In this edition
Scheduled executions: Ramiro Gonzales, facing execution on July 13, seeks clemency; judge rejects motion to withdraw execution date for John Ramirez
In case you missed it: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to grant relief to Terence Andrus, despite its own ruling in the Texas death penalty case two years ago; Tarrant County jury rejects the death penalty in Law of Parties case
Organizational updates: TCADP welcomes two new Organizational Affiliates and our Summer 2022 Advocacy Intern
Featured events: TCADP member meet up in Dallas on July 14; TCADP Book Group on July 20; in-person event with Chris Fabricant, author of Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System, in Austin on August 3
Ramiro Gonzales is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on July 13, 2022 for the murder of Bridget Townsend, an offense he committed when he was just 18 years old. At the time, Gonzales was gripped by a serious drug addiction rooted in prenatal substance exposure and childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect. Now, after 15 years on death row, he is a different person. Gonzales accepts responsibility for his crimes and has sought to atone for them. Even the State’s trial expert now believes Gonzales “does notpose a risk of future danger to society,” a determination that is required for a jury to impose a death sentence in Texas. (Read this powerful piece by Professor William Bush, “Opinion: Why the ‘future dangerousness’ standard failed death row inmate”.)
Watch this heartbreaking video and then contact the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott to support clemency for Gonzales, if you haven’t done so already. You’ll find contact information, talking points, and sample messages here.
Email the members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles at email@example.com by Friday, July 8, 2022. Include the TDCJ #999513 and DOB 11/05/1982 for Gonzales in your appeals.
Three other executions are scheduled in Texas at this time. In a very disappointing turn, a state district judge recently rejected Nueces County District Attorney (DA) Mark Gonzalez’s motion to withdraw the October 5 execution date set for John Ramirez, which the DA said was sought without his knowledge. DA Gonzalez has expressed his belief that the death penalty is unethical. (If you missed DA Gonzalez’s remarks during the webinar sponsored by Death Penalty Focus last month, you can watch them here.)
Nationwide, seven people have been put to death this year, including Carl Buntion in Texas. These executions have occurred in five states. Alabama has scheduled the execution of Joe Nathan James for July 28, 2022. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals just set execution dates for 25 people over the next two years, including individuals with claims of innocence, severe mental illness, and intellectual disability.
U.S. Supreme Court refuses to grant relief to Terence Andrus, despite its own ruling in the case two years ago
On June 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Terence Andrus’s petition for certiorari and summary reversal over a vigorous dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor (see p. 7), joined by Justices Breyer and Kagan. Andrus was sentenced to death in Fort Bend County, Texas in 2012 after receiving abysmal legal representation at trial. In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor writes that “Andrus’ case cries out for intervention…” and observes that “if summary reversal is ever warranted, it is warranted here.”
Andrus v. Texas raised important questions regarding the rule of law in our constitutional system. Two years ago, the Supreme Court found that Andrus’s trial lawyer had failed to investigate or present extensive mitigating evidence about Andrus’s background of abuse, poverty, and mental illness. The Justices sent the case back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) to consider whether this deficient performance had led to “prejudice” in the jury’s imposition of the death sentence – that is, whether there is a reasonable probability that even one juror would have opted for life rather than death if they had heard the evidence that was readily available but not presented at trial. Instead of following the Justices’ directive, the CCA sharply criticized their decision and determined Andrus was not prejudiced by his attorney’s deficient performance and his death sentence should stand.
Andrus once again sought relief from the U.S. Supreme Court. This time, however, the Court chose to distance itself from its previous opinion in his case and defer instead to a lower court judgment based on harmful and unfounded stereotypes about childhood trauma and mental illness. Read analysis and commentary about the case from Slate and Reuters.
Tarrant County jury rejects the death penalty in Law of Parties case
In the first Texas case to proceed to trial in 2022 in which prosecutors were seeking the death penalty, jurors instead opted for life in prison without parole for Timothy Huff. Huff was convicted of capital murder for his role in the death of Fort Worth Police Officer Garrett Hull in 2018. Although the man who fired the shot that killed Officer Hull died in a shootout with police, Texas law allowed for Huff to be charged with capital murder and eligible for the death penalty as a party to the offense (known as the “Law of Parties”). Tarrant County ranks fourth in death sentences and executions in Texas.
TCADP is delighted to welcome two new Organizational Affiliates: Friends Meeting of Austin and the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry. View the full list of groups and organizations that support our efforts to end the death penalty and find out how your group can join us!
We are also are excited to introduce our Summer 2022 Advocacy Intern, Mary Claire Jackson. Mary Claire is an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. She recently worked as a Legislative Aide for a lobbying firm. Soon she will complete her Bachelor of Arts in Women and Gender Studies and make her way to law school to pursue environmental law. Mary Claire loves creating art, hiking, and playing with her four-year-old cat, Clio.
Join TCADP staff and DFW-area TCADP Board Members for an informal gathering in Dallas on Thursday, July 14, 2022 at Steam Theory Brewing from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. This will be a great opportunity to meet other TCADP supporters in the region and discuss local efforts to end the death penalty. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The TCADP Book Group meets every six to eight weeks on Zoom and reads a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and memoirs. Our next meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 20, 2022 at 7:30 PM Central Time, when we will discuss a new memoir by journalist Keri Blakinger, Corrections in Ink. Keri will join us that evening. Register here. (Keri has arranged for people to purchase books that will be mailed to individuals in prison. If you would like to donate copies, you can do so here.)
BookPeople in Austin will host Chris Fabricant, an attorney with the Innocence Project and author of Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System, on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 at 7:00 PM. The event is free and open to the public; no ticket is required. Details here. (If you missed the virtual discussion with Fabricant on June 22, you can watch it here.)