Update: On February 22, 2018, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has accepted the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommendation of clemency for Thomas Whitaker, who was scheduled to be executed in Huntsville just 30 minutes from now. It is the first such commutation in Texas since 2007. Whitaker will now serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On Tuesday, February 20, 2018, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to recommend clemency for Thomas Whitaker. It is an exceptionally rare decision for the Board, whose members are appointed by the Governor.
Since 1982, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has recommended clemency in only four cases involving imminent execution. Texas Governor Rick Perry rejected two of those recommendations and allowed the executions to proceed.
The State of Texas was scheduled to execute Thomas Whitaker on Thursday, February 22, 2018. He was sentenced to death for his role in the murders of his mother and younger brother in 2003.
Christopher Brashear killed Patricia Whitaker and Kevin Whitaker as they returned to their home in Fort Bend County. Thomas Whitaker’s father, Kent Whitaker, also was shot but survived the ambush.
Brashear received a life sentence. The other accomplice, Steven Champagne, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Thomas Whitaker allegedly arranged the murders in order to receive an inheritance.
Kent Whitaker is seeking a life sentence for his son. From the beginning, he has asked that Thomas Whitaker not be put to death. No one in the family wants Thomas Whitaker to be executed.
Thomas Whitaker’s attorneys have asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Abbott to commute his sentence to a lesser penalty in light of his father’s wishes and in the interest of mercy.
UPDATE: On October 18, 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution of Clinton Young to consider his claim that false or misleading testimony was introduced at his trial.
The State of Texas was scheduled to execute Clinton Lee Young on Thursday, October 26, 2017. He was sentenced to death in Midland County for the 2001 murders of Doyle Douglas and Samuel Petrey. Although there were several individuals involved in the case, Young, who was only 18 at the time of the crime, was the only one sentenced to death. All of the other men testified against him.
The reliability of the co-defendants’ testimony is highly questionable, especially that of David Page. In 2015, Page said in an affidavit that prosecutors told him, “You help us and we’ll help you.” In 2002, he failed a polygraph test regarding his level of involvement in the shootings.
David Page’s testimony is also the only evidence identifying Clinton Young as the person who shot Samuel Petrey. New gunshot residue testing confirms that the gloves worn by Page were used to fire the gun at Mr. Petrey. Page pled guilty in 2003 to aggravated kidnapping in return for a 30-year sentence.
Visit www.saveclintyoung.com to learn more about Clinton Young and to watch videos about his case (3-minute and 28-minute versions).
Robert Pruett was executed on October 12, 2017, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his two remaining appeals. Pruett steadfastly maintained his innocence of the 1999 murder of Corrections Officer Daniel Nagle.
This case bears many of the hallmarks of wrongful convictions: no physical evidence tied Pruett to the crime scene; unreliable informant testimony was used against him, and untested evidence leaves unanswered questions.
Robert Pruett also experienced horrific childhood abuse; in fact, it was the actions of his violent father that led to his original incarceration at the age of 15, when he was sentenced to 99 years in prison under Texas’ law of parties for his involvement in a murder committed by his father.
UPDATE: On April 7, 2017, Paul Storey was granted a stay by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
“Paul Storey’s execution will not bring our son back, will not atone for the loss of our son and will not bring comfort or closure.”
Those are the powerful words of Glenn and Judy Cherry, whose son Jonas Cherry was killed at a Putt-Putt Golf and Games in Hurst, Texas in 2006. One of the men convicted of his senseless and tragic death – Paul Storey – faces execution by the State of Texas on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. The Cherrys have signed an affidavit and made an appeal by video asking state and Tarrant County officials to stop the execution and commute Storey’s sentence to life in prison without parole.
UPDATE: On December 2, 2016, John Battaglia was granted a stay by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
John Battaglia, 61, is scheduled to be executed in Texas on 7 December. He was sentenced to death for killing his two young daughters in 2001. Three psychologists have concluded that a delusional disorder renders him incompetent for execution. On 18 November, a Texas judge ruled that he is feigning mental illness and can be executed.
Bernardo Aban Tercero
UPDATE: On August 25, 2015, Bernardo Tercero was granted a stay due to false testimony. For more information on his case, please click here.
There is an ongoing petition by Bianca Jagger to support clemency for Bernardo Tercero. Click here to sign.
Bernardo Aban Tercero, a Nicaraguan national, was scheduled to be executed in Texas on August 26th for a murder committed in 1997. The poor quality of the legal representation he received at trial and during state-level appeals is at the center of his clemency bid.
Anthony Doyle was executed on Thursday, March 27, 2014 for the murder of 37-year-old Hyun Mi Cho in January 2003. He was 93 days past his 18th birthday at the time of the crime. The victim was delivering food to Doyle’s family home in Rowlett (Dallas County) when he demanded money from her and then hit her with a baseball bat. He then hid her body and stole her phone, credit cards, and car.
According to an Urgent Action issued by Amnesty International, Doyle told police that he had intended to rob the delivery person so that he could support his three-week-old daughter. Psychologists testified at trial that Doyle had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and “was not physiologically or neurologically mature enough to inhibit emotions, restrain impulsive acts or consider options.” Read more about Doyle’s case from Amnesty International.
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons that it is unconstitutional to impose the death penalty on offenders below the age of 18 due to that age group’s impulsiveness, poor judgment, peer pressure, and underdeveloped sense of responsibility. While the court ruled that a line had to be drawn somewhere, it noted that the “qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18.”
