Archive | TCADP

21 March 2014 ~ Comments Off

We are Amplifying Austin! We won the extra $1000!

Thanks to your incredible support and generosity, TCADP won an extra $1,000 for having the most donors between 1:00 and 2:00 PM through the Amplify Austin campaign!!  So far, we’ve raised more than $3,100 with donations ranging from $20 to $500 (not including that extra $1,000).  It’s been a great day!

We are grateful to Austin Board of Realtors for sponsoring the $1,000 booster prize between 1:00 and 2:00 PM.

Most of all, we’re grateful to YOU!!  Thank you for standing with us to end the death penalty in Texas, once and for all.

-Kristin & Vicki

p.s.  There’s still time to participate in Amplify Austin.  Just go to https://amplifyatx.ilivehereigivehere.org/TCADP/overview   before 6 PM tonight. Thank you!

Funds raised will support a Fall Speakers’ Tour that will include exonoree Juan Melendez.  These donations will appear as “I Live Here, I Give Here” on your credit card statements.

 

 

 

How can you help?

  • Sample Tweet – I love @TCADPdotORG and want to end the #deathpenalty! Join me in #AmplifyATX  http://bit.ly/1eWzBHfamplify austin logo
  • Sample Facebook – I’m ready to end the #deathpenalty! Are you? Join me for #AmplifyATX and support the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty http://bit.ly/1eWzBHf
  • Share this image and your support for TCADP on your social media profiles!
  • Forward this email to friends who might want to participate and ask them to join you in giving!

Thank you for supporting us in so many ways to end the death penalty in Texas!

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30 December 2013 ~ Comments Off

TCADP Photo Reflection of 2013

Dear Friends,

Earlier this month, TCADP released its annual report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2013: The Year in Review. The report notes that Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is steadily moving away from the death penalty. While Texas remains the nation’s leading executioner, death sentences remain near record-low levels. Use of the death penalty continues to be geographically isolated and arbitrarily imposed…. Dallas County alone accounts for 20% of new death sentences in recent years.  Learn more of the report’s findings.

Thanks to your steadfast support and participation, we are dismantling the death penalty county-by-county.  TCADP cannot continue this work without you!

View this slideshow of highlights from some of our events over the past year.

 

2014 will bring exciting opportunities for TCADP to engage new partners in our strategic efforts to end the death penalty. Please support our organization by making a special end-of-year, tax-deductible donation so that we can continue these vital education and outreach programs.

Thank you for your continued support and generosity. Together, we will light the way to abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

With gratitude,

Kristin Houlé
Executive Director, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

p.s. We truly appreciate the gifts that so many of you have made this month. If you haven’t given already, save a stamp by making a secure online donation today!   Thank you!

Don’t Forget:  Register today for the TCADP 2014 Annual Conference, which will take place for the first time in Fort Worth!! Take advantage of our early bird registration rates of $45 for TCADP members, $55 for non-members, and $20 for students. Rates will increase after January 1st, so don’t delay! Learn more about the conference, including details on our 2014 panelists, award winners, and keynote speaker. See you in Cowtown!

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25 November 2013 ~ Comments Off

December 3 is Giving Tuesday!

givingtuesdaycrop#BlackFriday #CyberMonday #GivingTuesday – What is it all about?

Answer: #GivingTuesday (#GT) is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season.  It has been added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The second annual GivingTuesday is on December 3, 2013. In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, we want the giving community to come together for #GivingTuesday.

Remember the important work of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty – TCADP on December 3.

Ideas for GivingTuesday:

  • Make your donation a gift in honor or memory of friends and family members. TCADP will send them a note on your behalf.
  • Give your friend(s) the gift of attending the TCADP 2014 Annual Conference – “Lighting the Way” to be held in Fort Worth, Texas February 22, 2014.  Early Bird registration rates available through January 1!
  • Give because you want to be a partner in the work to end the death penalty in Texas.

Save the Date – December 3 and support TCADP!

DONATE – www.tcadp.org/givingtuesday

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04 September 2013 ~ Comments Off

September TCADP Alert: Taking Texas By Storm – We’re coming to a city near you!

