In this edition:
Scheduled executions: State of Texas scheduled to execute Abel Ochoa
TCADP 2020 Annual Conference: Join us on Leap Day in San Antonio
2020 Primary Election: Early voting begins February 18, with important District Attorney races on the ballot in several counties
In case you missed it: Death penalty repeal legislation advances in Colorado
Featured events: Save the date for Amplify Austin
Quote of the month
“Just Mercy is the wake-up call America needs to fix our criminal justice system.”
– Michelle Cirocco, criminal justice reform advocate and Chief Social Responsibility Officer for Televerde, “Fixing Our Criminal Justice System: Three Reasons Everyone Needs to See Just Mercy,” Forbes, January 23, 2020
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Abel Ochoa on February 6, 2020. He was convicted of killing five members of his family, including his wife, two children, father-in-law, and sister-in-law, on August 4, 2002 in Dallas. Ochoa is a deeply religious man and is sincerely remorseful for his crime, which was completely out of character and fueled by his drug addiction at the time. He has dedicated his 16 years on death row to serving as a positive influence on other inmates, on correctional officers, and on other individuals he encounters. According to both current and former guards, Ochoa is a valued member of the prison community and has a calming influence on everyone around him. Considered a model inmate, he makes the prison safer for both guards and inmates.
Ochoa has filed an application for clemency with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles in which he asks for the commutation of his death sentence to a lesser penalty or, in the alternative, a 90-day reprieve to resolve pending litigation. The Board is expected to issue a decision on February 4. We are grateful to everyone who has taken action on this case.
Texas is responsible for the first execution nationwide in 2020, putting John Gardner to death on January 15. In Georgia, Donnie Lance was executed on January 29, while Jimmy Fletcher Meders was granted clemency on the day he was scheduled to be executed.
There are currently seven additional executions scheduled by the State of Texas through May.
TCADP 2020 Annual Conference
The TCADP 2020 Annual Conference – 2020 Vision for Texas: A Leap Towards Justice – will take place on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at the Whitley Theological Center on the campus of Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. Register today!
Our program includes a panel discussion between Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales and one of his predecessors, former DA Sam Millsap; it will be moderated by Professor Roger Barnes of the University of Incarnate Word. Other featured speakers throughout the day include capital appellate attorneys Jeff Newberry and Gretchen Sween, Hannah Cox with Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, and representatives from the Texas Organizing Project and MOVE Texas.
If you are unable to attend the full day, you can purchase a ticket for the awards luncheon and keynote address by Rodrick Reed and Wana Akpan. Rodrick and Wana, in collaboration with the family-led Reed Justice Initiative, mobilized millions of people worldwide to stop Rodney Reed’s scheduled execution on November 20, 2019. There’s still time to sponsor a table at the luncheon or place an ad in the conference program to commend Rodrick and Wana and the recipients of our annual awards – the deadline is this Friday, February 7.
Registration fees will increase after February 15 to $75 for members, $95 for non-members, and $45 for students. For those attending only the awards luncheon and keynote address, the registration fee remains $50.
The discounted rate for a hotel room at the TownePlace Suites San Antonio Airport ($99 per night, plus tax) is available until Friday, February 14.
Learn more about the conference, including details on our speakers and award winners. Register today!
2020 Primary Election
Early voting in the Texas primary election begins on Tuesday, February 18 and lasts until Friday, February 28. The 2020 Primary Election Day is Tuesday, March 3. Today, February 3, is the last day to register to vote in the primary.
In addition to selecting candidates for State Representative, the Texas Supreme Court, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (among many other offices), voters in El Paso, Harris, Nueces, and Travis Counties will participate in the election of their District Attorney (DA) this year. Incumbent DAs are on the ballot in Harris, Nueces, and Travis Counties, while in El Paso, longtime DA Jaime Esparza is not seeking reelection after 28 years in office.
The ACLU of Texas and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center recently hosted a forum with some of the Harris County DA candidates. You can watch the forum, as well as read the Democratic candidates’ responses to a questionnaire from the ACLU of Texas.
The Justice Collaborative also has received responses to its questionnaire from some DA candidates in Harris and Travis Counties.
You’ll find information about the candidates in El Paso here.
In case you missed it
Last week, Colorado took a major step towards ending the death penalty. Senate Bill 100, a bill to repeal the death penalty, passed 3rd reading in the Senate on January 31, 2020. It now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. Colorado would be the 22nd state to abandon the death penalty through legislative or judicial action. Governors in four other states have imposed moratoria on executions.
Amplify Austin, an annual day of online giving, will take place from March 5 to 6, 2020. You don’t have to live in Austin (or the United States) to participate. Mark your calendar and help TCADP win a $1,000 bonus prize by donating between 1:00 and 2:00 PM Central Time on Friday, March 6. Donations also are welcome any time during the 24-hour giving period.