In this edition of our monthly e-newsletter, you’ll find case updates for Scott Panetti and Julius Murphy and a more information about the Pope’s call for “global abolition.” This edition also marks the opening of online registration for the 2016 TCADP Annual Conference.
In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Dallas County schedules first execution of the year; date withdrawn for Christopher Wilkins
Case updates: Developments in the cases of Scott Panetti and Julius Murphy
TCADP 2016 Annual Conference: Online registration now open; award nominations accepted until October 16
In case you missed it: Pope Francis calls for global abolition
Featured events: Join us at the State Capitol on October 23
Quote of the month
“These days, Texas is at the epicenter of a different trend: The Deep South has witnessed a sharp, sustained, and unmistakable drop in death verdicts. So far this year Texas has not had a single new death sentence. Neither has Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia.”
– Robert J. Smith, “Is Southern California the New Deep South?” (9/7/15)
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute two people this month:
- On October 6, the State is scheduled to execute Juan Garcia for the 1998 robbery and murder of Hugo Solano in Harris County. Joined by three accomplices, Garcia was 18 years old at the time of the crime.
- On October 14, the State is scheduled to execute Licho Escamilla for the 2001 murder of police officer Christopher James after a fight broke out in the parking lot of a Dallas nightclub. Officer James was working off-duty security at the venue. According to the Dallas Morning News, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected Escamilla’s argument that his trial attorneys did not provide evidence of his abusive childhood, ruling that the crime evidence outweighed any mitigating evidence not presented to jurors. Escamilla was 19 years old at the time of the shooting. This is the first execution scheduled out of Dallas County this year.
The October 28 execution date for Christopher Wilkins was recently withdrawn at the request of Tarrant County prosecutors. They sought the delay after the Texas Forensic Science Commission raised new concerns about DNA statistics and the interpretation of mixed DNA evidence. Learn more from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The State of Texas has executed 10 people in 2015, accounting for nearly half of the 21 executions nationwide to date this year.
New filing alleges misconduct in trial of Julius Murphy
Lawyers for Julius Murphy, who has a November 3 execution date, have requested a stay from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals based on alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Their latest filing presents new evidence that prosecutors forced false and tainted testimony from two key witnesses in Murphy’s 1998 trial in Bowie County. Read more.
Fifth Circuit considers case of Scott Panetti
On September 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held oral argument in the case of Scott Panetti, who has been on Texas’ death row since 1995 and has faced several execution dates despite his extensive, documented history of severe mental illness. The Fifth Circuit stayed Panetti’s execution on December 3, 2014 to further review the issues surrounding his competency.
Learn more about Panetti’s case and read an excellent editorial from the Dallas Morning News, “Execution of mentally ill man serves no greater good.”
TCADP 2016 Annual Conference: At the Epicenter of the Death Penalty
Online registration for the TCADP 2016 Annual Conference is now open! The conference will take place on Saturday, February 20, 2016 in Houston. Take advantage of reduced registration rates until December 31, 2015.
We are still accepting nominations for our annual Courage, Appreciation, and Media Awards. With these awards, we recognize organizations and individuals who have made significant and selfless contributions towards our work to end the death penalty in Texas. All award winners will be honored at the conference. Please submit your nominations by October 16, 2015.
In case you missed it
Pope Francis reaffirms call for abolition
On September 24, during his historic visit to the United States, Pope Francis asked for “global abolishment of the death penalty” while addressing Congress. Learn more.
A Fort Worth Family Forgives
James Serrano suffered a tragic loss on June 3, 2014 when his wife, Cynthia, and their two daughters, April and Kathy, were found murdered in their Fort Worth home. The man behind the crime was April’s ex-boyfriend, Cedric McGinnis. On September 10, 2015, McGinnis plead guilty and was sentenced to life without parole. After the plea, Serrano had this to say to McGinnis, “You got a second chance to life that my girls don’t have…turn your heart, turn your life, to the Lord. Let him guide you. That’s the only way to make it.” The rest of the Serrano family echoed his sentiments. McGinnis’ attorney, Joetta Keene, pointed out the power behind the family’s actions, “They showed all of us what forgiveness feels like.” Read the full story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Justice Scalia “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Supreme Court ends the death penalty During a speech at Rhodes College last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said four of his colleagues believe the death penalty is unconstitutional. In the Los Angeles Times, Scott Martelle writes: “That he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ by a reversal of the court’s long-standing acceptance of the death penalty’s constitutionality suggests there may be some ground-shifting going on about the death penalty, which would be good news indeed.”
TCADP, along with the Texas Mercy Project of the Texas Catholic Conference, The Office of Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., and the Catholic Mobilizing Network, is sponsoring “Journey to Mercy: Rethinking the Death Penalty in Texas” on Friday, October 23rd. The event features elected officials and policy experts. It will take place in the Legislative Conference Center in the State Capitol (1100 Congress Ave.) from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The conference is free and open to the public. RSVP here.
“A Walk for Life, Hope and Mercy: Standing Against the Death Penalty,” sponsored by the Texas Mercy Project and the Catholic Mobilizing Network, will take place on Saturday, October 24th. The walk will begin at 9:00 AM at St. Austin Catholic Center (2010 University Avenue) and end at 12:00 PM at the State Capitol (1100 Congress). All are welcome to attend.
El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty, a chapter of TCADP, meet on the last Tuesday of the month. The next meeting will take place at 7:00 PM on October 27th at St. Pius X Church in the Pedro Maldonado Room (1050 North Clark Drive). For more information, please contact Pat Delgado at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TCADP Board President, Angelle Adams, will lead a presentation and discussion with Houston Oasis on October 4th. The event will take place at the Norris Conference Center (9990 Richmond Ave).
Ministry to the Imprisoned & the Pro-Life Ministry will host a presentation by Chris Castillo on October 27th at St. Gabriel the Archangel (110 St. Gabriel Way) in McKinney at 7:00 PM. After his mother’s murder in 1991, Chris became involved in prison ministry. He is currently the coordinator of chaplain volunteers for the Diocese of Beaumont’s Office of Criminal Justice Ministry.
TCADP Executive Director, Kristin Houlé, and Board Secretary, DJ Compton, will lead a presentation and discussion with Women Organizing Women Democrats on October 8th.
Find details on other upcoming events here.
Thank you for standing with us as we shift the ground under the death penalty!