Archive | Ft. Worth

15 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

Death row exonoree Juan Melendez in Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this week

“Journey to Justice: A Speakers’ Tour Featuring Death Row Survivor Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon” will take place in the Metroplex from September 28 – October 2, 2014.   Special guests will join Juan at select tour events.

Juan Melendez spent 17 years, 8 months, and 1 day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. He was exonerated Juan Melendez in Rio Grande Valleyand released on January 3, 2002. A native of Puerto Rico, Juan has shared his extraordinary story about the injustices of the death penalty with tens of thousands of people throughout the world. We are excited to bring his powerful message of faith, courage, and survival to the Metroplex this fall.

Saint Andrew Catholic Church in Fort Worth will kick things off on Sunday, September 28th at 2 pm (download a flier to share).  

Here’s the full schedule of events:

Sunday, September 28th
2:00 to 4:00 PM:  Presentation by Juan Melendez at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, 3717 Stadium Drive, Fort Worth, TX 76109. Sponsored by St. Andrew’s Peace and Justice Task Force.  Free and open to the public.

Monday, September 29th
12:30 to 2:00 PM: Special luncheon with Juan Melendez.  Open to all TCADP members and supporters in the Dallas area. Celebration Restaurant, 4503 W Lovers Lane, Dallas, Texas.  Each participant will pay for his/her own lunch.  RSVP to Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org.

7:00 to 8:30 PM: Documentary screening and Q & A with Juan Melendez, Fellowship Hall at Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Rd, Dallas, Texas 75235.  Sponsored by Cathedral of Hope, Congregation de Latina, and Hope for Peace & Justice. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, September 30th
9:30 to 11:00 AM: Presentation by Juan Melendez at the UT-Arlington School of Social Work, Room 107, Building B of the Social Work complex.  This event is open to students, faculty and staff at UTA.

7:00 to 8:30 PM: Presentation by Juan Melendez and former Montague County District Attorney Tim Cole, Holy Covenant United Methodist Church, 1901 E. Peters Colony Rd, Carrollton, Texas. The event will take place in the sanctuary.   Sponsored by Advocates for Peace and Justice (Holy Covenant’s Social Justice ministry), Center for Theological Activism, and North Texas Conference Board of Church and Society. Free and open to the public.

RSVP for this event on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/events/858803707465598/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Wednesday, October 1st
2:00 to 3:30 PM
: Presentation by Juan Melendez and former Montague County District Attorney Tim Cole, McFadden Science Lecture Theatre, Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, Texas.

Thursday, October 2nd
3:00 to 4:30 PM: Presentation by Juan Melendez at the University of Texas-Dallas. The event will take place in the atrium of the Founders Building. Sponsored by John Marshall Pre-Law Society at UTD.  Free and open to the public.

7:00 to 8:30 PM: Presentation by Juan Melendez at Oak Cliff United Methodist Church, 547 E Jefferson Blvd, Dallas, Texas 75203.  The event will take place in the sanctuary. Free and open to the public.

This tour is sponsored by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP), with support from the Harold Simmons Foundation.

Promote all tour events by sharing this flier!

Contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé with questions about any of these events: 512-441-1808 or khoule@tcadp.org.

Continue Reading

18 February 2014 ~ Comments Off

First Statewide Gathering of Anti-Death Penalty Movement Taking Place This Weekend in Fort Worth; Local Members Embark on “Faithful Pilgrimage” from Dallas to Fort Worth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
CONTACT – Kristin Houlé, TCADP Executive Director                    

First Statewide Gathering of Anti-Death Penalty Movement in Fort Worth
Two state legislators to receive awards during annual conference

(Austin, Texas) — More than 130 grassroots advocates and supporters from across Texas will gather this Saturday, February 22, 2014 at University Christian Church in Fort Worth for the annual conference of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP).  This event, “Lighting the Way,” will feature workshops, a keynote address by Bob Ray Sanders of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and a panel discussion on how Texas is lighting the way on the death penalty issue.   This is the first time that the TCADP Annual Conference, now in its 16th consecutive year, is taking place in Fort Worth.