In This Edition:
Scheduled Executions
Announcements and Invitations
Upcoming Events
In the News
TCADP Membership Drive

Executions

The State of Texas is scheduled to carry out two executions this month:

  • Robert Garza is scheduled to be executed on September 19, 2013. He was convicted under the Law of Parties of the September 4, 2002 murders of María de la Luz Bazaldúa Cobarrubias, Danitzene Lizeth Vázquez Beltrán, Celina Linares Sánchez and Lourdes Yesenia Araujo Torres in Donna, Texas (Hidalgo County). Recently, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepted a petition alleging serious human rights issues in his case. Please contact the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to urge clemency for Robert Garza (#999466): (512) 406-5852 is the number for the General Counsel’s Office.
  • Arturo Diaz is scheduled to be executed on September 26, 2013 for the 1999 murder of Michael Ryan Nichols during a robbery at a McAllen apartment (also Hidalgo County). Read more about his case from KRGV.com.

TCADP encourages all members to attend a vigil in your community on the evening of executions. Information and updates on these cases will be available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter. 

Announcements & Invitations
Apply for the TCADP Lobby Corps
The TCADP Board of Directors recently met to review and update the 2013-2015 TCADP Strategic Plan. As part of that process, board members designated five priority initiatives for the organization over the next 18 months.  The expansion and development of the TCADP Lobby Corps is one such priority initiative. Join this group of specially trained advocates in advancing TCADP’s legislative goals during the interim session and at the State Capitol in 2015. Apply online by September 16, 2013. More information is available here.

Call for Annual Award Nominations
The TCADP Board of Directors is seeking nominations for the annual courage, appreciation, and media awards, which will be presented at the 2014 Annual Conference on February 22, 2014 in Fort Worth.  Please nominate worthy individuals and/or organizations that have made significant and selfless contributions to abolishing the death penalty in Texas. Nominations will be accepted until October 15, 2013.

Upcoming Events
Monday, September 9: Listen to the extraordinary Sister Helen Prejean at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Lewisville, Texas, 7 PM. Worship Center, 1897 West Main Street, Lewisville, TX. www.stphilipcc.org

Wednesday, September 11: Join us for our *new* Austin Lunch Series
12-1 PM, The Egg & I Restaurant, 2525 W. Anderson Lane, Austin TX 78757
Meet other supporters in the area and hear from special guest speaker Dr. Marilyn Armour, Professor at The University of Texas at Austin and Director of The Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue. RSVP now!

Monday, September 16: Meet State Representative Joe Moody at the monthly meeting of El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty, 7 PM in the Juan Diego Room, St. Pius X Church, 1050 N Clark Dr., El Paso 79905. Rep. Moody represents District 78 and serves on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Contact elpaso@tcadp.org.

Monday, September 23- Wednesday, September 25: Meet Me in the Metroplex
Mingle with TCADP supporters in your area and meet Executive Director Kristin Houlé as she visits the Metroplex from September 23-26, 2013.  Kristin will share information about TCADP’s priority initiatives in the coming year and discuss recent death penalty developments. She’ll also preview the TCADP 2014 Annual Conference, which is taking place next February in Fort Worth (our first conference in Cowtown).  We hope to see you at one of these gatherings!

  • Monday, September 23, 6-7:30 PM, Tarrant County Meet & Greet, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Tuesday, September 24, 12-1 PM, Dallas County Meet & Greet, Dallas, Texas
  • Tuesday, September 24, 6:30-7:30 PM Collin County Meet & Greet, Suncreek United Methodist Church, 1517 W McDermott Dr  Allen, TX 75013
  • Wednesday, September 25, 7-9 PM, Denton County Meet & Greet, Home of Rev. Jeff Hood, Denton, Texas 76209

RSVP for one (or all!) of these gatherings.

September 25: National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims
Please set aside some time on this day to honor and memorialize the lives of loved ones taken by murder/homicide. The National Day of Remembrance was established as a result of unanimous resolutions by the U.S. Senate on October 16, 2007 (S. Res. 326), and the U.S. House of Representatives on May 14, 2007 (H. Res. 223).

