Archive | Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

02 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

Support clemency for Texas death row inmate Max Soffar

Imagine spending 34 years in prison – most of them on death row in Texas – for a crime you didn’t commit.  Now imagine being told by doctors that in a matter of months, you will die of liver cancer.  That’s the situation facing Max Soffar, who will die behind bars before any court can exonerate him… unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Texas Governor Rick Perry step in.

There is no evidence whatsoever connecting Soffar to the horrific murders of three people in a bowling alley in Houston in 1980.  His conviction and death sentence hinged solely on a confession he gave to police – one of three inconsistent statements he provided after three days of intense interrogation.  According to the National Registry of Wrongful Convictions, false confessions have played a role in 13% of exonerations nationwide.

Equally troubling is the fact that Max Soffar did not remotely resemble the description of the perpetrator provided by eyewitness and surviving victim Greg Garner.  Substantial evidence supporting the alternative theory of suspect Paul Dennis Reid has never been considered by a jury.

Attorneys for Max Soffar are asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Governor Rick Perry commute Soffar’s death sentence so that he may live his final days at home.

Texans: please sign this petition urging Governor Rick Perry to grant clemency to Max Soffar!

Non-Texans: please sign this petition in support of Max Soffar’s clemency petition!

Many prominent individuals, including former district attorneys, judges, and faith leaders are supporting Max Soffar’s clemency petition.  Among those calling for compassionate release are former Gov. Mark White and Judge William S. Sessions.  Read their letter here.   Also read an editorial by the Dallas Morning News, which states that “the clemency request serves a righteous purpose.”

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12 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas Failed to Disclose Evidence that Man Facing Imminent Execution has Mental Retardation, According to Attorneys

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org or 512-441-1808 (office) or 512-552-5948 (cell)

Documents Show that Texas Failed to Disclose Evidence that Man Facing Imminent Execution has Mental Retardation, According to Attorneys

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Will Be Asked Today to Reconsider Clemency for Robert Campbell Based on New Evidence of Low I.Q. Test Scores that Were in the State’s Possession But Never Shared with Campbell’s Lawyers

(Austin, Texas, May 12, 2014) – Today, based on new information and evidence only recently uncovered in state files indicating that Robert Campbell is a person with mental retardation, and therefore ineligible for execution, attorneys will ask the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconsider its recommendation against clemency for Mr. Campbell. Mr. Campbell is scheduled to be executed in Texas on Tuesday, May 13, 2104 at 6 p.m. CT.

“It is an outrage that the State of Texas itself has worked to frustrate Mr. Campbell’s attempts to obtain any fair consideration of evidence of his intellectual disability,” said Robert C. Owen, an attorney for Mr. Campbell. “State officials affirmatively misled Mr. Campbell’s lawyers when they said they had no records of IQ testing of Mr. Campbell from his time on death row.  That was a lie.  They had such test results, and those results placed Mr. Campbell squarely in the range for a diagnosis of mental retardation.  Mr. Campbell now faces execution as a direct result of such shameful gamesmanship.”

According to Mr. Campbell’s attorneys, during prior state and federal judicial proceedings, the State of Texas failed to disclose two prior I.Q. test scores that tended to prove Mr. Campbell’s intellectual disability.  The Harris County District Attorney’s Office did not provide counsel with public school records, including the results of a score of 68 from an I.Q. test administered to Mr. Campbell when he was a schoolchild.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice similarly failed to disclose that Mr. Campbell scored a 71 on an I.Q. test administered by a state-employed prison psychologist shortly after Mr. Campbell arrived on death row at age 19.   Even more egregious is the fact that TDCJ flatly told Mr. Campbell’s attorney in 2003 that no such IQ tests existed for death row prisoners.

An I.Q. test score of 70 or below is generally accepted as “significantly subaverage intellectual functioning” necessary to diagnose intellectual disability.  According to Mr. Campbell’s attorneys, every piece of substantial evidence supports this diagnosis, and a comprehensive evaluation by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – has now confirmed it.

Mr. Campbell faces imminent execution despite the fact that no court has given meaningful consideration to extensive evidence that he is intellectually disabled. Unless the Board intervenes, Texas may execute a man who is mentally retarded, in violation of the Supreme Court’s now decade-old ban on such executions.

