Archive | wrongful execution

08 August 2014 ~ Comments Off

Evidence undermines “pillar” of Cameron Todd Willingham conviction

New evidence in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham significantly undermines the credibility of Johnny Webb, the jailhouse informant whose testimony was instrumental in Willingham’s conviction.  Willingham was executed in 2004 for the 1991 arson murder of his three daughters in Corsicana, despite compelling evidence of his innocence, including a much-discredited arson investigation.

Maurice Possley, writing for The Marshall Project, a new nonprofit news organization focused on the criminal justice system, exposes the fact that the man who prosecuted Willingham, John H. Jackson, worked for years “to alter Webb’s conviction, speed his parole, get him clemency and move him from a tough state prison back to his hometown jail.” Possley notes “had such favorable treatment been revealed prior to his execution, Willingham might have had grounds to seek a new trial.” Read the full article in the Washington Post.

 The Innocence Project has filed a grievance against Jackson with the State Bar of Texas.  A press release from the organization states that “The grievance reveals newly discovered evidence that strongly suggests ethical and possible criminal misconduct by Jackson in covering up a deal with jailhouse informant Johnny Webb” and urges the Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas to take disciplinary action against him.

John Jackson provided a 250-word response to CNN with regard to some of the allegations against him (Texas ex-prosecutor denies wrongdoing in Willingham death penalty,” August 5, 2014).  He also provided a response to the Corsicana Sun.

The Dallas Morning News comments on these latest allegations in “Editorial: Allegations against prosecutor in arson case must be examined,” calling the Willingham case “a symbol of Texas justice, with its many faults and excesses.”

Continue Reading

17 February 2014 ~ Comments Off

It’s Time for Answers in the Willingham Case

Ten years ago today – February 17, 2004 – Cameron Todd Willingham was executed by the State of Texas despite compelling evidence of his innocence. Willingham was put to death for the 1991 arson murder of his three young daughters in Corsicana.  His case continues to be shrouded in doubt and controversy, as every fire expert who has examined the case since the time of his conviction has concluded that the evidence does not support the finding of arson.  The tragic deaths of Willingham’s children were likely the result of a terrible accident, not a crime.

Last fall, relatives for Cameron Todd Willingham, working with the Innocence Project, filed an amended petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking the state to posthumously pardon him.  Family members urged the state to conduct an investigation into Willingham’s wrongful execution based on newly discovered evidence that points to possible false testimony at his trial and possible prosecutorial misconduct.

Take action today! Through the Innocence Project, you can write to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry and ask them to conduct an investigation into Cameron Todd Willingham’s execution.  The Willingham family should not have to wait another 10 years for answers.

If you have not watched “Incendiary,” a compelling documentary about the Willingham case and its treatment by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, you can download it from iTunes or request a copy on loan from TCADP.

Read more about Cameron Todd Willingham here.

Continue Reading

27 September 2013 ~ Comments Off

Cameron Todd Willingham’s Surviving Relatives, Joined by Exoneree Michael Morton, Request Posthumous Pardon Investigation

REPOST of Press Release from the Innocence Project:  Newly Discovered Evidence Points to Possible False Testimony at Willingham’s Trial and Possible Prosecutorial Misconduct that May Have Contributed to His Wrongful Execution

(Austin, TX; September 27, 2013) – Relatives for Cameron Todd Willingham were joined by exoneree Michael Morton at a press conference at the Texas capitol today to urge the state to conduct an investigation into Willingham’s wrongful execution.  Last year, Willingham’s family filed a posthumous pardon petition before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that the state pardon Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three daughters despite compelling evidence of his innocence.  The Innocence Project filed an amended petition today on behalf of the Willingham family presenting newly discovered evidence that points to possible false testimony at his trial and possible prosecutorial misconduct that may have contributed to his wrongful execution.

“Todd’s dying wish was that we help clear his name, and we can’t let this go until the state acknowledges the grave injustice that Todd suffered,” said Eugenia Willingham, Willingham’s stepmother. Patricia Willingham Cox, Willingham’s cousin added, “The more we learn about Todd’s case, the more we see how tragically the system failed him.  The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has the power to finally conduct a thorough investigation into his case, and we urge it to do so for the sake of all Texans who deserve a clemency system that values justice over mere finality.”

