In this edition:
Scheduled executions: One execution date still pending in Texas in 2020; federal government schedules two more executions this month
Case updates: Mistrial declared in Tarrant County; juror discrimination in another Dallas County death penalty case
Announcements: Seeking nominations for our Annual Awards; apply for the TCADP Lobby Corps
Featured events: Special virtual event featuring death row exoneree Anthony Ray Hinton, hosted by The Jung Center of Houston; TCADP book group and webinars continue this month
Quote of the month
According to the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, “COVID has now killed more US prisoners in months than the US death penalty has in the last two decades.”
State of Texas
Now that the September 9 execution date for John Ramirez has been withdrawn, there is one execution date still pending in Texas in 2020. Carlos Treviño is scheduled to be put to death on September 30, 2020. He faced two earlier execution dates this year, but both were postponed. Trevino was convicted of raping and killing 15-year-old Linda Salinas in 1996 in San Antonio. While three other young men were convicted of this crime, Treviño was the only one to receive a death sentence.
This year, the State of Texas has executed three people; seven other dates were stayed or withdrawn. On July 8, 2020, Billy Joe Wardlow became the first person put to death by Texas in the midst of the pandemic.
After putting five people to death this summer, the federal government has scheduled two more executions in September.
– William LeCroy is scheduled to be executed on September 22, 2020. He was convicted of raping and killing Joann Tiesler in 2001 in Georgia and then driving her stolen vehicle to the Canadian border, which resulted in federal charges.
– Christopher Vialva is scheduled to be executed on September 24, 2020. He and co-defendant Brandon Bernard were convicted and sentenced to death for carjacking, robbing, and killing Todd and Stacie Bagley at Ford Hood, Texas in 1999. The Bagleys were youth ministers from Iowa. Vialva was 19 at the time of the crime, and Bernard was 18. Bernard does not have an execution date.
Mistrial declared in Tarrant County
Tarrant County prosecutors recently attempted to move forward with a jury trial in which they are seeking the death penalty; the defendant, John Floyd, is representing himself. Ultimately, the judge was compelled to declare a mistrial. Juries in Texas have imposed two new death sentences this year. All other capital trials have been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic.
Another Dallas County death penalty case involving juror discrimination
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has issued an important decision in the Dallas County death penalty case of James Broadnax, in which prosecutors struck all people of color from the jury pool. According to The Open File blog, “the question of racial discrimination during jury selection – and whether documents tracking the race of prospective jurors are allowable, among other things – looms prominently” in his case. Dallas County is notorious for prosecutors’ unconstitutional, racially discriminatory jury strikes.
Nominate an individual or organization for a TCADP 2021 Annual Award
TCADP is now accepting nominations for our annual Courage, Appreciation, and Media Awards. With these awards, we recognize outstanding individuals and organizations who have made significant and selfless contributions towards ending the death penalty in Texas. All award winners will be honored during the TCADP 2021 Annual Conference, which will take place as a virtual event next year (date TBD). Award nominations will be accepted until October 15, 2020. Here’s a list of previous award winners.
Apply for the TCADP Lobby Corps
TCADP is recruiting a new class of Lobby Corps members. This dedicated group of volunteers works with our staff and board members to advance TCADP’s legislative agenda. Lobby Corps members have played an active role in the last four sessions of the Texas Legislature, meeting with legislative offices and educating elected officials about the death penalty. They continue to build relationships with legislators and share information about important death penalty developments in between sessions. Given the uncertainties surrounding the next state legislative session, which is scheduled to begin in January 2021, we anticipate shifting our Lobby Corps activities to the virtual realm. Flexibility will be required!
Applications are due by October 23, 2020. We seek to add 8-10 new members this year.
A special evening with Anthony Ray Hinton
TCADP is partnering with The Jung Center in Houston to present a virtual evening with Anthony Ray Hinton, who will share his experience of serving 30 years on death row in Alabama for a crime he did not commit. Ray wrote the bestseller The Sun Does Shine and was featured in the book and movie, “Just Mercy.” It’s an incredible story of race, justice, faith, and resilience. The event will be livestreamed on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 6:00 PM. Register now!
TCADP book group
The TCADP book group is reading Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. We will meet on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 7:30 PM Central Time. All are welcome. Register here. You will receive details for the Zoom meeting that morning.
TCADP Webinar Series, Seeking Justice in Texas
Tuesday, September 29, 2020, 12:00 to 1:00 PM Central Time: Overturning Wrongful Convictions in Texas; Presented by Christopher Scott of House of Renewed Hope and Mike Ware of the Innocence Project of Texas
According to the National Registry on Exonerations, 383 people in Texas have been exonerated of serious crimes since 1989. That number includes 63 from Dallas County alone as well as 13 people who were sentenced to death. In this webinar, we’ll hear from two people on the frontlines of overturning wrongful convictions in Texas. Christopher Scott and Mike Ware will discuss their work and how it has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, recent/pending exonerations, and policy changes they’re seeking at the state and local level to address the causes of wrongful convictions.
Register here. [Note: The session will be recorded but you still need to register to receive the link.]