A powerful dissenting opinion issued last week by Judge Elsa Alcala of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) correctly called the evidence of Mr. Campbell’s mental retardation ‘compelling.’  She zeroed in on the fundamental unfairness of the court’s decision to reject his claim – the reason why this evidence was not available in 2003, when the CCA first turned away Mr. Campbell’s mental retardation claim.

In her dissent, Judge Alcala states, “It would be unjust to penalize [Mr. Campbell] for not uncovering such a falsehood previously, when he had no basis to believe that a falsehood had been conveyed to him. . . . This Court should not base its decisions that determine whether a person will live or be executed based on misinformation or wholly inadequate information.”

Here is the link to Mr. Campbell’s habeas petition:
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQZmFSMVBLcmpRcU0/edit

Here is the link to the CCA ruling and dissent:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQTXk5c1l1VGQzSHc/edit

Mr. Campbell’s attorneys also plan to appeal directly to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has the authority to issue a one-time, 30-day stay of execution.

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For more information, please contact Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.or, 512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948.

 

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28 January 2013 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas Scheduled to Execute Kimberly McCarthy

The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Kimberly McCarthy on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, despite troubling questions about racial bias in the jury selection process.  Please take action now by calling Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins and urging him to request a stay of execution.

Background on the Case

Kimberly McCarthy was convicted of the 1997 murder of Dorothy Booth in Dallas County.  Her original conviction was reversed on the basis of the erroneous admission of a statement she made upon arrest.  McCarthy was again convicted and sentenced to death in 2002 after a trial in which the guilt phase lasted only one day.

Troubling questions surround the jury selection process in her trial – of the 12 jurors selected, all but one were white.  According to McCarthy’s attorneys, the state struck three non-white prospective jurors (21% of its total strikes).  Of the 64 people questioned on individual voir dire, only 4 were not white.  Of these individuals, only 3 were African American.  None of these figures reflect the racial demographics of Dallas County.

There is a long, documented history of racially-biased jury selection practices in Dallas County.  The clemency video of Thomas Miller-El, who was eventually removed from death row because of these practices, features interviews with Dallas County jurors, judges, and prosecutors about the discrimination in the jury selection system.

McCarthy is one of ten women currently on death row in Texas.  Late last week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously rejected her petition for clemency.  Since 1982, the State has executed three women, including Frances Newton in 2005.

Action Request

On Sunday, January 27, 2013, Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, the Senior Pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, spoke about the case of Kimberly McCarthy during his sermon.  Please join Dr. Haynes and many others in appealing to Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins to request a stay of execution for Kimberly McCarthy.

Please call or fax Mr. Watkins to express your support for a Texas Racial Justice Act and to request a stay of execution for Kimberly McCarthy, who was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury from which African Americans were excluded on the basis of their race.  If we believe in a Racial Justice Act, we must also believe Ms. McCarthy does not deserve to be executed.

Contact information for Mr. Watkins:

The Hon. Craig Watkins

Dallas County District Attorney’s Office

214-653-3600 – phone

214-653-2924 – fax

Thank you for taking action to stop this execution. Stay tuned to TCADP for any updates on this case.

 

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27 July 2012 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys for Marcus Druery Request Stay of Execution

Yesterday, July 26, 2012, attorneys for Marcus Druery filed a request for a stay of execution with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  Druery is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, August 1, for the 2002 murder of Skyyler Brown in Brazos County.  His attorneys have sought a full competency hearing to determine his mental health status and competency to be executed.  Druery has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and suffers from delusions and hallucinations.

Here’s an excerpt from coverage of the case in the Texas Tribune (“Lawyers for Mentally Ill Inmate Seek Stay of Execution,” July 26, 2012):

On Wednesday, the trial judge in Druery’s case, J.D. Langley, also unsealed the inmate’s medical record from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Among the records is a report from a May 2012 examination by Dr. Diane Mosnik, a neuropsychologist who wrote that Druery “suffers from severe, active psychotic condition, meeting criteria for a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia.”

 

The severity of his mental illness, Dr. Mosnik wrote, prevents Druery from having a understanding that he is going to be executed Aug. 1.

