TCADP March 2019 Alert: One execution scheduled this month; Legislative updates; upcoming events

In this edition:

Scheduled execution: State of Texas plans to execute Patrick Murphy under Law of Parties

TCADP 2019 Annual Conference: View photos of our inspiring speakers, award recipients, and attendees

In case you missed it: U.S. Supreme rules for second time in Moore v. Texas; Governor of Ohio halts executions; Justices block execution of Alabama man with dementia 

86th Texas Legislature: House Bill 246 gains two additional authors

Featured events: Upcoming film screenings, speakers, and poetry readings in Austin, Katy, McKinney, and San Antonio


Quote of the month
“The [Texas] court [of Criminal Appeals] repeated the same errors that this Court previously condemned… and again emphasized Moore’s adaptive strengths, rather than his deficits. That did not pass muster under this court’s analysis last time. It still doesn’t.”

– Chief Justice John Roberts in his concurring opinion in Moore v. Texas, February 19, 2019. Read the full order, beginning on page 29. 


Scheduled execution
Patrick Murphy, 57, is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on March 28, 2019 for his involvement in the death of Officer Aubrey Hawkins in 2000. One of the “Texas 7” prison escapees, Murphy was convicted under Texas’ controversial law of parties, which holds a person responsible for the actions of another if they are engaged in a criminal conspiracy. Murphy is the second to last member of the “Texas 7” remaining on death row, following the execution of Joseph Garcia in December 2018.

George Rivas, the ringleader who plotted the escape, admitted to shooting Officer Hawkins during the robbery of an Oshman’s sporting goods store in Irving. Although Murphy was on the other side of the building acting as a lookout during the shooting, and there is no indication he fired a shot, he was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003. At the time of the escape, Murphy was serving a 50-year sentence for aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon in Dallas.

Texas is responsible for 2 of the 3 executions nationwide thus far in 2019.  Last night, the State executed Billie Wayne Coble.  At 70 years of age, he was the oldest person put to death here since Texas resumed executions in 1982.  Coble spent nearly 30 years on death row.

Including Murphy, there are currently five executions scheduled to take place in Texas through September.  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.


Supporters gather in Austin for TCADP 2019 Annual Conference
TCADP is grateful to everyone who participated in the TCADP 2019 Annual Conference: Uniting for Justice on February 16, 2019 in Austin. It was wonderful to see both new and familiar faces, honor our incredible award recipients, and hear from special guest speakers.  We particularly want to thank Judge Elsa Alcala, Judge Mike Lynch, State Representative Joe Moody, and State Representative Donna Howard for sharing their insights with us, and Jason Baldwin for his moving keynote address.  

Our thanks also go to the following sponsors: Dr. Keeley Crowfoot; David Dow; Fort Worth Monthly Meeting of Friends; Dr. Kimberly Harrison; John Mimbela; Law Office of Omar Vargas; Rio Texas Methodist Federation for Social Action; Morsigns; Professor Ana Otero; and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio.  Additional support for the conference was provided by the Judith Filler Foundation.

Photos from the day, courtesy of Joey Native/FOMAS Cine, are now available on our Facebook page.


In case you missed it
U.S. Supreme Court finds Bobby Moore should be exempt from death penalty
On February 19, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curiam decision in the case ofMoore v. Texas, finding that Bobby James Moore is intellectually disabled and should be exempt from the death penalty. Moore has been on death row in Texas since 1980. This is the second time the Justices have ruled in his case; in both instances, the nation’s highest court found fault with the way the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) determined intellectual disability in capital cases.

The day after the Court’s ruling, two Republican members of the Texas House of Representatives – Chairmen Jeff Leach (R-Plano) and James White (R-Hillister) – signed on as joint authors of House Bill 1139, which would establish a pretrial procedure for determining intellectual disability in capital cases in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.  The bill is sponsored by Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and also supported by State Representatives Joe Moody (D-El Paso), Armando Walle (D-Houston), and Gene Wu (D-Houston).

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, whose office acknowledges Bobby Moore’s intellectual disability and had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the CCA’s opinion in his case, told the Dallas Morning News that the CCA “has wrestled with this issue for the 30 years I’ve been a lawyer. It will be good to have some finality on the topic.

