death penalty news—-TEXAS

April 30


Dallas man executed for rape-slaying

A Dallas man was executed Thursday evening for the rape-slaying of a woman
abducted while she was trying to make a call at a pay phone 10 years ago.

Derrick Lamone Johnson's mother became emotional as she entered the
witness chamber and saw her son strapped to the gurney. In a
matter-of-fact voice, Johnson told her, "Don't cry. It's my situation. I
got it. Hold tight. It's going to shine on the golden child." After
telling her he loved her, Johnson said, "That concludes the statement."

The victim's father and 2 sisters also were among witnesses. Johnson did
not acknowledge them.

9 minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow, he was pronounced dead at
6:23 p.m.

LaTausha Curry, 25, of Dallas, was robbed of less than $10, was driven
away in her car, raped, beaten with a 2-by-4 and suffocated with her own
blouse. Authorities determined the 1999 slaying was part of a 2-week crime
spree involving Johnson and a companion that left numerous women robbed or
raped from Dallas to south of Waco, some 100 miles away.

Lawyers for Johnson went to the U.S. Supreme Court to block the
punishment, contending Johnson was mentally disabled and ineligible for
execution under high court guidelines. About an hour before Johnson could
be taken to the death chamber, the high court turned down his request for
a reprieve and a review of his case.

In their appeals, attorneys argued Johnson's sentence should be commuted
to life, that he was the product of a difficult childhood where both his
parents were imprisoned for drug convictions, that he was beaten by
relatives who raised him, that he had a history of school suspensions and
expulsions beginning with the 6th grade and that IQ testing put him within
the range of what the courts have defined as mental retardation.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument earlier
Thursday, a day after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals turned Johnson

Greg Davis, a former Dallas County assistant district attorney who
prosecuted Johnson for capital murder, said he remembered the grief of
Curry's mother, who died not long after the trial.

"I remember her mother coming in and saying how she lost more than a
daughter," Davis said. "She said, 'I lost my best friend.' It did break
the mother's heart. I think this case ultimately killed her as well."

Several women who survived attacks from Johnson and a partner, Marcus
Maxwell, then 15, testified at Johnson's trial.

Maxwell, who was set to be tried as an adult, took a plea deal and is
serving 40 years in prison.

Johnson declined an interview request from The Associated Press but said
he was wrongly convicted and complained about his court-appointed defense
attorneys on a Web site devoted to death row inmates.

"That's a real shock," Wayne Huff, one of Johnson's trial lawyers, said

"The system is corrupt and there is no 'Justice' if you are of the low
class," Johnson wrote. "It is sad that if you are a poor man in the system
there is no justice for you."

In a confession to police, Johnson said he and Maxwell raped and killed
Curry, who worked as a security guard and had a 4-year-old child. He told
officers where to find her body in an overgrown part of a park in Dallas'
Oak Cliff area. His fingerprints were in her car and DNA tied him to her

After they killed Curry, records show the pair robbed a woman at a gas
station. Later, driving Curry's car, they rammed into another woman's car
in a carjacking attempt. That woman called police but Johnson and Maxwell
ran off.

Johnson was arrested 4 days later at his mother's apartment, Police found
bags of cocaine inside a hollowed-out pager he was carrying.

His mother was the only defense witness at his capital murder trial. She
testified he'd been raised by family members after she was sent to prison
with a 15-year drug sentence.

Records showed Johnson was arrested 2 years earlier for robbery, pleaded
guilty and received 10 years probation that included a stint in a boot
camp. He was released from the camp after 65 days for good behavior.

Johnson was among at least 6 Texas inmates with execution dates extending
into the summer. Scheduled to die next, on May 19, was Michael Lynn Riley,
50, condemned for the slaying of Winona Harris. The victim was stabbed
more than 23 years ago during the robbery of a convenience store in
Quitman, about 80 miles east of Dallas.

Capital punishment opponents from Amnesty International USA and the Texas
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty planned to gather for a 200-minute
vigil outside the criminal courthouse in Houston Thursday to mark what
soon will be the 200th execution of Perry's tenure. During Bush's 6 years
as governor, 157 executions were carried out in Texas.

On the Net: Derrick Johnson

Johnson becomes the 14th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 437th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. Johnson becomes the 198th condemned inmate to be put to
death in Texas since Rick Perry became Governor in 2001.

Johnson becomes the 24th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1160th overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Amnesty International Begins 200-Minute Vigil Against The Death Penalty

Amnesty International has just begun a 200-minute vigil outside the Harris
County Criminal Courthouse to protest the upcoming 200th execution under
Governor Rick Perry.

The original rally title, "Help Rick Perry Win The GOP Primary," was
apparently discarded.

But holding an anti-death-penalty vigil in Harris County? Why? We don't
execute people anymore. Well, at least not as much as we used to.

AI will also be issuing a report calling for Perry to commute the death
penalties of 2 inmates scheduled to die who they say are schizophrenic,
including one who ate his own eyeball in jail. (We don't want to guess
what his last meal request will be.)

Expect Perry to jump right on that.

But AI does make a good case that much of the rest of the country is
moving beyond the death penalty, for whatever reason.

"The state's cavalier attitude toward capital punishment is fast becoming
an anachronism in the rest of the United States," said Sue
Gunawardena-Vaughn, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign director for AIUSA.
"At a time when Texas' neighbor to the west has demonstrated considerable
leadership in abolishing the death penalty, Texas continues to execute
without mercy. The 200th execution is a macabre milestone that should give
pause to Gov. Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, who have
the power to chart a new course, rather than mindlessly following standard
operating procedure."

As to whether a "macarbe milestone" will ever affect Rick
Perry….probably not. But points for trying, AI.

