In this edition
Scheduled executions: Take action to stop the execution of Melissa Lucio
TCADP 2022 Annual Conference: Join us on February 26, 2022 for a day of information and inspiration
Texas 2022 Primary Election: Early voting begins February 14, 2022 with important District Attorney races on the ballot in Dallas and Tarrant counties
In case you missed it: Judge hears closing arguments in actual innocence case of Robert Roberson; new piece traces how their time in juvenile institutions traumatized several individuals now on death row
Featured events: Register for upcoming virtual events and save the date for Amplify Austin!
Quote of the month
“… it may be that, as our Nation comes to place ever greater importance upon ensuring that we accurately identify, through procedurally fair methods, those who may lawfully be put to death, there simply is no constitutional way to implement the death penalty.” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s 2018 dissent in Bucklew vs. Precythe
Justice Breyer recently announced he will retire from the Court at the end of this term after serving more than 27 years.
We are deeply troubled that the State of Texas is scheduled to execute three people in March and April, including an 81-year-old man who has spent three decades on death row and a Mexican-American woman who was wrongfully convicted for an accidental death.
On March 8, 2022, Texas is scheduled to execute Michael Gonzales, who was convicted in Ector County (Odessa) in 1995.
The State is scheduled to execute Carl Wayne Buntion on April 21, 2022. Buntion, who at 81 is the oldest person on death row in Texas, was convicted in 1991 in Harris County.
We will share more information about these cases as it becomes available.
Most concerning of all is the April 27 execution date set for Melissa Lucio, who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the accidental death of her daughter, Mariah, in Cameron County in 2008. Melissa is on death row despite forensic and eyewitness evidence that her daughter died from a head injury she suffered in a fall. Read more about Melissa’s case (in English and en Español) and sign a petition launched by the Innocence Project calling on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Abbott to grant clemency.
Go to @innocence on Twitter and @innocenceproject on Instagram for updates and share posts with the hashtag #SaveMelissaLucio or #SalveMosAMelissa.
For the first time since 2013, the State of Texas did not schedule executions for January or February. There have been two executions nationwide thus far in 2022; both occurred on the same day in Oklahoma and Alabama. Oklahoma has scheduled another execution for February 17.
The TCADP 2022 Annual Conference: Transforming Justice in Texas will take place as a virtual event on Zoom on Saturday, February 26, 2022 from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM Central Time. It will feature a keynote address by Sister Helen Prejean, the presentation of our annual awards, and four concurrent breakout sessions. All sessions will be recorded and available afterwards to registrants. We are pleased that Rev. Dr. LaKeisha Cook (Virginia), Representative Robert Renny Cushing (New Hampshire), and Denise Maes (Colorado) will join us for a panel discussion to share lessons learned from their respective states’ successful campaigns to abolish the death penalty. Program details, including information about our award recipients, are available here!
TCADP’s General Membership Meeting, which takes place in conjunction with the Annual Conference, will occur on Zoom on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Central Time. All TCADP members have received an invitation with registration details. Check your membership status with Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org or become a new member today with your donation to TCADP.
Early voting in the 2022 Texas Primary Election begins on Monday, February 14, 2022 and lasts until Friday, February 25, 2022. The 2022 Primary Election Day is Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
District Attorney (DA) candidates are on the ballot in the 2022 primaries in both Tarrant and Dallas counties. In Tarrant County, incumbent DA Sharen Wilson is not seeking re-election and a number of candidates, including three Democrats and three Republicans, are vying to replace her.
In Dallas County, incumbent DA John Creuzot is seeking reelection and faces a challenge in the primary by former District Judge Elizabeth Frizell, who he narrowly defeated in 2018. Faith Johnson, who served as Dallas DA from 2016 to 2018 after being appointed to the position, is running unopposed in the Republican primary in an effort to take back the post after losing to Creuzot in 2018.
Candidates for the Texas Legislature, the Texas Supreme Court, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (among many other offices) will also be on the ballot. Visit VOTE411 to learn about the candidates on your ballot.
Death Row Exonerees Speak Out in Support of New Trial for Robert Roberson
This week, Judge Deborah Evans heard closing arguments in the state habeas proceedings for Robert Roberson, an Anderson County man who has spent nearly 20 years on Texas’s death row and seeks relief from his wrongful conviction. Death row exoneree, Ron Keine, attended the hearing on behalf of Witness to Innocence in support of Roberson’s quest for a new trial. Last year, Judge Evans presided over a multi-day evidentiary hearing related to four claims presented by Roberson, including his actual innocence of causing the tragic death of his two-year-old daughter, Nikki. Once Judge Evans issues her recommendation in this case, it will return to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for an automatic review and final determination. If any of the four claims he presented is accepted by the court, Roberson will be entitled to a new trial. Read more about the hearing and watch coverage of the press conference, during which Keine presented a statement of support from Witness to Innocence.
New piece demonstrates the connection between individuals on death row and the trauma of juvenile institutions
An important new piece by Keri Blakinger and Maurice Chammah of The Marshall Project tells the stories of several individuals on death row in Texas who previously spent time in juvenile detention facilities and how their experiences in those facilities shaped the trajectory of their lives. In the case of Terence Andrus, which currently is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, they write that “Andrus’ case is the most recent example of a narrative familiar to legal and medical experts, in which a victimizer was first a victim of a dysfunctional and abusive juvenile institution run by the state.” Read the article.
Advocating from the Hilltop: The Power of the Prosecutor
Join St. Edward’s University in Austin and TCADP on Thursday, February 17, 2022 at 5:30 PM Central Time for a virtual panel discussion on the powerful role prosecutors play in death penalty cases and how you can get involved in District Attorney elections. The panel will feature José Garza, Travis County District Attorney; Rodrick Reed, advocate and brother of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed; and representatives from MOVE Texas. This event is free and open to the public; it will take place on Zoom. Register here!
Amplify Austin 2022
Amplify Austin, an annual day of online giving, will take place from March 2 to 3, 2022. 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 Thursday, March 3, 2022. Donations are also welcome anytime during the 24-hour giving period.
TCADP Book Group
The TCADP book group meets on Zoom every six to eight weeks and reads a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and memoirs. Our next meeting will take place on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at 7:30 PM Central Time, when we will discuss A Descending Spiral: Exposing the Death Penalty in 12 Essays by MarcBookman.
All are welcome! Register here. You’ll receive the Zoom link that morning.
First Conference for the Center for Death Penalty Studies, Lamar University
The Center for Death Penalty Studies at Lamar University has studied, written about, and given presentations on the death penalty for eight years. The Center will host their First Conference for the Center for Death Penalty Studies entitled “The Future of the Death Penalty”. The event will take place in Beaumont, Texas on April 12, 2022. Register for free here.
Thank you for standing with us to transform justice in Texas!