Following the press conference, exoneree Michael Morton walked with Willingham’s surviving relatives to deliver a letter to Gov. Perry asking for a meeting with him to explain why a hearing is needed.  A copy of the letter is available at www.innocenceproject.org/willingham.

“There are only two mistakes one can make on the road to truth:  not going all the way and not starting,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “The reason an investigation is so critical in this case isn’t to affix blame on Gov. Perry or any one individual.  Everyone has responsibility if not for making errors then for failing to detect them.”

Willingham was at home with his three daughters when his home in Corsicana burned to the ground on the morning of December 23, 1991. He managed to escape, but his children did not survive.  He always maintained his innocence but was convicted of arson murder in 1992 based largely on the testimony of the Assistant Fire Chief Douglas Fogg and the Texas Fire Marshal Manuel R. Vasquez who testified that there was evidence that the fire had been intentionally set. In the days leading up to Willingham’s execution, his attorneys sent Governor Rick Perry and the court a report from Gerald Hurst, a nationally recognized arson expert, saying that Willingham’s conviction was based on erroneous forensic analysis. Documents obtained by the Innocence Project show that state officials received that report in advance of his execution date.  Yet despite Hurst’s report, Willingham was executed and pronounced dead on February 17, 2004 at 6:20 pm.

The only other evidence linking Willingham to the fire was the testimony of a jailhouse informant, Johnny Webb, who claimed that Willingham told him within earshot of several law enforcement employees that he committed the crime to protect his wife who had injured or killed one of the children the night before. Prior to Willingham’s execution, Webb acknowledged in a handwritten “motion to recant” that he lied about the confessions, stating “I was forced [sic] to testify against Willingham by the D.A.s [sic] office and other officials.  I was made to lie.  Willingham is innocent of all charges.”  Notations on the motion indicate that it was provided in 2000 to then Judge John Jackson, who had been the lead prosecutor in the Willingham’s case.  But this motion does not appear to have been filed in either Willingham’s or Webb’s case file.  Further, no one representing Willingham was told about this recantation.  Although the Navarro County District Attorney’s Office was aware of the recantation, the District Attorney’s office continued to rely on Webb’s testimony in the hours leading up to Willingham’s execution, claiming that the report submitted by Hurst, which stated that the fire testimony was scientifically invalid, was irrelevant because Willingham had confessed to Webb.

“It is especially troubling that officials in Navarro County continued to rely on the testimony of Johnny Webb even after the district attorney’s office knew that he had recanted,” said Gerry Goldstein of Goldstein, Goldstein & Hilley.

At trial, Webb and then prosecutor Jackson assured the jury that Webb expected nothing in return for his testimony. But newly discovered evidence contradicts these assurances, and Jackson appears to have assisted Webb in dealings with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for years after the trial.   In a 1996 letter to a prison official, Jackson wrote that he was sorry to bring up another Johnny Webb problem, indicating that he had intervened on Webb’s behalf before.

Other new evidence also points to possible efforts by Jackson and the Navarro County authorities to reduce Webb’s sentence. Roughly five years after Willingham’s trial, the Navarro County District Attorney, the District Judge, and the Navarro County Sheriff asked the Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Webb’s sentence from 15 years to 5 years.  Although the letters told the Board that the request was based on new information from the victim, Jackson told a prison warden in a letter addressing a problem Webb was having with his property that the commutation was in connection with a capital murder case.  Around the same time, Jackson obtained an amendment to the aggravated robbery judgment that reduced the charge from the first degree felony of aggravated robbery to the second degree crime of simple robbery.  Although Jackson explained this change in a 1996 letter to the Board of Pardons and Paroles as based on a review of the Navarro County records and those of Webb’s criminal defense lawyer, all of the public documents relating to Webb’s case indicate that he was charged and pled guilty to the first degree felony of aggravated robbery.  When asked at Willingham’s trial, Webb clearly testified that he had been convicted of an aggravated offense.

“In recent years, our state has made great strides in heeding the lessons learned from wrongful convictions,” said Sen. Rodney Eillis (Dist. 13), who is also Chair of the Innocence Project’s Board of Directors.  “But the Willingham case remains a powerful reminder of how much more needs to be done to restore public’s trust in the system.”

