Archive | Texas

07 July 2014 ~ Comments Off

State Bar of Texas to Consider Allegations of Prosecutorial Misconduct in Case of Anthony Graves

For Immediate Release
July 7, 2014 

Please Contact: Kathryn M. Kase, (713) 222-7788 office; (713) 444-2044 cell; KMKase@texasdefender.org  

State Bar Has Found Just Cause to Pursue Disciplinary Action Against Prosecutor Who Wrongfully Convicted Anthony Graves

The Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas has made a “just cause” determination with respect to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against former Burleson County District Attorney Charles J. Sebesta, Jr. in his prosecution of Anthony Graves in 1994. As a result of Sebesta’s misconduct, Graves spent 18½ years of his life in prison, more than 12½ years of that on death row, for a crime he did not commit and of which he was later completely exonerated by honest prosecutors.

Mr. Sebesta has elected to have his case heard by an administrative judge. That means the State Bar grievance proceeding will stay confidential until a final determination is made and any sanction is imposed. If Mr. Sebesta had elected to have the case heard by a state district court, the case would have become public when the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed its complaint against Mr. Sebesta.

Anthony Graves twice faced execution dates during his incarceration. He filed his grievance against Mr. Sebesta on January 20, 2014. During the State Bar’s initial investigation, Mr. Graves also submitted an affidavit detailing how Sebesta’s unethical prosecutorial misconduct forever changed Graves’s life and the lives of those around him. A copy of that affidavit is provided with this announcement.

The State Bar of Texas has power to sanction Charles Sebesta for his unethical conduct, up to and including disbarment and loss of his license to practice law in Texas.

Statement by Anthony Graves:  “Twenty years of being victimized by Charles Sebesta is enough. I never should have been on death row, much less for 12½ years of my life. The courts and the State of Texas finally agreed, and acknowledged that I am completely innocent. Mr. Sebesta thinks he can just ignore all that and keep claiming that I am a murderer. He continues to assassinate my character, forcing me to explain myself and to defend myself. That is not right—an honest prosecutor admitted that I am completely innocent, and the State of Texas agreed. I am not a lawyer, but I believe that any lawyer who doesn’t believe in the presumption of innocence—much less an absolute and incontestable finding of innocence as happened in my case—doesn’t deserve to be a lawyer in our great State.

“I sought justice for a long time while imprisoned, having to trust the court system and the legal profession to care about justice, and to do the right thing. I am glad to see the State Bar of Texas now act favorably on my grievance at this stage. I am confident that the Bar will discipline Mr. Sebesta for his misconduct and do whatever it can to stop him from continuing to persecute me, a completely innocent man.”

Statement by Kathryn Kase, Executive Director, Texas Defender Service, and Counsel to Anthony Graves:  “We are pleased that the State Bar of Texas has determined that there is just cause to proceed against Charles Sebesta with regard to his conduct in the prosecution of Anthony Graves. Eight years ago, a federal appeals court determined that Anthony Graves was convicted in an unfair trial because Sebesta did not inform Mr. Graves’s counsel that the State’s main witness took full responsibility for the murder, and because Sebesta knowingly presented false and misleading testimony and information during Mr. Graves’s death penalty trial. Rather than try Mr. Graves again, honest prosecutors determined he was actually innocent of the crime and asked the State to release him. Not only did the State declare him completely innocent, it paid him some compensation for the wrongful conviction and imprisonment. By that point, Anthony Graves had spent 18½ years behind bars, 12½ of them on death row.

“As yet unresolved is whether this rogue prosecutor will be held accountable for his violations of law, ethical misconduct, and breaches of the public trust. Texas citizens deserve to be represented by zealous prosecutors, but only those who follow the rule of law, and who respect the presumption of innocence. A prosecutor’s duty is not simply to secure convictions, but to see that justice is done. Conviction of an innocent man like Mr. Graves through prosecutorial misconduct is abhorrent and undermines public trust and confidence in the Texas justice system. The way to restore that trust and confidence is to hold prosecutors like Charles Sebesta accountable when they violate their legal and ethical obligations.

