death penalty news—-TEXAS

May 27


Man gets life sentences in penalty retrial

A former death row inmate will spend the rest of his life in prison rather
than face a possible death penalty punishment after agreeing to 2 life
sentences Tuesday.

Robert Tennard's 1985 capital murder case was sent back to Harris County
for a penalty phase retrial so jurors could consider his IQ of 67.

His lawyers negotiated to keep him behind bars for life rather than be
executed, said Assistant District Attorney John Jordan.

Jordan and defense attorney Danalynn Recer said Tennard agreed to the life
sentence in connection with the capital murder case in state District
Judge Joan Campbell's court and agreed he remains a danger to society and
will never ask for parole.

Tennard, 46, also pleaded guilty to a 2005 aggravated assault of a prison
guard in Polk County and agreed to a life sentence.

A 22-year-old rapist on parole at the time, Tennard met 2 friends at the
Groovey Shack Lounge the night of Aug. 15, 1985. The 3 men walked to Larry
Neblett's home where they drank and smoked marijuana with Neblett and a
friend, Chester Smith.

Tennard then stabbed Neblett 15 times, killing him, while one of his
companions killed Smith with a hatchet. The killers left in 1 of the
victim's cars.

Jordan said Neblett's family supported the deal, rather than go through
the punishment phase again and risk a life sentence under a 1985 law that
could end with Tennard freed. Tennard's co-defendants are not on death

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Alleged Cop Killer Arraigned For Capital Murder

The man accused of hitting and killing a Corpus Christi police officer
during a chase last March was back in court Wednesday afternoon.

Daniel Lopez, 22, was arraigned for capital murder in the death of Lt.
Stewart Alexander and other charges related to the chase.

Lt. Alexander had just laid out some road spikes at North Padre Island
Drive and Agnes when he was run over.

The chased started when police tried to pull Lopez over for some traffic
violations. His trial is scheduled for January.

(source: KRIS TV News)


Statement concerning the TV screening on Investigation Discovery of
episode 4 of DALLAS DNA, concerning the case and execution of Gregory
Edward Wright in Texas on October 30th 2008

Peter Bellamy, London, UK & Bente Hjortshj, Trondheim, Norway

The TV series, Dallas DNA, chronicles a pioneering unit within the Dallas
County District Attorney's office where post-conviction DNA testing is
being used to clear the innocent, as well as confirm the guilty. Craig
Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney, created the nation's first
Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) run by a DA's office and tasked it with
investigating cases that could be possible examples of injustice. Greg's
was reportedly the 1st death row case tackled by this new unit, in
association with Assistant DA Kim Schaefer, and Craig Watkins himself.

Greg, his attorney Bruce Anton, Greg's wife, and other members of his
family and friends, co-operated with the producers of the film, Touch
Productions, in the making of this episode.

May we begin by stating that the TV episode was, in our view, a well
produced and tastefully presented snapshot of what went on in those final
weeks of our battle to save Greg's life. It related the views of the
Dallas District Attorney's office, and the judgments made as a
consequence, and also gave time to Greg and Connie so that viewers could
see for themselves the torment and trauma of those terrible proceedings
that resulted in Greg's death. We hoped that viewers (and we think the
program went some way towards this) would be enabled, whatever the outcome
of those proceedings, to see beyond the abstractions of legal debate to
the human cost of this process, and to the often subjective opinion on
which vital decisions on life and death are made in Texas and throughout
the United States. We are therefore satisfied that the program achieved
it's objectives. It was not a program tasked with coming to a view about
innocence or guilt, and neither should viewers expect to be in a position
to make that judgment after viewing the program.

However, inevitably, a single 1-hour program is unable to cover all
aspects of a case, especially not in one so complex as that involving 2
men on death row for the same crime. We therefore want to spend some time
explaining our reaction to some of the issues raised in the program, and
to point to additional factors that were not raised. Some of these will be
dealt with in more detail in a further statement to be issued later.