 

“Although he has a factual awareness that an execution date has been scheduled for the crime for which he was tried, he does not believe that he will be executed because of his illogical, fixed, and firmly held delusional belief system,” she wrote.

 

The request for a stay follows the denial earlier this week by Langley of Druery’s request for a hearing to determine whether he is competent for execution because of his mental condition.

Additional coverage of the case is available in the Bryan-College Station Eagle (“Stay of execution filed in Druery case,” July 27, 2012) and from KBTX (“Bryan Killer’s Lawyers Seek Stay of Execution From Appeals Court,” July 27, 2012).

Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action for this case, urging letters in support of clemency to be submitted to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry.  Take action today!

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02 May 2012 ~ Comments Off

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Votes Unanimously Against Anthony Bartee

Thank you to everyone who has taken action to stop tonight’s scheduled execution of Anthony Bartee, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of David Cook in San Antonio.  We learned late last night from Bartee’s attorneys that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously against granting clemency or a 120-day reprieve to allow time for additional DNA testing.  His attorneys have multiple appeals pending and will continue to pursue all possible legal channels today.  Please check back with TCADP for updates as they become available.  At this point, vigils will take place in locations statewide as scheduled.

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27 April 2012 ~ 2 Comments

State of Texas Executes Beunka Adams

Last night, April 26, 2012, the State of Texas carried out its fifth execution of the  year.  Beunka Adams was executed for the murder of Kenneth Vandever, 37, outside Rusk in 2002.

Both Adams and his co-defendant Richard Cobb were sentenced to death for the crime.  Vandever and two women were abducted from a convenience store. Vandever was fatally shot. The women also were shot, and one of them was raped.  Both survived and one of the victims identified Adams.  According to the AP, “Adams was tried for capital murder under the Texas law of parties, which makes an accomplice equally culpable as the actual killer. A fellow inmate in the Cherokee County Jail testified Adams bragged to him that he did the shootings,” but evidence from Cobb showed Cobb was the gunman.  Cobb does not have an execution date.

Adams received a stay of execution from a federal judge earlier in the week but it was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals after the Texas Attorney General’s office appealed the ruling.  His attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that Adams received ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial and in the early stages of his appeal, but the Court refused to intervene.

Read more in the Huffington Post.

Another Texas execution is scheduled to take place next week on May 2, 2012.  Take action now to urge the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Perry to grant a reprieve to Anthony Bartee so that all of the DNA evidence can be tested and Bartee’s attorneys can pursue relief through available legal avenues.

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26 April 2012 ~ 5 Comments

New Developments in Anthony Bartee Case, Call for Action

Update as of 4:30 PM on May 1:  The San Antonio Express-News is reporting that “State District Court Judge Mary Román ruled the [DNA] results wouldn’t have impacted the outcome of the trial and said Bartee’s new execution date would not be withdrawn. [Bartee’s attorney David] Dow appealed that decision Monday arguing that glasses and cigarettes collected at the time of the killing should also be tested.”

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/1996-slaying-victim-s-family-awaits-killer-s-3523017.php#ixzz1tekxWvHl

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In less than one week, on May 2, 2012, the State of Texas plans to execute Anthony Bartee for the 1996 murder of his friend David Cook in San Antonio.  Bartee has consistently maintained that although he was present at the house, he did not kill Cook.

Bartee was originally scheduled to be executed on February 28, 2012, even though DNA evidence collected at the crime scene had not been tested as ordered on at least two occasions by District Judge Mary Román. He received a reprieve on February 23, 2012 when Judge Román withdrew the execution warrant so that additional DNA testing could be conducted on strands of hair found in the hands of the victim, David Cook.  She also ordered the forensic lab to provide a detailed and comprehensive report to the court with an analysis of the results.  Yet, before the testing occurred, Judge Román inexplicably set another execution date: May 2, 2012.

According to Bartee’s attorneys, DNA testing was just conducted and indicated that hairs that were tested found in Cook’s hands belonged to Cook.  The jury never heard this evidence – and in fact wasn’t told about the hairs at all – which might have undermined the prosecution’s theory of the case that a violent struggle had ensued between Cook and his killer.  Still, Judge Román entered the findings as unfavorable, opining that this evidence would not have made a difference in the outcome of the trial, had it been available to the jury.  Under Article 64.05 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Bartee’s attorneys have the right to appeal the unfavorable findings.  The fast-approaching execution date significantly impedes this right to due process, however.

