In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Have you signed the petition in support of clemency for Quintin Jones?
Case updates: Courts recommend new trials for two individuals and overturn death sentences in two other Texas capital cases, including for the longest-serving individual on death row
In case you missed it: Texas Department of Criminal Justice will allow clergy in the execution chamber; Amnesty International releases report on use of the death penalty worldwide in 2020
Legislative developments: Abolition bills gain supporters in the Texas House and Senate; Nevada State Assembly passes repeal
Featured events: Watch “The Years of Fierro” from May 7 to 21 and join our panel discussion on May 12; attend the TCADP book group meeting on May 26 to discuss Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty by Maurice Chammah
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Quintin (“Quin”) Phillippe Jones on May 19, 2021. More than 20 years ago, a Tarrant County jury convicted Quin of the robbery and death of his great aunt, Berthena Bryant. Since that time, Quin has transformed himself into a kind and thoughtful man who is deeply remorseful for the crime he committed as a drug-addicted and angry 20 year old. Ms. Bryant’s sister and great-nephew – Quin’s great-aunt and twin brother – have long forgiven Quin and are asking the state not to traumatize them again by executing him.
To date, more than 22,000 people have signed the petition to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott urging them to grant clemency to Quin and change his sentence to life in prison. If you have not done so already, please sign and share the petition today. Thank you!
To learn more about Quin, visit https://www.clemencyforquin.com.
If his execution proceeds, Quin will be the first person put to death by the State of Texas since July 8, 2020. Texas is the only state with multiple execution dates scheduled this year. To date in 2021, there have been three executions nationwide; all were carried out by the federal government in January.
There have been significant developments in several Texas death penalty cases in recent weeks:
– A federal district court found that the Texas statute that guarantees testing of materials for DNA was unconstitutionally applied by Texas courts in denying DNA testing in Ruben Gutierrez’s case. Gutierrez has sought testing in order to prove he did not commit the crime for which he was sentenced to death, but the State has fought it at every turn. Gutierrez has faced multiple execution dates since 2018.
– On April 14, 2021, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) overturned the death sentence of Raymond Riles after finding the jury in his 1976 trial was not given the opportunity to fully weigh the mitigating evidence of his severe mental illness. He has languished more than four decades on death row after being deemed incompetent to be executed.
– The CCA also ordered new punishment proceedings for Humberto Garza after finding that during Garza’s 2005 trial in Hidalgo County, his attorney failed to investigate or present mitigating evidence that might have persuaded at least one juror to vote to spare his life.
– A district court judge has recommended that Tilon Carter receive a new trial due to false and misleading testimony by Tarrant County Medical Examiner, Dr. Nizam Peerwani. Carter has been on death row since 2006 and faced a serious execution date in 2017.
– Judge Sid Harle has recommended a new trial for Clinton Young after hearing evidence that one of the prosecutors in Young’s 2003 trial was working at the same time for the district judge who presided over the case. The CCA will consider the judge’s recommendation and decide if Young’s conviction should be overturned based on this egregious violation of his right to due process.
In case you missed it
Texas will once again allow clergy in the execution chamber and now accommodate all faith traditions
Just over two years after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) removed all chaplains from the execution chamber, the Correctional Institutions Division of TDCJ has once again changed course. On April 21, 2021, TDCJ published a revised Execution Procedure that allows for a TDCJ chaplain or a spiritual advisor of the individual’s choosing to be present in the chamber during the execution. It stipulates criteria that a spiritual advisor must meet and the process he/she must follow.
Global use of the death penalty dropped in 2020, according to new report
Amnesty International recently released its Global Report: Death Sentences and Executions 2020, which updates key figures on the use of capital punishment worldwide. Overall, executions and death sentences dropped significantly in 2020. Last year, 483 individuals were executed, a 26% decrease from 2019 and the lowest number of executions recorded by Amnesty in the past decade. Four countries – Iran, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia – accounted for 88% of the total executions. These figures exclude China, where information on executions remains a state secret. Experts estimate several thousand people were executed there in 2020. The United States continued to be the only Western country to carry out executions. Read the full report.
On April 21, 2021, Speaker Dade Phelan and Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody released “Smarter Justice, Safer Texas,” the Texas House of Representative’s bipartisan criminal justice reform package. The list of priorities includes at least two bills related to the death penalty.
Death penalty abolition bills in the Texas Legislature have gained support in recent weeks. Representative Michelle Beckley (House District 65-Carrollton) signed on as a joint author of HB 215 and Senator Sarah Eckhardt (Senate District 14-Austin) has signed on as a co-author of SB 188. Please thank these legislators for their support for ending the death penalty by email or on Twitter: Michelle.Beckley@house.texas.gov, @ForHD65; Sarah.Eckhardt@senate.texas.gov, @Sarah_eckhardt. Neither HB 215 nor SB 188 has been scheduled for a hearing. The regular session of the 87th Texas Legislature will end on May 31, 2021.
On April 13, 2021, the Nevada State Assembly voted 26-16 in support of a death penalty abolition bill. It was the first time the bill has advanced out of committee and received a vote on the floor. Follow the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty @nvcadp as they push for support in the Senate.
“The Years of Fierro” Film Viewing and Panel Discussion
From May 7 to 21, 2021, watch “The Years of Fierro” (Los Años De Fierro), a documentary about César Fierro, who spent four decades on Texas’s death row before he was paroled one year ago. Throughout his ordeal, César has maintained his innocence of the crime for which he was convicted in El Paso in 1980. You will receive a private screening link, which will enable you to stream the film on your own any time from May 7 to 21. Register now.
On Wednesday, May 12, 2021 from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Central Time, join us for a special panel discussion featuring the filmmaker, Santiago Esteinou, attorneys Sandra Babcock and Dick Burr, and César himself! The panel will be moderated by Professor Ana Otero of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law (and TCADP Board President) and will be conducted in English and Spanish. By signing up to watch the film, you will receive a link to attend the panel discussion on Zoom.
Watch the trailer for “The Years of Fierro” and learn more about César. These events are co-sponsored by EPF Media and Witness to Innocence.
TCADP Book Group
The TCADP book group will meet on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 at 7:30 PM Central to discuss Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penaltyby Maurice Chammah. Maurice has graciously agreed to join us for the first half of our meeting. Register here. You will receive details for the Zoom meeting that morning.