In this edition
Scheduled executions: Federal government schedules three more executions this year; Pervis Payne faces execution in Tennessee on December 3 despite evidence of innocence
In case you missed it: Pope Francis reiterates “inadmissibility” of the death penalty in new encyclical; California Governor addresses systemic racism in the way his state’s death penalty is applied; the “Herculean” burden for proving actual innocence in Texas and the case of Lydell Grant
New resource: “The State of Texas vs. Melissa” is available to watch online
Featured events: Save the date for our next webinar and book group discussion; register for the TCADP 2021 Annual Conference
Tomorrow, November 3, 2020, is Election Day. Please vote if you haven’t done so already!
The State of Texas does not have any executions pending in the remaining months of 2020, although five dates already have been set for 2021. This includes two individuals – John Hummel and Edward Busby – who received stays of execution in the spring based on the pandemic.
The federal government, which has put seven people to death this year, has scheduled three more executions for 2020:
– Orlando Hall is scheduled to be executed on November 19, 2020. Hall, who is Black, was convicted by an all-white jury of kidnapping and killing 16-year-old Lisa Rene in 1994. According to a statement released by his attorneys, “Hall has never denied the role he played in the tragic death of Lisa Rene. But the jury that sentenced him to death did not know key facts about his background.” Hall has always expressed profound regret for his actions.
– Lisa Montgomery, a victim of childhood torture, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking, is scheduled to be executed by the federal government on December 8, 2020. She was sentenced to death in 2007 for the murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Her life has been marked by relentless trauma and terror, exacerbating her genetic predisposition to severe mental illness. Montgomery is the only woman under a federal death sentence. Sign the petition asking President Trump to stop her execution.
– On December 10, 2020, International Human Rights Day, the Department of Justice plans to execute Brandon Bernard despite the fact that a majority of the surviving jurors from his trial no longer want that death verdict carried out. The government is now known to have concealed vital information that likely would have persuaded those jurors to spare Bernard’s life in the first place. Bernard and co-defendant, Christopher Vialva, were convicted and sentenced to death for carjacking, robbing, and killing Todd and Stacie Bagley at Ford Hood, Texas in 1999. Bernard was 18 at the time and is one of the youngest people ever sentenced to death in federal court. Vialva, who was executed on September 24, 2020, was 19 at the time. Learn more about Bernard and how you can help stop his execution.
Other scheduled executions
The State of Tennessee also plans to carry out an execution in December. Pervis Payne is scheduled to be put to death on December 3, 2020. For the past 30 years, he has maintained his innocence of the 1987 killing of Charisse Christopher. His racially charged case has all the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction. Payne also has presented evidence of his intellectual disability, which should render him exempt from execution. Sign the petition and learn more about this case from the Innocence Project. We also encourage you to share information about his case on social media and email Tennessee Governor Bill Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask the Governor to commute Payne’s sentence to life.
In case you missed it
Pope Francis affirms Church’s commitment to abolishing the death penalty
In early October, Pope Francis issued a new encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” in which he “moved opposition to the death penalty into the foreground of Catholic social teaching, completing the church’s long journey of mercy and reconciliation,” according to America Magazine. In the encyclical, the Pope declares: “Today we state clearly that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible’ and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.”
California Governor weighs in on death penalty appeal
Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom filed an amicus brief in a case before his state’s Supreme Court arguing that “racial discrimination infects the administration of California’s death penalty.” According to the Los Angeles Times, six current and former county district attorneys also filed a brief in the case alleging the death penalty was unfair and racially biased. The California Supreme Court had asked for briefing about the constitutionality of California’s death penalty as it is applied. Newsom imposed a moratorium on executions in March 2019.
Why hasn’t the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals deemed Lydell Grant innocent?
In 2019, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the Houston police chief, and the trial judge all deemed Lydell Grant innocent after DNA evidence pointed to another man in the 2010 murder of Aaron Scheerhoorn. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has not followed suit, however, leaving Grant in legal limbo. Read this in-depth profile from Michael Hall at Texas Monthly, which explores the “Herculean” burden for proving actual innocence in Texas.
“The State of Texas vs. Melissa” tells the story of Melissa Lucio, who was convicted and sentenced to death in Cameron County in 2008. She is one of six women – and the first and only Latina – on death row in Texas. In 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted Lucio a new trial, finding she was denied the right to present expert testimony to the jury. The State of Texas appealed that decision and the full court is reconsidering her case. A documentary film about her case is now available on demand and digital. You also can watch a recent discussion with the filmmaker, Sabrina Van Tassel, and Lucio’s appellate attorney, Richard Ellis, as presented by Texas A&M School of Law.
TCADP Book Group
The TCADP book group is reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. We will meet on Wednesday, December 2, 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
Our monthly webinar will take place on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 from 12:00 to 1:00 PM Central Time. We’ll provide a nonpartisan analysis of the election and the implications for our work to end the death penalty in Texas. Note: This session will not be recorded. Learn more and register here.
TCADP 2021 Annual Conference
The TCADP 2021 Annual Conference: Reckoning with Injustice in the Death Penalty and Beyond will take place as a virtual event on Saturday, February 27, 2021 from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. It will feature a panel discussion, keynote address, and the presentation of our annual awards, along with special breakout sessions. Registration is now open! Program details will be announced later this month.