In this edition:
Scheduled executions: John Ramirez faces execution on Wednesday despite District Attorney’s request to withdraw the date; Board declines to recommend clemency
Case updates: Bell County drops death penalty for Marvin Guy eight years after charging him with capital murder involving a no-knock raid; prosecutors urge judge to recommend relief for Randy Halprin, whose trial was tainted by anti-Semitic bias
In case you missed it: Dallas and Bexar counties host District Attorney candidate forums; meet TCADP’s new Deputy Director, Tiara Cooper; new report shows impact of racial bias on wrongful convictions; remembering Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza
TCADP 2023 Annual Conference: Submit nominations for our Annual Awards by October 17
TCADP Lobby Corps: Apply now to help us advance our legislative agenda
Featured events: U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments in case of Rodney Reed on October 11; “True Conviction” screening in Denton on October 12; TCADP Book Group meeting on October 26
Quote of the month
“When we accept the fact that the death penalty reveals that Black deaths do not matter, then it becomes apparent that there is not an antiracist fix for the death penalty other than its abolition.”
– Jelani Jefferson Exum and David Niven, authors of “Where Black Lives Matter Less: Understanding the Impact of Black Victims on Sentencing Outcomes in Texas Capital Murder Cases from 1973 to 2018,” Saint Louis University Law Journal, Summer 2022
According to Keri Blakinger on Twitter, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has voted not to recommend clemency for John Ramirez, who faces execution on Wednesday, October 5, 2022. The Board must recommend clemency for the Governor to grant it.
Ramirez is set to be put to death for killing Pablo Castro in Corpus Christi in 2004. He was 20 years old at the time of the offense and has faced three previous execution dates. According to his clemency application, the jury that sentenced him to death never heard about his traumatic childhood and mental health issues, including an attempted suicide.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied a stay of execution and refused to intervene in the state district judge’s refusal to grant a request from Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez to withdraw the execution date.
We are truly grateful to everyone who contacted the Board and Governor in support of Ramirez’s application for clemency and will continue to raise our voices in opposition to every execution in Texas.
Two more executions are scheduled in Texas in November and several have been set already for 2023.
Nationwide, ten people have been put to death this year, including Carl Wayne Buntion and Kosoul Chanthakoumanne in Texas. These executions have occurred in five states; Alabama, Oklahoma, and Missouri are scheduled to carry out more executions in the remaining months of 2022. Our colleagues with Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty have launched a campaign for #ClemencyForKJ. Sign the petition and learn more about this case.
Bell County drops death penalty for Marvin Guy eight years after charging him with capital murder involving a no-knock raid
Last month, the Bell County District Attorney’s Office announced that it is no longer seeking the death penalty for Marvin Guy, who has been awaiting trial for more than eight years. Guy is charged with capital murder in the death of Killeen Police Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie, who was killed during a no-knock raid conducted by law enforcement at Guy’s home in 2014. Guy maintains he fired his weapon in self-defense and did not know who was breaking into his home.
Prosecutors urge judge to recommend relief for Randy Halprin
Randy Halprin, a Jewish man on death row, faced execution three years ago but was granted a stay by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) based on evidence his trial was tainted by the anti-Semitic bias of Judge Vickers Cunningham. The State—as represented by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office—now agrees that Halprin is entitled to relief “…on the ground that Applicant’s trial judge harbored actual bias against him at the time of trial.” Once Judge Lela Mays issues her recommendation, the case will return to the CCA for a final determination. Read the statement from his attorney.
News outlets in Dallas and Bexar counties host District Attorney candidate forums
District Attorney (DA) elections in dozens of Texas counties in 2022 will impact criminal justice practices and use of the death penalty for years to come. DA candidate forums hosted last month by The San Antonio Report and the Dallas Examiner are available to watch online (the DA portion of the Dallas forum begins at the 39:40 mark).
The last day to register to vote in Texas for the 2022 General Election is Tuesday, October 11, 2022. Early voting begins on Monday, October 24, 2022 and runs until Friday, November 4, 2022. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2022. For information on the elections that will be appearing on your ballot, visit https://www.vote411.org.
