In this edition
Scheduled executions: Two more executions scheduled in Texas this month
In case you missed it: Texas death row exonoree Clarence Brandley has passed away; business leader deems death penalty “inefficient, indefensible”
Announcements: TCADP seeks Lobby Corps members and nominations for our annual awards; Jason Baldwin to keynote TCADP 2019 Annual Conference, “Uniting for Justice”, February 16, 2019 in Austin
Events: Opportunities in Austin, Lubbock and San Antonio; Are you registered to vote? Deadline is October 9.
Quote of the month
“There is no ‘capital punishment,’ no machinery of death, that stands apart from the ad hoc efforts of ordinary mortals to improvise the killing of fellow humans, whose bodies quite naturally fight for life up to and beyond the last agonizing breath.”
– Garrett Epps, “The Machinery of Death Is Back on the Docket,” The Atlantic, September 18, 2018
Two individuals convicted in Tarrant County are scheduled to be put to death this month:
- The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Juan Segundo on October 10 for raping and murdering 11-year-old Vanessa Villa in 1986 in Fort Worth. The crime went unsolved until March 2005, when DNA evidence was matched to Segundo. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006.
- The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Kwame Rockwell on October 24 for the robbery and murders of store clerk Daniel Rojas and deliveryman Jerry Burnett in Fort Worth in 2010. Last year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial attorneys decided not to present evidence he may be schizophrenic. The jury reportedly deliberated for more than 13 hours over two days before sentencing Rockwell to death.
If either Segundo or Rockwell is executed, he will represent the 100th person convicted in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to be put to death by the State of Texas. Dallas accounts for 58 executions while Tarrant County accounts for 41. Harris County leads all counties in Texas with 129 executions.
The State of Texas has executed 10 people to date in 2018, accounting for more than 50% of the executions nationwide. Including Segundo and Rockwell, there currently are eight men facing execution dates between now and December 14.
In case you missed it
Exoneree Clarence Brandley has passed away
Clarence Brandley, who spent nine years on death row in Texas before his exoneration in 1990, passed away on September 2, 2018 at the age of 66. Brandley, who was African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury in Montgomery County and came within six days of being executed for a crime he did not commit. No physical evidence connected himto the murder of 16-year-old Cheryl Dee Fergeson, a young white woman. His conviction rested primarily on the word of several white janitors he worked with at Conroe High School.
Brandley is one of 13 Texas death row exonerees. He never received compensation from the State for his decade of wrongful imprisonment. Read more about the racially charged climate in Conroe at the time of Brandley’s wrongful conviction.
Texas business leader deems pursuit of death penalty inefficient, indefensible
In a commentary piece published by Texas Business Daily, retired businessman W.R. (Pete) Mefford calls Dallas prosecutors to task for pursuing the death penalty in another capital case. Mefford observes that “No longer seeking death sentences should be part of an overall strategy to reduce the cost of Texas’ alarmingly expensive criminal justice system, a movement that is supported across the political spectrum.”
Apply for the TCADP Lobby Corps
TCADP is recruiting our fifth class of Lobby Corps members. This dedicated group of volunteers works with staff and board members to advance TCADP’s legislative agenda. Lobby Corps members have played an active role in the last three sessions of the Texas Legislature, meeting regularly with legislative offices and educating elected officials about the death penalty. Apply by October 15th!
Nominate an individual or organization for one of our 2019 Annual Awards
TCADP is accepting nominations for our annual Courage, Appreciation, and Media Awards. With these awards, we recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that have made significant and selfless contributions towards ending the death penalty in Texas. All award winners will be honored at the TCADP 2019 Annual Conference on February 16, 2019 in Austin. Nominations will be accepted until October 26, 2018. You’ll find a list of previous award winners here.
Jason Baldwin to keynote TCADP 2019 Annual Conference
The TCADP 2019 Annual Conference Committee is thrilled to announce that Jason Baldwin will keynote the TCADP 2019 Annual Conference on Saturday, February 16, 2019 in downtown Austin.
Jason was released from prison on August 19, 2011 after serving more than 18 years in Arkansas for crimes he did not commit. Known collectively as the “West Memphis 3,” Jason and co-defendants Jessie Misskelley, Jr. and Damien Echols, were wrongfully convicted for murdering three 8-year old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols was sentenced to death while Jason and Jessie received life sentences. The factors surrounding their wrongful conviction led to a worldwide effort to free the three and expose the injustice of the Arkansas legal system.
While in prison, Jason worked many jobs. One of his favorites was as law clerk in the Varner Supermax Law Library, where he served general population, administrative segregation and Safe Keeping (Death Row) inmates. Even when he was not assigned to the law library as a clerk he spent most of his free time there. He also volunteered his time in the Jaycees and Inmate Panel, where he helped forge such programs as an inmate-funded scholarship program that benefited the families of inmates and guards with the goal of erasing the hard line drawn between inmate and staff – reminding all of their humanity and each’s responsibility to their community. In a world where most prisons are violent places, Jason worked tirelessly to foster a sense of community, self-worth and a belief that compassion is healthier than condemnation any day.
Jason is a co-founder of Proclaim Justice and serves as the organization’s deputy director. He is currently pursuing undergraduate studies leading to a degree in law.
Registration for the TCADP 2019 Annual Conference is now open! Take advantage of pre-registration rates until February 1st; registration includes both breakfast and lunch. Tickets for just the keynote address and luncheon also are available if you can’t attend the full day.
Monday, October 1: Can’t wait until February to hear Jason Baldwin speak? Join him and TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle tonight for a panel discussion before the staging of a new play by CB Goodman, *some humans were harmed in the making of this show. The play was inspired by the 1903 public execution of Topsy the elephant and is told with contemporary human characters. It opened on September 22 to rave reviews.
The panel will take place at 7 PM on October 1 as part of a “pay what you can” event, with proceeds benefiting TCADP; the play will begin at 8 PM. Additional performances of the play will take place October 4-6 at 8 PM at the Ground Floor Theatre in east Austin (979 Springdale Rd #122). Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online.
Many thanks to CB Goodman for providing this unique opportunity to connect advocacy and the arts!
Tuesday, October 2: Sister Helen Prejean, renowned social justice advocate and author of Dead Man Walking and Death of Innocents, will serve as the keynote speaker for the Judicial Red Mass, hosted by The Most Reverend Robert Coerver, Bishop of Lubbock, and the Catholic Foundation. The event will begin with a Mass at 6:30 PM in the Texas Tech Kent Hance Chapel. Following Mass there will be a cocktail reception followed by a seated dinner at 7 pm in the McKenzie Merket Alumni Center. RSVP here (required).
Tuesday, October 2: Wrongful Conviction Day
Tuesday, October 9: Last day to register to vote in the November 6, 2018 elections in Texas. Make sure your vote is counted in important District Attorney elections in Bexar, Dallas, and Tarrant Counties, as well as other races that matter to you and your community.
Wednesday, October 10: TCADP’s San Antonio Chapter meets at 6:30 on the second Wednesday of each month in the Alumni Room at St. Mary’s Law School Library.