During the conference, TCADP will honor two state legislators, presenting the 2014 Courage Award to State Representative Terry Canales (District 40 – Edinburg), in recognition of his public statement in support of ending the death penalty during the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee’s hearing on House Bill 1703 by State Representative Jessica Farrar (District 148 – Houston) during the 83rd Texas Legislature Regular Session.  House Bill 1703 called for repeal of the death penalty in Texas; it was the fourth such bill introduced by Rep. Farrar since 2007.

State Representative Lon Burnam (District 90 – Fort Worth) will receive the David P. Atwood Founder’s Award in recognition of his lifelong commitment to justice and his contributions to abolition and to TCADP both within and outside of the Texas Legislature.  The TCADP Board of Directors established the Founder’s Award in 2010 to recognize those individuals who have made significant contributions to the cause of ending the death penalty.

TCADP will present Appreciation Awards to longtime members Paula Keeth of Glenn Heights, Maria Castillo of Waxahachie, and Burnham Terrell of Houston (posthumous) in honor of their many activities in support of abolition of the death penalty and efforts to raise awareness of the issue within their communities.  Ariana Campos, currently District Manager for State Representative Jessica Farrar, also will receive an Appreciation Award in gratitude for her critical assistance with TCADP’s activities in the State Capitol.

“The theme of this year’s conference reflects the many shifts that are occurring – some subtle, others dramatic – across our state’s criminal justice landscape and on the death penalty issue, in particular,” said Kristin Houlé, the Executive Director of TCADP.  “Texas actually mirrors national trends when it comes to declining death sentences and is lighting the way in terms of the strength and sophistication of our movement.”

In conjunction with the conference, TCADP Board Member Rev. Jeff Hood, Rev. Wes Magruder, Chairman of the Board of Church and Society of the North Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and Lynn Walters, Executive Director of Hope for Peace & Justice, will conduct “A Faithful Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Dallas to Fort Worth” on Friday, February 21, 2014. The approximately 35-mile walk will begin with a press conference at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office in the Frank Crowley Courts Building, 133 N. Riverfront Blvd., L.B. 19, Dallas, Texas 75207 at 8:30 AM and will conclude outside the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center, 401 West Belknap, Fort Worth, Texas 76196 at approximately 9:00 PM.

Of the pilgrimage, Rev. Jeff Hood remarked, “People of faith go on pilgrimage when their spirits are troubled by the times and there is a desperate need for prayer.  We have chosen to walk prayerfully from Dallas to Fort Worth to oppose the cycle of violence in the State of Texas that is perpetuated every time our District Attorneys pursue the death penalty and our government executes someone.  We hope to ignite the moral imagination of our fellow citizens so that we might all rise up together with one courageous voice and declare the death penalty to be no more.”

The TCADP 2014 Annual Conference will take place in the Fellowship Hall of University Christian Church, 2720 S. University Dr., Fort Worth, Texas 76109, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  The keynote address and awards ceremony will take place from 12:00 to 2:00 PM.  All are welcome.

For more information about the conference, visit http://tcadp.org/what-we-do/annual-conference/ or contact Kristin Houlé at the information listed above.

For more information about the faithful pilgrimage from Dallas to Fort Worth or to speak with the participants, please call Rev. Jeff Hood at 404-210-6760.

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

###

Continue Reading

15 January 2014 ~ Comments Off

Join us for these TCADP events in the Metroplex in January & February!

We hope you had a wonderful holiday!  We wanted to make sure you were aware of these upcoming opportunities for engagement in the North Texas area during January and February.  We hope to see you soon.

Dallas: Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and March – January 18
The march will begin promptly Saturday, January 18 at 10:00am at Dallas City Hall and end at Fair Park.  We welcome all to join us and march behind the TCADP banner.  Please begin gathering at 9:00am at the big bronze sculpture (a Henry Moore) in front of city hall plaza. For more information, or if you have trouble finding the group, contact David Noblin at 214-802-9706(cell). Look for the TCADP banner.