After Willinghams’s execution, the Innocence Project asked the then newly formed Texas Forensic Science Commission to investigate Willingham’s case and the case of Ernest Willis who was convicted based on similarly flawed evidence but later exonerated for the arson murder that put him on death row.  During the course of that multi-year investigation, nine of the nation’s leading arson scientists reviewed the evidence in Willingham case and all agreed that the original testimony of the fire investigators was based on outdated arson science. A summary of these findings is available at http://www.innocenceproject.org/willingham.The Commission was ultimately barred by the Texas Attorney General from making a finding on whether the state was negligent in the wrongful execution of Willingham, however the Commission acknowledged that unreliable arson science facilitated Willingham’s conviction and recommended that the state conduct a review to determine if there are other people in Texas prisons who were wrongly convicted based on bad arson science.

A copy of the petition filed today, a summary of the scientific reports and a timeline of the case is available at www.innocenceproject.org/willingham.

In addition to Scheck and Goldstein, the lawyers representing Willingham’s family include Innocence Project Staff Attorney Bryce Benjet, Daniel Greenberg, Robert J. Ward and Meghan M. Breen of Schulte Roth & Zabel, and Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service.

##

Continue Reading

03 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

December 2012 Alert: Announcing the 2013 Award Winners and Annual Conference Panelists, the Year-End Report, and More!

In This Edition:
Scheduled Executions
Announcements  – Including Conference Panelists!
Upcoming Events
In the News
Calendar

Executions

The State of Texas executed 15 people this year. Five executions already have been scheduled for 2013.

Announcements

TCADP Announces Annual Award Winners!

The TCADP Board of Directors is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2013 TCADP Annual Awards.  These individuals and organizations will be recognized at the TCADP 2013 Annual Conference – Changing the Conversation – on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.  Please make plans to join us in celebrating these extraordinary individuals and organizations!

AppreciationJC Dufresne, who played an instrumental role in the Texas Democratic Party’s decision to endorse abolition of the death penalty in its 2012 Platform.

Appreciation: Methodist Federation for Social Action-Southwest Texas Chapter, for their years of involvement and ongoing contributions to the abolition movement.

Media: Joe Bailey, Jr. and Steve Mims (pictured), Filmmakers of “Incendiary”, a documentary about the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 despite serious flaws in the forensic science used to convict him and doubts about his guilt.

Read more about the winners.

We invite individuals and organizations to place an ad in the conference program to promote your work and congratulate the award winners.  We also invite you to exhibit at the conference, or sponsor a table at the awards luncheon. Download  Exhibitor – Advertiser Form.

In addition to the annual awards luncheon, the conference will feature a plenary session on how instances of wrongful convictions and evidence of wrongful executions are changing the conversation on the death penalty. Confirmed panelists are:

  • Karen Boudrie, an award-winning journalist, news director, and public relations consultant who covered the trial of Carlos DeLuna in Corpus Christi in 1983 and was the last person to speak with him before his wrongful execution in 1989;
  • Anthony Graves, a motivational speaker and legal consultant who spent 12.5 years on death row before being exonerated in 2010; and
  • Professor James Liebman, Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law, and the lead author of Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution

 

Pre-register for the conference today and book your hotel by February 1!  Special rates are available for TCADP members and students.

Coming Soon: TCADP’s Year-End Report – Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012

What Texas County accounts for the most death sentences in the last five years? Who received stays of execution in 2012? What U.S. Supreme Court cases are impacting death row inmates in Texas? All of these questions will be addressed in TCADP’s forthcoming annual report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review. More details will be sent to you the week of December 10. Previous reports are available online.

Remember TCADP in Your Year-End Giving!

Check your mailboxes for TCADP’s year-end appeal, which includes reflections on another momentous year for our movement to end the death penalty. We are grateful for the contributions that so many of you have made already this year and ask for your additional support so that TCADP can continue to engage the citizens of Texas – and our elected officials – in the conversation about the death penalty. Save a stamp by making an end-of-the-year, tax-deductible donation today using our secure online system! Thank you for your support and generosity.

Complete a TCADP Member Survey Today!

Thank you so much for completing this survey for TCADP.  This information, which will be kept confidential, will help us better respond to the needs of our supporters and also utilize your gifts to further our mission of ending the death penalty.

The survey is online at  www.tcadp.org/member-survey/. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete. If you have any questions or comments, please be in touch with the TCADP office at 512-441-1808 or info@tcadp.org.