“We are disappointed that Mr. Sebesta chose to have the Bar’s action against him proceed before an administrative judge, rather than before a court of public record. His conduct against Anthony Graves was in a public proceeding, and he continues to make public attacks on Mr. Graves. He should have defended his conduct in a public proceeding, for all to see. Regardless, Texas Defender Service will continue to assist both Anthony Graves and the Bar as Mr. Graves seeks this last measure of justice.”

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Mr. Graves also is represented by Rebecca Bernhardt, Policy Director of Texas Defender Service, and by Neal S. Manne and Charles R. Eskridge III, both of whom are partners at Susman Godfrey L.L.P.

About Texas Defender Service:  Texas Defender Service is a non-profit legal services organization established in 1995 whose mission is to establish a fair and just criminal justice system in Texas. TDS seeks to reach those goals by improving the quality of representation afforded to those facing a death sentence and by exposing and eradicating the systemic flaws that plague the Texas death penalty.

About Susman Godfrey LLP:  For more than 30 years, Susman Godfrey has focused its nationally recognized practice on high-stakes commercial litigation. It is one of the nation’s leading law firms, with offices in Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. The firm’s lawyers often represent clients on a pro bono basis (free of charge), as Manne and Eskridge are doing here for Mr. Graves.

For more information please contact:   Kathryn M. Kase, Texas Defender Service, attorney for Anthony Graves, 713-222-7788

 

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19 June 2014 ~ Comments Off

Southern Baptist Minister Rev. Jeff Hood to Finish Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin to Abolish Death Penalty

Rev. Jeff Hood will conclude his 200-mile pilgrimage from Texas’ death row to the State Capitol in Austin today.  Please join us at the Capitol at 5 PM for a press conference and at University Baptist Church at 7 PM to hear Rev.Hood talk about his journey.  Check out this coverage of the pilgrimage in the Huffington Post, courtesy of Shane Claiborne at Red Letter Christians, and in the Bryan-College Station Eagle.  

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 19, 2014

A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Livingston to Austin

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Board Member, Center For Theological Activism Executive Director and Southern Baptist Minister Rev. Jeff Hood Concludes 200-Mile Walk

CONTACT:
Rev. Jeff Hood, TCADP Board of Directors
404-210-6760 (cell)
jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com

EVENTS:
Austin, Thursday, June 19 at 5pm and 7pm

5pm                 

Brief Statement and Press Conference at the Conclusion of the Pilgrimage on the steps of the South Entrance of the Texas State Capitol

Members of University Baptist Church and other friends will join Rev. Hood at the conclusion of his walk at the State Capitol and will walk with him to the concluding Faithful Conversation at University Baptist.

7 to 9pm

A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Rev. Jeff Hood at the Conclusion of his Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin
University Baptist Church
2130 Guadalupe St.
Austin, Texas 78705

Of the pilgrimage, Rev. Jeff Hood remarked:

“Through walking in prophetic imagination, Jesus changed the world. On my pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin, I follow Jesus’ lead and with every step remind my fellow Texans that you cannot love your neighbor as your self and execute them.  It is my hope to ignite the moral imagination of my fellow Texans so that we might all rise up together with one courageous voice and declare the death penalty to be no more.”

Information:

The statements, press conferences and events are all open to the public.  An expanded version of the press release, with previous events, bio of Rev. Hood, and further info can be found here.

For more information on A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty contact Rev. Jeff Hood, TCADP Board Member, at (404) 210-6760 or jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com

Jeff will provide updates on his pilgrimage on twitter // @revjeffhood and on the Facebook pages of Center for Theological Activism // https://www.facebook.com/centerfortheologicalactivism and Texas Coalition to Abolish Death Penalty // https://www.facebook.com/tcadp

For more information on the death penalty in Texas, contact Kristin Houlé, TCADP Executive Director, at 512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948 (cell) or khoule@tcadp.org

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09 June 2014 ~ Comments Off

TCADP Board Member to Embark on 200-Mile Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin

MEDIA ADVISORY
June 9, 2014

CONTACT:
Rev. Jeff Hood, TCADP Board of Directors
404-210-6760 (cell)
jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com

