographically isolated

(Austin, Texas) — The State of Texas put 10 people to death in 2014, the fewest executions in the state since 1996, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s (TCADP) new report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2014: The Year in Review.

“Over the last 15 years, we have witnessed significant change when it comes to use of the death penalty in Texas, mirroring national trends. Texas has gone from a peak of 40 executions in 2000 to the fewest executions in nearly two decades,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

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The decline in new death sentences, which more accurately reflects current attitudes towards the death penalty, has been even more precipitous.  In 1999, prosecutors sought and juries imposed 48 new death sentences.  This year, new death sentences in Texas remained near record-low levels, with 11 new death sentences coming from just 8 of the state’s 254 counties.  Prosecutors in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office accounted for 4 of the 11 new death sentences imposed by juries this year.

Five counties which represent just 2% of the state’s 254 counties – are responsible for more than 60% of new death sentences in the last five years.

New death sentences remain both geographically isolated and racially biased. Five of the new death row inmates in 2014 are African-American, four are white, and two are Hispanic.  Over the last five years, prosecutors have imposed 60% of all new death sentences on African-Americans.

These disparities are even more pronounced in Harris County, where 15 of the last 18 defendants sentenced to death are African-American and the other 3 are Hispanic.  It has been 10 years since Harris County prosecutors secured a death sentence for a white defendant.

Notably, prosecutors in Dallas County did not pursue the death penalty in any new capital murder trials in 2014.

Texas accounted for less than 30% of U.S. executions, administering the same number of lethal injections as Missouri this year.  Information on national death penalty developments is available in a new report released today by the Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/YearEnd2014.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities, two Mexican nationals, two women, and two men who were just months past their 18th birthdays at the time of the crime were among those executed by the State of Texas this year.  Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court prohibit the death penalty for persons with intellectual disabilities and those under age 18 at the time of the crime.

It was the first time since 2002 that Texas executed two women in the same year.  Of the 10 people executed by the State of Texas in 2014, four were Hispanic, four were African-American, and two were white.  Harris (3) and Bexar (2) Counties together accounted for half of the executions in 2014.

Executions involved a compounded form of pentobarbital, supplied by an unidentified pharmacy or pharmacist.  In May, outgoing Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott reversed the position his office took in three prior opinions in recent years and ruled instead that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice do not have to disclose information about the drug supplier.  A lawsuit brought by attorneys for death row inmates seeking information about the drug source under the Texas Public Information Act remains pending.

Two contentious executions did not take place as scheduled this year due to last-minute intervention by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit:

  • On May 13, 2014, the day of Robert Campbell’s scheduled execution, the Fifth Circuit granted a stay in order to consider newly discovered evidence of his mental impairment. To date, no court has considered evidence of Campbell’s intellectual disabilities, which bars his execution under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins vs. Virginia (2002).
  • On December 3, 2014, less than eight hours before his scheduled execution, the Fifth Circuit granted a stay to Scott Panetti to consider the “complex legal questions” surrounding his case, specifically, his competency to be executed.  Panetti, whose competency has not been evaluated in seven years, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has a fixed delusion that Satan, working through the state, is trying to kill him for preaching the Gospel.

A total of seven inmates received reprieves this year, including stays granted by the courts and the withdrawal of execution dates.

“The cases of individuals scheduled for execution this year illustrate deep flaws that undermine the fairness and accuracy of our state’s capital punishment system,” said Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service.  “Texas legislators must address these issues when they convene in January.”

Other highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2014: The Year in Review:

  • On October 8, 2014, Manuel Velez was released from prison in Huntsville after spending nine years in prison, including four years on death row. One year earlier, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his capital murder conviction in the 2008 death of one-year-old Angel Gabriel Moreno in Cameron County. The court agreed with a state district judge’s assessment that Velez’s defense attorneys failed to present critical medical evidence that substantiated his claim of innocence. Since 2011, at least 17 individuals have been removed from death row in Texas after receiving reduced sentences.
  • Death-qualified juries rejected the death penalty in the sentencing phase in two capital trials this year.  In both cases, juries determined that mitigating evidence warranted a sentence other than death.  Over the last five years, death-qualified juries have rejected the death penalty in at least 14 capital murder trials.
  • Texas has executed a total of 518 people since 1982; of these, 279 – or 54% – occurred during the administration of outgoing Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001-2014), more than any other governor in U.S. history.

“Attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting as public confidence in the criminal justice system erodes,” said Kristin Houlé.  “At this critical moment in our state’s experience with the death penalty, concerned citizens and elected officials should take a close look at the realities of this irreversible, arbitrary, and costly punishment and consider alternative ways of achieving justice.”

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

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Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2014: The Year in Review is available online.  Contact report author Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org to receive a copy directly via email.  See the report for additional charts illustrating trends related to executions and death sentences in Texas.

The following individuals are available for further comment on the topics raised by these year-end statistics:

  • Kristin Houlé, Executive Director, TCADP: 512-552-5948 (cell) or 512-441-1808 (office)
  • Kathryn M. Kase, Executive Director, Texas Defender Service: 713-222-7788 (office)

The Death Penalty Information Center’s report on national developments is available at http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/YearEnd2014.

 

 

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