Fort Worth: Storytelling Circle with Families of the Executed – January 18
The Texas After Violence Project will host a special event: “Maybe he is speaking through me…” Listening to Families of Executed Texans – a Storytelling Circle in Fort Worth.

Featuring:

  • Derrek and Keith Brooks, sons of Charlie Brooks, Jr. executed on December 7, 1982
  • Stanley Allridge, brother of Ronald and James Allridge executed on June 8, 1995 and August 26, 2004 respectively
  • Opening remarks by Bob Ray Sanders, columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • Circle keeper – Estrus Tucker, TCADP Board Vice-President
  • Select clips from the Texas After Violence Project oral history archive

January 18, 4:00-7:00pm
Tarrant County College, Trinity Campus, Trinity Building
Room Connect: TRTR 4102 on the 4th floor

Hosted by the Texas After Violence Project with support from the  Craig and Kathryn Hall Foundation.  Co-sponsored by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Amnesty International, and Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.

Looking for Possible Venues
TCADP is interested in hosting Bilingual TCADP Presentations & Conversations in Fort Worth and Tarrant County in Jan & Feb. Simple format can be a 75 minute agenda: 15 mins informal gathering/meet & greet; 30 minute audio visual; a 30 minute blend of Q & A, membership appeal & conference promotion & closing summary.  To book a presentation, please contact the TCADP office at 512-441-1808 or info@tcadp.org.

Denton:  “Incendiary” Film Screening on January 30
Described as “equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama,” the documentary film “Incendiary” focuses on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed by the State of Texas in 2004.  At least nine fire experts have questioned the evidence used to convict him of arson, and the case created quite a stir within the Texas Forensic Science Commission. We invite you to attend this free showing January 30, 6:00 PM at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2200 N. Bell Ave., Denton, TX 76209.

North Texas Clergy:  Prayer Breakfasts to be hosted in Fort Worth and Dallas
On February 22, TCADP will be hosting our Annual Conference at University Christian Church in Fort Worth.   In anticipation of this event and believing in the power of prayerful community, TCADP Board Member Rev. Jeff Hood has organized prayer breakfasts in Dallas and Fort Worth to facilitate fellowship amongst faith leaders concerned about the death penalty, to hear the voices of local leaders of this effort and to offer prayers for abolishment.

The TCADP Dallas Prayer Breakfast will take place at the Cathedral of Hope – 5910 Cedar Springs, Dallas,75235 on February 11 at 9am. The TCADP Fort Worth Prayer Breakfast will take place at Bread Fellowship – 2902 Race St. # 116, Fort Worth, 76111 on February 12 at 9am.  RSVP Today! 

January
18: RESCHEDULED DECEMBER EVENT  – “Listening to Families of Executed Texans – a Storytelling Circle in Fort Worth” Co-sponsored event with Texas After Violence Project, at the Tarrant County College Trinity Campus TRTR 4102, from 4 PM to 7 PM, Ft. Worth;
18: Dallas Martin Luther King Jr. March and Parade, Dallas City Hall 10:00am
21: Dallas Chapter Meeting, Cathedral of Hope in room CLC 196 at 6:30pm; dallas@tcadp.org
22: Scheduled execution of Edgar Tamayo Urgent Action!  Vigil Locations
30: “Incendiary” Film Screening, 6:00 PM at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2200 N. Bell Ave., Denton, TX 76209
31:  Last day to book Block Rate Hotel rooms for TCADP Annual Conference, www.tcadp.org/cowtown/

February
1 Last Day to Receive TCADP Annual Conference Advance Registration rates
11: Dallas Prayer Breakfast on the Death Penalty; 9:00 – 10:30 AM; Cathedral of Hope; 5910 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas, Texas RSVP Today!
12: Fort Worth Prayer Breakfast on the Death Penalty; 9:00 – 10:30 AM; Bread Fellowship; 2902 Race Street #116, Fort Worth, Texas RSVP Today!