A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Livingston to Austin

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Board Member, Center For Theological Activism Executive Director and Southern Baptist Minister Rev. Jeff Hood to Conduct 200-Mile Walk

 Dallas, Texas – Moved to pilgrimage in prayer for the abolishment of the death penalty, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Board Member Rev. Jeff Hood will conduct “A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Livingston to Austin” from Friday, June 13, 2014 to Thursday, June 19, 2014. The approximately 200-mile walk will begin at noon on June 13, 2014 with a brief statement and prayer outside of the Polunsky Unit 3872 FM 350 South, West Livingston, TX 77351, where individuals on death row are incarcerated, proceed through Huntsville, Texas, where individuals are executed, and College Station, Texas and conclude at 5pm on June 19, 2014 with a brief statement and prayer on the steps of the South Entrance of the Texas State Capitol.  Rev. Hood encourages people to interact with him along the journey and also at organized faithful conversations that will be taking place along the way at Wesley Memorial UMC in Huntsville, Santa Teresa Catholic Church in Bryan and University Baptist Church in Austin.

Of the pilgrimage, Rev. Jeff Hood remarked:

“Through walking in prophetic imagination, Jesus changed the world. On my pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin, I follow Jesus’ lead and with every step remind my fellow Texans that you cannot love your neighbor as your self and execute them.  It is my hope to ignite the moral imagination of my fellow Texans so that we might all rise up together with one courageous voice and declare the death penalty to be no more.”

WHAT:
A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty from Livingston to Austin

Starting with a Brief Statement and Prayer in Livingston

Faithful conversations at Wesley Memorial UMC in Huntsville, Santa Teresa Catholic Church in Bryan and University Baptist Church in Austin.

Concluding with a Brief Statement and Prayer in Austin.

WHEN:
Friday, June 13, 2014 at Noon to Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 5pm

WHERE:
Friday June 13, 2014: Livingston 

Noon
Brief Statement and Prayer
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
West Livingston, TX 77351

Pilgrimage along US-190 W

Saturday June 14, 2014: Huntsville
Pilgrimage along US-190 W

7 to 8pm
A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Rev. Jeff Hood on his Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin
Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church
700 Texas 30
Huntsville, TX 77320

Rev. Hood will walk to pray outside the Walls Unit after the event.

Sunday June 15, 2014: Huntsville to College Station
Pilgrimage along TX 30

Monday June 16: College Station

Pilgrimage along TX 30

Members of Santa Teresa Catholic Church will join Rev. Hood around 11:30 and will walk with him to their congregation.

Noon
A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Rev. Jeff Hood on his Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin
Santa Teresa Catholic Church
1212 Lucky St, Bryan, TX 77803

Tuesday June 17: College Station to Austin
Pilgrimage Co Road 324 and 318 

Wednesday June 18: College Station to Austin
Pilgrimage Farm to Market 696 

Thursday June 19: Austin
Pilgrimage Outskirts of Austin and Into Downtown

5pm
Brief Statement and Press Conference at the Conclusion of the Pilgrimage on the steps of the South Entrance of the Texas State Capitol

Members of University Baptist Church and other friends will join Rev. Hood at the conclusion of his walk at the State Capitol and will walk with him to the concluding at University Baptist. 

7 to 9pm
A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Rev. Jeff Hood at the Conclusion of his Pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin
University Baptist Church
2130 Guadalupe St.
Austin, Texas 78705

WHO:
Rev. Jeff Hood is a theologian (MDiv and ThM), historian (MA) and bioethicist (MS) by academic training. Presently, Jeff is completing a doctorate in theology at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. A graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeff is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. A passionate activist, Jeff serves as the Executive Director of Center for Theological Activism, on the Board of Directors of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, on the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and as a spiritual advisor on Texas’ Death Row. Jeff is married and has three young sons- twin toddlers and an infant.

Information:
The statements, press conferences and events are all open to the public.

