death penalty news—–TEXAS

June 9


Christopher Coleman has been given an execution date of September 22; it
shoudl be considered serious.

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Faulty Lab Report May Buy Death Row Inmate New Trial

It's good news for death row inmate Charles Raby – and more bad news for
Joseph Chu.

The former Houston crime lab analyst has taken a beating in the Michael
Bromwich reports, which determined that, among other things, the lab had
manipulated results to help with convictions. And it seems that in the
case of Raby, who was convicted in 1994 of brutally murdering a
grandmother, Chu did exactly that.

Back in April, Raby's DNA challenge, which has been going on more than 6
years, was postponed yet again pending an outside expert's look into Chu's
blood-typing work in the original trial.

Chu had found two separate blood types under the victim's fingernails, and
they belonged to neither Raby nor the victim. Yet Chu simply listed the
results as inconclusive.

The report came in last week. In her conclusion, Patricia P. Hamby, the
outside expert, states that Chu's "inconclusive" reporting "is contrary to
and not supported by the recorded laboratory test results for the left and
right fingernail samples."

According to Raby's lawyer, Sarah Frazier, "She essentially said that he
lied about it on the stand."

The narrow scope of DNA challenges might lead the judge to an unfavorable
finding all the same; the DNA results came to the same conclusion as Chu's
original blood tests. But Frazier's intention all along has been to help
her case in filing a habeas corpus writ down the line, which would win
Raby a new trial. And this may bring her one important step closer to

"We have new evidence, and it's a whole new landscape," Frazier says.

Lynn Hardaway, who's handling the case for the Harris County District
Attorney's office, tells Hair Balls she has some questions for Hamby but
hasn't been able to reach her yet. She'll be able to comment once she
does, and we'll provide an update.

It's worth noting that even if Frazier wins her new trial, she'll have
considerable barriers to overcome – starting with Raby's confession.

(source: Houston Press)


Justice served

Opponents of capital punishment noted the June 2 execution of convicted
murderer Terry Lee Hankins in Huntsville. What makes Hankins' execution in
any way unique is that it was the 200th under Gov. Rick Perry.

Those who would like to see the ultimate form of punishment expire are
quick to jump on such numbers, as if statistics should trump justice.

Amnesty International, one of the more vocal anti-death penalty
organizations, released a statement last week, proclaiming Hankins as "the
16th person to be executed in Texas this year out of a national total of
30." According to AI, there have been 1,166 executions in the U.S. since
"judicial killing" resumed in 1977. Texas has 439.

Speaking of killing – of the non-judicial type – Hankins was convicted of
killing his girlfriend and her 2 children in Arlington in 2001. All were
shot in the head.

When it comes to capital punishment, the horrible realities of the
gruesome acts committed by murderers are often overlooked in favor of

However, since groups like AI use numbers to make the application of
capital punishment look like a haphazard rush to judgment, here's a few
that counter that perception:

# In Texas, the average stay on death row is 10.26 years.

# In Texas, there are 8 offenses that allow capital punishment, and 3
involve murder committed by someone already behind bars, such as during a
prison escape.

It is interesting that Perry is condemned for 200 executions carried out
by the state during his tenure.

A number much more difficult to measure would be the number of victims of
these heinous crimes, along with the countless family members and friends
who lost loved ones under horrific circumstances.

That's the sad number.

– – – – – Amarillo's Death Row

The number of Amarillo-area offenders on death row and the number of
executed offenders, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice:

Potter County 3; 10

Randall County 2; 3

(source: Editorial, Amarillo Globe-News)


Human Rights and The Texas Criminal Justice System

This June 2009 is the 11th session of the United Nations Human Rights
Council. On June 2-18 the United Nations will again address major human
rights issues in Geneva Switzerland. Nations from all over will disparage
their grievances to the General Assembly on issues such as improving the
rights of children, civil and political rights such as arbitrary
detention, and the trafficking of human beings.

With the constant talk today in the mainstream media of the United States
about torture and where to put the terror detainees in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, the UN Human Rights Council this year is the perfect venue to
discuss these problems. Despite the United States being part of the UN
Security Council, there are still issues that need to be addressed.
According to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston wrote in his Addendum to
the Mission of the United States of America that:

"There is a good deal to commend about the record of the United States of
America on extrajudicial killings: in most instances there is no lack of
laws or procedures for addressing potentially unlawful killings and, at
least domestically, data is generally gathered systematically and
responsibly. I found, however, 3 areas in which significant improvement is
necessary if the U.S. Government is to match its actions to its stated
commitment to human rights and the rule of law. First, the Government must
ensure that imposition of the death penalty complies with fundamental due
process requirements; the current systems flaws increase the likelihood
that innocent people will be executed. Second, the Government must provide
greater transparency into law enforcement, military, and intelligence
operations that result in potentially unlawful deaths. Third, the
Government must overcome the current failure of political will and provide
greater accountability for potentially unlawful deaths in its
international operations; political expediency is never a permissible
basis for any State to deviate from its obligation to investigate and
punish violations of the right to life."

It is widely acknowledged that innocent people in Texas have likely been
sentenced to death and executed. In Alabama and Texas, there is a shocking
lack of urgency about the need to reform glaring criminal justice system
flaws. Texas should undertake a systematic inquiry into its criminal
justice system and ensure that the death penalty is applied fairly,
justly, and only for the most serious crimes. Deficiencies that should be
remedied include the lack of adequate counsel for indigent defendants and
racial disparities in sentencing. The system of electing judges in Texas
should be reconsidered because it politicizes towards the GOP death
penalty sentences and unfairly increases the likelihood of capital
offenses. Given the inadequacies of state criminal justice systems, the
United States Congress should enact legislation permitting federal court
habeas review of state and federal death penalty cases on the merits.

Human Rights is a serious matter that affects all of us not only
internationally but locally in the Dallas Fort Worth area. How can we
claim to be the beacon of constitutional freedom and equality as an
example to other countries, but we find ourselves unjustly issuing the
death penalty to cases that have flaws in the Texas criminal justice

So whether you agree or disagree on how states administer their criminal
justice in cases that are unclear, the issue of human rights and the
criminal justice system need to be addressed before a mistake is made that
can never be reversed.