02 February 2015 ~ Comments Off on TCADP’s February 2015 Alert: Execution updates; advocacy opportunities; and the 2015 Annual Conference

TCADP’s February 2015 Alert: Execution updates; advocacy opportunities; and the 2015 Annual Conference

In this edition:
Scheduled executions
TCADP 2015 Annual Conference: Pre-register by February 13th
84th Texas Legislature
Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty
In case you missed it
Welcome, Vanessa!

Scheduled executions 
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute two people this month:

  • Donald Newbury was serving a 99-year sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon when he and six other inmates broke out of the Connally Unit in 2000. He and his co-defendants robbed a sporting goods store at gunpoint, killing Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Two of the co-defendants have already been executed, one committed suicide, and three others remain on death row. Newbury was scheduled to be executed in February 2012, but was spared by the U.S. Supreme Court.  His execution is scheduled for February 4, 2015.
  • After thirty years on death row, Lester Bower Jr. is scheduled to be executed on February 10, 2015. Bower was convicted of the shooting deaths of four men at an ultra-light airplane hangar near Sherman in 1983. He was sentenced to death in Grayson County in 1984, making him one of the longest serving inmates on Texas death row. Bower, a former chemical salesman with no prior criminal history, has consistently maintained his innocence.

Attend a vigil in your community on the day of executions. Information and updates on these cases will be available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter.

At least eight additional executions are scheduled to take place in Texas by the end of May.

TCADP 2015 Annual Conference: Register by February 13th
Register today for TCADP’s 2015 Annual Conference – Death Penalty Fault Lines: A Seismic Shift in Ground. The conference will take place on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin.  Go online to pre-register.  (Note: Rates will increase after February 13th).

If you can’t join us for the full day, consider attending the awards luncheon and keynote address by former District Attorney Tim Cole.  You won’t want to miss it!

Also, please note that anyone wishing to place an ad in the conference program, reserve an exhibitor table, or sponsor a table at the awards luncheon must do so by this Friday, February 6th.

84th Texas Legislature
During the 84th Texas Legislature, which convened on January 13th, TCADP again will work to repeal the death penalty and engage in dialogue with elected officials about the flaws and failures of our state’s capital punishment system. Stay tuned for updates on the abolition bill, which will be filed soon by State Representative Jessica Farrar (District 148-Houston).  If you have questions about our legislative agenda, please contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle at khoule@tcadp.org.

Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty
TCADP is excited to announce our first-ever “Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty,” which we are organizing in partnership with Texas Impact, the oldest and largest statewide interfaith network. On Monday, March 9, 2015, TCADP and Texas Impact will hold a press conference at the State Capitol to release an Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty, which has been endorsed by more than 500 faith leaders across Texas (there’s still time to sign if you haven’t done so already!).  Participants then will meet with legislators to voice their concerns about the death penalty.  Learn more and RSVP today.

We also encourage all faith leaders to download “The Death Penalty in Texas: A study guide for Texas faith communities,” which was published recently by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy. The guide includes discussion questions, faith statements on the death penalty, and resources for faith and lay leaders.

In case you missed it
Who qualifies as intellectually disabled?
On January 29, the State of Texas put Robert Ladd to death in spite of evidence of his intellectual disabilities.  His attorneys argued that his IQ of 67 should have prohibited his execution in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia.  A new article from Maurice Chammah and Dana Goldstein with The Marshall Project, “The Life-or-Death Test,” examines the history and science of IQ testing and its use in determining whether certain individuals should be exempt from execution.

Record number of exonerations in 2014
The National Registry of Exonerations recorded 125 exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in 2014, according to a new report it released on January 27, 2015.  It was the first time the Registry found more than 100 exonerations in one year.  Texas led all states with 39 exonerations; this included 33 exonerations in drug cases in Harris County.

No doubt for former Supreme Court Justice that Texas executed an innocent man
Last month during a lecture at the University of Florida, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens declared evidence proved “beyond a shadow of doubt” that Texas executed an innocent man, Carlos DeLuna, in 1989.  The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, a book and website by Columbia Law School Professor James S. Liebman, catalogues in minute detail everything that went wrong in DeLuna’s case. Watch Justice Stevens’ remarks in this video (his comments about the DeLuna case begin at 56:00).

Welcome, Vanessa!
TCADP is thrilled to announce that we have hired Vanessa Akins as our new Communications Coordinator. Vanessa, a 2009 graduate of St. Edward’s University, has been volunteering in our office since May and is a critical member of our 2015 Conference Committee.  Her job responsibilities will include maintaining TCADP’s website and social media platforms and producing internal and external communications.   You can reach her at Vanessa@tcadp.org.

Save the date for Amplify Austin, 6 PM March 5th to 6 PM March 6th!  More details coming soon!

