Cathy Henderson death penalty executions Ruben Cantu

TCADP’s 2015 August Alert: Death penalty continues to fall out of favor

In this edition of our monthly e-newsletter, you’ll find information on three people scheduled to be executed this month by the State of Texas, as well as links to recent editorials and opinion pieces that address declining use of the death penalty in Texas. There’s also a special preview of an upcoming episode of CNN’s “Death Row Stories.”

In this edition:

Scheduled executions and case updates: Back-to-back executions scheduled to take place in Texas next week

In case you missed it: How one Texas death penalty case raised taxes; the latest editorial from the Dallas Morning News

Last call for applications: TCADP seeks North Texas Outreach Coordinator

Upcoming events: New episode of CNN’s “Death Row Stories” will focus on wrongful execution in Texas

Support TCADP: Become a Sustaining Member today!

Scheduled executions and case updates
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute three people this month:

  • Daniel Lopez is scheduled to be executed on August 12. He was convicted of striking and killing 20-year veteran Corpus Christi Police Department Lt. Stuart Alexander with his truck while the officer was laying down spike strips to stop Lopez’s vehicle during a high-speed chase in March 2009.  Earlier this year, the 5th Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Lopez is competent to waive his appeals. He has requested several times that the courts expedite his execution date. At least 28 individuals on death row in Texas have been put to death after deciding to forego further appeals in their cases.
  • Tracy Beatty is scheduled to be executed on August 13 for the 2003 slaying of his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, in Smith County.  He would be the second person from Smith County put to death this year.
  • Bernardo Aban Tercero, a national of Nicaragua, is scheduled to be executed on August 26. He was convicted of robbing a dry cleaning store and murdering customer Robert Keith Berger in 1997 in Houston. Tercero argued the shooting was an accident. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2014.

The State of Texas accounts for half of the 18 executions that have occurred nationwide to date in 2015.  At least six more executions are scheduled to take place this year.

Attend a vigil in your community on the day of executions in Texas. Information and updates on cases are available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter.

Other case updates
We learned this morning that Cathy Henderson, who spent nearly 20 years on death row in Texas, died over the weekend in a hospital in Austin.  She was convicted of capital murder in the death of three-month-old Brandon Baugh in 1994. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Henderson’s conviction in 2012 based on scientific advances that cast doubt upon expert testimony about the baby’s cause of death.  Henderson maintained it was an accident.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office planned to retry Henderson this fall on capital murder charges but did not intend to seek another death sentence. On June 12, however, Henderson pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.  According to the Austin American-Statesman, she could have been released in four years with credit for time served. Henderson was just two days away from being executed in 2007 when the Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay and ordered an evidentiary hearing.

Earlier this summer we learned of the death of John Matamoros.  According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, he died of natural causes on June 12, 2015 while still on death row.  He was convicted of the murder of Edward George Goebel during a 1990 home burglary in Houston.

In case you missed it
Ron Paul’s statements ring true 
In a June opinion column, former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul called the death penalty “the ultimate corrupt, big government program.” He went on to say, “It is hard to find a more wasteful and inefficient government program than the death penalty.” To support his statements, Paul referred to a costly case in Jasper County which resulted in higher taxes. PolitiFact Texas checked the claim and found it was indeed true. Read the full report from Politifact as well as the original column from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Still no new death sentences in Texas in 2015
Last week, the Dallas Morning News published an editorial, “Living without the death penalty in Texas,” regarding declining use of the death penalty in Texas.  The piece features excerpts from an interview with former District Attorney and TCADP 2015 Annual Conference keynote speaker Tim Cole.

The editorial asserts that the death penalty is falling out of favor both with juries and prosecutors and cites the growing list of wrongfully convicted men in Texas as one reason for the shift. Cost and geography also play a role, as explained by Cole: “It comes down to the call of a single elected official whose annual budget may or may not bear the expense of a murder trial.” Read the full editorial, as well as an opinion piece by Cole on this topic that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

TCADP seeks North Texas Outreach Coordinator
TCADP is still accepting applications for our new North Texas Outreach Coordinator position.  We seek a motivated and experienced individual to develop and implement a campaign aimed at reducing use of the death penalty in Dallas and Tarrant Counties. Apply by August 17th.

Upcoming events
“Death Row Stories”
The next episode of “Death Row Stories” on CNN will focus on the case of Ruben Cantu, who was executed by the State of Texas on August 24, 1993. Cantu’s conviction was based largely on the testimony of a single eyewitness who later changed his story.  Cantu was 17 years old at the time of the crime.  (The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders until 2015.) The episode is scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday, August 9th at 10pm across all time zones.  We expect to see interviews with several TCADP Advisory Board members who are intimately connected to this case.

TCADP will participate in the following conferences this month as part of our community outreach efforts:

El Paso Meeting
The next monthly meeting of El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty will take place on Tuesday, August 25 at 7 pm in the Pedro Maldonado Room at St. Pius X Church, 1050 N. Clark.  Members will be planning fall activities, including outreach to interfaith groups and elected officials.

Support TCADP
Thanks to everyone who has contributed towards our summer fundraising campaign. We are delighted to report we have raised $2,430 towards our goal of $2,500.  Your gift today will put us over the top!

Consider taking your support to the next level by becoming a TCADP Sustaining Member.  Sustaining Members pledge an annual gift that recurs every year on the day of your choosing.

Another easy way to support TCADP is through Amazon Smile. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to us, as long as you designate TCADP as your charitable organization of choice.  Over the last year, we’ve raised nearly $200 through this program. This covers the cost of our participation in the conferences listed above.

Thank you for standing with us as we shift the ground under the death penalty in Texas!