Exonerated inmates protest Texas death penalty system
3 exonerated former death row inmates showed up at the State Capitol
Tuesday to protest the Texas death penalty system.
They presented a petition of about 6,000 names to Gov. Rick Perry's office
to urge the governor to acknowledge the possible innocence of Cameron Todd
Willingham was executed in 2004 for starting a fire in 1991 that killed
his 3 children. Arson experts have reviewed the case, concluding the arson
finding was scientifically unsupported.
Perry, however, has dismissed those findings, and has recently gained
criticism for his move to replace board members on state commission
overseeing a review of the case.
The first act of Perry's newly appointed Texas Forensic Science Commission
chairman was to cancel the meeting to review a more recent analysis by a
national arson expert, who also concluded the arson ruling was made under
Those petitioning at the Capitol said they want Perry to suspend all
executions and appoint a balanced and independent commission to examine
the Texas death penalty system.
"Most of the people that deal with the death penalty, the anti-death
penalty movement, they say Texas is a lost cause and there's no need to
come here, so I'm here today to try to help the people of Texas to make
them feel a better attitude about what they're doing, because people are
dying in this state human beings that could be saved," exonerated death
row inmate Shujaa Graham said.
The petition was held to coincide with the execution of Reginald Blanton.
The 28-year-old Blanton was put to death Tuesday evening for a slaying
more than 9 years ago.
Blanton's lawyers went to the U.S. Supreme Court to try to halt the
execution, arguing black people may have been excluded improperly as
potential jurors at his trial in 2001. Blanton is black and his victim was
He was the 19th inmate Texas has put to death this year.
(source: Fox News)
Activists call for execution freeze—-Protestors present death penalty
moratorium petition to governor
Anti-death penalty activists joined 2 exonerated death row inmates Tuesday
to deliver a petition for a moratorium on the death penalty to Gov. Rick
The protestors unveiled large papers covered with more than 6,000
signatures asking for a halt to executions in Texas.
After the unveiling, supporters joined former death row inmates Shujaa
Graham and Curtis McCarty as they presented the petition to Perry's
Perry did not accept the petition himself.
Graham, a volunteer for Texas Moratorium Network, said he dedicated his
life to the abolishment of the death penalty after being found guilty for
the murder of a prison guard that he didnt commit and spent 6 years
shuffling between death row and county jails.
McCarty spent 19 years on death row despite winning 3 appeals that proved
that he did not commit the murder of a woman he had barely known.
McCarty was exonerated after the FBI reevaluated his case and determined
DNA evidence from the crime scene and victims body did not match his own.
After 5 years on death row, the government released him from jail.
Graham and McCarty now travel around the country educating people about
what they believe are fatal weaknesses in the death penalty system. Under
the Texas Moratorium Network, they support the passage of a bill proposed
by state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, that suggests a moratorium on
the death penalty.
Naishtat has pushed for the bill since 2001.
"Sometimes it comes to court, sometimes even to hearing. We will keep
filing it. That's the right thing to do," said Dorothy Browne, Naishtat's
chief of staff.
Browne says that though the public majority is currently pro-death
penalty, the majority is slowly shrinking, especially because of cases
like Cameron Todd Willingham.
Willingham was executed in 2004 for the death of his three children in a
house fire he was accused of starting.
In August of 2009, Texas Forensic Science Commission investigator Craig
Beyler released a report evaluating the crime scene, details and case
history, which concluded the fire was not arson, and therefore Willingham
was not guilty on the charge of arson.
Anti-death penalty and pro-moratorium groups and individuals across the
nation are hoping that Willingham's story will prevent another innocent
man from being executed for a crime they did not commit.
A statement e-mailed by Perrys office, said that, despite Beyler's report,
"like most Texans, Gov. Perry supports the death penalty for those who
commit the most heinous crimes."
McCarty said out of the 1,200 death row sentences since 1964, 138, or
roughly 10 %, have been exonerated.
"Todd Willingham shows us we have to remember law enforcement officials,
judges and juries are human beings. We want them to be perfect but they
can't [be]. So we can't risk the death penalty. If your bank told you
there was a 10 % rate of failure each month, you wouldn't put your money
there. If the school buses had a 10 % chance of an accident, they wouldn't
put their children there, McCarty said.
Nicholas Prelosky, executive director of Young Conservatives of Texas,
said he believes while Todd Willingham's case is unfortunate, it shouldn't
justify the removal of the death penalty.
"Juries and judges should have options available to them. Because [they]
can make mistakes doesn't mean they should be stripped of their right to
[give] correct punishments," Prelosky said. "If there is the slightest
doubt in a case, then maybe they should consider a different punishment.
But if there is concrete evidence, if the crime is heinous enough to merit
[the] death penalty, capital punishment should be on the table."
Anna Blanton, mother of Reginald Blanton who was executed Tuesday
afternoon for a murder he professed he did not commit, came to a protest
at the steps of the Capitol on Tuesday to support the moratorium effort.
Austin resident Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network, hoped
that the petition would convince Perry, who, despite the results of
Beyler's report, refuses to clear Willingham of any guilt.
"Perry is trying to hide the fact that he is the 1st governor in the
nation who sentenced an innocent person to death during his tenure," Cobb
(source: The (Univ. Texas) Daily Texan)
Nava trying to avoid death penalty
Efforts to avoid the death penalty continue for one Lubbock man.
Official statements say Jose Nava was the Texas leader of a street gang
called the Latin Kings. His attorney's asked for and received $20,000 of
government money, which will be used to hire experts on Nava's behalf.
Nava faces a possible federal death penalty after a drive by shooting in
Big Spring which killed 3 and injured three others last year. The defense
team hopes to use expert analysis to pursuade the Department of Justice to
drop the death penalty as part of their prosecution.
Back in April, an FBI dive team found parts of an AK47 assault rifle east
of Crosbyton which has been tied to the case in official records.
(source: KCBD News)