In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Eight individuals set for execution in 2023, including Andre Thomas, a man with severe mental illness who gouged out his own eyes; executions on hold in Alabama after state’s third botched lethal injection
TCADP 2023 Annual Conference: Award recipients announced; sponsorship opportunities available
Legislative update: State Representative Joe Moody files abolition bill
In case you missed it: New Gallup poll on the death penalty; the impact of executions on those charged with carrying them out; perspectives on the Parkland, Florida jury verdict
Featured events: TCADP’s virtual book group, a book signing in Fort Worth, and a webinar series on Human Rights and the U.S. Death Penalty
Quote of the month
“The veneer of medicalization is not holding up. Lethal injection isn’t a medical procedure – it’s an execution.”
– Ngozi Ndulue, Deputy Director, Death Penalty Information Center, “States under scrutiny for recent lethal injection failures,” Arizona Republic, November 23, 2022
The State of Texas carried out its last execution of the year on November 16, 2022, putting Stephen Barbee to death. The execution took much longer than unusual because of Barbee’s physical disabilities, a concern that was raised in a legal challenge by his attorney but dismissed. As reported by the Texas Tribune, prison spokesperson Amanda Hernandez stated that “Due to his inability to extend his arms, it took longer to ensure he had functional IV lines.”
We are grateful to everyone who raised their voice in opposition to the execution of Stephen Barbee and the four other men executed by the State of Texas this year.
Eight executions have already been scheduled by Texas for 2023; four of these individuals were convicted in the 1990s.
Most recently, the State of Texas set an execution date of April 5, 2023 for Andre Thomas (pictured above), a Black man with severe mental illness who was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Grayson County in 2005. Thomas suffers from schizophrenia and is severely psychotic. Following the paranoid voices in his head, he has removed both his eyes while incarcerated. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice houses him in a psychiatric facility rather than on death row and medicates him daily with strong antipsychotic drugs. Read a powerful opinion piece about the case by Greg Hansch, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Texas, which was published by the Dallas Morning News.
Nationwide, 17 people have been put to death this year by five states: Alabama, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Mississippi and Oklahoma are scheduled to carry out executions in December.
In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey has ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s execution procedures after corrections officials were forced to call off the November 17, 2022 execution of Kenneth Smith because they could not start an intravenous line. According to the Associated Press, it was the second time the state has been unable to put an inmate to death in the past two months and the third botched execution there since 2018.
TCADP Annual Conference: 25 Years of Igniting Change
The TCADP Annual Conference: 25 Years of Igniting Change will take place in person on Saturday, February 25, 2023 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin. Join us for a day of inspiration and advocacy featuring keynote speaker, Anthony Graves, a panel discussion with capital litigators, and a variety of breakout sessions. During the awards luncheon that day, we will honor six individuals selected by the TCADP Board of Directors as our 2023 Award Recipients. They include a pastor, professors, journalists, and a current District Attorney, all of whom have created awareness of the deep flaws of the death penalty. Click here for more details about the program, the registration form, and sponsorship opportunities.
Members of the 88th Texas Legislature, which will convene on January 10, 2023, began filing bills last month. We are immensely grateful to State Representative Joe Moody (House District 78-El Paso) for filing House Bill 142, a bill to abolish the death penalty in Texas. Please join us in thanking Representative Moody for his leadership on this issue by emailing him at email@example.com.
National public opinion poll measures support for the death penalty
The latest findings from a Gallup poll on Americans’ support for the death penalty reveal that a steady 55% of U.S. adults favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder. This marks the sixth year where support has averaged between 54% and 56%, contrasting with higher approval for the death penalty in the four decades prior. The downturn in approval is credited largely to diminished Democratic support for the death penalty in recent years, while Republican and Independent support has remained largely above average.
The toll of executions on those carrying them out
Last month, NPR aired a poignant story detailing how executions affect the people who carry them out. After speaking with 26 individuals involved intimately with executions, more than half of whom witnessed executions personally, journalist Chiara Eisner discovered that many endured mental and psychological disturbances, including PTSD, as a result.
While every participant was affected differently by their job, the consensus spoke to a damage to their spirit, heart, and mind, as well as a change of their views on the death penalty. According to the article, “No one who witnessed executions expressed support for the death penalty, including those who went into the chamber supporting it.” Even those who believe it should “be so easy to go up and execute someone who had committed such heinous acts” found the psychological horrors that accompany killing a human being impacted them greatly. As reported by Eisner, there is little to no support, such as counseling, available to the correctional officers and other employees who have been traumatized by executions. In fact, only one person reported receiving psychological support from the government. Listen to the story here.
“I Wish the Jury Had Not Sentenced My Family’s Killer to Death”
In October, a jury in Parkland, Florida sentenced Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, to life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty. In compelling opinion pieces published last month, Rev. Sharon Risher, whose mother and two cousins were murdered at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and Roger Barnes, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, provide their perspectives on the verdict.
On Friday, December 2, 2022 at 12:00 PM CT, the Death Penalty Information Center will hold the second webinar in their series on Human Rights and the U.S. Death Penalty. The webinar will focus on Excessive Punishment and Conditions of Confinement, with panelists Amy Fettig, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, and David Fathi, Director of ACLU National Prison Project. To register for this Zoom webinar, click here. For more information on the series, and to access recordings of the webinars, click here.
The TCADP Book Group meets every six to eight weeks on Zoom and reads a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and memoirs. Join us for a discussion of That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row by Jarvis Jay Masters on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 at 7:30 PM CT. Register here.
Maurice Chammah, the author of Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty and TCADP 2022 Media Award recipient, will appear at the Fort Worth Public Library – East Regional (6301 Bridge St., Fort Worth 76112) on Thursday, December 8, 2022 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM CT. A Q&A session and book signing will follow the presentation. Attendees also are welcome to join the presentation via Zoom. Event details here.