(source: Richard Connelly, Houston Press)


Amnesty International USA Press Release

As Gov. Perry's 200th Execution Approaches, Amnesty International Report
Cites "Future Dangerousness" of Texas Capital Punishment

—- Racial Disparities, Inadequate Representation Revealed in Report; 200
the Largest Number of Executions Under One Governor in Modern U.S. History

As the 200th execution under Texas Gov. Rick Perry approaches – the
largest number of executions under one governor in modern U.S. history –
the state's death penalty system remains one that is fatally flawed and
not reserved for the so-called "worst of the worst," charged Amnesty
International (AI). This is in part due to "future dangerousness," a
capricious sentencing scheme that leaves "experts" and jurors to predict
whether a defendant will remain criminally violent, the human rights
organization reported today. The 200th execution is scheduled for June 2.

"Future dangerousness allows junk science and irrational fears based on
race, youth or mental illness to affect the outcome of death penalty
cases," said Jared Feuer, southern regional director for Amnesty
International USA (AIUSA). "Texas state leadership has made no effort to
reform the deep flaws in the system unless mandated by the U.S. Supreme
Court, and even then only reluctantly. With no sign of remorse or real
efforts to reform, Texas capital punishment clearly represents an affront
to justice."

In its report, Too Much Cruelty, Too Little Clemency, released today at a
200-minute vigil and rally co-sponsored by the Texas Coalition to Abolish
the Death Penalty (TCADP), AI noted that "future dangerousness," rarely
used outside of Texas, has contributed to dubious prosecutorial tactics.
The personal biases of the witnesses and the jury can have an irrevocable
impact on the outcome of a case; for example, that of Carlos Granados, who
was put to death on January 10, 2007, after the trial testimony of a
clinical psychologist included race and ethnicity in his list of factors
predicative of "future dangerousness."

Texas, where about 7% of the U.S. population resides, and where fewer than
10 % of murders occur, has accounted for 37 % of the country's executions
since 1977, and 41 % since 2001, when Gov. Perry came into office. The
human rights organization noted that Texas lags behind other states when
it comes to taking seriously the flaws in the application of the death
penalty. At the report launch, AIUSA called on Texas leaders to revamp
their approach by granting clemency in cases involving mental illness and
borderline mental retardation, those with compelling claims of innocence
that have not been adequately reviewed by the courts, and offenders under
the age of 20 at the time of the crime.

Such a move would be in keeping with an evolving national understanding of
juvenile development. In 1993, in the case of a Texas death row prisoner
who was 19 at the time of the crime, the U.S. Supreme Court emphasized
that "youth is more than a chronological fact. It is a time and condition
of life when a person may be most susceptible to influence and to
psychological damage." 4 years earlier, 4 Supreme Court justices noted
that, "Many of the psychological and emotional changes that an adolescent
experiences in maturing do not actually occur until the early 20s." In
2005 the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the practice of executing juvenile

Despite the court's clear decisions, Gov. Perry reluctantly commuted the
death sentences of 28 Texas prisoners for crimes committed when they were
17 years old, emphasizing that his hand had been forced by the Supreme
Court ruling. Equally as disturbing, there is some indication that race
may play a role when teenagers are given death sentences; of the 46
prisoners who are currently on death row for crimes committed at ages 18
or 19, only 8 are white, while 27 are black, 10 are Hispanic and one is a
Cambodian national.

There have been indications that this type of sentencing is more than
coincidence. John Luttig, a white man, and Ivan Holland, a black man, were
both 63 when they were gunned down in Tyler, Texas, 2 years apart. While
Holland's assailants, white youth in their early 20s described as having a
"Hitler fetish," were both eligible for parole within 23 years, Luttig's
shooter, a black 17-year-old Napoleon Beazley, has already been executed.
Beazley's co-defendants, who later said Beazley was so remorseful after
the shooting that they had to stop him from committing suicide, were
sentenced to life imprisonment for their role in the crime. They will be
eligible for parole about 6 decades after Holland's white assailants. Thus
far, in 2009, every person executed in the state of Texas has been black
or Hispanic.

AI is also concerned that Texas has failed to implement a mental
retardation statute, seven years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it
unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded. Gov. Perry also has a
disturbing track record with the severely mentally ill; in 2004 he
rejected a rare recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles that
Kelsey Patterson's sentence be commuted or, at minimum, that he be granted
a 120-day reprieve due to paranoid schizophrenia.

AI called on Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to take
charge and grant clemency, before execution dates are set, in 2 highly
publicized cases: that of Andre Thomas, a schizophrenic who recently ate
his own eyeball, and Scott Panetti, another schizophrenic who was allowed
to represent himself in court dressed as a cowboy. Both men were
delusional, heard voices and had multiple indications of severe mental
illness before they committed their crimes. In 2005, the Texas affiliate
of the National Mental Health Association revealed that Texas ranked 49th
out of 50 in terms of its per client spending on mental health care; on
several occasions family members of Texas defendants recounted their
futile struggles to obtain help before it was too late.

"The state's cavalier attitude toward capital punishment is fast becoming
an anachronism in the rest of the United States," said Sue
Gunawardena-Vaughn, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign director for AIUSA.
"At a time when Texas" neighbor to the west has demonstrated considerable
leadership in abolishing the death penalty, Texas continues to execute
without mercy. The 200th execution is a macabre milestone that should give
pause to Gov. Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, who have
the power to chart a new course, rather than mindlessly following standard
operating procedure."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots
organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and
volunteers in more than 150 countries who campaign for human rights
worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and
mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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For more information, please visit

(source: Amnesty International)