Archive | Houston

23 January 2012 ~ Comments Off

Upcoming Events in Houston: Speaker on Criminal Justice Reform and Film Screening

The Houston Chapter of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty invites you to attend:

IMPROVEMENTS TO THE TEXAS CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE? WHAT IS NEEDED?

featuring

Brandon Dudley, Chief of Staff for Senator Rodney Ellis

Thursday, January 26,  2012, 7:00pm

Dominican Sisters Meeting Room
6501 Almeda Rd., Houston, Texas
Pizza will be served for hungry attendees!

Rodrigo Hernandez is scheduled for execution on January 26.  The Houston Vigil will be held that day at the corner of Westheimer and Shepherd at 5:30 pm.   Following this vigil, please join TCADP’s Houston Chapter for a special presentation by Brandon Dudley, Chief of Staff for Senator Rodney Ellis, who will speak on improvements to the Texas Criminal Justice System.

“Incendiary” Film Showing, Wednesday, February 1, 8:00pm

Please join the Houston Peace & Justice Center (HPJC) for a special screening of this film at the Regal Greenway Grand Palace Stadium on Wednesday, February 1st at 8 PM. Stick around afterwards for a discussion about the most recent developments in the Willingham case.

Tickets must be purchased in advance (by January 30, 2:00am). Purchase Tickets Today.

Incendiary

Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama, INCENDIARY: The Willingham Case has captivated theatrical audiences this fall. Winner of the 2011 Louis Black Award at SXSW Film, and selected to play as a 2011 Sterling US Feature at the American Film Institute/Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS Festival 2011, INCENDIARY has been called “one of the most timely movies of the year…nonfiction filmmaking at its most classic. Crime, punishment, morality and hardball politics make for an explosive narrative mix all their own.” (Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post)


TCADP 2012 Annual Conference: Seizing the Momentum… Creating the Climate for Change
Saturday, February 18, 2012, University of the Incarnate Word Sky Room, San Antonio
Please make plans to join us on Saturday, February 18, 2012 in San Antonio for the 2012 TCADP Annual Conference. The conference features two workshop sessions, a panel discussion on how the changing demographics in Texas will impact our efforts to abolish the death penalty, and networking opportunities with new and old friends. The annual awards ceremony will take place during the luncheon to celebrate those individuals who inspired us in 2011.

Registration for the 2012 TCADP Annual Conference is open.  TCADP member, non-member, student, and early-bird rates are available.  Prices go up after February 1, 2012.

Register online today! or  Download the registration form and mail it in.

Download and share the conference flier.

Advertise in the program to promote your work, congratulate the award winners, and sponsor this annual event.  Exhibitor tables are also available. Learn more.

All of the conference information, including award winners, hotel information, etc.  is available online at http://tcadp.org/what-we-do/annual-conference/.

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15 December 2011 ~ 1 Comment

TCADP 2011 Annual Report: Texas Carries Out Fewest Executions Since 1996

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 15, 2011

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

Spanish Translation

State of Texas Carries Out Fewest Executions Since 1996,
According to New Report from TCADP
New Death Sentences Remain at Record-Low Level, Imposed by Just Six Counties in the State

(Austin, Texas) — Executions dropped to the lowest number since 1996 and death sentences in Texas remained at a historic low level in 2011, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s (TCADP) new report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2011: The Year in Review. TCADP is an Austin-based statewide, grassroots advocacy organization.

In 2011, the State of Texas carried out 13 executions, which is 50% less than in 2007.  It accounted for 30% of the national total, once again a smaller percentage than years past but still twice as many as any other state.  Texas has executed a total of 477 people since 1982; 238 executions have occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry, more than any other governor in U.S. history.

For the second year in a row, juries condemned eight new individuals to death in Texas. This remains the lowest number of new death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas’ revised death penalty statute in 1976.  Once again, just six counties in the state of Texas accounted for the new death row inmates: Fort Bend (1); Galveston (1); Harris (3); Harrison (1); Tarrant (1); and Travis (1).  This represents 2% of all Texas counties.

“Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is steadily moving away from the death penalty,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  “Use of the death penalty has been relegated to just a few jurisdictions in the state as prosecutors and jurors accept alternatives that protect society and punish those who are truly guilty.  Still, longstanding concerns about the arbitrary and biased administration of the death penalty remain.”