Continue Reading

03 December 2013 ~ Comments Off

TCADP Announces the 2014 Annual Award Winners

The TCADP Board of Directors is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2014 Annual Awards, which will be presented at our 2014 Annual Conference on February 22, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  Please join us in celebrating these extraordinary individuals!  We also invite you to congratulate the award winners by placing an ad in the conference program or attending the conference to see them honored during the Awards Luncheon.

Appreciation Awards: Ariana Campos; Maria Castillo; Paula Keeth; and Burnham Terrell 

ariana camposAriana Campos
As the Legislative Aide to State Representative Jessica Farrar, Ariana has provided immeasurable support for TCADP’s activities in the State Capitol.  Over the last five years, she has reserved rooms in the Capitol for TCADP’s use, assisted in setting up meetings with members of Rep. Farrar’s staff, and provided timely and important feedback to TCADP regarding actions in the office. Dependable and efficient, Ariana is a vital point of contact for our legislative advocacy work.  Her behind-the-scenes contributions have been of great value to TCADP.

Maria Castillo Mariacastillobishopmarkseitz
Maria is one of TCADP’s stalwart volunteers in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. She has been an active member of the Dallas Religious Outreach committee since its inception in 2011 and is always on the lookout for tabling and outreach opportunities for TCADP. Maria is typically the first person to volunteer to staff an information booth, whether at a religious event or community festival. She also has focused on reaching out to Spanish-speaking communities in the area. In addition, Maria organizes execution vigils at her parish and has sought to move the Catholic Diocese of Dallas towards greater engagement in the death penalty issue. We honor Maria’s commitment to TCADP and to abolition of the death penalty. (Maria is pictured here with Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso.)

Paula Keeth paulakeeth
Paula is a long-time advocate for abolition who has inspired many others to become involved in the issue. She is extremely devoted to the activities of the TCADP Dallas Chapter and volunteers often for tabling events, participates in monthly meetings, and attends vigils and protests.  Paula also has served on several statewide TCADP committees and in 2012 worked to organize “A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty” featuring Dallas-area clergy.  She singlehandedly proposed that the Ellis County Democrats pass a resolution opposing the death penalty, which in turn contributed to the Texas Democratic Party endorsing abolition of the death penalty as part of its 2012 platform. She also visited and befriended former death row inmate Rodney Rachal and encouraged others to begin visiting prisoners on death row. In the words of the person who nominated her, “Paula is part of the heart and soul of our movement and concern for persons of worth.”

Burnham Terrell (posthumous)
Burnham Terrell, an active TCADP and Houston Chapter member, reached his 90th birthday on November 12 and the 21st anniversary of his marriage to his wife, Joan, on November 13.   He is an inspiration to any of us who might think we are too old to be an activist. Burnham passed away the morning of November 13, 2013 while recovering from a stroke  earlier in the month.  Burnham’s faithful work coordinating the Houston-area execution vigils for so many years will be sorely missed.  He also contributed to TCADP’s efforts to move the Texas Democratic Party to endorse abolition of the death penalty in its 2012 platform.

Courage Award: State Representative Terry Canales Terry Canales
In recognition of his public statement in support of ending the death penalty during the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee’s hearing on House Bill 1703 by Rep. Jessica Farrar on April 29, 2013

Elected in 2012, State Representative Terry Canales represents District 40 in Hidalgo County and serves on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. A native of South Texas, he received his law degree from St. Mary’s University of Law.  Rep. Canales is the sixth member of his extended family to serve in the Texas House of Representatives.

House Bill 1703 bill, introduced by Rep. Farrar and co-authored by Rep. Alma Allen and Rep. Lon Burnam, calls for abolition of the death penalty in Texas.  Similar repeal bills by Rep. Farrar have been given a public hearing by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in the last three legislative sessions.

During the committee’s hearing on House Bill 1703 on April 29, 2013, during the 83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, Rep. Canales unequivocally declared his opposition to the death penalty, calling it “unnecessary.”  This was the first time in TCADP’s experience with the Texas Legislature that a sitting member of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee has made a public statement in support of abolition. With this award, we honor Rep. Canales’ principled courage and hope it will inspire other elected officials to follow his lead.