Thursday, September 26: Join us in Houston for our new FAIR & JUST Lunch Series
12:30-1:30pm in the community room at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, 2140 Westheimer Road, Houston 77098.   Meet other supporters in the area and hear from special guest speaker Kathryn Kase, the Executive Director of Texas Defender Service. Kathryn will provide an update on the case of Duane Buck and other recent death penalty developments in Texas. Order lunch through TCADP or bring your own. RSVP now!

[San Antonio – we haven’t forgotten you! Please bear with us as we work to find a date for your next gathering.]

In the News
Dozens of new laws related to the Texas criminal justice system went into effect on September 1, 2013. An editorial by the Dallas Morning News, “Transforming Texas’ criminal justice landscape,” cites several specific reforms aimed at preventing miscarriages of justice and promoting alternatives to incarceration. Read it now.

TCADP 2013 Membership Drive!
Want to help TCADP do even more to raise awareness of the flaws and failures of the death penalty? Support our work with a generous donation today! Consider a recurring gift through our Sustaining Member or Partners for Justice programs. All donations to TCADP are tax-deductible.

Learn more about the benefits of TCADP membership.

Support all of the programs and initiatives described here with a generous donation to TCADP today!

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01 August 2013 ~ Comments Off

TCADP August 2013 Texas Death Penalty Alert: No Summer Siesta for Abolition Efforts

In This Edition:
Scheduled Executions
TCADP Summer Newsletter
Announcements
In the News
TCADP Membership Drive
Upcoming Events
Calendar

Executions
The State of Texas has carried out 11 executions to date in 2013, including 3 executions in July.  Nationwide, 22 executions have occurred this year.

While no executions will take place in August, there are five executions on the schedule between September and November.

TCADP encourages all members to attend a vigil in your community on the evening of executions. Information and updates on these cases will be available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter. 

TCADP Summer 2013 Newsletter500thexecution
Our summer newsletter was mailed to TCADP members in July and is now available online.

Front Page:  In June, the State of Texas carried out its 500th execution since 1982.  Who were these 500 men and women and what do their executions say about our criminal justice system?  Do the numbers match current attitudes in the U.S. and even in Texas? Read more about this Texas milestone.

Consider how one mother responded when her son, a Beaumont police officer, was killed in the line of duty. “Voices of Texas” can be found on page 4.

Death Penalty Developments on page 5 covers executions, stays, new death sentences, and updates on current cases in 2013.

TCADP has active and passionate members around the state of Texas who provide assistance in educating the public and recruiting new supporters. News from the Field can be found on page 9.

Check it out and share!

Announcements
Calling all policy wonks and novice lobbyists! TCADP seeks new applicants for its successful Lobby Corps program, established in 2012. Join the current group of a dozen specially trained advocates in advancing TCADP’s legislative goals during the interim session and at the State Capitol in 2015. Apply online by September 16, 2013. More information is available here.

In the News
More than 2,000 Cases Under Review for Potentially Flawed Scientific Testimony
Last month, the Innocence Project and the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers announced an unprecedented agreement with the FBI and the Department of Justice to review more than 2,000 criminal cases in which the FBI conducted microscopic hair analysis of crime scene evidence. According to the Innocence Project, “the review will focus on specific cases in which FBI Laboratory reports and testimony included statements that were scientifically invalid.” Under the agreement, capital cases, particularly those with an execution date, will be given the highest priority.  Cases where the defendant has been executed will also be part of the review. According to the Washington Post, the review has already identified 27 death penalty convictions “in which FBI forensic experts may have mistakenly linked defendants to crimes with exaggerated scientific testimony.”

ACLU Issues Report on Death Row Conditions
A new report from the ACLU, “A Death Before Dying: Solitary Confinement on Death Row,” chronicles conditions on death rows throughout the United States. According to the report, 93% of states lock away their death-row prisoners alone in their cells for 22-24 hours per day. TCADP Advisory Board Member Anthony Graves has written a blog and recorded a video to raise awareness of the report and the conditions he experienced while wrongfully incarcerated and held in solitary confinement on death row in Texas.

