In this edition
Scheduled executions: Texas Attorney General’s Office opposes date withdrawal for John Ramirez; Harris County judge declines to set an execution date for Arthur Brown
In case you missed it: U.S. Supreme Court guts federal review of cases involving poor legal representation; Amnesty International reports on use of the death penalty worldwide; Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reduces two death sentences due to intellectual disability
Staff and member updates: TCADP welcomes new Organizational Affiliate, thanks Hanna Seay, who served as our first Deputy Director
Featured events: Virtual events this month will focus on junk science, the role district attorneys play in capital cases, and the actual innocence case of Robert Roberson
TCADP expresses our grief over the lives taken in Uvalde, Texas. We mourn for and with the community and for all victims of violence.
At this time, the State of Texas has three executions scheduled, including one in July and one in August. Although the Nueces County District Attorney (DA) has sought to withdraw the October 5 execution date for John Ramirez, the judge has not yet ruled on the motion. The Texas Attorney General’s Office opposes a date withdrawal, arguing the judge has no basis on which to grant the DA’s request.
In Harris County, a judge recently declined to set an execution date for Arthur Brown, who has been on death row since 1994. More than one-third of the 197 individuals on death row in Texas were convicted in Harris County. The judge is allowing Brown time to secure a new attorney to investigate evidence of intellectual disability. (Learn more facts about the death penalty in Harris County.)
Nationwide, six people have been put to death this year, including Carl Buntion in Texas. Last month, Arizona carried out its first execution since 2014. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, Clarence Dixon was “blind, physically frail, and had a documented history of severe mental illness.” Frank Atwood is set to be put to death in Arizona on June 8.
U.S. Supreme Court guts federal review of capital cases involving poor legal representation
In its 6-3 opinion in Shinn v. Ramirez and Jones, which was issued on May 23, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against two men on Arizona’s death row who received poor legal representation during their trials. As explained by NPR, the majority determined that “…state prisoners have no constitutional right to present new evidence in federal court to support their claims that they were represented at trial and on appeal in state courts by unqualified or otherwise deficient lawyers.”
In a blistering dissent that was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “Two men whose trial attorneys did not provide even the bare minimum level of representation required by the Constitution may be executed because forces outside of their control prevented them from vindicating their constitutional right to counsel.” Read analysis of the opinion from CNN and SCOTUSblog.
Amnesty International reports on use of the death penalty worldwide in 2021
Amnesty International has released its annual report on use of the death penalty worldwide. According to the report, 18 countries carried out executions in 2021. Of these, China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria accounted for the most executions, though it remains difficult to obtain exact numbers in many of these countries. Globally, 108 countries had abolished the death penalty by the end of 2021.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reduces two death sentences due to intellectual disability
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted relief to two men on death row—Steven Butler and Juan Segundo—and reduced their sentences to life in prison due to their intellectual disability.
- Steven Butler was convicted in Harris County in 1988 and has spent more than 33 years on death row for the robbery and murder of Velma Clemons. He first raised a claim related to his intellectual disability in 2004 but was denied relief. Butler raised his claim again in 2019.
- Juan Segundo, who faced execution in October 2018, was convicted in 2006 of the rape and murder of 11-year-old Vanessa Villa in 1986 in Fort Worth. The CCA granted a stay and remanded his claim of intellectual disability to the trial court.
There now are thirteen men who have been resentenced in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Moore v. Texas in 2017 and 2019, which required Texas to change the way it assesses intellectual disability in capital cases (in 2002, the Court prohibited the death penalty for persons with intellectual disability in the case of Atkins v. Virginia). Most of these individuals spent decades on death row.
TCADP staff and member updates
New Organizational Affiliate
TCADP is delighted to welcome Fellowship Southwest as our newest Organizational Affiliate! Fellowship Southwest is a collaborative network for churches that want to organize around shared compassion for people in our region. View the full list of groups and organizations that have pledged to publicly support our efforts to end the death penalty and engage their members in our activities.
TCADP would like to thank Hanna Seay for her service as our first Deputy Director. In her time with TCADP, Hanna revamped our website and social media platforms, engaged supporters in Tarrant County, reached out to faith leaders, and helped plan the TCADP 2022 Annual Conference. Her last day was May 13, 2022.
Join us for the following virtual events this month:
- The TCADP Book Group will meet Wednesday, June 1, 2022 at 7:30 PM Central Time, to discuss Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System by M. Chris Fabricant of the Innocence Project. Register here for the Zoom meeting link.
- On Wednesday, June 22 2022 at 6 PM CT, TCADP and the Innocence Project of Texas will co-host a virtual event featuring author Chris Fabricant. The event is free and open to all. Zoom link to join: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85904353453.
- On Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 2 PM Central Time, join Death Penalty Focus and TCADP for a one-hour webinar on the role district attorneys (DA) play in capital cases, including how they can undo death sentences after they have been imposed, and how their policies can make our criminal justice system more fair, more humane, and less racist. Stephen F. Rohde, DPF Board of Directors member and retired civil rights lawyer, will moderate this in-depth conversation with Los Angeles, California DA George Gascón, Nueces County, Texas DA Mark Gonzalez, and Fair & Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky. Register here.
- A Texas death penalty case will be the focus of this month’s episode of “Cruel Justice,” a Facebook Live event sponsored by Witness to Innocence (WTI) and hosted by Herman Lindsey, the 23rd person exonerated from Florida’s death row. On June 16, 2022 at 2 PM Central Time, capital attorney Gretchen Sween will speak with Herman about her client Robert Roberson, whose actual innocence claim is pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Roberson was sentenced to death in rural Anderson County in 2003; his conviction relied on false, misleading, and scientifically invalid testimony. The program can be viewed live on the WTI Facebook page. No registration is required (viewers without a Facebook account can access the stream directly using the livestream URL).
If you plan to participate in any Juneteenth celebrations this year and would like to distribute information about the Texas death penalty, please contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Cuellar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading! You’ll find previous newsletters here.