An analysis of data from 2007 to 2011 reveals that only 23 Texas counties have imposed death sentences over the last 5 years; of these, only 10 counties have done so in the last 2 years.  Out of a total 51 death sentences imposed in this time period, Harris County leads with 9; it is followed by Dallas County, with 7 new sentences since 2007, and Tarrant and Travis Counties, with 4 new sentences each.  The other 19 counties imposed 1-3 sentences each.  Together, these 23 counties represent just 9% of the 254 counties in Texas.

Significantly, no new death sentences were imposed in Dallas County for the first time in five years.  Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Charles Payne, but the jury rejected the charge of capital murder and instead found him guilty of murder in the shooting of police officer Senior Cpl. Norm Smith.  This represented the first time since 1996 that prosecutors in Dallas County did not secure a capital murder conviction in a case in which they sought the death penalty. In another Dallas case, prosecutors dropped their pursuit of the death penalty and agreed to a life sentence for Johnathan Bruce Reed after he was found guilty for a third time in the 1978 murder of Wanda Jean Wadle. Overall, Dallas County accounts for 102 death sentences since 1976.

Bexar County, which has sentenced the third highest number of people to death in Texas, has not imposed any new death sentences since 2009.

Notably, six out of the eight new death sentences were imposed on people of color, including four African Americans and two Hispanics/Latinos.  Over the last five years, nearly three-fourths of all death sentences in Texas have been imposed on people of color – 41% African American, 29% Hispanic/Latino, and 2% other.  In Harris County, where these patterns are even more pronounced, 12 of the last 13 defendants sentenced to death are African American and the 13th is Hispanic/Latino.

Five inmates scheduled for execution in 2011 received stays, while the execution date for another inmate was withdrawn.

  • On September 15, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily stayed the execution of Duane Buck, pending a conference on his cert petition. During his trial, psychologist Walter Quijano, a witness for the defense, testified on cross-examination that the fact that Buck is African American increased the likelihood of his being dangerous in the future.  Such improperly elicited, racially-based testimony by Dr. Quijano led to new sentencing hearings in six other cases where the State of Texas conceded error – but not for Duane Buck.  On November 7, 2011, the Court declined to review Buck’s case.
  • On November 7, 2011, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay to Henry “Hank” Skinner, who was scheduled for execution on November 9.  Key pieces of evidence collected at the crime scene have never been subjected to DNA testing, and for the last 10 years officials have refused to release it for analysis.  The court stayed the execution to consider Skinner’s case in light of recent legislative changes to the statute related to post-conviction DNA testing. This was the second stay of execution for Skinner in two years.

Other highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2011: The Year in Review include the following:

  • In one capital murder trial, the jury rejected the death penalty and opted for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In two other cases, death-qualified jurors convicted the defendant on a charge less than capital murder, which took the death penalty off the table.  In the last four years, death-qualified juries have rejected the death penalty in at least 14 cases.
  • Six inmates received reduced sentences in 2011 and were removed from the death row population, including Chelsea Richardson, one of ten women on death row.
  • The State of Texas executed Humberto Leal on July 7, 2011 for the 1994 rape and murder of Adria Sauceda in San Antonio.  As a Mexican national, Leal was legally entitled to seek assistance from the Mexican consulate, which could have provided him with competent legal counsel.  Texas authorities failed to inform him of this right, which is afforded to Americans and foreigners who travel abroad by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
  • In July, the capital murder trial of John Edward Green, which was in its sixth week of jury selection, ended abruptly when Harris County prosecutors accepted an offer from the defense.  In the deal, Green pled guilty to a lesser murder charge in exchange for a 40-year prison term; he had faced a possible death sentence if convicted.  A pre-trial motion in his case prompted two days of unprecedented testimony on the risk of wrongful conviction last December.

“Recent developments have infused the public conversation about the death penalty with new energy and new urgency,” said Houlé.  “Now, more than ever, we urge concerned citizens and elected officials to engage in dialogue about the realities of the death penalty system and reconsider this irreversible punishment by focusing on its local impact as an expensive, arbitrary, and error-prone public policy.”

Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2011: The Year in Review is available online at www.tcadp.org/TexasDeathPenaltyDevelopments2011.pdf.  Contact Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org to receive a copy directly via email.

See http://tcadp.org/2007-2011-new-death-sentences/ for a map of new death sentences by county from 2007 to 2011.

See http://tcadp.org/1976-2011-county-map/ for a map of death sentences by county from 1976 to 2011.

Download this press release:  www.tcadp.org/2011TCADPannualreportpressrelease.pdf.

In Spanish.

###

 

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24 August 2011 ~ 2 Comments

Honoring Champion of Justice David Dow

Seizing the Momentum: Honoring Houston’s Champions of Justice is just three weeks away!  TCADP hopes you will join us that evening as we honor three extraordinary individuals who don’t just talk the talk when it comes to pursuing justice.  One of our Champions of Justice is law professor, defense attorney, and award-winning writer David Dow.  His latest book, The Autobiography of an Execution, which received first place in the non-fiction category for Barnes & Noble’s 2010 Discover Great New Writers Awards, describes his struggle to balance these roles with two others – husband and father.

Dow is a University Distinguished Professor at the University of Houston Law Center, the founder of the Texas Innocence Network, and the Litigation Director at the Texas Defender Service.  Over the last twenty years, he has represented more than a hundred death row inmates.  On the Huffington Post, he writes that “I started being a death penalty lawyer because I agreed to work on behalf of a single inmate whose lawyer quit when the inmate was two weeks away from execution. I kept being a death penalty lawyer because I can’t stop.”

Please join us at 7pm on Thursday, September 15 at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art (1502 Alabama Street) as we lift up the work of David Dow, Professor Nicole Casarez, and State Representative Jessica Farrar, all of whom inspire us to stay the course in our own efforts to end the death penalty in Texas.

Individual tickets for the event are $50 and can be purchased online or by check, made payable to TCADP and mailed to 2709 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704 (please note “Champions of Justice” in the memo line).  Proceeds from the event will benefit TCADP’s ongoing advocacy and outreach efforts to expose the flaws and failures of the death penalty.

Please purchase tickets today in honor of David Dow and our other Champions of Justice!

“I am always hopeful. Nothing ever works out, but I always think that it’s going to. How else could you keep doing this work?”
– David Dow, The Autobiography of an Execution

Listen to an extensive interview with Dow on NPR’s “Fresh Air”, recorded on February 8, 2010.

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17 August 2011 ~ Comments Off

Join TCADP to Honor Houston’s Champions of Justice

On Thursday, September 15, 2011, TCADP will hold a special event in Houston to honor three extraordinary individuals who set a high bar for engagement and who we consider to be role models as “Champions of Justice”.  Please join us that evening as we recognize the contributions that State Representative Jessica Farrar, Professor David Dow, and Professor Nicole Casarez each have made toward the pursuit of justice in our state.

This event will take place from 7 to 9 PM at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art.  Read more at http://tcadp.org/champions-of-justice/.

Purchase your ticket today to support TCADP’s ongoing advocacy efforts and educational outreach to citizens to raise awareness about the flaws and failures of the death penalty! Together, we aim to inspire more members of our community to support the belief that justice is not served by the death penalty.


 

 

 

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02 May 2011 ~ Comments Off

May Alert – Scheduled Executions, News and Events


In this alert:
Scheduled Executions
News and Events
Calendar

Scheduled Executions

May 3 : Cary Kerr
June 1: Gayland Bradford
Respond to the scheduled execution by contacting the Governor, attending vigils and more.   Please check tcadp.org for updates.