For more information on A Pilgrimage to Abolish the Death Penalty contact Rev. Jeff Hood, TCADP Board Member, at (404) 210-6760 or jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com

Jeff will provide updates on his pilgrimage on twitter // @revjeffhood and on the Facebook pages of Center for Theological Activism // https://www.facebook.com/centerfortheologicalactivism and Texas Coalition to Abolish Death Penalty // https://www.facebook.com/tcadp

For more information on the death penalty in Texas, contact Kristin Houlé, TCADP Executive Director, at 512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948 (cell) or khoule@tcadp.org.

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29 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas Attorney General Rules in Favor of Government Secrecy Surrounding Lethal Injection Process

Today the Office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an order that defends secrecy at the expense of open government – reversing the position his office took in multiple prior opinions over the last six years.  In so doing, Abbott’s office ruled in favor of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, finding that they do not have to disclose information about the pharmacy or pharmacist supplying the lethal injection drugs used in executions.

The Attorney General’s Ruling also finds that TDCJ may keep secret their “DEA Registration”–a form that is required to purchase the lethal injection drugs. The DEA registration TDCJ has used to date lists them as the “Huntsville Unit Hospital” – a hospital that no longer exists.  That false information has provided TDCJ with a medical persona that has been used previously to mislead pharmacies about the reason for the purchase of lethal drugs.

The following is a statement from attorney Maurie Levin, whose public information request was denied by the Attorney General today:

“It is deeply disturbing and frankly quite shocking that the highest law enforcement official in the state has suddenly reversed his position on disclosure when it comes to lethal injection, particularly considering the horrifically botched execution in Oklahoma last month that was the direct result of secrecy surrounding the process.

‘Serious questions surround this about-face, including why our Attorney General, who once championed transparency, is suddenly now supporting secretive government practices.”

-       Maurie Levin, Attorney | May 29, 2014

The Texas Attorney General’s decision in response to the public information request can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQZDUxQ2twZlpKNFU/edit?usp=sharing

Ms. Levin’s brief arguing for the need for transparency can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQbHhrUFBlRDhaWmc/edit?usp=sharing

For more information, Maurie Levin can be reached at: maurielevin@gmail.com and 512-294-1540.

 

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06 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys for Robert Campbell Seek Relief, Full and Fair Opportunity to Present Claims in Court

On May 5, 2014, attorneys for Robert Campbell, who is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on May 13, 2014, filed an application for post-conviction writ of habeas corpus in the 232nd Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  The application seeks a stay of execution for Mr. Campbell in order to give the court time to provide a full and fair review of his claims related to ineffective assistance of counsel and evidence of intellectual disabilities; to date, no state court has given serious consideration to these claims. Proceeding with his execution under these circumstances would be profoundly unfair.

Specifically, the application seeks relief on two key issues:

Mr. Campbell received ineffective assistance of counsel during his 1992 trial and in state habeas proceedings.  His trial counsel did not conduct a thorough investigation into potential mitigating evidence and, subsequently, failed to present substantial evidence of Mr. Campbell’s turbulent and deprived childhood to the jury during the punishment phase, or to explore obvious questions about Mr. Campbell’s cognitive impairment.  The attorney then appointed to represent him on initial habeas corpus proceedings was incompetent and filed a meaningless, boilerplate claim – identical to the claims he had filed in four other death penalty cases – on behalf of his client, with whom he never even met before filing the appeal.

- No court has considered evidence of Mr. Campbell’s intellectual disabilities, which bar his execution under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins vs. Virginia (2002).  A recent comprehensive evaluation assessed his IQ at 69, and school records discovered by current counsel provide additional evidence of “significantly subaverage intellectual functioning.”

Statement from Attorneys for Robert Campbell Regarding the Application for Post-Conviction Relief

“Robert Campbell faces execution despite the fact that no state court has given full consideration to the ineffectiveness of his lawyers, at multiple levels, or the significant evidence of his intellectual disability.  His trial attorney failed to present jurors with a clear and compelling picture of Mr. Campbell’s violent and impoverished childhood, which could have persuaded them to spare his life – indeed, they deliberated on his fate for nine hours even without knowing the full story of Mr. Campbell’s deprived background.  This failure was compounded by the incompetence of the attorney appointed to represent Mr. Campbell in initial habeas corpus proceedings in state court, whose ineptitude erected insurmountable hurdles to meaningful review in subsequent proceedings in federal court.