 

In addition, there is still more evidence that has not been tested for DNA, including cigarette butts and at least three drinking glasses found at the crime scene. In 2010, the court ordered that all items that had not been tested be tested, but these items still have not been tested.

 

Take action now!

1. Call upon the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to stop this rush to execution and grant a 120-day reprieve for Anthony Bartee so that all of the evidence can be tested and Bartee’s attorneys can pursue relief through available legal avenues.  Here are talking points:

  • Testing of hairs found in the hands of David Cook was just conducted and indicated that the hairs that were tested belonged to Cook.  The jury never heard this evidence, which might have undermined the prosecution’s theory of the case.
  • Bartee’s attorneys need more time to pursue relief under chapter 64, which provides the right to appeal the findings of recent testing, and to argue that the evidence might have impacted the outcome of the trial.
  • There is still additional evidence to be tested for DNA; such testing was ordered in 2010 but has not been conducted.
  • To date, 17 death row inmates nationwide have been exonerated by use of DNA testing. Shouldn’t every prisoner get this chance when DNA evidence is available? Shouldn’t Texas insist on the highest standards of evidence proving guilt, especially in cases where the punishment is irreversible?

2. Post information about this case on Facebook and Twitter.  Here are sample tweets:

  • Tell TX to stop the rush to execute #AnthonyBartee!
  • Tell TX to test all the DNA!  Stop #AnthonyBartee execution.

3. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, expressing concerns about the death penalty’s irreversible risk of error and calling for its repeal.

Contact information for Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles (please send your appeals by email or fax):

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Fax: 512-463-1849
Main number: 512-463-2000
Salutation: Dear Governor Perry

Clemency Section
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX  78757-6814
Fax (512) 467-0945
bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us
Salutation: Dear Board Members

Letters/faxes to the Board must clearly reference “ATTENTION CASE Anthony Bartee #999282” and should arrive ASAP!

4. Sign this Petition Click Link

Additional background information on the case is available here.

 

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11 April 2012 ~ 11 Comments

New Execution Date Set for Anthony Bartee, DNA Testing Still Not Completed

Take Action Now!  Request a Reprieve for Anthony Bartee

On May 2, 2012, Anthony Bartee may be put to death by the State of Texas, even though DNA testing ordered recently by State District Judge Mary Román has not been completed or analyzed.

Bartee was originally scheduled to be executed on February 28, 2012, despite the fact that the Bexar County Criminal Investigation Laboratory has not tested pieces of DNA evidence that were collected from the crime scene. Even after being ordered to test this evidence by Judge Román in 2007, neither the Bexar County crime lab nor the DPS lab in Austin performed the ordered tests on all available evidence.  Bartee was convicted of the 1996 murder of his friend David Cook in San Antonio.  He has consistently maintained that although he was present at the house, he did not kill Cook.

Bartee received a reprieve on February 23, 2012 when Judge Román withdrew the execution warrant so that additional DNA testing could be conducted on the strands of hair found in the hands of the victim.  She also ordered the forensic lab to provide a detailed and comprehensive report to the court with an analysis of the results.  According to Bartee’s attorneys, this testing still has not been performed.  Yet, inexplicably, Judge Román has set another execution date – May 2, 2012.

 

Bartee’s attorneys assert that chapter 64 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure obligates the court to hold a hearing after the testing has been conducted and after examining the results to determine whether this evidence would have made a difference in the outcome of the trial, had it been available to the jury.  At this point, there is less than three weeks for the testing to be completed and fully considered by the courts before Bartee is scheduled to be put to death.

Take action now!

 

  • Write or fax the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to urge clemency or a 120-day reprieve for Anthony Bartee (see below for addresses and talking points).
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, expressing concerns about the death penalty’s irreversible risk of error and calling for its repeal.
  • Post information about this case on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Additional Background and Talking Points for Letters to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry

Untested DNA Evidence

While performing an autopsy on the victim, David Cook, the medical examiner found hairs in both of his hands. On June 18, 2007, Trial Judge Mary Román ordered that these hairs be tested by the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) lab in Austin. According to a report later issued by the DPS crime lab, hairs found in Cook’s left hand were tested and not found to belong to Bartee. This same report confirmed that no DNA was extracted during these proceedings from the hairs found in the right hand of David Cook.