TCADP 2013 Membership Drive!
Did you like what you read in our summer newsletter? Want to help TCADP do even more to raise awareness of the flaws and failures of the death penalty? Support our work with a generous donation today!  Consider a sustaining gift through our Partners for Justice program. All donations to TCADP are tax-deductible.

Learn more about the benefits of TCADP membership.

Upcoming Events
August 12:  Criminal Justice Policy Session at Wesley UMC, Huntsville
Texas Impact will provide a brief overview of adult and juvenile criminal justice systems as they currently stand, with a specific focus on ways the faith community can support reform and advocate on behalf of individuals adversely impacted by the system. Topics will include conditions of confinement, racial disparity, juvenile justice, the criminalization of mental illness and capital punishment. This event is open to the public, but organizers would prefer an RSVP to 936-295-7459 to help prepare.

September 9: Author and Renowned Activist to Visit Lewisville
Sister Helen Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking:  An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty, will be speaking at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Lewisville, Texas on Monday, September 9 at 7PM. She will discuss the 20th anniversary of the book’s publication and her work as one of the nation’s most prominent critics of the death penalty.  All are welcome!  St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church Worship Center, 1897 West Main Street, Lewisville, TX. www.stphilipcc.org

September 11: Austin Membership Luncheon
Join us on Wednesday, September 11 from 12:00 to 1:00 PM as we launch our bi-monthly lunch series in Austin. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Marilyn Armour, an Associate Professor at The University of Texas at Austin and the Director of The Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue. Dr. Armour will discuss her recent publication “The Ultimate Penal Sanction and ‘Closure’ for Survivors of Homicide Victims,” in which she compares the impact of the ultimate penal sanction on victim survivors in a death penalty state (Texas) and a non-death penalty state (Minnesota). Stay tuned for announcements about membership gatherings in other cities this fall!

Calendar
August
9: Film screening of “Juan Meléndez – 6446” at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Hall, 2709 Alabama Ave. El Paso, TX 79930. 7 pm. Contact elpaso@tcadp.org.
12:  Criminal Justice Policy Session, Wesley UMC – Huntsville, 5:30pm
19: El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm, elpaso@tcadp.org
21: Dallas Religious Organizing Committee 6:00pm, Chapter meeting 7:00pm, dallas@tcadp.org

September
7-9: Sister Helen Prejean at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church, Lewisville, 6:00pm
11: Austin Membership Luncheon (bi-monthly) w/guest speaker Marilyn Armour of the UT School of Social Work and Institute of Restorative Justice, 12:00pm (The Egg and I Restaurant, Northcross Mall)
16: El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm, elpaso@tcadp.org
18: Dallas Religious Organizing committee 6:00pm, Chapter meeting 7:00pm, dallas@tcadp.org
19: Scheduled Execution – Robert Garza
26: Scheduled Execution – Arturo Diaz

For more information about these events, email info@tcadp.org.

Support all of the programs and initiatives described here with a generous donation to TCADP today!

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03 July 2013 ~ Comments Off

July 2013 TCADP Alert: 500th Execution, Star-Telegram Calls for Abolition of Texas Death Penalty

In This Edition:
Scheduled Executions
In the News
Case Updates
TCADP Membership Opportunity
Upcoming Events
Calendar

Executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to carry out three executions this month:

  • John Quintanilla, Jr. is scheduled to be put to death on July 16 for the 2002 murder of Victor Billings, a former Jackson County chief deputy, during a robbery in Victoria, Texas.
  • On July 18, Vaughn Ross is scheduled to be executed for the 2001 murders of Douglas Birdsall, 53, and Viola Ross, 18, in Lubbock. Read more about the case in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
  • On July 31, Douglas Feldman is scheduled to be executed for the 1998 road-rage slayings of truck drivers Nicholas Velasquez, 62, and Robert Everett, 36, in two separate incidents. He was sentenced to death in Dallas County.