David P. Atwood Founder’s Award: State Representative Lon Burnam

Burnam headshot 2014-1In recognition of his lifelong commitment to justice and his contributions to abolition and to TCADP, both within and outside of the Texas Legislature

State Representative Lon Burnam has represented District 90 (Fort Worth) in the Texas House of Representatives since 1997. He currently serves on the House Criminal Jurisprudence and Energy Resources Committees. Rep. Burnam also is Vice Chair of the Legislative Study Group, Co-Chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, and an active member of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

Rep. Burnam has co-sponsored bills calling for abolition of the death penalty in every legislative session since 2009.  In 2001, he sponsored legislation to end the death penalty for juvenile offenders (age 17), which passed the House of Representatives. (The U.S. Supreme Court banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders in 2005.)

As an inaugural member of the TCADP Advisory Board, Rep. Burnam has contributed to the growth of our organization in numerous ways, including recruiting new members of the TCADP Board of Directors, hosting a fundraising event, and, most recently, supporting a TCADP membership gathering in Tarrant County and the work of our local planning committee.

Prior to being chosen by the voters of District 90, Burnam worked as a city planner helping community organizations and local residents in efforts to revitalize neighborhoods and create new economic opportunities. In the mid-1980’s, Burnam served as a Special Assistant to the Regional Administrator of the Texas Department of Human Services. He has served on numerous community boards and agencies.

The David P. Atwood Founder’s Award, established in 2010, serves to recognize those individuals who have made a significant contribution to the cause of ending the death penalty.

Award recipients are chosen each year by the TCADP Board of Directors based on nominations submitted by TCADP members.

Continue Reading

12 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

TCADP Report: Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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

Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas,
According to New Report by TCADP

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex led state in pursuit of the death penalty in 2012

(Austin, Texas) — More than half of all new death sentences were imposed in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this year, while no new death sentences were imposed in Harris County for the third time in five years, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s (TCADP) new report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review.

New death sentences in Texas have declined more than 75% since 2002 and remain near historic low levels in 2012.  To date this year, juries have condemned nine new individuals to death in Texas, a slight increase over 2011 and 2010, when new death sentences fell to their lowest number since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas’ revised death penalty statute in 1976.  The verdict in a capital murder trial in Brazos County, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, has been delayed indefinitely pending a legal dispute over jury instructions.

Tarrant and Dallas Counties each accounted for two new death sentences and Johnson County accounted for one.  Dallas County now leads the state in new death sentences since 2008, accounting for nearly 20% of sentences imposed in the last five years.  Dallas County also led the state in executions, accounting for 5 of the 15 executions carried out this year.

“While most of Texas is moving away from the death penalty, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was a major outlier both in new death sentences and executions this year,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  “2012 exemplified the arbitrariness that pervades the death penalty system in Texas.  Not only does it remain geographically isolated to just a few jurisdictions statewide, but it continues to be applied in a haphazard and unfair way, particularly when it comes to individuals with intellectual disabilities or severe mental illness and people of color.”

Seven of the new death row inmates in 2012 are African-American, one is Hispanic, and one is a white female.  Over the last five years, nearly 75% of death sentences in Texas have been imposed on people of color – 46% African-American and 28% Hispanic.  In Dallas County, this pattern is even more pronounced – of the eight men sentenced to death there since 2008, five are African-American and two are Hispanic.

Of the 15 men executed in Texas this year, seven were African-American, four were Hispanic, and four were white.

“Although Texas is using the death penalty less, the state still uses it disproportionately on people of color,” said Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service.  “This is a recurring problem and Texas’ failure to fix it demonstrates how broken its capital punishment system is.”

Troubling questions also persist regarding the arbitrary determination of who receives the ultimate punishment.  Cases involving individuals with comparable backgrounds or who presented similar legal arguments received vastly different treatment by the criminal justice system this year.

As one example of this arbitrariness, several death row inmates with diagnosed severe mental illnesses were scheduled for execution this year.  The executions of Steven Staley and Marcus Druery were halted pending unresolved issues related to their mental competency, while the execution of Jonathan Green, who reportedly suffered from schizophrenia, proceeded on October 10, 2012 after significant legal wrangling.