We will provide information on other relevant candidate events as it becomes available. As a 501(c)(3) organization, TCADP does not get involved in political campaigns or endorse candidates. We are strictly nonpartisan.
Tiara Cooper joined TCADP’s staff as our new Deputy Director on September 1, 2022. A Dallas native, Tiara is an award-winning social justice leader committed to mobilizing marginalized people, uplifting their stories, and utilizing grassroots efforts to impact policy change at the municipal, state, and federal levels. She was previously the Live Free Texas Organizer with Faith in Texas and has also organized with Texas Organizing Project, OakCliff Chamber of Commerce, and Outreach Strategists, among others.
Here’s a note from Tiara: “Thank you TCADP team and supporters for the warmest of welcomes. Since I’ve come on board it’s been nothing less than an exceptional experience. I’m continually excited about leaning into my personal faith convictions, learning, and galvanizing others to do everything in their power to rise up and stop executions!”
Report shows impact of racial bias on wrongful convictions
A new report from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that Black people in the United States are seven times more likely than white people to be falsely convicted of serious crimes, more likely to be the targets of police misconduct, and spend longer in prison before being exonerated. Black people represent 13.6% of the population, but account for 53% of 3,200 exonerations in the Registry as of August 8, 2022. Read Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States 2022.
TCADP mourns the loss of Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza
We are saddened by the passing of Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, the Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and longtime supporter of TCADP. Archbishop Fiorenza was a tireless advocate for social justice and for abolition of the death penalty in Texas. He lent his voice in support of numerous individuals on death row or facing execution, including Duane Buck, Bobby Moore, Christopher Young, and many more. We mourn his loss with everyone who knew and loved him.
TCADP 2023 Annual Conference
TCADP is accepting nominations for our annual Courage, Appreciation, and Media Awards, which recognize individuals and organizations who have made significant and selfless contributions towards ending the death penalty in Texas (read about previous recipients). All award recipients will be honored during the TCADP 2023 Annual Conference, which will return as an in-person event on Saturday, February 25, 2023 in Austin. Stay tuned for more details about this informative and inspirational day of advocacy! Award nominations will be accepted until October 17, 2022.
TCADP Lobby Corps
TCADP is recruiting a new class of Lobby Corps members. This dedicated group of volunteers works with our staff and board members to advance TCADP’s legislative agenda and build relationships with elected officials. We now seek to add 8-10 new members to our Lobby Corps ranks. Members must be able to visit the State Capitol in person during the next legislative session, which will run from mid-January through the end of May 2023. Applications will be accepted until October 28, 2022.
Oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court
On Tuesday, October 11, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court will hold oral argument in Reed v. Goertz. Rodney Reed, who has been on death row in Texas since 1998 for a crime he has steadfastly maintained he did not commit, seeks DNA testing of crime-scene evidence, including the belt used to strangle the victim, Stacey Stites. That belt, along with other key crime-scene evidence, has never been tested.
Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz has refused to allow testing, which the state courts likewise declined to order under Article 64 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Texas’s DNA-testing law. Reed is challenging the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ interpretation of Article 64 as a violation of due process and questioning when the statute of limitations starts running.
You can listen to the argument live around 10:30 AM CDT (it is the second case being heard that morning); the link will be posted on the Court’s homepage. An audio recording also will be available shortly after the argument.
Film screening and panel in Denton
On Wednesday, October 12, 2022, Diverse Students in Criminal Justice and the Second Opportunity Network Group at the University of North Texas in Denton will host a screening of the wonderful documentary film, “True Conviction,” and a discussion with exoneree, Christopher Scott. The event will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 PM in the Union Lyceum on the UNT campus. Parking is available in the Highland Street Parking Garage for $2/hour or you can get a UNT visitors parking pass online. For more information about the event, contact Jeremiah Diaz at JeremiahDiaz@my.unt.edu.
TCADP Book Group
The TCADP Book Group meets every six to eight weeks on Zoom and reads a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and memoirs (see below for a list of everything we’ve read to date). Our next meeting will take place on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at 7:30 PM Central Time when we will discuss Narrative Change: How Changing the Story Can Transform Society, Business, and Ourselves by Hans Hansen. Register here.