Cameron Todd Willingham Carlos Deluna TCADP

TCADP August 2014 Alert: Another look at two wrongful Texas executions

TCADP’s August 2014 Alert provides information on scheduled executions and the ongoing lethal injection debacle. It also takes a closer look at investigations into the cases of Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna, both of which bolster evidence that the State of Texas has executed innocent people.

In this issue of TCADP’s August 2014 Alert:

Scheduled executions
Case updates
Re-examining wrongful executions
Summer 2014 Newsletter
In case you missed it

Scheduled executions and ongoing lethal injection debacle
No executions are scheduled to take place in Texas this month.  There currently are four executions scheduled in September and October and six in the first few months of 2015. Officials in Arizona were responsible for the nation’s third botched execution this year.  The execution of Joseph Wood on July 23 lasted for nearly two hours as he reportedly gasped and snorted on the gurney.  Arizona used the same combination of drugs – hydromorphone and midazolam – that led to Ohio’s botched execution of Dennis McGuire in January.  Records reveal that Wood was injected with 15 doses of the lethal drugs.

Like Arizona, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has shrouded our state’s lethal injection protocol in secrecy, refusing to identify the source of the drugs now used to carry out executions. In an interview last week,U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that death row inmates should have the right to know what drugs the state is using in executions.

For in-depth analysis of the controversy surrounding lethal injections, check out “Does it matter how a condemned man dies?” by Alex Hannaford, which appears in British GQ.

Case updates
Retired judges support appeal of Rodney Reed
On July 21, eight retired federal and state judges petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to accept an appeal from Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to be executed on January 14, 2015. Among them are Royal Ferguson of Texas, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Charles Baird, who served eight years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and four years as a state district judge in Austin. Read more.

Another look at two wrongful Texas executions
Evidence undermines “pillar” of Cameron Todd Willingham conviction
New evidence in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham significantly undermines the credibility of Johnny Webb, the jailhouse informant whose testimony was instrumental in Willingham’s conviction.  Willingham was executed in 2004 for the 1991 arson murder of his three daughters in Corsicana, despite compelling evidence of his innocence.

Maurice Possley, writing for The Marshall Project, a new nonprofit news organization focused on the criminal justice system, exposes the fact that the man who prosecuted Willingham, John H. Jackson, worked for years “to alter Webb’s conviction, speed his parole, get him clemency and move him from a tough state prison back to his hometown jail.” Possley notes “Had such favorable treatment been revealed prior to his execution, Willingham might have had grounds to seek a new trial.”  The Innocence Project has filed a grievance against Jackson with the State Bar of Texas. Read the full article in the Washington Post.

Questions continue to haunt case of Carlos DeLuna 
From the moment of his arrest to the night of his execution just six and a half years later, Carlos DeLuna maintained his innocence in the 1983 murder of convenience store clerk Wanda Lopez in Corpus Christi.  A 2012 article in the Columbia University Human Rights Law Review shed new light on his case and sought to resolve whether Texas executed the wrong person for this brutal and senseless crime.  Cataloguing in minute detail everything that went wrong in DeLuna’s case, this groundbreaking study by Columbia Law School Professor James Liebman and a team of students is now available as a book, The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution.

The book and its accompanying website comprise one of the most comprehensive investigations into a criminal case in U.S. history.  It also provides compelling evidence of the identity of the real killer: Carlos Hernandez, a violent and dangerous man well known to law enforcement yet ridiculed by prosecutors as a “phantom” of DeLuna’s imagination during his trial.  As an editorial in theDallas Morning News observes, the wrongful execution of DeLuna “should haunt us still today.”

TCADP Summer 2014 Newsletter now available online
In the Summer 2014 issue of our quarterly newsletter, Seizing the Momentum, you’ll find commentary by contributor Rex Castle on why he (and you) should sit on a death penalty jury; reflections by Rev. Jeff Hood on his 200-mile pilgrimage from Livingston to Austin; and highlights of recent TCADP activities.  Page 3 lists exciting special events on the horizon, as well as ongoing opportunities for your involvement.  Download it now!

In case you missed it
Death penalty not reserved for “worst of the worst” according to new study
new study of 100 people executed in 2012 and 2013, published in The Hastings Law Journal, shows that the death penalty system has failed to identify and execute “the worst of the worst.”  According to researchers, the overwhelming majority of those executed had deficits of at least one kind, such as intellectual disability, severe mental illness, or severe childhood trauma. Professor Charles Ogletree summarizes the data in an opinion editorial that appeared in theWashington Post. View an infographic and coverage of the study.

California’s death penalty ruled unconstitutional
An unprecedented ruling last month by U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney held that California’s death penalty is so dysfunctional and arbitrary that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Vacating the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who has been on death row for almost 20 years, Judge Carney said the punishment cannot serve the purposes of deterrence or retribution when it is administered to a random few, decades after their sentencing.  Read the press release issued by our colleagues at Death Penalty Focus.