TCADP August 2018 Alert: A welcome reprieve from executions

In this edition:

Scheduled executions: No executions in Texas this month

County developments: Death penalty trials underway in Texas’ highest-use counties; candidates for Bexar County district attorney take “cautious approach” to death penalty issue

In case you missed it: Chairman of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee calls for ending the death penalty; reporter retires after witnessing hundreds of executions

Upcoming events: Meet Tarrant County District Attorney, Sharen Wilson, in Fort Worth; attend a public lecture by exonoree Anthony Graves in San Antonio


Quote of the month

“…the clemency process in Texas is a black box — one where hearings are rarely held and decisions are never really explained, which makes it nearly impossible to detect toxins that are deadly, even in small doses.”

– “Who Gets Mercy on Death Row? Chris Young’s Execution Raises Questions of Racial Bias”Texas Observer, July 20, 2018


Scheduled executions
For the first and only month this year, there are no executions scheduled in Texas.

The State of Texas has put eight individuals to death this year, accounting for more than half of the executions nationwide and surpassing the total number of people put to death in 2017. There are currently seven additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through December.

According to the Texas Tribune, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) recently purchased 15 new doses of pentobarbital, the drug used in lethal injections.  In June, the Texas Supreme Court declined to overturn a lower court ruling that a pharmacy that supplied drugs to TDCJ in 2014 must be revealed under the state’s public information law.  The state has filed a motion for rehearing.


Developments in high-use counties
Two capital murder cases are moving forward in Dallas and Harris Counties:

  • Jury selection in the capital murder trial of Kristopher Love began on July 10 in Dallas.  Love allegedly was hired by Brenda Delgado to kill Kendra Hatcher in 2015.  Delgado also is charged with capital murder but will not face the death penalty as part of an extradition agreement with Mexico, where she fled before police issued a warrant for her arrest.
  • On July 26, Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan was found guilty of capital murder for the 2012 homicides of Coty Beavers, who was married to his daughter, Nesreen Irsan, and Gelareh Bagherzadeh, his daughter’s close friend and an Iranian activist. Harris County jurors deliberated less than an hour before reaching a decision. The special prosecutors appointed to try the case are seeking the death penalty.

Together, juries in Dallas and Harris County have imposed more than 400 death sentences; no one has been sentenced to death in either county for more than three years, however.

In Bexar County, the two candidates for District Attorney – Joe Gonzalez and Tylden Shaeffer – have taken a reserved approach to the death penalty, saying they would consider it on a case-by-case basis.

Historically, Bexar County accounts for the third-highest number of death sentences in Texas, but juries there have imposed just two new death sentences in the past decade.  In the last month, two capital murder cases in which prosecutor were seeking the death penalty have resulted in mistrials.

Juries in Texas have sentenced three individuals to death in 2018 (in Hardin, Tom Green, Willacy Counties).


In case you missed it
Former prosecutor, committee chairman supports abolition
State Representative Joe Moody, who represents House District 78 in El Paso and serves as the Chairman of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, recently published a powerful opinion piece explaining why he has “moved from longtime support of capital punishment to the moral certainty that it’s time for Texas to abolish the death penalty.”  

The piece has been published in the Texas Tribune (TribTalk), the El Paso Times, and the Austin-American Statesman.  Thank Representative Moody for his leadership by emailing him at joe.moody@house.texas.gov or posting a supportive comment on one of the media outlets listed above.

Longtime AP reporter retires
Mike Graczyk, an Associated Press reporter who has witnessed more than 400 executions in Texas since 1984, is retiring.  According to a profile piece in theHouston Chronicle, “over 35 years, Graczyk’s byline has become synonymous with death penalty coverage in the state most enamored of it.” Read more about his time with the AP.


Upcoming events

FORT WORTH
The Republican candidate for Tarrant County District Attorney, incumbent Sharen Wilson, will participate in a candidate forum on Thursday, September 13 at 6:00 PM at First Congregational UCC (4201 Trail Lake Drive, Fort Worth, 76109). The Democratic candidate, Albert Roberts, participated in a similar forum hosted by TCADP in May.

SAN ANTONIO
The TCADP San Antonio chapter will meet on Wednesday, August 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the St. Mary’s Law School Library “Alumni Room” (1 Camino Santa Maria Street).  Parking is free after 5 p.m. and plentiful in the parking lot just north of the tennis courts. The best entrance is off of 36th Street. Contact coordinator Mardi Baron at sanantonio@tcadp.org for more information. The TCADP San Antonio Chapter meets on the second Wednesday of every month.

University of Incarnate Word will sponsor a public lecture by death row exonoree Anthony Graves on Wednesday, September 12 at 7:00 pm in the Concert Hall on campus (4301 Broadway). Mr. Graves will appear on TPR’s “The Source” at noonthat day with David Martin Davies.  The event is free and all are welcome to attend.