This disparate treatment was also evident in terms of issues related to intellectual disabilities.

Two inmates with recognized intellectual disabilities received reduced sentences and were removed from death row this year: Roosevelt Smith, convicted in 2007, and Anthony Pierce, who spent more than three decades on death row.  On the other hand, Marvin Wilson was executed on August 7, 2012 despite being diagnosed with an IQ of 61, well below the threshold of 70 for mental impairment.  His case created an international uproar and starkly illustrated the woefully inadequate and unscientific standards used by the State of Texas to determine which defendants with intellectual disabilities are protected from execution.

Other highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review:

  • The State of Texas accounted for more than a third of U.S. executions this year, a smaller percentage than in the past but nearly three times as many as any other state.  Texas has executed a total of 492 people since 1982 – 253 executions have occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001 – present), more than any other governor in U.S. history.
  • Six inmates scheduled for execution in 2012 received reprieves.  In addition, three execution dates were withdrawn.
  • Death-qualified juries rejected the death penalty in the sentencing phase in four trials this year and instead opted for life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In all four cases, the jury determined that the defendant did not pose a future danger.  Over the last five years, death-qualified juries have rejected the death penalty in at least 20 capital murder trials.
  • According to research by TCADP, the Texas death row population stands at its lowest level since 1989.  As of November 16, 2012, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice counted 289 death row inmates, which includes 10 women.

“Attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting as public confidence in the ultimate punishment continues to erode,” said Houlé.  “As we approach the start of the 83rd Texas Legislature, TCADP urges concerned citizens and elected officials to confront the realities of this irreversible punishment and reconsider the efficacy and cost of the death penalty as a means of achieving justice.”

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

Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review is available online at www.tcadp.org/TexasDeathPenaltyDevelopments2012.pdf.  Contact report author Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org to receive a copy directly via email.  See the report for tables illustrating Texas’ highest-use counties from 2008-2012, the race of defendants sentenced to death in the last five years, and additional graphs depicting recent trends.

See http://tcadp.org/2008-2012-new-death-sentences/ for a map of new death sentences by county from 2008 to 2012.

See http://tcadp.org/1976-2012-county-map/ for a map of death sentences by county from 1976 to 2012.

###

Continue Reading

11 April 2012 ~ Comments Off

Sanders: Time to End the Death Penalty in Texas

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram features a new piece by regular columnist Bob Ray Sanders entitled “Time to End the Death Penalty in Texas” (April 10, 2012).  In his column, Sanders cites the recent DNA exonerations in Dallas County and legislative progress towards repealing the death penalty other states as two (among many) reasons to do away with the death penalty in Texas.   He also notes progress on this issue in Texas, including the decline in executions and new death sentences and a decreasing death row population.   Sanders writes that “those are all good signs, but not good enough.”  He goes on to say:

Many people acknowledge that we have a flawed justice system, and that’s understandable with any structure that depends on human judgment and actions.

 

But it is because of the fallibility of humans that we mortals should not be charged with deciding to take a life — the one thing we can never give back in case of a mistake — in the name of the state.

 

The progress toward abolishment of the death penalty has been steady, but slow. It’s now time to pick up the momentum.

 

I’m ready to see the movement gather steam, wage an all-out legal assault and awareness campaign to change these barbaric laws one state legislature at a time.

 

We are a nation that should be better than this. Let’s vow to end capital punishment in this country, now and forever.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/04/10/3873758/time-to-end-death-penalty-in-texas.html#storylink=cpy

Continue Reading

26 March 2012 ~ Comments Off

New Death Sentence Imposed in North Texas

On March 23, 2012, jurors in Johnson County sentenced Mark Anthony Soliz to death for the murder of 61-year-old Nancy Weatherly during a crime spree in 2010 that stretched across Johnson and Tarrant Counties.  Soliz also faces capital murder charges in Tarrant County for the murder of deliveryman Ruben Martinez, who was shot on the same day that Weatherly was killed.  According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the jury deliberated for an hour about the sentence.