News and Events

Updates on the 82nd Texas Legislature

On April 26, 2011, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee passed House Bill 1065 (the companion to Senate Bill 377) by a vote of 7-0. (SB 377 passed the Senate on March 30.) This legislation expands the scope of the death penalty by making the murder of a child who is less than 10 years of age a capital offense. TCADP abhor violent acts against children of any age. We opposes this bill because we believe it is wrong for the State of Texas to expand the reach of the death penalty at a time when Texans are turning away from its use, when victims’ family members are speaking out about the terrible toll the process takes on them, when new evidence of the flaws and failures of our capital punishment system continues to come to light, and when other states across the nation are moving away from it.
HB 1065 now heads to the Calendars Committee, which will decide whether/when to place it on the calendar for consideration by the full House of Representatives.
Take action!
Please call or email your State Representative to urge him/her to oppose HB 1065. Texas does not need to expand the scope of the death penalty – it needs to end it! To find your Representative, go to http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Home.aspx and type in your address. This will provide you with the phone number for your legislator’s Capitol office. To send an email, type the Representative’s first name.last name@house.state.tx.us (for example, Jessica.farrar@house.state.tx.us).
***
House Bill 819, the repeal bill, has been left pending in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee (as have most death penalty-related bills).    There are only 28 days left in the 82nd legislative session.

New Religious Voices on the Death Penalty in Texas

In recent weeks, two new voices have joined the chorus of religious leaders speaking out against the death penalty:
  • Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the San Antonio Archdiocese posted a column in response to Holy Week.  Link.
  • Roger Olson, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, responds to the Cameron Todd Willingham case and the work of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Link.
To actively support TCADP’s Religious Outreach efforts, please be in touch with Vicki at info@tcadp.org.

Three Easy Ways to Support TCADP

Concerned citizens have always been the backbone of TCADP. If you have not yet become a member – or if your membership has lapsed – please take a moment to visit TCADP’s secure online donation form. This form features three easy options for showing your support for our cause:
1.     Partner for Justice. Set up recurring donations to be repeated monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually and linked automatically to your credit card or checking account. This option allows you to spread out your gift over the course of a year and provides a steady source of support for TCADP
2.     Sustaining Membership. Avoid the hassle of dues renewal notices by signing up for a Sustaining Membership at the Student, Individual, Household, or Organizational Level. This option will automatically renew your membership (through your credit card or checking account) each year on a date you choose.
3.     Annual Membership. This traditional model will secure your membership for one year, at the level you choose.
Thank you for your commitment to ending to the death penalty in Texas! TCADP is a 501(c)(3) organization, and all contributions are tax-deductible.

San Antonio Meet and Greet

Bexar County Residents: We would like to invite you to a “Meet and Greet” on Wednesday, May 11 at 7pm, to learn more about TCADP’s latest initiative: The Bexar County Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty!
Who:     Come meet our campaign partners, TCADP San Antonio chapter leaders and supporters, new allies and Bexar County Campaign organizers!  Feel free to spread the word and bring a friend!
What: Meet and Greet with special guest speaker, Sam Millsap, the former district attorney of Bexar County.  Come learn about our new initiative to end the use of the death penalty in Bexar County and how you can get involved! Light refreshments will be served.  RSVP Today!

Houston Speaker and Tabling Training, May 24 6:30pm

This training aims to equip a cadre of local members to accompany our featured storytellers (murder victim family members, attorneys, exonorees, etc.) to presentations on the death penalty and to provide a bridge between the featured speaker’s story and TCADP’s organizational initiatives.  We will also focus a portion of the workshop on tabling at events as an effective way to recruit new members. During this training you will learn…
  • How to give a five-minute “pitch” on the state of the death penalty in Texas and ways to get involved with TCADP
  • How to respond to frequently asked questions on the death penalty
  • How to support the needs of featured storytellers
  • How to make the most of speaking and tabling events
Please note: We encourage EVERYONE to attend this training, even if you are not interested in public speaking but would like to play a supporting role in events such as staffing an information table, collecting new names for the TCADP contact list, making sure the storytellers are comfortable, etc.  It takes a whole team to make these outreach events a success!  Learn More and RSVP Today

View CBS “48 Hours” Special on Anthony Graves

On Saturday, April 23, CBS “48 Hours” aired a special on Anthony Graves, the most recent death row exoneree from Texas.   After spending 18 years in prison, 12 of which were on death row, he was found to be innocent by the Burleson County District Attorney and released from custody in October of 2010.  Learn more about his case.

View the episode that has resulted in an outpouring of outrage against the injustice experienced by Anthony Graves.

Post your comment on the TCADP Blog.

TCADP is on Facebook

“Like TCADP” on Facebook today and receive daily status updates on breaking news and events.  It is an easy way to stay in touch and up to date on what is happening across the state.

Share it with your friends to help grow our movement!