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08 August 2014 ~ Comments Off on Evidence undermines “pillar” of Cameron Todd Willingham conviction

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.”

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04 August 2014 ~ Comments Off on TCADP August 2014 Alert: Another look at two wrongful Texas executions

TCADP August 2014 Alert: Another look at two wrongful Texas executions

In this issue of TCADP’s August 2014 Alert:

Scheduled executions
Case updates
Re-examining wrongful executions
Summer 2014 Newsletter
In case you missed it

Scheduled executions and ongoing lethal injection debacle
No executions are scheduled to take place in Texas this month.  There currently are four executions scheduled in September and October and six in the first few months of 2015. Officials in Arizona were responsible for the nation’s third botched execution this year.  The execution of Joseph Wood on July 23 lasted for nearly two hours as he reportedly gasped and snorted on the gurney.  Arizona used the same combination of drugs – hydromorphone and midazolam – that led to Ohio’s botched execution of Dennis McGuire in January.  Records reveal that Wood was injected with 15 doses of the lethal drugs.

Like Arizona, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has shrouded our state’s lethal injection protocol in secrecy, refusing to identify the source of the drugs now used to carry out executions. In an interview last week,U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that death row inmates should have the right to know what drugs the state is using in executions.

For in-depth analysis of the controversy surrounding lethal injections, check out “Does it matter how a condemned man dies?” by Alex Hannaford, which appears in British GQ.

Case updates
Retired judges support appeal of Rodney Reed
On July 21, eight retired federal and state judges petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to accept an appeal from Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to be executed on January 14, 2015. Among them are Royal Ferguson of Texas, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Charles Baird, who served eight years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and four years as a state district judge in Austin. Read more.

Another look at two wrongful Texas executions
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.

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.”  The Innocence Project has filed a grievance against Jackson with the State Bar of Texas. Read the full article in the Washington Post.

Questions continue to haunt case of Carlos DeLuna 
From the moment of his arrest to the night of his execution just six and a half years later, Carlos DeLuna maintained his innocence in the 1983 murder of convenience store clerk Wanda Lopez in Corpus Christi.  A 2012 article in the Columbia University Human Rights Law Review shed new light on his case and sought to resolve whether Texas executed the wrong person for this brutal and senseless crime.  Cataloguing in minute detail everything that went wrong in DeLuna’s case, this groundbreaking study by Columbia Law School Professor James Liebman and a team of students is now available as a book, The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution.

The book and its accompanying website comprise one of the most comprehensive investigations into a criminal case in U.S. history.  It also provides compelling evidence of the identity of the real killer: Carlos Hernandez, a violent and dangerous man well known to law enforcement yet ridiculed by prosecutors as a “phantom” of DeLuna’s imagination during his trial.  As an editorial in theDallas Morning News observes, the wrongful execution of DeLuna “should haunt us still today.”

TCADP Summer 2014 Newsletter now available online
In the Summer 2014 issue of our quarterly newsletter, Seizing the Momentum, you’ll find commentary by contributor Rex Castle on why he (and you) should sit on a death penalty jury; reflections by Rev. Jeff Hood on his 200-mile pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin; and highlights of recent TCADP activities.  Page 3 lists exciting special events on the horizon, as well as ongoing opportunities for your involvement.  Download it now!

In case you missed it
Death penalty not reserved for “worst of the worst” according to new study
new study of 100 people executed in 2012 and 2013, published in The Hastings Law Journal, shows that the death penalty system has failed to identify and execute “the worst of the worst.”  According to researchers, the overwhelming majority of those executed had deficits of at least one kind, such as intellectual disability, severe mental illness, or severe childhood trauma. Professor Charles Ogletree summarizes the data in an opinion editorial that appeared in theWashington Post. View an infographic and coverage of the study.

California’s death penalty ruled unconstitutional
An unprecedented ruling last month by U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney held that California’s death penalty is so dysfunctional and arbitrary that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Vacating the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who has been on death row for almost 20 years, Judge Carney said the punishment cannot serve the purposes of deterrence or retribution when it is administered to a random few, decades after their sentencing.  Read the press release issued by our colleagues at Death Penalty Focus.

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17 February 2014 ~ Comments Off on It’s Time for Answers in the Willingham Case

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.

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15 May 2012 ~ Comments Off on New “Wrongful Execution” Webpage

New “Wrongful Execution” Webpage

In light of the developments in the Carlos Deluna case as highlighted on www.thewrongcarlos.net, TCADP has responded by creating a new Wrongful Execution webpage listing information on at least three known cases of probable wrongful execution:  Carlos DeLuna, Claude Jones, and Cameron Todd Willingham.

Learn more about these Texas cases and how you can get involved so their names are not forgotten.

http://tcadp.org/get-informed/wrongful-execution/

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