The program focused, in good part, on the interpretation of DNA evidence
and the retraction of a written confession by John Adams. In both cases,
the Unit members, Kim Schaefer, and Judge Francis (the original trial
judge) allowed these issues to determine that Greg did not have a
sufficient standard of evidence to justify a further Stay of execution. A
further Stay was requested so that the information (incomplete) from the
DNA testing, and the truth of John Adams, could be more closely examined
in the light of additional and related issues that had previously been
raised, but might impact on the interpretation given to these results. For
reasons that we cannot fathom or appreciate, the Unit, Kim Schaefer, Craig
Watkins, and Judge Francis, refused to grant this time, in spite of the
closeness of their discovery to the execution. While it may appear that 11
years of appeals is a long time, only in the last weeks of this case did
evidence, which at last could give Greg's defense team a fighting chance
to prove innocence, emerge. This arose not because of inefficiency on the
part of the defense, but on the late and bitterly contested (in respect of
Kim Schaefer) agreement for DNA testing to be granted (at the expense of
the defendant and his sponsors) and on the unexpected, multiple, written
confession notes made by Adams to Greg's attorney.

There were several questions that the Unit, Kim Schaefer and Judge Francis
chose to ignore, or to give adequate weight. But even so, the program
showed clearly, to those with an open mind, that alternative
interpretations and judgments might have been made. This was acknowledged
by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in relation to the DNA evidence,
which they expressly agreed was inconclusive as to the wearer of the
jeans, in their final judgment shortly before Greg was executed. Because
Greg couldn't therefore use the DNA evidence as absolute proof of his
innocence, and given that the District Court had accepted the retraction
of Adams confession, they could not or would not overturn the trial
verdict of guilt, or the punishment given. In the end, it came down to
whether you believed Greg or you believed Adams. Adams was the one who had
a history as a serial criminal, including the use of a knife. Greg had no
such history of violence, and indeed until shortly before he found himself
homeless, he had a good regular job and career. Adams was the one who had
a history of gang membership and violence, Greg had absolutely no such
history. No date was given for the video of Greg offered in the program by
the prosecution, and the documented measurements taken at the time of his
arrest showed conclusively that he could not have worn the jeans at the
time of the crime. Similarly documented measurements showed conclusively
that Adams could have worn the jeans. For Kim Schaefer to declare
conviction that Greg wore the jeans at the time of the crime on the basis
of a video impression, over the evidence of physical measurement, was
grossly unprofessional. What didn't emerge in the film, but which fact the
prosecution and Judge Francis were well aware, was that the finding of
Greg's DNA on the jeans was NOT unexpected – Greg had never denied that
these had been sent to him amongst other clothing by his family, and that
he had tried them on for size on more than one occasion. We were told
that, as John Adams had always denied wearing them, our burden of proof
was that he did. The positive finding of Adams DNA on the jeans exposed
that lie, and should have satisfied the burden of proof demanded of Greg.

It was suggested in the episode that Greg and Adams were simply picked up
on the day of the crime and invited to Ms Vick's house for a meal. In
fact, Greg had been living at Ms Vicks home by invitation; had helped her
around the house and grounds in return; and they had socialized together
over a period of time. Greg had been given his own keys both to the house
and the Chrysler. It was Greg's suggestion that Adams be invited for a
meal on that fateful evening, because Greg had heard of a job at a mobile
home center needing two people. He thought Adams would be interested, and
intended to make application with Adams the next day. It was the worst
judgment he ever made in his life, and it has cost him his own life. This
background was brought out, accepted, and even used, cynically, by the
prosecution in the original trial, and the program was therefore
misleading in not making that clear. At this point, we should put on
record what Greg was never allowed to relate, in or to a court of law, on
the instruction of successive defense attorneys. Before coming to Dallas,
Greg had a successful career driving a truck-trailer rig across the
states. A penalty caused a temporary halt to that. He was for a while, on
the streets and homeless, At this time however, Greg was tired of the
alcohol and drugs, and with the help of Ms Vick, was ready to get his life
back on track. In making the arrangement of accommodation with Ms Vick,
Greg was removing himself from the streets of Dallas. On the evening Adams
was invited back to the house, Ms Vick expressed concern when she saw
Adams' tattoos. She began to pray and speak in tongues which angered
Adams. Ms Vick told Adams he would have to find another place to stay; and
she wouldn't let him smoke in the house. Adams wanted to return to Dallas
that night but was told no Ms Vick and Greg were too tired and in no
shape to drive. What happened next has been described by Greg himself, in
his final statement moments before his death:

"I was in the bathroom when he [Adams] attacked. I am deaf in one ear and
I thought the TV was up too loud. I ran into the bedroom. By the time I
came in, when I tried to help her with first aid, it was too late. The
veins were cut on her throat. He stabbed her in her heart, and that's what
killed her. I told John Adams, "turn yourself in or hit the high road." I
owed him a favor because he pulled someone off my back. I was in a fight
downtown. 2 or 3 days later he turned on me."