Calendar

May

1 Odessa Chapter Meeting, 4:00pm, odessa@tcadp.org
3 Scheduled Execution – Cary Kerr
6-7 LULAC Conference, San Antonio*
7-8 TCADP Booth at Houston International Festival*
11 San Antonio Meet and Greet, RSVP Today
16 El Paso Chapter Meeting, 6:00pm, elpaso@tcadp.org
18 Dallas Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm, dallas@tcadp.org
24 Houston Speaker and Tabling Training, More info and RSVP Today
29 – 1 Texas Annual Conference—UMC, Houston*

June
1 Scheduled Execution – Gayland Bradford
9-10 Southwest Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Corpus Christi*
11 PrideFest San Antonio*
15 Scheduled Execution – John Balentine
16 Scheduled Execution – Taylor Lee
16-18 Rio Grande Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, San Antonio*
21 Scheduled Execution – Milton Mathis

*Please contact info@tcadp.org, if you would like to help with these tabling opportunities.

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19 January 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Houston Religious Leaders Call for End to Death Penalty

Last night’s unprecedented event in Houston with seven high-level religious leaders and Sister Helen Prejean was amazing!  More than 500 people representing diverse faith traditions RSVPd and attended the event.

Sister Helen and Bishop Janice Huie of the Texas United Methodist Church Conference both noted that getting religious leaders to speak out on the issue of the penalty has been difficult. “The silence has been deafening,” Sister Helen said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle:

Prejean said she hopes the event will be just the beginning of a renewed focus by religious leaders on the death penalty.

“It’s controversial, and it’s hard to pick up as a religious leader,” she said. “The hope is that those who stand publicly will also give a much more serious effort to educating the people in the pews.”

Read all about it in the Houston Chronicle.

***

We need to interject some positive comments in response to the Houston Chronicle‘s coverage of the event.  When you have a moment today, please go to the Chronicle and post a comment, commending the religious leaders for speaking out on this issue.  You will need to create an account with the Chronicle (if you don’t have one already) in order to post a comment or give good comments a “thumbs up.”

***

Special thanks to Karen Clifton with the Catholic Mobilizing Network, Deacon Joe Rubio, Dave Atwood, Steph Weber, Mary Heartlein and everyone who worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this event.  TCADP shares Sister Helen’s aspiration that this is just the beginning of many conversations to come and we look forward to working with faith communities throughout the state on engaging their members on this critical social justice issue.

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22 December 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Religious Leader’s Dialogue on the Death Penalty – Houston

On January 18, 2011, a panel of Houston’s religious leaders will participate in “The Dialogue of Religious Leaders on the Death Penalty” at the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall in downtown Houston. This unprecedented event precedes the Houston Grand Opera’s performances of the award-winning Dead Man Walking Opera January 22- February 7, 2011.

Please join us for this special event aimed at heightening the awareness of death penalty issues in Houston and starting the conversation that moves us forward.  More info. and RSVP today!

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26 March 2010 ~ Comments Off

Mental Health Work in Houston

George Parnham, a criminal defense lawyer, wrote an article in the March 26, 2010 issue of the Houston Chronicle on the mental health pilot reform project, Houston Police Department’s Chronic Consumer Stabilization Initiative or CCSI, in Houston. The program, which began in February 2009, was established to provide more intensive case management for 30 individuals with a serious and persistent mental illness who have the most frequent encounters with HPD. The goal of the program was to divert chronic individuals from their damaging routines and provide them the means to a more stabilized life, with am emphasis on reduced use of 911 services.

Parnham, who represented Andrea Yates in her 2002 death penalty trial (Yates was originally found guilty of drowning her five children however her jury elected a life in prison sentence without the possibility of parole; on a later appeal Yates’ insanity resulted in a not guilty charge), is all too familiar with the damaging results which can result from the unattended to mentally ill. Parnham outlined HPD’s first report of the six-month CCSI pilot program, finding that involuntary commitments were reduced by 76.4%; service calls for the individuals in the program were down 67.3%, and the number of hours HPD officers spent dealing with these individuals was reduced by 33%- allowing the officers more time to better deal with other calls for service.
The Houston Chronicle article can be viewed in its entirety here.
For more information about the death penalty and mental illness visit here.

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