death penalty execution Texas

TCADP April 2018 Alert: Focus on Wrongful Convictions

In this edition of our monthly e-newsletter, you’ll find information about executions, case updates, and announcements about upcoming events and film screenings featuring wrongful convictions.

In this edition:
Scheduled executions: One execution scheduled for April in Texas; case updates
In case you missed it: The U.S. Supreme Court on the death penalty; New developments in Alfred Dewayne Brown’s case; Texas legislators consider death penalty reform; New report from National Registry of Exonerations
We’re counting on you: Support TCADP!
Featured events: Anthony Graves in Houston; Author Alison Flowers in Fort Worth; “True Conviction” on PBS

Quote of the month
“The people need answers and so does Brown. He lost his liberty for nearly a decade and was condemned to die – either because of someone’s incompetence, or someone’s unconscionable deceit.”

-Lisa Falkenberg, “Rizzo’s defense in Alfred Dewayne Brown case questionable then, chilling now,” Houston Chronicle, March 11, 2018

Scheduled executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute one individual this month:

  • On April 25, 2018, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Erick Davila for the 2008 murders of Annette Stevenson and her granddaughter, Queshawn, in Fort Worth. Davila has steadfastly maintained that he did not intend to kill either of the victims. His target was a man thought to be in the same house.During his trial, Davila’s attorney objected to improper jury instructions, but the attorney who represented him in his direct appeal did not raise this issue; his state habeas lawyer then failed to file a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on those grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in Davila v. Davis on April 24, 2017.On June 19, 2017, the Justices ruled 5-4 against Davila, finding that attorney error in state post-conviction proceedings – for which there is no constitutional right to counsel – does not provide an excuse for the direct appeal lawyer’s failure to raise an issue on direct appeal.

    His attorneys have recently filed a new appeal claiming that Davila was intoxicated at the time of the offense. Tarrant County is responsible for 40 executions. There are currently 17 individuals on death row sentenced in Tarrant County.

Case updates
On February 27, 2018, a Hardin County jury sentenced Jason Delacerda to death for the 2011 murder of 4-year-old Breonna Loftin. This is the first death sentence in Texas this year. There are currently two other individuals on trial in Texas in which the state is seeking death. Isidro Delacruz was found guilty of capital murder in Tom Green County, as was Shawn Puente in Atascosa County. Both trials are now in the punishment phase.

The State of Texas accounts for four of the seven executions nationwide to date this year. There are currently four additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through July.

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

In case you missed it
The U.S. Supreme Court on the death penalty
On March 19, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Hidalgo v. Arizona, a case many hoped would address the constitutionality of the death penaltyHidalgo v. Arizona challenged the broadly applied factors used to qualify a conviction as death-eligible in Arizona, while also questioning the application of the death penalty nationwide. According to the New York Times, “Justice Breyer issued a statement on the narrower challenge, saying that Arizona’s capital sentencing system may well be unconstitutional and inviting a further challenge with more evidence.”

On March 21, 2018, the high court ruled in favor of Carlos Ayestas, a Honduran national who was sentenced to death in Harris County in 1997 for his role in the 1995 murder of 67-year-old Santiaga Paneque during an apparent robbery. During his original trial, Ayestas’ attorneys failed to present mitigating evidence about his substance abuse and mental health issues, and federal courts later denied attorneys the funds to investigate his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

According to the Texas Tribune, the U.S. Supreme Court, “is ordering a federal appellate court to reconsider providing funding for him to investigate previously unexplored evidence that he believes could toss out his death sentence.” Ayestas’ case will now be sent back the U.S. 5th Circuit Court for review.  It’s the third Harris County death penalty case to be remanded by the U.S. Supreme Court since February 2017.

New developments in Alfred Dewayne Brown’s case
On March 2, 2018, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the discovery of an email proving that prosecutors knowingly withheld critical evidence in the death penalty case of Alfred Dewayne Brown – evidence that supported Brown’s consistent claim of innocence.

Brown was released from death row in June 2015 after the District Attorney’s Office – then under the leadership of Devon Anderson – dropped the charges against him after determining there was insufficient evidence to support another conviction.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had overturned Brown’s conviction in 2014 due to prosecutorial misconduct; at the time, the misconduct was deemed by prosecutors and defense attorneys as “inadvertent.”

The new email came to light as a result of a civil lawsuit filed by Brown’s attorneys against the Harris County District Attorney’s office and shows that the prosecutor at the time, Dan Rizzo, was aware of evidence that could have exculpated Brown.

Alfred Dewayne Brown spent a decade on death row for the murders of Houston Police Officer Charles R. Clark and store clerk Alfredia Jones at a check-cashing business in 2003.   He is the 13th person to be released and exonerated from death row in Texas.

Texas legislators consider death penalty reform
On March 26, 2018, the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence held a hearing to address interim charge on the death penalty and individuals with severe mental illness and intellectual disabilities. TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala provided testimony, among many others. You can watch the full hearing here.

New report from National Registry of Exonerations
On March 14, 2018, the National Registry of Exonerations released its 2017 Exonerations Report. The 22-page document details the contributing factors behind last year’s 139 exonerations and offers a view into the systemic corruption and blunders behind wrongful convictions across the United States. The report also shows an upward trend in exoneration efforts.

We’re counting on you
Thanks again to everyone who contributed to TCADP’s 2018 Amplify Austin fundraising campaign last month.

If you support our efforts to stop executions, prevent new death sentences, and tell the stories of individuals who have been impacted by violence and the death penalty, please donate today.  Better yet, become a TCADP Partner for Justice with your recurring monthly gift.  Thank you!

Featured events
April 4:
 Anthony Graves will be at Thurgood Marshall School of Law (3100 Cleburne Street, Houston, 77004) for an event with the Death Penalty Awareness Society. The event will begin at noon and will take place in Room 106. Click here for more information.

April 26: Join us for a discussion and reading with Alison Flowers, author ofExoneree Diaries at First Congregational UCC Fort Worth (4201 Trail Lake Drive, Fort Worth, 76109). The event will begin at 6:00 PM. Copies of Alison’s book, Exoneree Diaries: The Fight for Innocence, Independence, and Identity, will be available for purchase and signing by the author after the event. Click here to learn more about Alison and the event.

April 30:  Starting on April 30, 2018, PBS stations nationwide will air the extraordinary documentary film, “True Conviction.”  Filmed in Dallas, Texas, “True Conviction” explores the investigative and philanthropic work of the unlikeliest of teams: exonerees Christopher Scott, Johnnie Lindsey, and Steven Phillips, who collectively spent more than sixty years in prison for crimes they did not commit. After their exonerations, the three friends formed House of Renewed Hope to help other wrongfully convicted prisoners and advocate for criminal justice reforms.

TCADP recently honored House of Renewed Hope at our 2018 Annual Conference, where Christopher Scott and Steven Phillips also participated in a panel discussion.

You won’t want to miss the premiere of this honest and inspiring documentary. Check your local PBS station for air times, and consider hosting a watch party with friends and family members to encourage even more people to view the film.

You’ll find a resource guide for watch parties and individual viewing here.  Sign up here so that we can stay in touch with you about additional opportunities and updates related to “True Conviction.”