Upcoming Events

December 4: A  Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Dallas Faith Leaders
On Tuesday, December 4 at 7 PM at Paul Quinn College in South Dallas, Dallas area faith leaders will join together for an in-depth conversation about faith and the death penalty. Learn who is coming, RSVP today for your free tickets, and download a flier for sharing and posting!

Fundraiser for The Last 40 Miles

On December 12, 2012, a group of filmmakers in Austin will premiere the trailer for their animated short, The Last 40 Miles, which follows a Texas death row inmate on his final journey from death row in Livingston to the execution chamber in Huntsville. A fundraising event will take place at the Palm Door event center, 401 Sabine St., Austin, Texas at 7 PM. For more information, go to www.40milesmovie.com.

In the News

110 Nations Endorse Abolition

On November 19, 2012, a record 110 countries voted in support of a resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty during a committee meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. This was up from 107 votes in favor of the resolution two years ago, the last time the UN considered it. Among the 39 countries that voted in opposition to the non-binding resolution are the United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria, and Zimbabwe. Thirty-six countries abstained. Read more from the UN.

Calendar

December

1 Death Row Holiday Card Write-a-thon, SMU Dallas, 11:00-4:00, dallas@tcadp.org

4 “A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty with Dallas Faith Leaders” Paul Quinn College, Dallas, 7:00pm  RSVP for free tickets today!

6 TCADP Table at Dallas Peace Center Annual Peacemakers Dinner

7 30th Anniversary of the Resumption of Executions in Texas

10 International Human Rights Day

12 Release of TCADP’s Annual Report (scheduled)

17 El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7 PM, St Piux X Catholic Church, elpaso@tcadp.org

19 Dallas Religious Organizing committee 6:00pm, Chapter meeting 7:00pm, dallas@tcadp.org

January

8 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature Convenes at Noon

February

1 Last Day to Receive TCADP Annual Conference Registration Early Bird Rates; Last Day to Book Block Rate Hotel rooms for TCADP Annual Conference

 

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

TCADP is on Facebook – become a Fan today!  On Twitter, follow us!  And on LinkedIn – Join Us!

Continue Reading

01 June 2012 ~ Comments Off

June 2012 Alert: On the Road to Abolition, Abundant Evidence of Wrongful Convictions/Executions, and More!

n this monthly alert, you will find opportunities to get involved on the local level and recent death penalty developments. We encourage you to attend upcoming events and become a TCADP member today. Thank you for joining us as we seize the momentum to end the death penalty once and for all!

In This Edition:

Scheduled Executions
Upcoming Events
Recent News
Announcements
Calendar

Executions

There are no executions scheduled to take place in Texas this month.

On July 18, 2012, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Yokamon Hearn, who was convicted in Dallas County of the 1998 carjacking and murder of Frank Meziere.

Update on Anthony Bartee (granted stay of execution on May 2, 2012):
According to a recent article in the San Antonio Express-News (“Decision adds to scrutiny of death penalty cases,” May 26, 2012), DNA testing has been conducted on drinking glasses and cigarettes collected at the crime scene: “Last week the Bexar County crime lab’s testing found on the evidence the DNA
of three people – two men and one woman so far unidentified. The results will now be sent through the state and federal databases. As prosecutors hunt for DNA matches, the civil rights case lingers in federal court.” Read more from the Express-News.

Upcoming Events

For anyone attending the Texas State Democratic Convention this week at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, please stop by the TCADP information table – booth #119 in the Exhibitors’ Hall E, close to the registration counters. We also invite delegates to attend a workshop on “Progress Towards Repealing the Death Penalty in Texas,” which we are hosting from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Friday, June 8, in Room 360 ABC.   The workshop will feature remarks from death row exonoree Anthony Graves and State Representative Jessica Farrar, among other friends. For more information about the convention, contact Kristin at khoule@tcadp.org.

Recent News
Additional Coverage of the Wrongful Execution of Carlos DeLuna

Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, which provides the most compelling evidence to date that the State of Texas executed an innocent man, continues to generate significant attention. For a good overview of the case of Carlos DeLuna, who was executed in 1989, read an opinion piece by the author of the study, James S. Liebman, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times on June 1, 2012 (“You can’t fix the death penalty”) or watch a short piece by PBS NewsHour (“Carlos DeLuna Case: the Fight to Prove an Innocent Man Was Executed,” May 24, 2012).   Also worth reading is an editorial by the Houston Chronicle, which cites the DeLuna case in affirming its call for the abolition of the death penalty (“Death penalty perils,” May 24, 2012).