“Mr. Campbell has also been denied the opportunity to present his Atkins claim of intellectual disability, which was dismissed in 2003 on the basis of a factual record that we now know was incomplete and misleading.  There is ample evidence to support the fact that Mr. Campbell is intellectually disabled and therefore may not legally be executed.  These compelling facts should not be dismissed on a technicality.

“Executing Mr. Campbell under these circumstances would be profoundly unfair.  We urge the court to grant relief to Mr. Campbell by staying his execution and providing him with the full and fair opportunity he deserves to present his claims to the court — this time with the assistance of competent counsel.”

- Attorney Robert C. Owen, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School of Law

- Attorney Raoul D. Schonemann, Capital Punishment Clinic, The University of Texas at Austin School of Law

May 6, 2014

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To arrange an interview with attorney Robert Owen regarding the application for post-conviction relief, please contact Kristin Houlé  at 512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948 (cell) or khoule@tcadp.org.

For information regarding the Texas lethal injection protocol, drugs in the TDCJ’s possession, background on previous disputes between TDCJ and pharmacies, please contact attorney Maurie Levin at maurielevin@gmail.com and (512) 294-1540, attorney Jonathan Ross atJROSS@susmangodfrey.com and 832-659-8126 or Laura Burstein at Laura.Burstein@squiresanders.com, (202) 626-6868.

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06 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

TX Court Asked to Stay Execution Following Oklahoma Debacle

One week after the horrific botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, a civil rights action and stay motion on behalf of Texas death row prisoner Robert James Campbell was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, challenging Texas’ right to execute Mr. Campbell without disclosing the source of and other information about the compounded pentobarbital to be used in his execution onTuesday, May 13, 2014.

It was only recently, with its purchase of the most recent batch of lethal injection drugs, that Texas began to follow the path of secrecy shared by Oklahoma in the weeks leading up to Mr. Lockett’s torturous death. The complaint and request for a stay can be accessed here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQakdBUFQyQndmMFk/edit and https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQUmpZNU1BcWVFd00/edit

Maurie Levin, one of the attorneys representing Mr. Campbell, commented, “The botched execution in Oklahoma has made clear that the significant risk of a tortuous death is a very real threat when states aren’t required to facilitate executions with transparency, accountability and disclosure of the sort sought – and denied – in Oklahoma.”

 “The fact that Oklahoma attempted to execute Mr. Lockett using a different protocol that did not include the chemical (compounded pentobarbital) called for by Texas’ current protocol does not obviate a risk that derives primarily from the secrecy of the entire process – not the individual drug that might be used in one execution vs. the next,” states the lawsuit. (p. 5)

 Texas’ lethal injection protocol calls for a single dose of pentobarbital. Pentobarbital is no longer legally available in FDA-regulated form, but only from compounded pharmacies, which operate outside of FDA oversight, making it impossible to know if the drugs have been properly prepared and tested in order to ensure the execution will be carried out in a manner that comports with the Constitution. In addition, documents show that TDCJ is in possession in midazalom, the first drug used in the botched execution of Mr. Locket:https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQOTVldW11MGRPVE0/edit?usp=sharing

Executions in Oklahoma and South Dakota that used compounded pentobarbital appeared to have had serious problems. On January 9, 2014, Oklahoma executed Michael Wilson, presumably also using compounded pentobarbital as the first drug in the three-drug formula. Prior to losing consciousness, Mr. Wilson cried out, “I feel my whole body burning.” Those were his last words. The State has refused to provide any information about what might have gone wrong in Mr. Wilson’s execution, but expert pharmacologist Larry D. Sasich, PharmD, MPH, FASHP, signed a sworn affidavit stating, “It is my opinion that Mr. Wilson’s reaction is consistent with contaminated pentobarbital sodium injection.”