TCADP encourages all members to attend a vigil in your community on the evening of executions. Information and updates on these cases will be available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter.  Pictured:  Houston Vigil on the evening of the Kimberly McCarthy execution.

In the News
State of Texas Carries Out 500th Execution Since 1982

On June 26, 2013, the State of Texas put Kimberly McCarthy to death for the 1997 murder of Dorothy Booth in Dallas County. McCarthy was the fourth woman and the 500th person to be executed in Texas since 1982. Her attorneys argued that the jury selection process in her second trial was tainted by racial discrimination. While two earlier execution dates were postponed, the courts refused to intervene a third time.

This shameful milestone in our state’s death penalty history generated tremendous media coverage and exposure for TCADP, including mentions in a front-page article in USA Today, stories in the Guardian and Texas Tribune, and an editorial by the Dallas Morning News.

Read our press release and check out an op-ed about the 500th execution by TCADP Board Member Pat Monks published this week in The Daily Caller!

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial Board: “It is time to permanently close our infamous death chamber.”
The occasion of the 500th execution led another major Texas newspaper to call “for Texas to get out of the killing business.” In an editorial published on June 23 (“It’s time to halt executions in Texas”), the Fort Worth Star-Telegram cited moral grounds as one reason Texas should abolish the death penalty, as well as the risk of wrongful conviction and the arbitrary and discriminatory way that this punishment is imposed. The Star-Telegram now joins the Austin American-Statesman, Dallas Morning News, and Houston Chronicle in endorsing abolition through editorials.

Case Updates

Execution of El Pasoan Rigoberto Avila, Jr. Delayed to Allow for Presentation of New Scientific Evidence
Last month, State District Judge Anna Perez granted a motion to withdraw the July 10 execution date of Rigoberto Avila, Jr., in order to give his attorneys more time to litigate new scientific evidence relevant to the merits of his case; this is the third reprieve for Avila in the last year. El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza did not oppose the motion, which was based largely on a new Texas law that goes into effect on September 1 and which allows greater access to the courts in cases where there is newly available evidence or where the science presented at trial has changed. Avila was convicted of the 2000 death of 19-month-old Nicolas Macias; evolving scientific understanding of infant trauma lends credence to an alternative theory as to what caused the baby’s tragic death. Read more in the El Paso Times.

Must-See Powerful Video: “A Broken Promise in Texas: Race, the Death Penalty and the Duane Buck Case”
Nearly 70,000 people have watched this powerful video on the case of Texas death row inmate Duane Buck since it was released on June 10. Narrated by former Texas Governor Mark White and featuring interviews with Texas civil rights leaders, legislators, the surviving victim, one of the trial prosecutors, and Buck’s family members, it exposes the outrageous racial discrimination in Buck’s case. Help us keep up the pressure on the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to grant a new sentencing hearing to Duane Buck by watching the video, sharing it with your social media networks, and encouraging signatures on the Change.org petition.


TCADP 2013 Membership Drive!

Join TCADP in committing to a future without the death penalty! Your contribution of $40, $60 or $100 supports programs to educate Texans about the fatal flaws of our state’s death penalty system and persuade our elected leaders to end this arbitrary, discriminatory, and irreversible punishment, once and for all. Donate today and receive a free bumper sticker to show your support for abolition!

Learn more about the benefits of TCADP membership.

Upcoming Events
Film Showings at University UMC Austin – July 10-31
University United Methodist Church is presenting an opportunity for those in the community to watch 4 films (2 features and 2 documentaries) and have open dialogue on challenging social topics, with connections to action. This summer series takes us on a journey into our justice system. http://www.uumc.org/?q=node/462

Wed. July 10: DEAD MAN WALKING [Feature: 122 min] – A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim’s families. TCADP in attendance.
Wed. July 17: BURNED [Documentary: 69 min] – A year in the life of two boys committed to maximum security youth facilities in Texas. Through these tense, personal narratives, the film examines the troubled Texas juvenile justice system. Filmmaker Emily Pyle in attendance.
Wed. July 24: SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION [Feature: 142 min] - A convicted murderer maintains his sanity and dignity over 20 years in prison. A patiently-told, allegorical tale of friendship, patience, hope, survival, emancipation, and ultimate redemption and salvation.
Wed. July 31: INCENDIARY [Documentary: 99 min]
– Tried and convicted for arson murders, Todd Willingham was executed in Texas in February 2004 despite overwhelming expert evidence. Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama. Filmmaker Steve Mims and TCADP in attendance.

