In this edition
Scheduled executions: Texas set to resume executions next week after five-month hiatus
2022 Texas Primary Election: Important District Attorney races are on the ballot in Dallas, Tarrant and Bexar counties, among others
In case you missed it: District Attorneys nationwide, including three in Texas, pledge to effectively end the death penalty
TCADP 2022 Annual Conference: Thank you to everyone who joined us!
Featured events: Amplify Austin this week; TCADP Book Group on March 30
Quote of the month
“Psychological research has shed light on why police sometimes misjudge innocent people as guilty, why innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they didn’t commit, and why stereotypes sometimes produce erroneous medical judgments. This research should raise enough doubt to give Melissa’s case a second look. For as devastating as they are, wrongful convictions can be discovered and reversed. Wrongful executions cannot.” – Jeff Kukucka Ph.D., Could Stereotypes Put an Innocent Woman on Death Row?, Psychology Today
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute three people in March and April, including two men who have spent decades on death row and a woman who is on death row despite forensic and eyewitness evidence that her daughter died from a head injury after an accidental fall.
Michael Dean Gonzales
On March 8, 2022, Texas is scheduled to execute Michael Dean Gonzales. He was convicted of killing his neighbors, Merced Aguirre and Manuel Aguirre, in Ector County (Odessa) in 1995. On Monday, February 28, 2022, his attorneys filed a motion to withdraw the execution date based on newly discovered evidence provided by the Odessa Police Department that could prove his innocence. They also have filed a motion for a stay of execution and a habeas petition with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that raises four claims: evidence of intellectual disability; false testimony elicited by the State; hidden evidence that the lead detective in the case had a long history of misconduct and other evidence that undercut its case in violation of Gonzales’s right to a fair trial; and actual innocence.
If it proceeds, the execution of Michael Gonzales would be the first by the State of Texas since September 28, 2021. If you would like to express your opposition to the resumption of executions in Texas, contact the Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Ask him to do everything in his power to stop executions in Texas.
Information and Referral Hotline: (800) 843-5789 [for Texas callers]
Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline: (512) 463-1782 [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers]
Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: 512-463-2000
Online Contact: https://gov.texas.gov/contact/
Carl Wayne Buntion
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 his case once it becomes available.
On April 27, 2022, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Melissa Lucio, one of six women on death row in Texas. Melissa was convicted and sentenced to death in Cameron County in 2008 for causing the death of her two-year-old daughter, Mariah. There is compelling evidence that Mariah’s death was a tragic accident resulting from a head injury she suffered in a fall—not a homicide.
We also are asking all Texans to contact the Cameron County District Attorney (DA) to ask him to withdraw the execution date. The Innocence Project, which is part of Melissa’s legal team, has set up an easy action for Texans to contact the DA with one click which can be accessed here.
2022 Texas Primary Election
Today, Tuesday, March 1, 2022 is the 2022 Primary Election Day in Texas!
District Attorney (DA) candidates are on the ballot in the 2022 primaries in Tarrant, Dallas and Bexar counties, among others. In Tarrant County, incumbent DA Sharen Wilson is not seeking reelection 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 Democratic primary by former District Judge Elizabeth Frizzell, 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.
In Bexar County, incumbent DA Joe Gonzales is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. In the Republican primary, Marc LaHood and Meredith Chacon are vying for the opportunity to run against Gonzales in the 2022 General Election in November.
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.
In case you missed it
Fifty-six elected prosecutors from twenty-six different states, including three District Attorneys in Texas, have pledged to work to effectively end the death penalty. Texas District Attorneys John Creuzot of Dallas County, José Garza of Travis County, and Mark Gonzalez of Nueces County signed on to a letter released on February 17, 2022 by Fair and Just Prosecution. The letter expresses concerns about racial bias; use of the death penalty against individuals with diminished capacity including those with intellectual disability, severe mental illness, and extreme trauma; and wrongful execution.
It reads, “We are duty-bound to counter these egregious injustices and we pledge to use our power as prosecutors, whenever and however it may be appropriate, to do so. For those of us in states where the death penalty is still permitted, we will uphold Supreme Court precedent and the interests of justice by refusing to seek the death penalty against people with intellectual disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder, histories of traumatic brain injury, or other intellectual or cognitive challenges that diminish their ability to fully understand and regulate their own actions…This is the bare minimum that justice demands of us.” These prosecutors from regions spanning the United States are uniting in hopes of reform, driven by their vision of a criminal legal system that is just, fair, and equitable.
TCADP 2022 Annual Conference
TCADP is grateful to everyone who participated in the TCADP 2022 Annual Conference: Transforming Justice in Texas, which took place virtually on February 26, 2022 with participants from across Texas, other states, and even abroad! It was wonderful to see both new and familiar names on our screen, honor our incredible award recipients, and hear from special guest speakers. We particularly want to thank Rev. Dr. LaKeisha Cook, Denise Maes, and Barbara Keshen for sharing their insights with us during the panel discussion, which was masterfully moderated by Ellic Sahualla, Sister Helen Prejean for her stirring keynote address, and all of the incredible workshop presenters.
Our thanks also go to the following sponsors: Joellyn A. Champagne; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas and Fellowship Southwest; Dominican Sisters of Houston; Dr. Kimberly Harrison; Professor Ana M. Otero; Angelle Adams; EPF Media; Anne and Bob Michael; Rio Texas MFSA; Tammy Van Dunk; and Michael Wong. Generous support for the conference was provided by the Judith Filler Foundation.
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. Donations also are welcome any time 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 30, 2022 at 7:30 PM Central Time, when we will discuss A Descending Spiral: Exposing the Death Penalty in 12 Essaysby MarcBookman, who will join us for the conversation. All are welcome! Register here. You’ll receive the Zoom link that morning.
Thank you for standing with us as we transform justice in Texas!