Ohio Governor halts executions
Last month, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine declared that there will be no more executions in his state until a new method of carrying them out can be developed and deemed constitutional by the courts. According to Cleveland.com, DeWine, a Republican who was sworn into office at the beginning of the year, ordered a review of Ohio’s death penalty protocols in January after Federal Judge Michael Merz wrote that Ohio’s method of carrying out executions would subject a condemned inmate to “severe pain and needless suffering.” Ohio has executed 56 people since 1999 and has scheduled execution dates through 2023.

U.S. Supreme Court blocks execution of man with dementia
On February 27, 2019, in a case related to an inmate’s competency to be executed, the U.S. Supreme court blocked the execution of Vernon Madison in Alabama. The five-justice majority decided that Madison’s vascular dementia, which has rendered him unable to recall his 1985 crime, has so “distorted” his mental state that he is “unable to rationally understand why the state wants to execute him.” 


Texas Legislative Updates
State Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso), who serves as Speaker Pro Tempore, and State Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin) have joined State Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) as authors of House Bill 246, which would abolish the death penalty in Texas.  Please take a moment to thank them by email and/or Twitter: 

Joe.moody@house.texas.gov * @moodyforelpaso #txlege

donna.howard@house.texas.gov * @DonnaHowardTX #txlege

For a comprehensive look at bipartisan repeal efforts in other states, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal.


Featured Events
Austin
“REMEDY: An Art Show and Fundraiser” will take place on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the DORF Gallery, 5701 Lewood Drive, Austin, TX 78745.  This event will start at 7:00 PM, with a poetry reading beginning at 8:00 PM.

Join us for an art show and auction showcasing pieces by artists on Texas’s Death Row. Proceeds from the auction will benefit TCADP. The event is sponsored by Bat City Review (BCR), an arts and literary magazine run out of the University of Texas at Austin. In the tradition of artists supporting artists, BCR has put together a zine of poetry from emerging to established writers who want to lend their work and their voices to this cause. There will be a short poetry reading during the event, with the zines available for purchase as donations to TCADP.

Katy
A special screening of “Where There is Darkness” will take place on Monday, March 25, 2019 at 7:00 PM at the Cinemark 19 (1030 Grand Parkway; Katy, Texas 77494); tickets are $15.00.  This new documentary film tells the story of a Catholic priest who was murdered in 2016 in Georgia. The death penalty was sought for his murderer, but it was found among Father Rene Robert’s papers that he had signed a Declaration of Life 20 years earlier. In the Declaration, he stated that if he were ever murdered, he did not want his murderer to receive the death penalty.  Purchase tickets.

North Texas (Colleyville and McKinney)
TCADP North Texas Outreach Coordinator Jim Webner will present the latest death penalty developments to the Northeast Tarrant Democrats on Thursday, March 21, 2019 from 6:00-8:30 PM, 609 Colts Neck Court, Colleyville 76034.

Join St. Gabriel the Archangel’s Ministry to the Imprisoned for a special Lenten event, “From Death into Life,” on Monday, April 1, 2019 at 7:00 PM. Father Neil Kookoothe, pastor of St. Clarence Church in North Olmsted, Ohio will speak along with death row exoneree, Joe D’Ambrosio. Fr. Kookoothe met Joe in 1998 while serving as a spiritual adviser to men on Ohio’s death row. After Joe asked him to review his case, Fr. Kookoothe began to question some of the evidence that had led to Joe’s conviction and eventually discovered pertinent information that had been suppressed. After more than 20 years on death row, Joe became the 6th death row exoneree in Ohio.  “From Death into Life” will take place at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Community, 110 St. Gabriel Way, McKinney, Texas 75071.

San Antonio
TCADP’s San Antonio Chapter will meet on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 6:30 PM at the Oblate School of Theology, Building 4 of the Oblate Renewal Center (285 Oblate Drive).  Contact coordinator Mardi Baron at mardibaron@gmail.com for details (note the change in date from the usual monthly meeting schedule due to spring break).

Join TCADP and the Source of Light (SoL) Center for a free screening of “Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2” on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at University Presbyterian Church (300 Bushnell Ave, San Antonio, 78212). This powerful documentary from filmmaker Florent Vassault features Lindy Lou, who served on a capital jury in Mississippi 20 years ago.  The jury’s decision to sentence the defendant to death had a profound impact on her.  In the film, she attempts to track down other jurors to discuss their experiences in the aftermath of the trial.

After the screening, there will be a discussion with TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle and former Bexar County District Attorney Sam Millsap.  This event is a collaboration with POV, PBS’ award-winning nonfiction film series: http://www.pbs.org/pov/.  Register by April 2.