Amplify Austin execution Sister Helen Prejean Texas death penalty

TCADP April 2016 Alert: Springing into Action

In this edition of our monthly e-newsletter, you’ll find information about upcoming events featuring Sister Helen Prejean at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. You’ll also find links to recent stories about racial bias in the jury selection process and the regrets of a juror in a capital murder trial in Texas that sentenced a man to death.

In this edition:

Scheduled executions: Texas accounts for half of executions nationwide in 2016
In case you missed it: Juror regrets decision to sentence a man to death
Thank you for Amplifying TCADP: 24-hour fundraising campaign raises more than $8,000 for our efforts to end the death penalty
Featured events: Sister Helen Prejean returns to Central Texas; Southwestern University in Georgetown performs Dead Man Walking

Quote of the month
“It’s wrong for government to be in business in killing its own citizens. That cheapens life.” – Utah Senator Steve Urquhart
From “Why one Utah Republican changed his mind on the death penalty — and is leading the effort to abolish it” (Washington Post, 2/26/16)

Scheduled executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Pablo Vasquez on April 6, 2016. He was convicted of killing 12-year-old David Cardenas in 1998 in Donna, Texas (Hidalgo County). Vasquez was 20 years old at the time of the crime. His attorney claims Vasquez suffers from severe mental illness.

Updates on other cases:

  • Robert Pruett’s execution date of April 27 was postponed until August 23.
  • The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the March 30 execution of John Battaglia in order to give his attorneys time to develop their claim he may be mentally incompetent for execution. It was the first Texas execution to be stayed this year. Learn more.

The State of Texas has put five people to death in 2016. There have been 10 executions nationwide.At this time, there are six additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through August 2016.

Attend a vigil in your community on the day of executions. Note new vigil locations in Abilene and Waco. Information and updates on cases are available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter.

In case you missed it
Prosecutor encouraged to strike jurors based on race
As reported recently in the Houston Chronicle (“Wharton Co. prosecutor says he was told to keep blacks off juries,” March 22, 2016) Wharton County prosecutor Nathan Wood felt pressured by Wharton County District Attorney Ross Kurtz to strike jurors of color. During a hearing on March 10, 2016, Wood said, “I was not ‘instructed’ to strike black jurors so much as I was advised or encouraged to do so as a matter of trial strategy.” While Kurtz denies the allegations, he did not comment directly as the case in question is still in the sentencing phase.

Juror regrets role in death penalty verdict
The Marshall Project’s “My Regrets as a Juror Who Sent a Man to Death Row” recounts the story of Sven Berger and his time as a juror in the capital murder trial of Paul Storey, which took place in Tarrant County in 2008. Berger says he did not see Storey as a future threat, one of the requirements for death sentences in Texas, but did not speak up about his reservations. After the death sentence was delivered, Berger admits, “I felt guilty about what happened. And sad. And a little helpless.”

Thank you for Amplifying TCADP!
We are deeply grateful to everyone who donated to TCADP in support of our Amplify Austin fundraising campaign on March 8-9, 2016. We raised more than $7,700 and won a $1,000 bonus prize for having the most donors during the 1 to 2 PM giving hour for the fourth year in a row! These funds will go a long way towards advancing our statewide outreach and educational efforts to end the death penalty in Texas.

Featured Events
Dallas: TCADP’s North Texas Outreach Coordinator, Jason Redick, will be attending the Cesar Chavez Harvest of Hope: March and Celebration on Saturday, April 2nd from 12:00 to 5:00PM. The event will take place at the Dallas Farmers Market (1010 South Pearl Expressway). If you are in the Dallas area, be sure to stop by the TCADP table to say hello to Jason and our volunteers. For more information, please visit the Cesar Chavez Harvest of Hope: March and Celebration Facebook page.

Georgetown: The Sarofim School of Fine Arts at Southwestern University presents Dead Man Walking, a play by Tim Robbins based on the best-selling memoir by Sister Helen Prejean. Performances will take place April 15-17th and 21-24th, 2016 in the Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances begin at 7:30PM and Sunday performances begin at 3:00PM). A panel discussion/talkback will take place on Sunday, April 17th at 5:30 PM following the matinee performance. Panelists include TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé, Bishop Joe A. Wilson, Retired, United Methodist Church, and former Nueces County District Attorney Grant Jones. Purchase performance tickets here.

On Tuesday, April 19th, Southwestern University will host Sister Helen Prejean for the 2016 Shilling Lecture. The event will begin at 7:00 PM at the Alma Thomas Theatre. Tickets to the Shilling Lecture are free and open to the public. They will be available through the Wm. Chris & Tina M. Mathers Box Office at 512-863-1378. Priority will be given to students, faculty, staff and friends of Southwestern and are available on a first come, first served basis. The general public can reserve or pick up tickets starting April 5th.

Sister Helen’s books Dead Man Walking and Death of Innocents will be on sale before and after the lecture. She will be available to autograph copies after the lecture. All proceeds benefit her Ministry Against the Death Penalty.

Austin: TCADP will hold a member luncheon on Tuesday, April 26th at noon at The Egg & I Restaurant (Northcross, 2525 W. Anderson Ln., Austin, 78757). More details coming soon. All are welcome!

Houston: The Houston Chapter of TCADP will meet Tuesday, May 3rd at 7:00PM at the Central Market Community Room (3816 Westheimer @ Weslayan). This meeting will feature a special presentation by Kathryn Kase, the Executive Director of Texas Defender Service. For more information, please click here.

Thank you for standing with us as we advance change at the epicenter of the death penalty.