This is the sixth death sentence imposed in Johnson County since 1976.  It is the second new death sentence in Texas to date in 2012.  Last year, there were a total of eight new death sentences in Texas.

Read more in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

 

Continue Reading

03 May 2008 ~ Comments Off

United Methodists Call for Abolition of the Death Penalty in Texas

The Worldwide United Methodist Church sent a message to Texas during the General Conference held in Ft. Worth, TX. The General Conference passed a resolution calling for the specific abolition of the death penalty in Texas. The United Methodist Church has had a position against the use of the death penalty for more than 50 years and reaffirmed that specific position in separate resolutions for the whole church as well.

The Texas specific resolution originated from St. John’s United Methodist Church in Lubbock, TX. Rev. Bill Martin, retired clergy and member of St. John’s stated upon the passage of the resolution, “We in Texas who oppose capital punishment deeply appreciate this prophetic witness from The United Methodist Church. It represents a direct application of the Church’s affirmation that we ‘cannot accept retribution or social vengeance as a reason for taking human life’ and our belief that the death penalty ‘violates our deepest belief in God as the Creator and the Redeemer of humankind.’”

This resolution was developed in part due to the intensity of which Texas uses the death penalty without regard to the many problems within the death penalty system: problems of wrongful conviction, poor representation, the arbitrary nature in which it is imposed, and the great expense it represents to the state of Texas. The Rev. Julius Trimble of the East Ohio Conference and committee chair presenting the Resolution to the General Conference delegates, also pointed out that in Texas the Governor cannot commute a sentence without the vote of the Board of Pardons and Parole; and the specific event of Governor Perry, after a vote from the Board on commuting the death sentence of a mentally ill inmate, denying that vote and proceeding with the execution.

Vicki McCuistion, program director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and member of Wimberley United Methodist Church hailed the decision of the General Conference, “The passage of this resolution sends a strong message to Texas and our state officials that our excessive execution policy is recognized as extreme and in need of great reform by the delegates of the United Methodist Church from the United States and around the world and must be reevaluated sooner rather than later.”

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church is held every 4 years with delegates from the US and around the world to determine the business and direction of the United Methodist Church.

The text of the resolution follows:
Texas Death Penalty (81149-C1-R9999)

To Be Added to The Book of Resolutions:

Whereas, The United Methodist Church strongly opposes capital punishment, and

Whereas, in the state of Texas over 400 persons have been put to death since the state resumed executions in 1982;

• among the persons executed since 1982 at least six were mentally retarded, at least twenty suffered from mental illness, and thirteen were juveniles when their crimes were committed;
• among those executed eighty-three African Americans were put to death for crimes against white victims, and only one white person was executed for crimes against African Americans;
• eight persons sentenced to die have later been proven innocent and removed from death row;
• capital trials have at times been characterized by “unreliable witnesses, lack of evidence, incorrect experts, official misconduct, and inadequate defense attorneys”;
• the Innocence Project of Texas has pointed to the likelihood that one or more innocent persons have been executed; and

Whereas, over 250 organizations of all kinds, including religious, civic, political, legal, and humanitarian groups, have officially called either for a moratorium on executions or for the abolition of the death penalty in Texas, and

Whereas, at least ten major newspapers in Texas have endorsed either a moratorium on executions or the abolition of capital punishment in the state,

Therefore, be it resolved, that the 2008 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, meeting in Fort Worth, Texas,

Express its deepest appreciation to all those organizations and individuals in the state of Texas who have valiantly struggled and continue to struggle for a more humane society in which the death penalty is rare or non-existent.

Call upon the Texas Legislature either to abolish the death penalty completely or to stop executions in the state until such time as all capital cases can be tried in a completely equitable way,

Call upon the Texas Pardon and Parole Board and the Governor to commute the sentences of persons currently on death row to life in prison without parole or to life in prison.

Instruct the Secretary of the General Conference to have copies of this resolution sent immediately to all members of the Texas Legislature, to each member of the Pardon and Parole Board, to the Governor of Texas, to the Texas Conference of Churches, and to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Continue Reading