Suzanne Basso was executed February 5, 2014 for the 1998 murder of Louis “Buddy” Musso. Basso was convicted in 1999 in Harris County. Prosecutors accused her of luring Musso, an intellectually disabled man, to Texas after meeting Basso and her son, J.D. O’Malley in New Jersey. Five co-defendants, including O’Malley, were convicted of playing a role in the murder.
Attorneys for Suzanne Basso failed to present any mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of her trial and conducted virtually no investigation into her background. Had they done so, they would have uncovered pervasive evidence of her impoverished and abusive childhood, including sexual abuse at the hands of relatives. The jury also did not hear about Basso’s long history of delusional thinking and mental illness.
Anthony Haynes was scheduled to be executed in Texas on October 18 for the murder of an off-duty police officer committed when he was 19 years old. Claims of racial discrimination, inadequate legal representation and judicial misconduct have marked the case. During jury selection, the presiding judge was cleaning guns. Anthony received a stay of execution.
On July 18, 2012, the State of Texas executed Yokamon Hearn, who was convicted in Dallas County of the 1998 carjacking and murder of Frank Meziere. He was the only person among the four young men charged with this crime to receive the death penalty.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeals. Hearn’s appeals argued his mental disabilities disqualified him from execution. There were also concerns raised that he had deficient legal help early in his case and that conflicting court opinions hampered filing of late appeals.
The 33-year-old Hearn was the first inmate in Texas executed by injection with a single lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital.
Amnesty International USA developed an online action through which people could send a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry, urging clemency for Yokamon Hearn.
On May 2, 2012, Anthony Bartee was again scheduled for execution by the State of Texas, even though DNA testing ordered recently by State District Judge Mary Román had not been completed or analyzed.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to overturn the stay of execution granted earlier on Wednesday to Anthony Bartee. This effectively allowed the execution date of May 2, 2012 to expire, and Bartee was removed from the holding cell at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas. Late in the day, his attorneys filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Bexar County District Attorney’s office, charging them with violating Bartee’s civil rights by denying access to post-conviction DNA testing. A federal judge in San Antonio, acting on the lawsuit, granted Bartee the reprieve. According to the Associated Press, “a 5th Circuit panel reviewing the case said it wanted more information but put off a ruling Wednesday night. If the court eventually rules against Bartee, it could be another couple of months before he is set to die.”
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.
Additional Background and Talking Points for Letters to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott
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.
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.
Anthony Bartee, scheduled for execution on February 28, 2012 had his date withdrawn.
On February 28, 2012, Anthony Bartee may be put to death by the State of Texas, even though the Bexar County Criminal Investigation Laboratory still has not tested pieces of DNA evidence that were collected from the crime scene. Even after being ordered to test this evidence by Trial Judge Mary Román, neither the Bexar County crime lab nor the DPS lab in Austin have 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.
Mark Stroman was executed on July 20 for killing Indian immigrant Vasudev Patel in a series of shootings of people he believed to be Middle Eastern after the attacks of September 11, 2001. One of his intended victims, Rais Bhuiyan, survived and opposed the execution.
Humberto Leal was executed on July 7, 2011 for the 1994 rape and murder of Adria Sauceda in San Antonio. He protested his innocence of these crimes. At his trial, Mr. Leal was represented by two inexperienced attorneys who failed to challenge the junk science used to convict him and failed to present powerful mitigating evidence that might have saved Mr. Leal’s life.
As a Mexican national, Mr. Leal was legally entitled to seek assistance from the Mexican consulate. Texas authorities failed to inform him of this right, which is afforded to him and to Americans who travel abroad, by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. If the government of Mexico had been informed of Mr. Leal’s arrest, he would have been provided with highly qualified and experienced legal counsel, as well as funding for necessary experts and investigators. Instead, he received grossly inadequate representation from two court-appointed attorneys, one of whom has been reprimanded or suspended from the practice of law on multiple occasions as a result of ethical violations.
A petition in support of his clemency was at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/save-humberto-leal/
Visit www.humbertoleal.org to access the clemency petition, letters of support, and case background.
Coverage of the case can be found on the TCADP blog: http://tcadp.org/blog/
Timothy Adams was executed by the State of Texas on Tuesday, February 22, 2011. The Board of Pardons and Parole voted 6 – 0 against clemency. He was convicted of killing his son while planning his own suicide in 2002. Members of his family, who are also the victim’s family members, his church community, and even three of the jurors from his trial are pleading with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to show mercy by commuting Adams’ sentence to life. Adams is deeply remorseful for his crime, for which he accepted responsibility right away.
Read a press release about the clemency petition filed on February 7 by his attorneys.
Read background information about Tim and this tragic case.
“Since the trial, I have learned new information that would have made me fight for Adams’s life…It would have been nice to hear from Adams’s family members and friends, because it would have shown many of the jurors that he was not a monster, that he was a good human being, who had done something horribly wrong but completely out of character…I do not believe that Timothy Adams deserves to die for his crime.”
Ngoc Duong, Juror
“I love my grandson and not a day goes by that I am not thinking of him. Our immediate family lives with this daily. And his dad does too….I know that Timothy has done a terrible thing, but I still love my son very much. I am asking that Timothy’s life be saved.”
Wilma Adams, Mother of Tim Adams