 

Even after Judge Román ordered the additional testing of all forensic DNA evidence in the Bartee case on July 21, 2010, the hairs taken from the right hand of the murder victim remain frozen at the DPS crime lab in Austin. The official response to the judge’s request from Bexar County Crime Lab claimed that “no remaining physical evidence [was] available for additional forensic DNA testing,” even though the report from the DPS confirms this is not the case.

 

At a hearing in November of 2010, Judge Román used an incomplete report that only contained information from the DNA test performed on the evidence collected from the left hand of the victim. This report did not contain any information on the still frozen and untested hairs found in the victim’s right hand. From this incomplete report, Judge Román concluded that though the hair tested did not belong to Bartee, it could have belonged to David Cook and, as such, did not exonerate Bartee.

 

To date, 17 inmates on death row in the United States have been exonerated by use of DNA testing. Shouldn’t every prisoner get this chance when DNA evidence is available? Shouldn’t Texas insist on the highest standards of evidence proving guilt, especially in cases where the punishment is irreversible?

 

A Serious Conflict of Interest Involving a Trial Attorney

A severe conflict of interest took place in this case during the trial. This conflict involved Michael Sawyer, the defense attorney sitting second chair for Bartee, and his relationship with David Cook, the victim.  This relationship was revealed on April 13, 1998, on the morning the actual trial was to begin, when Sawyer “realized” that he knew the victim, David Cook, and the victim’s entire family.

 

Although Sawyer claims that he was not aware of his familiarity with the entire Cook family throughout the trial’s previous month-long seating of the jury, a clear conflict of interest existed and potentially impacted the jury selection process.

 

The judge allowed Sawyer to withdraw from the case, but she denied the motion for a mistrial made by Bartee’s other attorney, Vincent Callahan. When claims that the trial was tainted by Sawyer’s conflict of interest were made in Bartee’s state habeas petition, the judge denied relief by citing previous case law showing that Texas courts required defendants to prove that but for the conflict of interest, the results of the trial would have been different.

 

On September 12, 2007, however, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that this was not the proper standard by which to analyze claims involving conflicts of interest. Due to this change in the standard applied to claims involving conflicts of interest in Texas, Anthony Bartee should now be given the chance to have his claim heard under the proper standard.

 

A Model Prisoner and Commitment to Service

Additional factors should be taken into consideration in the case of Anthony Bartee, namely, his behavior as a model prisoner while on death row, along with his family’s commitment to serving our country through various branches of the Armed Services.  As his prison disciplinary records reveal, if his sentence were commuted to life in prison, he would not be a danger to any prisoner or guard.

 

Since he began his time on death row on September 9, 1998, Bartee has been at level one, the best disciplinary level possible. He has only been cited for two disciplinary infractions, neither of which were violent, throughout his entire 13 years on death row.

Bartee was raised in a family devoted to serving our great nation. Bartee’s father served our country in the Air Force for 26 years and his grandfather served in the Army in Germany during World War II. Bartee himself received an honorable discharge from the Army on July 12, 1976.

Bartee has also long sought to teach others to learn from his mistakes. During time spent in prison for an earlier conviction, Bartee was chosen as one of two “model prisoners” to speak to a group of troubled students from the local town. These students were greatly influenced by his comments, and it has been reported that many of them ceased participating in gang activity after their visit with Bartee.

Please call on the Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the sentence of Anthony Bartee or, at a minimum, grant a 120-day reprieve so that his claim regarding the conflict of interest can be pursued under the proper standard and DNA testing can be conducted and fully analyzed.

Contact information for Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles:


Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Fax: 512-463-1849
Main number: 512-463-2000

Salutation: Dear Governor Perry
Clemency Section
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX  78757-6814
Fax (512) 467-0945
bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us
Salutation: Dear Board Members

 

 

Letters/faxes to the Board must clearly reference “ATTENTION CASE Anthony Bartee #999282” and should arrive no later than April 27, 2012.

 

 

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