Veto threat alters death-penalty bill
Facing a veto threat from Gov. Rick Perry, members of the Senate Criminal
Justice Committee voted this evening to drop a controversial provision
from a bill designed to keep defendants from being executed who were
involved in a capital crime, did no killing themselves.
As amended, House Bill 2267 now will require only separate trials for
co-defendants in capital murder cases, where 1 defendant committed the
murder and the other did not.
Advocacy groups immediately decried the last-minute change, but said they
still supported separate trials.
As approved by the House last week, the bill would have been significant
change in the states death-penalty law, one that was vehemently opposed by
prosecutors and cheered by death-penalty opponents.
Under current law, known as "the law of parties," multiple defendants in a
capital murder case can face execution, even if they did not pull the
Texas has been criticized nationally in past years for cases in which the
triggerman cut a deal with police and escaped execution, after testifying
against a co-defendant who did not pull the trigger but was executed.
Prosecutors have argued that if defendants participate together in a
crime, even if one stands and watches an accomplice commit murder, they
should be held equally liable.
"We wanted that provision to stay in, but the Governors Office made it
clear they would veto the bill if that went through," said state Sen. Juan
Hinojosa, D-McAllen. "At least we're changing it so co-defendants will
have to be tried separately. You won't taint an accomplice by having them
sit beside the triggerman in court at the same trial."
While Hinojosa said he was not satisfied with the change, "we're not going
to get any progress on this area of law until we get another governor. I
realize that, so we do what we can."
After the disputed wording was deleted, the bill was passed unanimously by
the committee, the last stop before the measure will come for a vote by
the full Senate.
When the measure passed the House last Friday, its sponsors tagged it the
"Kenneth Foster Jr. Act," after a man whose death sentence was commuted to
life imprisonment by Perry in 2007.
Foster was sentenced to die as a co-defendant in a case, even though he
did not kill anyone. He was convicted in a trial with the killer.
A similar case involving a condemned co-defendant, Jeff Wood, has been
championed as a reason to change the law. Wood remains on death row, after
his co-defendant the killer has been executed.
"It will be an important reform to require separate trials in capital
cases, but we will be disappointed if the provision to prohibit the state
from seeking the death penalty in law of parties cases is removed from the
bill. People who do not kill anyone should not be punished by death,"
Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network, a death-penalty
opposition group, said before the committee's vote.
"This bill is very important because it touches the lives of innocent
people that did not kill and are waiting to be executed for crimes that
they did not commit."
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Beaumont inmate sentenced to federal death row
Joseph Ebron was sentenced to death in federal court in Beaumont earlier
this week–his third conviction for murder at age 30.
According to the Beaumont Enterprise Ebron was condemned for stabbing a
fellow inmate at a federal prison in Beaumont, where he was already
serving a life sentence for a murder he committed at age 17. He killed for
the 1st time at age 15, when he was sent to a youth correctional facility.
Federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana has only 58 inmates but
according to the Death Penalty Information Center , more of those inmates
come from Texas than any other state: 10.
(source: Dallas Morning News)