Film starts @ 6pm with dialogue to follow. UUMC Fellowship Hall – 2409 Guadalupe St.

TCADP El Paso Chapter Meeting, Monday, July 15
El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty will meet at 6:00pm on July 15, in Juan Diego Room in the Ministry Center of St Pius X Catholic Church, 1050 N Clark St. Rep. Joe Moody will be the special guest pending any developments at the Texas Legislature due to the Special Session. For more information, contact Pat Delgado at elpaso@tcadp.org.

Calendar

July
4: TCADP wishes you a safe and happy July 4th holiday!
5: “Grave Injustice” at the Columban Mission Center at 7:00pm, El Paso. Contact Pat Delgado at elpaso@tcadp.org for more information.
10:  “Dead Man Walking” Film Showing at University UMC Fellowship Hall – 2409 Guadalupe St, Austin, 6:00pm with discussion to follow
15: El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm, elpaso@tcadp.org
16: Scheduled Execution – John Quintanilla, Jr.
17: Dallas Religious Organizing Committee 6:00pm, Chapter Meeting 7:00pm, dallas@tcadp.org
18: Scheduled Execution – Vaughn Ross
25: Calhoun County Democrats Meeting 5:30pm -Speaker: TCADP Board President Angelle Adams
31: Scheduled Execution –Douglas Feldman; “Incendiary” Film Showing at University UMC Fellowship Hall – 2409 Guadalupe St, Austin, 6:00pm. Discussion with Steve Mims(director) and TCADP to follow.

For more information about these events or to volunteer to staff a table at an *outreach event, email info@tcadp.org.

Support all of the programs and initiatives described here with a generous donation to TCADP today!

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26 June 2013 ~ Comments Off

The 500th Execution: State of Texas Will Execute Kimberly McCarthy Tonight

On June 26, 2013, the state will carry out its 500th execution when Kimberly McCarthy is put to death at 6pm this evening.

Her execution had twice been delayed, initially to give her attorneys time to pursue an appeal based on racial discrimination in the jury selection process, and later to await pending death penalty legislation in the Texas Legislature.  Read more about Kimberly McCarthy and her trial in The Guardian and at our site.

Kimberly McCarthy will be the 8th person put to death in Texas this year.

Please attend a vigil in your community in recognition of the 500th execution since Charlie Brooks was executed in 1982. (Vigil locations are located near the bottom of the web page.)
Please reach out to your State Representative and Senator, comment on articles about the 500th execution, use your social media accounts and let them know that Texans are better than this!  You are encouraged to share the messaging from the TCADP press release below in those communications.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Vicki McCuistion, Program Coordinator

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

 

State of Texas Poised to Carry Out 500th Execution Since 1982

Troubling questions persist regarding arbitrary and biased imposition of the ultimate punishment

Austin, Texas – Today, the State of Texas stands on the brink of an appalling milestone in its death penalty history: the execution of the 500th person since 1982.  Barring any last-minute legal developments, this evening, Kimberly McCarthy will be the 500th person put to death by lethal injection since the resumption of executions.  This figure stands far above any other state – and most countries.

“Among these 500 men and women are names that symbolize everything that can go wrong with the death penalty, resulting in the ultimate nightmare: the execution of an innocent person,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP).  “Haunting questions continue to linger around the cases of Gary Graham, Claude Jones, Ruben Cantu, Carlos DeLuna, Cameron Todd Willingham, and others who were put to death despite significant doubts about their guilt and the reliability of their convictions.”

These 500 cases also include individuals who suffered from severe mental illness or who had diminished intellectual capacity, those whose trials were tainted by egregious racial discrimination or woefully inadequate legal representation, and those who were convicted of crimes as 17-year-olds and put to death before the U.S. Supreme Court finally recognized the cruelty of executing juvenile offenders.