Reference was made to a fingerprint, claimed to have been identified as
matched to Greg. Yet even at the last, no acceptable scientific evidence
to justify such a claim has ever been tested in a court. The original
defending attorneys failed to protect Greg against the "junk science"
offered by the state from a retired "expert" – whose judgments have been
challenged in other cases in recent times. The state's own police forensic
experts and 2 defense-hired experts were adamant that no positive ID could
be taken from the poor quality print. Although in the program, Kim
Schaefer claimed she had further expert testimony available, it was never
available for cross-examination and testing in a court of law. The
testimony in the original trial amounted to "trust me folks – I can't
justify my conclusion – but I'm the greatest". Knowing the weakness of
that testimony, it was beholden of an honorable District Attorney to
subject any new evidence in respect of that fingerprint to a court of law,
and preferably to a new jury, since the trial jury members had been
heavily influenced in their verdict by misrepresentation of this and other
evidence. No reference was made in the program to the fact that vital
evidence from the crime scene was collected by Eric Rosenstrom, later to
be found to have been employed as a result of fraudulent representation of
both qualifications and experience. Worse, Eric Rosenstrom was recently on
a "most wanted" list for murder himself. In spite of bringing this
information to the attention of the District Attorney and Judge Francis,
this matter was never addressed!

We turn now to the written confession by John Adams, and his subsequent
retraction of its truth at a hearing called by the Unit and Judge Francis,
and shown in the program. We have never seen a more theatrical performance
in our lifetime. Having seen that, and seen the text of the confession
notes, and heard about the means by which Adams made those confession
notes to Greg and to his attorney, we cannot begin to believe that the
retraction was anything other than a change of heart upon the realization
that his own life depended upon it. The shear nonsense of the story, that
he felt sorry for Connie and Greg and wanted to give them more time
together, was so pitiful and cruel, that it is very hard to take that an
experienced Judge and prosecution service were prepared to accept it. At
the very least, it provided by itself such uncertainty, that an execution
could not possibly be justified. Adams declared (in so many words) that he
"had seen the light and had become a Christian". Ask the Christians who
minister to the prisoners in Polunsky, who they believe was the true
Christian. Their witness is that it was Greg. Further, the prosecution
denied a deal with Adams at the court, yet while Mike Ware and Craig
Watkins may not have spoken with Adams themselves, we know that Kim
Schaefer was in and out of the courtroom the entire time it was supposed
to be in lockdown.

So, whether or not you THINK Greg was guilty, there is NO proof, and ample
reason to doubt the interpretation given by the prosecution and the
courts. Greg had absolutely no motive for the crime, and in fact
everything to lose. He undoubted proved reasonable doubt; and we believe
he proved his innocence too. It seems that is insufficient in a Texas

No person in the United States should face the death penalty either for
suspicion of guilt, or for probable innocence. The judgments against Greg
have not been based on certainty. In the words of Judge Boyce Martin,
Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, "[The
death penalty] is so fundamentally flawed at its very core, that it is
beyond repair." I could quote many others, who have had significant
experience of administering the death penalty in Texas, who have made
similar statements.

We would advise viewers of the DALLAS DNA program that it is unwise to
draw conclusions of innocence or guilt from any TV program, which is
necessarily limited in time and resource to be able to reveal all the
evidence. We should also note that public reaction we have received to
date has been evenly mixed, suggesting that our hope for the program has
been achieved. It is now for those responsible for Greg's wrongful death,
to address these and other issues that were not brought out in the
program. We will be releasing a further statement in due course that
includes those other issues which, taken together with those discussed
here, continue to confirm our view of Greg's total innocence. Our thanks
to Touch Productions and Discovery for their contribution to this debate.
We regret the Conviction Integrity Unit failed in this test, and Gregory
Edward Wright has suffered a terrible and wrongful price.

(source: )