In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Support the Cherry’s appeal for clemency for Paul Storey; new vigil location; protest resumption of executions in Arkansas
In case you missed it: U.S. Supreme Court invalidates Texas’ standards for determining intellectual disabilities in death penalty cases; Harris County tops list for exonerations in 2016
Legislative update: Recap of Faith Leader Advocacy Day; joint author for HB 1537
Featured events: Houston Chapter Spring Meeting; “Voices of Death Row” performances in Austin
Quote of the month
“What has become abundantly clear through this process is that while I currently do have the discretion to pursue death sentences, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of this community or the best interests of justice.”
– Orange-Osceola County (FL) State Attorney Aramis Ayala, March 16, 2017
Support the Cherry Family’s call for clemency
Jonas Cherry was killed at a Putt-Putt Golf and Games in Hurst, Texas in 2006. One of the men convicted of his senseless and tragic death – Paul Storey – faces execution by the State of Texas on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. The Cherrys have signed an affidavit and made an appeal by video asking state and Tarrant County officials to stop the execution and commute Storey’s sentence to life in prison without parole. In addition, one of the jurors in the 2008 trial has major regrets about the role he played in sentencing Storey to death.
We need your help
We need you to amplify the Cherry’s call for mercy for the man convicted of killing their son. Please contact the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Texas Governor Greg Abbott to urge clemency for Paul Storey. The governor has the authority to grant clemency upon the written recommendation of a majority of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Thanks to everyone who has called or written already – it is making a difference!
You’ll find contact information for the Board and Governor on our website.
Tell the Board Members and Governor Abbott: “I support Glenn and Judy Cherry in their call for clemency for Paul Storey, who is set to be put to death on April 12, 2017. Storey was convicted and sentenced to death for killing their son, Jonas Cherry, in 2006. If Cherry’s parents can show grace and mercy towards Storey, the State of Texas can, too. I implore you to commute Storey’s sentence to life in prison without parole.”
We also ask that you share information about this case with your social media networks. Follow TCADP on Facebook and Twitter for updates and coverage and share/like our tweets and posts. You can also follow developments on Twitter using the hashtag #PaulStorey.
The State of Texas accounts for four of the six executions nationwide to date this year. At this time, there are five additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through July 2017. There has been one new death sentence this year.
New vigil location: Copperas Cove
On days of executions, a prayer vigil will be held immediately following the 5:30 PM Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church (1001 Georgetown Rd., Copperas Cove) to pray for those on death row awaiting execution, their families, the victims and their families, all involved in executions and for an end to the death penalty.
Stop Arkansas from resuming executions
The State of Arkansas — which has not carried out an execution since 2005 — has scheduled 8 executions to take place in 10 days, with back-to-back executions beginning on April 17. This rush to execute is driven by the fact that the state’s supply of one lethal injection drug will expire at the end of the month.
A group of 23 former corrections officials and administrators recently delivered a letter to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson expressing their deep concern about the emotional trauma and the increased risk of problems in the execution chamber that may result from this unprecedented execution schedule.
Please sign a petition to ask the Governor of Arkansas to intervene to stop this grotesque injustice, and share it with friends and family members in Arkansas.
In case you missed it
U.S. Supreme Court throws out unscientific Briseño factors
On March 28, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas must use current medical standards for determining whether a person is intellectually disabled and therefore exempt from execution. The case – Moore v. Texas – involves Bobby James Moore, who was convicted of killing grocery store employee James McCarble during a bungled robbery in Houston in 1980.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited the application of the death penalty to persons with intellectual disabilities in 2002 (Atkins v. Virginia), it left it to each state to set forth criteria for determining whether an individual is intellectually disabled. As a result, in 2004, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) determined its own, unscientific standards, known as Briseño factors, which were based in part on the character of Lennie in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men.
In the Court’s majority opinion in Moore, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes: “…the several factors Briseno set out as indicators of intellectual disability are an invention of the CCA untied to any acknowledged source. Not aligned with the medical community’s information, and drawing no strength from our precedent, the Briseno factors ‘creat[e] an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed.”
Moore’s case now returns to the CCA for reconsideration using current medical standards. Read more.
New reports from the National Registry of Exonerations
The National Registry of Exonerations recently released two new reports, Exonerations in 2016and Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States. Texas leads the nation in exonerations. According to the report, Harris County was responsible for all but 10 of Texas’ 58 exonerations in 2016. The state with the second highest number, Illinois, had 16 exonerations in 2016. The report was covered in detail in a special edition of Time Magazine.
Texas Legislative Update
The 2017 Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty, sponsored by TCADP and Texas Impact, took place at the State Capitol on March 28, 2017. Participants included clergy and lay leaders from Beaumont, Houston, Plano, Abilene, Copperas Cove, and Crowell, as well as members of the TCADP Lobby Corps. Collectively, participants visited nearly 40 legislative offices to share their opposition to the death penalty and urge support for HB 1537 and SB 597, the death penalty repeal bills. Thanks to all of our wonderful advocates for joining us that day!
In other news… State Representative Alma Allen, who represents House District 131 in Houston, recently signed on as a joint author for HB 1537 with State Representative Jessica Farrar! In 2016, TCADP honored Representative Allen with an Appreciation Award for her steadfast commitment to abolition of the death penalty in Texas. You can show her your appreciation by sending her a note of thanks: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At this time, neither HB 1537 nor SB 597 have been scheduled for committee hearings. The TCADP Lobby Corps continues to meet with committee members to keep the bills on their radar.
On Twitter? Follow #txlege for the latest updates.
April 6: TCADP’s Houston Chapter will meet Thursday, April 6th at the Cypress Creek Christian Community Center (6823 Cypresswood Dr, Spring, TX 77379). The meeting will take place from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Please view this event flyer for more information.
April 10 & April 12: “Voices of Death Row” is a collaboration between university students in various departments, death penalty activists, and inmates on Texas death row. In a series of operatic songs, audiences experience the thoughts, dreams, and prayers of four men currently on Texas death row. Performances will take place on Monday, April 10th at 4:30 PM and Wednesday, April 12th at 8:00 PM at The B. Iden Payne Theater at the University of Texas (300 E 23rd St, Austin, TX 78712). For more information, please visit https://kallegretti.