March 2020 Alert: Another state abandons the death penalty

In this edition:

Scheduled executions: Support clemency for John Hummel
2020 Primary Election:  
Vote today!
TCADP 2020 Annual Conference:
Statewide gathering brings together current and former District Attorneys of Bexar County
In case you missed it:
Significant developments in the cases of Andre Thomas, Charles Brownlow, and Rodney Reed; Colorado abolishes the death penalty
Amplify Austin:
Support TCADP during this annual online fundraising event


Scheduled executions

The State of Texas is scheduled to put two people to death this month (the March 11 date for Carlos Trevino was withdrawn and his execution was rescheduled for June 3).

  • The State of Texas is scheduled to execute John Hummel on March 18, 2020.  He was convicted of capital murder in Tarrant County in June 2011.  A jury found that on or about December 17, 2009, during the same criminal transaction, Hummel killed Joy Hummel and Clyde Bedford.  Hummel lived with his pregnant wife Joy, their five-year-old daughter Jodi, and Joy’s father, Clyde Bedford. 

    Hummel, who is an honorably discharged Marine, had no history of violence prior to the terrible night of December 17, 2009.  He has behaved well in jail and prison since the time of his arrest. 

    Hummel 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 120-day reprieve so that he may continue litigating his case.  He aims to persuade the Board and Governor Abbott that the evidence does not support the jury’s finding of “future dangerousness.”

    Please contact the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Abbott by March 13 to urge a reprieve or commutation for John Hummel.  Include his TDCJ #999567 and DOB 11/14/1975 in your appeals.  Visit the TCADP website for talking points and contact information.
     
  • Tracy Beatty is scheduled to be executed on March 25, 2020.  Five years ago, he received a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  His attorneys argued Beatty had deficient legal help at his 2004 trial and during early appeals and that prosecutors used improper testimony at his trial.  He was convicted of killing his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, in Smith County in 2003.

There are currently five additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through early June. 

Attend a vigil in your community on the days/evenings of executions. Information and updates on cases are available on the TCADP website and through Facebookand Twitter.


2020 Primary Election

Today, Tuesday, March 3, 2020, is Primary Election Day in Texas.  If you haven’t voted yet, please do so by 7 PM!  This year’s elections have important implications for criminal justice and use of the death penalty in Texas.  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 numerous counties will participate in the election of their District Attorney.  

County/Senate District Conventions will take place statewide on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houle Cuellar if you plan to attend a convention and are interested in introducing a resolution that calls for repeal of the death penalty in Texas.


Supporters gather in San Antonio for TCADP 2020 Annual Conference

What an inspirational day in San Antonio! TCADP expresses appreciation to everyone who participated in the TCADP 2020 Annual Conference – 2020 Vision for Texas: A Leap Towards Justice on February 29, 2020.  It was wonderful to see both new and familiar faces, honor our incredible award recipients, and hear from Rodrick Reed and Wana Akpan, who delivered a moving keynote address.  

We particularly want to thank Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales and former Bexar County District Attorney Sam Millsap for sharing their insights and experiences with us.  Check out the great coverage of their panel discussion from Emilie Eaton with the San Antonio Express-News.  

Our thanks also go to the following sponsors: Joellyn Champagne; David R. Dow; Flanary Law Firm, PLLC; Virginia Greenway; Dr. Kimberly Harrison; Jan Heinrichs; Anne and Bob Michael; John Mimbela; Professor Ana Otero; and the Congregation Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio.  Generous grant support for the conference was provided by the Judith Filler Foundation.

Photos from the day, courtesy of FOMAS Cine, will be available soon on the TCADP Facebook page


In case you missed it

Federal appeals court hears arguments in case of Andre Thomas
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard arguments in the Texas death penalty case of Andre Thomas, whose lawyers “contend that the jury was so racially biased and his trial lawyers were so incompetent that he was unfairly sentenced to death despite ample evidence of debilitating mental illness.”  An important article from Brandi Swicegood with the Austin American-Statesman explores both the history of racial violence in Sherman, Texas, where Andre Thomas grew up, and the implications of sentencing individuals with severe mental illness to death.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturns death sentence of Charles Brownlow
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the death sentence of Charles Brownlow on direct appeal on February 12, 2020.  Brownlow was convicted of capital murder in Kaufman County in 2016.  During his trial, the judge instructed expert witnesses to tailor their testimony to now-discredited factors for determining intellectual disability and to disregard current medical and scientific standards.  In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Texas to change the way it assesses capital defendants with intellectual disability. 

U.S. Supreme Court declines to consider Rodney Reed’s petition, defers to state courts
On February 24, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider Rodney Reed’s appeal.  Following the decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a strong statementin which she wrote that Reed has provided a substantial amount of evidence that “if true, casts doubt on the veracity and scientific validity of the evidence on which Reed’s conviction rests.”  She also signaled to Texas courts that they must be cautious and should consider all evidence, old and new.  The Justices did not address the merits of Reed’s petition, allowing him to file future appeals with the Court. A hearing in which new evidence will be presented is scheduled to take place in Bastrop in mid-September.

Colorado poised to become 22nd state to abandon the death penalty
On February 26, 2020, the Colorado House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty.  The vote was 38 to 27 and came after hours of debate among legislators.  The bill passed the State Senate at the end of January.  Governor Jared Polis has pledged to sign the bill into law, which will make Colorado the 22nd state to abandon the death penalty through legislation or judicial action. 


Support TCADP through Amplify Austin and Text-to-Donate

Amplify Austin, an annual day of online giving, will take place from Thursday, March 5 to Friday, March 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.  Plus, if you enter #LoveTitos when you check out, Tito’s Handmade Vodka will add an extra $5 to your gift to TCADP.

Another easy way to support TCADP is through your mobile device.  Text the phrase 2020Vision to 50155.