For more background information on Carlos DeLuna, visit www.thewrongcarlos.net. Visit TCADP for information on other wrongful executions and wrongful convictions.

First-of-its-kind National Registry of Exonerations

On May 21, 2012, the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law released the National Registry of Exonerations, which documents 894 exonerations since 1989. Of these, 89 occurred in Texas, the second-highest number of exonerations among all states. Read more on the TCADP blog and visit the Registry for a list of all Texas exonerations and other details.

Ever wish you were a fly on the wall?

The June issue of Texas Monthly magazine features a fascinating roundtable discussion that took place recently among some of the most pivotal players in our state’s criminal justice system. Texas Monthly sat down with six individuals – a police chief, a district attorney, a special prosecutor, a death row exonoree, a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and a State Senator – to talk about Texas’ abysmal record of wrongful convictions. Read more from the TCADP blog.  (At this time, the online article is only available for subscribers; you can pick up a copy of Texas Monthly from your local newsstand or bookstore.)

Reposted From the Death Penalty Information Center:

Public Finds Death Penalty Less Morally Acceptable in New Gallup Survey
Posted: May 31, 2012

Gallup recently released its Values and Beliefs survey regarding American moral views on a variety of social issues.  The results revealed a significant decline in the percentage of the public that finds the death penalty “morally acceptable.”  This year, only 58% of respondents said the death penalty is morally acceptable, down from 65% last year.   (Click on graph to enlarge.)This marks the lowest approval rating for capital punishment since this survey was first administered 12 years ago. Among Democrats, only 42% found the death penalty morally acceptable.  Generally, support for the death penalty falls below 50% when the public is offered alternative punishments.  In 2010, Gallup asked which is the better punishment for murder: the death penalty or life in prison without parole?  Less than half (49%) chose the death penalty, while 46% chose life without parole.

Read more

 

Announcements

Help Expand TCADP’s Base of Support

Over the next six weeks, TCADP will sponsor information tables at 11 different conventions and festivals across the state, through which we have the potential to reach close to 50,000 people! The cost of participation ranges from $50 to $1,000 in registration fees, staff travel, and printed materials for distribution. These events are vital to our efforts to identify new supporters and raise awareness of the flaws and failures of the Texas death penalty system.   Your donation of $50 or $100 today will underwrite these expenses and advance our ongoing outreach and educational programs!

Austin Area: Month of Faith in Action

If you belong to a faith community in Austin, please talk to your clergy about joining TCADP for our Month of Faith in Action to promote dialogue about the death penalty in Texas. There has never been a more important time for people of faith to engage in education and action on the death penalty, and to take a leadership role in speaking out against this culture of violence and vengeance.

We are encouraging congregations to hold activities and events in solidarity with each other September 15 to October 14, however, you are welcome to schedule an event any time in the year that accommodates your calendar. The Month of Faith in Action will culminate in an interfaith gathering and presentation by Sr. Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, on Friday, October 12, 2012 at St. Edward’s University.

Possible activities include:

  • Distribute information on the death penalty, in keeping with your faith tradition’s perspective on the issue;
  • Collect signatures of support as part of our “Count Me In” campaign;
  • Hear testimony from a murder victim’s family member, exonerated death row inmate, or other speaker;
  • Show a film followed by a discussion (TCADP staff/ volunteers can be available to help facilitate if you wish);
  • Talk with fellow clergy about the death penalty at clergy breakfasts or other professional gatherings.

Printed materials, speakers, films, and discussion guides are available to you at no cost from TCADP. We are happy to work with you on developing a program that fits your needs and capacity. To learn more or to request resources go to: http://tcadp.org/faith-community-event-sign-up/ (under Programs, click on “Religious Outreach”) or call the TCADP office at 512-441-1808.

Calendar

June

3 Odessa Chapter Meeting, 4:00pm, odessa@tcadp.org

3-5 North Texas UMC Annual Conference, Dallas

6 TX UMC Annual Conference—Witness to Innocence, Houston

7-10 SWTX UMC Annual Conference, Corpus Christi

7-10 LULAC Conference, San Marcos*

8-9 Democratic State Convention, Houston

9 San Antonio Pridefest*

14-16 Rio Grande UMC Annual Conference, San Antonio*

15-16 Texas Black Expo, Houston*

16 Soul Food Fest, Grand Prairie

20 Dallas Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm, dallas@tcadp.org

20-21 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, Fort Worth*

23 Houston Pridefest*

25 El Paso Chapter Meeting, 6:00pm, elpaso@tcadp.org

26-July 2 Starving for Justice:  Death Penalty Fast and Vigil Supreme Court Steps, Washington, D.C.

