In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Support clemency for Juan Castillo
In case you missed it: Amnesty International releases global report on death penalty; Texas judges weigh in on the death penalty; 162nd individual released from death row; New Hampshire’s repeal bill advances
New resource: Check out TCADP’s new webpage on the Death Penalty at the County Level
Featured events: Twitter chat with Christopher Scott of “True Conviction,” Chapter meetings in Dallas and San Antonio
Quote of the month
“As long as you have hope, you have life. We always hoped that one day we would be free. We hoped that one day we would be with our loved ones again. We hoped that one day we could put this behind us. We hoped that one day we could help other innocent people.”
-Christopher Scott, “Christopher Scott’s ‘True Conviction,’” Texas Monthly, May 2018
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Juan Castillo on May 16, 2018. It is the fourth execution date he has faced over the last year.
Castillo was convicted of capital murder in Bexar County in 2005 for causing the death of Tommy Garcia, Jr. in the course of committing a robbery. According to the state, Castillo conspired with codefendants Debra Espinosa and Francisco Gonzales to rob Tommy Garcia, Jr. DNA evidence places Francisco Gonzales at the scene. Espinosa called the police after Garcia was shot. No forensic or physical evidence links Castillo to the crime. Of the three individuals arrested in connection with Garcia’s death, however, Castillo was the only one to receive the death penalty.
Take action! Please call or email the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Abbott to support Juan Castillo’s petition for clemency. Click here for contact information and talking points.
In case you missed it
Amnesty International releases global report
In April, Amnesty International published its annual report, Death Sentences and Executions 2017. The report documents the 39% decrease in the use of the death penalty worldwide since 2015 and highlights nations that continue to violate international law.
For the ninth year in a row, the United States remained the only country in the Americas to carry out executions. It dropped from seventh to eighth in total executions globally. Texas accounts for 30 percent of all executions in the United States, the highest out of any state. Read more.
Texas judges weigh in on death penalty
Recently, two Texas judges provided their perspectives on the death penalty. In a collaboration with Vice News and The Marshall Project, Former District Judge Mike Lynch discussed the emotional impact of handing down death sentences: “Each time I encountered a capital case—eight came before me during my two decades on the bench—there would be at least one moment that brought my internal conflict starkly into focus.”
Harris County Criminal Court Judge Michael Fields expressed his concerns with limiting the federal appeals process in a piece published in the Houston Chronicle. Fields opines: “The ability of a person to lodge a full and fair defense of a death conviction, irrespective of the costs, must be held sacrosanct.”
Death row exoneration
Mexican national Vicente Figueroa Benavides was released from death row in California on April 19 after spending 25 years in prison. Two days earlier, Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green announced that her office intended to drop all charges against Benavides. Her decision came one month after the California Supreme Court overturned his conviction on the basis of false medical testimony. Benavides is the 162nd person and 5th foreign national exonerated from death row nationwide since 1973.
New Hampshire advances death penalty repeal bill
On April 26, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 223-116 to pass Senate Bill 593, which would end the death penalty in that state. The State Senate approved the measure in March by a vote of 14-10. Governor Chris Sununu has said he will veto the bill. Death penalty repeal measures also overcame legislative hurdles this year in Washington, Utah, and Louisiana.
New resource: The Death Penalty at the County Level
We recently launched a new page on our website about the death penalty at the county level. On this page, you will find information, statistics, and resources. Click here to check it out!
Primary Runoff Election dates
May 14-18: Early Voting
May 22: Election Day
May 1: The documentary “True Conviction” will be available for streaming. Click here for more information.
May 3: TCADP will host a Twitter Chat with Christopher Scott on Thursday, May 3 from 12:00 to 1:00 PM CT. Join us and ask Christopher questions about “True Conviction” and criminal justice reform. You can follow the chat by searching #TrueConvictionChat on Twitter.
May 9: The TCADP San Antonio Chapter will host a member meeting at the Law Alumni Room in the Sarita Kenedy East Law Library (1 Camino Santa Maria St.) at St. Mary’s Law School on Wednesday, May 9. The meeting will begin at 6:30 PM. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The TCADP San Antonio Chapter meets on the second Wednesday of every month.
May 12: A Dallas chapter meeting is scheduled for Saturday, May 12 from 2:00 to 3:00 PM at Midway Hills Christian Church (11001 Midway Road). For more information, please contact Jim Webner at email@example.com.