In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Rolando Ruiz and James Bigby scheduled to be put to death; new vigil location in Northwest Harris County
TCADP 2017 Annual Conference: Check out photos from the day
Amplify Austin: Set your alarm for Friday, March 3rd at 1PM
In case you missed it: Supreme Court determines Duane Buck deserves new sentencing hearing; Dallas County exonoree urges new District Attorney to drop the death penalty; American Nurses Association take a formal position against capital punishment
Legislative update: Join us for the 2017 Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty
Quote of the month
“[W]hen a jury hears expert testimony that expressly makes a defendant’s race directly pertinent on the question of life or death, the impact of that evidence cannot be measured simply by how much air time it received at trial or how many pages it occupies in the record. Some toxins can be deadly in small doses.”
– Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in Buck v. Davis
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute two individuals this month:
- Rolando Ruiz is scheduled to be put to death on March 7 for the fatal shooting of Theresa Rodriguez in 1992 in San Antonio. He was hired to kill Rodriguez in a life insurance scheme by her husband, Michael Rodriguez, who received a life sentence for his role in the murder. Mr. Rodriguez later was sentenced to death and executed in 2008 for his part in another crime.Ruiz was granted a reprieve in August 2016 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. His appeal questioned the effectiveness of his trial counsel and his initial habeas counsel. It also questioned the constitutionality of executing him after more than 20 years after his conviction. The CCA lifted the stay on November 9, 2016, however, after declining to authorize a subsequent application for a writ of habeas corpus. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently refused to overturn a previous decision related to Ruiz’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
- James Bigby is scheduled to be executed on March 14 for the 1987 murders of Michael R. Trekell and Jayson Kehler in Tarrant County. In 2005, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Bigby’s death sentence after finding that the jury in his original trial did not give appropriate consideration to mitigating evidence. Although his defense attorneys presented witnesses who testified that Bigby was a paranoid schizophrenic, he was resentenced to death in 2006. If the execution is carried out, Bigby will the second person to be executed from Tarrant County in 2017.
At this time, there are five additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through July 2017.
New vigil location: There will now be vigils on the days of executions at Plymouth UCC in Spring (5927 Louetta Road, 77379) from 5:45 to 6:30PM. Free parking is available on site. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Jeter at 713-206-8279.
Supporters gather in Austin for TCADP 2017 Annual Conference
TCADP is grateful to everyone who participated in our 2017 Annual Conference on February 18th in Austin. It was wonderful to see so many new and familiar faces, honor our incredible award recipients – Alfred Dewayne Brown, Lindsey Pearlstein, and Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. – and hear from special guests Brian Stolarz, Pamela Colloff, Alex Hannaford, and many more. Photos from the day, courtesy of Luis Urdaneta, are now available on the TCADP Facebook page. The conference also received media coverage from Spectrum News and KXAN in Austin. Special thanks to our champions, John Mimbela and Lifespark, and luncheon sponsors, Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, LeClairRyan, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action – Rio Texas Chapter.
Amplify Austin, a 24-hour online fundraising festival, will take place this week from 6 PM on March 2nd to 6 PM on March 3rd. You can help TCADP win a $1,000 bonus prize for the fifth year in a row by donating between 1:00 and 2:00 PM Central Time on Friday, March 3rd. Check out our profile page and set your alarm for Friday afternoon. Thank you!
In case you missed it
Supreme Court overturns death sentence of Duane Buck due to racial bias
On February 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-2 decision in the case of Buck v. Davis, in which it ruled that Texas death row inmate Duane Buck is entitled to a new sentencing hearing. Buck was sentenced to death in 1997 after a Houston jury heard false and unconstitutional testimony from a defense “expert” that he was more likely to be a future danger because he is black. Read the press release from Buck’s legal team at Texas Defender Service and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
Dallas DA should drop the death penalty against black man
Christopher Scott, a criminal justice advocate and exonoree, recently authored an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News addressing the Dallas County capital murder case of Erbie Bowser, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the first time since 2013. Scott reminds new District Attorney Faith Johnson of the county’s racially biased history and encourages her to start a new era by enacting reforms.
American Nurses Association formally opposes the death penalty
Last month, the American Nurses Association (ANA) released a statement opposing the death penalty. The ANA has opposed nurses’ participation in capital punishment since 1983, but this statement extends opposition to the entire practice. “Capital punishment is a human rights violation, and ANA is proud to stand in strong opposition to the death penalty. All human beings, regardless of their crimes, should be treated with dignity,” said ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. Read more from the Huffington Post.
The 85th session of the Texas Legislature is well underway. Death penalty repeal bills have been filed in both the House and Senate – SB 597 by Senator Lucio and HB 1537 by Representative Farrar; the House Criminal Jurisprudence and Senate Criminal Justice Committees have been named; and hearings have commenced. TCADP Lobby Corps members continue to visit with legislators and their staff members to keep the death penalty issue on their radar.
Our next big initiative is the 2017 Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty, which will take place in conjunction with Texas Impact at the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 28, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. While we will focus specifically that day on lifting up the voices of faith leaders on this issue, all are welcome to join us to visit your state legislators and express your opposition to the Texas death penalty. Register by submitting the online form or emailing Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter? Follow #txlege for the latest developments at the Texas Legislature.