July

7-12 NAACP National Convention, Houston*

18 Scheduled Execution: Yokamon Hearn

TCADP will staff an information booth at all events marked with a star.  For more information about these events or to volunteer, or to help staff a table, email info@tcadp.org.

TCADP is on Facebook – become a Fan today!  On Twitter, follow us!  And on LinkedIn – Join Us!

Continue Reading

25 May 2012 ~ 1 Comment

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Death penalty perils

This week, the Houston Chronicle affirmed its call for the abolition of the death penalty in an editorial focused on the wrongful execution of Carlos DeLuna (“Death penalty perils,” May 24, 2012).  Here are excerpts:

We have noted before, as have other observers, that the death penalty in Texas is all too often plagued by errors and failings, and defendants, whether guilty or innocent, have most likely been executed on the strength of faulty evidence. We concluded therefore that rather than risk executing an innocent person, we should abolish the death penalty.
Last week, we were confronted by compelling evidence that in all likelihood, the unthinkable had happened and the state of Texas had indeed executed an innocent man: Carlos DeLuna, put to death in 1989 for the stabbing death of Wanda Lopez at a Corpus Christi convenience store.

The editorial ends with this call for Texas to follow the lead of other states in repealing the death penalty:

Texas has made significant changes in the past few years, one of them being the adoption of a life without parole sentencing option in capital cases. This in itself takes away a major incentive for the death sentence. But the fact is, we can never rule out human failings and errors. We need to follow the example of a growing number of states and repeal our death penalty law. Its risks far outweigh its benefits.

Read the full editorial.

Also, watch this wonderful PBS NewsHour piece on the DeLuna case, which includes an interview with Columbia University Law Professor Jim Liebman: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/jan-june12/deathpenalty_05-24.html

Continue Reading

23 May 2012 ~ Comments Off

Texas Monthly: Trials and Errors

The June issue of Texas Monthly magazine features a fascinating discussion that took place recently among some of the most pivotal players in our state’s criminal justice system.  Jake Silverstein, the editor of Texas Monthly, sat down with six individuals to talk about Texas’ abysmal record of wrongful convictions and to ask these questions: Why does this keep happening? Can anything be done to stop it?

The six participants in the panel discussion are:

Art Acevedo has been the chief of the Austin Police Department since 2007.

Rodney Ellis was elected to the state Senate in 1990 from District 13, in Houston.

Anthony Graves was wrongfully convicted in 1992 and released from jail in 2010. He lives in Houston.

Barbara Hervey is a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals and the chair of the court’s fourteen-member Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit. She lives in San Antonio.

Kelly Siegler is a special prosecutor. She lives in Houston.

Craig Watkins is the DA of Dallas County and a former defense attorney.

See what they have to say at http://www.texasmonthly.com/2012-06-01/feature2.php.

 

Continue Reading

17 May 2012 ~ Comments Off

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Carlos DeLuna death case is unnerving

A new editorial published yesterday by the Dallas Morning News (“Carlos DeLuna death case is unnerving, “May 16, 2012) comments on the new investigation into his wrongful execution, noting that “the findings should nauseate those who trust that only the greatest care, the most professional police work, the most rigorous jury and appellate review take place before someone is strapped to the gurney and allowed one last say.”

The editors also note the fact that while a majority of Americans (61% according to the latest Gallup poll) say they support the death penalty, a strong majority also believe that an innocent person has been executed.  They ask whether the case of Carlos DeLuna might address that dichotomy.  Here’s an excerpt from the editorial:

A bizarre reality is imbedded in the public’s attitudes toward the death penalty: Most Americans support it, yet most also allow for the possibility that innocent people can or have been executed.

This suggests one of two things. Either the nation is callous to the idea of fatal error, which we pray is not the truth, or there’s never been a case that has sufficiently aroused the public by putting a face on an innocent victim of a state death chamber.

Could that have changed this week?

Read the full editorial.

Also read this editorial from the New York Times: “A Routine Execution in Texas,” May 15, 2012.

Continue Reading