Reflection on the Gregg Anniversary
Today, July 2, 2012, marks the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Gregg v. Georgia (1976), which upheld the new death penalty statutes of several states (including Texas) and paved the way for the resumption of executions. Just four years earlier, the Court had ruled in Furman v. Georgia (1972) that the death penalty system, as administered at that time, was arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory – as random as being struck by lightning. With the Gregg decision, however, the justices reversed course and took the position that the death penalty did not offend “the evolving standards of decency which mark the progress of a maturing society.”
In reality, the death penalty is no less arbitrary or any fairer today than it was 36 years ago. To date, 140 individuals (including 12 in Texas) have been released from death rows nationwide due to evidence of their wrongful conviction. In addition, cases like those of Carlos DeLuna, Claude Jones, and Cameron Todd Willingham – individuals who may have been wrongfully executed – continue to raise doubts about the reliability of the criminal justice system.
TCADP extends a special welcome to everyone who has joined our organization in the past month. We are inspired by the desire of so many people to become involved in our efforts to end this arbitrary, discriminatory, and irreversible punishment. In this monthly alert, you will find opportunities to get involved on the local level and recent death penalty developments. We encourage you to attend upcoming events and become a TCADP member today. Thank you for joining us as we seize the momentum to end the death penalty once and for all!
The State of Texas has scheduled four executions over the next two months:
1. On July 18, 2012, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Yokamon Hearn, who was convicted in Dallas County of the 1998 carjacking and murder of Frank Meziere. He was the only person among the four young men charged with this crime to receive the death penalty.
Amnesty International USA has developed an online action through which you can send a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry, urging clemency for Yokamon Hearn. Take action now.
2. On August 1, 2012, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Marcus Druery for the 2002 murder of 20-year-old Skyler Browne in rural Brazos County. His attorneys are working to stop the execution on the grounds that Druery is mentally incompetent to be executed.
3. On August 7, 2012, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Marvin Wilson for the 1992 shooting death of Jerry Robert Williams in Beaumont.
4. On August 22, 2012, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute John Balentine for the 1998 murders of his ex-girlfriend’s brother, Mark Caylor, Jr., 17, and two other boys, Kai Geyer, 15, and Steven Watson, 15. Last year, on the day of his scheduled execution (June 15, 2011), he received a last-minute reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court stopped the execution to review a petition from Balentine’s lawyer that contended his legal representation at trial and in the early stages of his appeal was deficient.
Click the link to respond and express your concern about the impact of executions on Texas by participating in clemency campaigns or attending vigils on the days of execution.
Criminal Justice Summit at NAACP National Convention
TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé will serve as a panelist during the Criminal Justice Summit at the 103rd Annual Convention of the NAACP, taking place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas from July 7-12, 2012. The Criminal Justice session will occur on Monday, July 9 from 2:30 to 5:30 PM and will focus on four national priority areas: Racial Profiling/Law Enforcement Accountability; Reentry; Sentencing Reform/Mass Incarceration; and the Death Penalty. TCADP also is co-sponsoring an information booth, along with Equal Justice USA and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. We invite all delegates and participants in the convention to stop by Booth #829 at the Commerce and Industry Show (July 7-10). For more information about the convention or to volunteer at the booth, contact Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Austin Area: Month of Faith in Action
If you belong to a faith community in Austin, please talk to your clergy about joining TCADP for our Month of Faith in Action to promote dialogue about the death penalty in Texas. There has never been a more important time for people of faith to engage in education and action on the death penalty, and to take a leadership role in speaking out against this culture of violence and vengeance.
We are encouraging congregations to hold activities and events in solidarity with each other September 15 to October 14, however, you are welcome to schedule an event any time in the year that accommodates your calendar. Printed materials, speakers, films, and discussion guides are available to you at no cost from TCADP. We are happy to work with you on developing a program that fits your needs and capacity. To learn more or to request resources go to: https://tcadp.org/faith-community-event-sign-up/ (under Programs, click on “Religious Outreach”) or call the TCADP office at 512-441-1808.
The Month of Faith in Action will culminate in a conversation hosted by Sr. Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, with two Austin clergy on Friday, October 12, 2012 at St. Edward’s University. More details to come. RSVP and Reserve your tickets today.
2012 Texas Democratic Party Platform Endorses Abolition of the Death Penalty!
During the Texas State Democratic Convention, which took place June 7-8, 2012 in Houston, delegates voted to endorse abolition of the death penalty in the 2012 Texas Democratic Party Platform. We are immensely grateful to everyone who played a role in securing this victory for justice! The revised section on the death penalty cites the risk of executing the innocent and growing momentum towards abolition nationwide among other reasons that “Texas Democrats call for the passage of legislation that would abolish the death penalty in Texas and replace it with the punishment of life in prison without parole.”
Read the full text as it appears on pages 30-31 of the platform and view photos of our booth and workshop on “Progress Towards Repealing the Death Penalty in Texas,” featuring State Representative Jessica Farrar, exonoree Anthony Graves, State Democratic Executive Committee member JC Dufresne, and TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé.
Update on Hank Skinner (granted stay of execution on November 7, 2011):
On June 1, 2012, the State of Texas filed an advisory with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in which it agreed to DNA testing for death row inmate Henry “Hank” Skinner. Skinner was convicted of the 1993 Pampa murders of his girlfriend Twila Busby and her two adult sons. Last year he faced two serious execution dates, even though key pieces of evidence collected at the crime scene have never been subjected to DNA testing.
Later in June, Skinner’s attorneys and the State of Texas reached an agreement that secures DNA testing in this case. There are lingering concerns, however, as a key piece of evidence – the sweat-stained, blood-spattered men’s windbreaker jacket found next to the victim’s body – is missing and will not be subjected to testing. Read a statement from Skinner’s attorney, Rob Owen.
TCADP invites local organizations and institutions to sign an Organizational Statement of Support and Affiliation, which pledges public support for our efforts to end the death penalty in Texas. Download and share the form with faith communities, civic groups, or any other organizations with which you are affiliated. Please send completed forms to: TCADP; 2709 S. Lamar Blvd, Suite 109; Austin, TX 78704. Thank you!
No El Paso Chapter meeting this month.
7-12 NAACP National Convention, Houston*
18 Scheduled Execution: Yokamon Hearn; Dallas Chapter meeting 7:00pm, email@example.com
1 Scheduled Execution: Marcus Druery
5 Odessa Chapter meeting 4:00pm, firstname.lastname@example.org
7 Scheduled Execution: Marvin Wilson
15 Dallas Chapter meeting 7:00pm, email@example.com
22 Scheduled Execution: John Balentine
27 EPADP meeting 6:00pm, firstname.lastname@example.org
TCADP will staff an information booth at events marked with a star. For more information about these events or to volunteer to staff a table, email email@example.com.