Dr. Sasich’s affidavit is here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQZlZCMWhrWXBsSXJwTnIyWVUyZHVGM3BoWEZv/edit

The sworn statement of another anesthesiologist, Dr. Waisel, is here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQQ0l5b1RHUG0wLVE/edit

In October 2012, in South Dakota, Eric Robert was executed using compounded pentobarbital. Witnesses reported that he “appeared to clear his throat and gasp heavily, at which point his skin turned a blue-purplish hue. Mr. Robert opened his eyes and they remained open until his death, and his heart continued beating for 10 minutes after he ceased to breathe.”

On April 14, 2014, in Texas, Jose Villegas was executed with compounded pentobarbital.  “As a journalist witness wrote:  “Just as the dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, ‘It does kind of burn.  Goodbye.’  He gasped several times, then began breathing quietly. (pp. 11-12).” Additionally, there have been multiple documented problematic executions in Texas via lethal injection, detailed on pp. 13-14.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has engaged in secretive and deceptive practices in its attempts to purchase drugs for executions previously, including using a false hospital name and a false patient name (see p. 8), and currently refuses to disclose the source of its lethal injection drug or any other information about the drug’s purity, efficacy, or testing.

As the filing states, “In this pivotal regard – the secrecy surrounding the drugs and the executions – Texas is no different than Oklahoma.” (p. 6).

“In light of these events, the risky nature of compounded drugs, problematic executions involving compounded pentobarbital, and the risks inherent to a secretive process, law and equity demand that we pause in our pursuit of executions.  To move forward without hesitation despite full awareness of the grave risks and possibly torturous results – to permit this execution to proceed in light of the eye-opening events in Oklahoma – should not be countenanced by a civilized society , nor tolerated by the constitutional principles that form the foundation of our democracy.” (p. 6)

Additionally, Mr. Campbell’s case contains other areas of concern, highlighted in his state habeas filing,including intellectual disability, quality of legal representation, disparity in sentencing, and possible racial bias at trial. Testing indicates that Mr. Campbell is a person with intellectual disability. At the age of 18, he and another man, Mr. Lewis, committed a tragic rape and murder. Although the DNA evidence implicates the men equally, Mr. Lewis is now free while Mr. Campbell is on death row. Mr. Campbell’s right to post-conviction review was essentially forfeited by an appointed lawyer who filed a boilerplate brief that was identical to the ones he filed for four other condemned men. Finally, Mr. Campbell is an African American man who was prosecuted in Harris County, Texas, during an era which has been widely criticized for overt racial bias in other cases in that area. The state habeas filing can be accessed here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQZmFSMVBLcmpRcU0/edit

For more information about the Texas lethal injection protocol, drugs in the TDCJ’s possession, background on previous disputes between TDCJ and pharmacies, do not hesitate to contact me atLaura.Burstein@squiresanders.com(202) 626-6868. To speak to counsel for Mr. Campbell, contact Maurie Levin at  maurielevin@gmail.com and (512) 294-1540 or Jonathan Ross at JROSS@susmangodfrey.com and832-659-8126.

 

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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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17 December 2013 ~ Comments Off

TCADP Releases 2013 Year-End Report on Texas Death Penalty Developments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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

Infographics are available at http://tcadp.org/2013tcadpinfographics/.

One Third of All New Texas Death Sentences in 2013 Came from Dallas County,
According to New Report by TCADP

Seven of nine new death row inmates are African-American men and 11 of the state’s 16 executions this year were of people of color

(Austin, Texas) — One third of all new death sentences in Texas were imposed in just one county this year, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s (TCADP) new report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2013: The Year in Review.  The report documents Dallas County’s emergence as the state’s most active death penalty jurisdiction, accounting for 20% of new death sentences since 2008.

Over the last six years, Dallas County has imposed nearly twice as many new death sentences as Harris County, which alone has sent nearly 300 people to death row since 1976.

infographic3

Click the image to enlarge. See multiple infographics to share at www.tcadp.org/2013tcadpinfographics/

Juries condemned nine new individuals to death in Texas this year, the same number of death sentences imposed in 2012.  New death sentences in Texas have declined more than 75% over the last decade and numbered in the single digits for the last five years.