Through the efforts of attorneys, journalism students, and community leaders, Anthony Graves and 11 others were not mistakenly put to death by the State of Texas.  They are among the 142 people released from death rows nationwide due to evidence of their wrongful convictions.  Hundreds of other individuals spent decades in prison before DNA or other evidence led to their exonerations.

Public awareness of the risk of wrongful convictions, the exorbitant cost of death penalty trials, and the now available sentencing option of Life in Prison without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP), among other factors, account for the steep decline in new death sentences over the last decade and a half.  New death sentences in Texas peaked in 1999, when juries sent 48 people to death row, but have since fallen to single digits in the last few years.

As Texas moves away from the death penalty, the punishment remains geographically isolated to just a few jurisdictions statewide.  Just five counties account for 54% of death sentences in the last five years.  In addition, the death penalty continues to be applied in an arbitrary way, disproportionately impacting people of color.  Over the last five years, nearly 3 of 4 new death sentences in Texas have been imposed on people of color – 46% African-American and 28% Hispanic.

The 500th execution provides an important moment to reflect on the well-documented history of racial bias in Texas’ death penalty system and the discrimination that still pervades the system today.  Kimberly McCarthy, an African American woman, was sentenced to death in Dallas County for the 1997 murder of Dorothy Booth, a white woman, by a jury that was all white but for one person. Dallas County is notorious for its longstanding practice of excluding African Americans from criminal juries.  In Ms. McCarthy’s 2002 capital trial, the state employed this practice to exclude three of only four non-white potential jurors.  The biased practices used by Dallas County and in Ms. McCarthy’s case reflect a capital system riddled with prejudice.

The 500th execution in Texas comes at a time of national momentum away from the death penalty, as six states have abandoned it in the last six years.

“Attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting as public confidence in the ultimate punishment erodes,” said Houlé.  “At this moment in our state’s experience with the death penalty, TCADP urges concerned citizens and elected officials to confront the realities of this irreversible and costly punishment and seek alternative ways of achieving justice.”

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

Download press release.

 

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30 April 2013 ~ Comments Off

Legislators hear from Anthony Graves, other witnesses in favor of death penalty repeal

Late last night, starting around 10:50 PM and lasting until after midnight, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee considered testimony on House Bill 1703, the death penalty repeal bill by State Representative Jessica Farrar.  Representatives Alma Allen and Lon Burnam co-authored the bill.

Rep. Farrar addressed three major flaws of the death penalty: the risk of wrongful convictions; the cost of maintaining it; and the lack of a deterrent effect.

There was a lively discussion among legislators after the testimony of Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in prison – including 12 years on death row – for a crime he did not commit.  After being questioned by one legislator about why the death penalty wasn’t appropriate for those who are guilty of committing heinous crimes, Anthony responded with his own question: “How do we as human beings decide that we are going to give up on each other?”

The committee also heard from murder victim family members, religious leaders, and organizational representatives, and from Keith Brooks, the son of Charlie Brooks, the first person executed in Texas by lethal injection in 1982).  TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle testified on behalf of the organization, telling the committee that “the death penalty is no longer the status quo in Texas.”

In addition, the committee received written testimony in support of HB 1703 from Sam Millsap, the former District Attorney of Bexar County.

The bill has been left pending in committee.

You can find more quotes from witnesses and legislators’ responses on TCADP’s Twitter feed, @TCADPdotORG, and on Facebook.  Thanks to TCADP Program Coordinator Vicki McCuistion for capturing the spirit of the hearing!

Read an account of the hearing from the Associated Press, which provides additional insight into the committee members’ responses to witness testimony, and from Houston Public Radio.

You can also watch the video here (you will need RealPlayer).

lobby corps post-hearing on hb 1703

TCADP is deeply grateful to everyone who endured the long wait for the committee hearing to begin and for HB 1703 to be called, particularly all those who testified. A huge shout out also goes to the intrepid members of the TCADP Lobby Corps who attended the hearing and stayed with us until the very end, providing critical moral support.   Thank you!!

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