A total of seven counties in Texas accounted for the new death row inmates in 2013.  Notably, three of the highest sentencing jurisdictions in recent years did not impose any death sentences this year, and no inmates were re-sentenced to death in the state.

Both geography and race continue to disproportionately impact death sentences in Texas: seven of the nine new death row inmates in 2013 are African-American men.  Over the last six years, half of all new death sentences in Texas have been imposed on African-Americans. In Dallas County, this pattern is even more pronounced – of the 11 men sentenced to death there since 2008, 8 are African-American and 2 are Hispanic.  All three of Dallas County’s new death sentences in 2013 were imposed on African-American men.

“While most of Texas is moving away from the death penalty, Dallas County has emerged as a major outlier in its pursuit of the ultimate punishment, particularly for defendants of color,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  “These troubling patterns directly counter Dallas’s reputation as a leader in criminal justice reform.”

Halfway through the year, the State of Texas carried out its 500th execution since 1982, putting Kimberly McCarthy to death for the 1997 murder of Dorothy Booth in Dallas County. McCarthy, who was African-American, was the fourth woman executed by the state and the first since 2005.

Her attorney argued that the jury selection process in her second trial was tainted by racial discrimination: of the twelve jurors seated at trial, all were white, except one, and eligible non-white jurors were excluded from serving by the State. While two earlier execution dates this year were postponed, the courts refused to intervene a third time.

The State of Texas carried out 16 executions in 2013, a slight increase from 2012, when 15 executions took place. Executions are now being carried out through the use of a compounded form of the drug pentobarbital, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been criticized for a lack of transparency when it comes to the state’s lethal injection protocol.

Of the 16 people executed in Texas this year, eight were African-American, five were white, and three were Hispanic.

“Although Texas is using the death penalty less, the state still uses it disproportionately against people of color,” said Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service.  “Texas’s failure to effectively address this recurring problem demonstrates, yet again, the deep flaws in the state’s capital punishment system.”

Other highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2013: The Year in Review:

  • Texas accounted for approximately 42% of all U.S. executions this year and twice as many as any other state. 269 executions have occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001 – present), more than any other governor in U.S. history.  Texas has executed a total of 508 people since 1982.
  • Seven inmates scheduled for execution in 2013 received reprieves, including stays granted by the courts and the withdrawal of execution dates.  Four other inmates were granted modifications of their dates but were ultimately executed this year.
  • For the first time in six years, no one was re-sentenced to death in Texas.  Several long-standing cases in which the courts had ordered new punishment hearings were resolved with sentences other than death.  A total of four inmates received reduced sentences in 2013, including two from Harris County. Collectively, these four individuals spent approximately 80 years on death row.
  • Death-qualified juries rejected the death penalty in the sentencing phase in two trials this year and instead opted for life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In both cases, juries determined that mitigating evidence warranted a sentence other than death.  Over the last five years, death-qualified juries have rejected the death penalty in more than 20 capital murder trials.

“Attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting as public confidence in the criminal justice system erodes,” said Houlé.  “At this critical 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.

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Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2013: The Year in Review is available online at www.tcadp.org/TexasDeathPenaltyDevelopments2013.pdf.

TCADPInfographic2013

Click the image to enlarge. See multiple infographics to share at www.tcadp.org/2013tcadpinfographics/

Contact report author Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org to receive a copy directly via email.  See the report for additional tables illustrating the race of defendants sentenced to death in the last six years and other recent trends.

Infographics are available at http://tcadp.org/2013tcadpinfographics/.

See http://tcadp.org/2008-2013-new-death-sentences/ for a map of new death sentences by county from 2008 to 2013.

See http://tcadp.org/1976-2013-county-map/ for a map of death sentences by county from 1976 to 2013.

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

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

Join TCADP and guest moderator Jordan Smith of the Austin Chronicle today, Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 3:00 PM CST for a Twitter chat to discuss #Texas #deathpenalty trends and ask questions about this report.  Follow #2013TXDP for the chat and to ask questions.  @TCADPdotORG @chronic_jordan

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