In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Texas set to execute Ivan Cantu on April 26
Images from the TCADP 2023 Annual Conference: Check out photos from the day as well as two inspiring videos
In case you missed it: Execution date for Andre Thomas withdrawn; HuffPost takes a deep dive into the Harris County death penalty case of Obel Cruz-Garcia; symposium on public defense in Texas features Anthony Graves
Upcoming events: The Dominican Sisters of Houston will host a program on the racist history of the death penalty on April 15; the TCADP book group will meet on May 17
Quote of the month
“There is nothing that is linear about Andre’s thinking. He lives in an alternate world and there’s no way to make rational sense of his understanding of what happened, or is happening.”
— Maurie Levin, attorney for Andre Thomas, quoted in “Texas Tests Limits of Death Penalty With Mentally Ill Man on Death Row”, Austin Chronicle, March 24, 2023
To date in 2023, the State of Texas has executed five people. The execution dates for two other men—Anibal Canales, Jr. and Andre Thomas—were withdrawn to allow their attorneys time to pursue litigation (read more about Thomas below).
At this time, Texas has one execution scheduled: Ivan Cantu is set to be put to death on April 26, 2023. In 2001, a Collin County jury convicted Cantu of killing two people in Far North Dallas: his cousin James Mosqueda and James’s fiancé, Amy Kitchen. Cantu has maintained his innocence, and previous appeals have argued his trial attorneys were ineffective for failing to investigate and present evidence that would support his claim.
Nationwide, nine people have been put to death this year by four states: Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Florida is scheduled to carry out another execution on April 12, 2023.
TCADP is excited to share photos and videos from the TCADP 2023 Annual Conference: 25 Years of Igniting Change, which took place on February 25, 2023, in Austin. View photos on the TCADP Facebook page (you should be able to access them even if you do not have a Facebook account).
These two short videos (produced by Red Owl Films) capture the spirit of the conference and the breadth of support for TCADP:
Execution date for Andre Thomas withdrawn
On March 7, 2023, the 15th Judicial District Court in Grayson County withdrew Andre Thomas’s April 5th execution date to allow his legal team reasonable time to investigate and prepare a threshold showing that Thomas is incompetent for execution. Thomas resides at the Wayne Scott Unit, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s psychiatric facility, where the most mentally ill Texas prisoners are housed. He suffers from schizophrenia and permanently blinded himself by gouging out both of his eyes, on separate occasions. Read the statement from his attorney in response to the judge’s decision to withdraw the date.
TCADP is grateful to everyone who signed the petition to #SaveAndreThomas and to the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Texas for their advocacy.
Texas Tribune holds symposium on the state of public defense in Texas
Last month, in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainright, the Texas Tribune and the Texas Indigent Defense Commission hosted a symposium on the current state of public defense in Texas. This important educational event featured Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, public defense attorneys from around the state, and Anthony Graves, who now works for the Harris County Public Defender’s Office. During his remarks, Graves cited abolition of the death penalty as his top priority for legislators this session, calling it an insult to him and his family that Texas still carries out executions after he spent more than 18 years in prison, including more than 12 years on death row, as an innocent man. Learn more and watch the full symposium.
“A Matter of Life and Death” exposes problems with the indigent defense system in Harris County, particularly in death penalty cases
In a lengthy article, the HuffPost digs into the case of Obel Cruz-Garcia and the ways it exemplifies the use of the death penalty in Harris County, where juries have sentenced nearly 300 people to death since 1974. Cruz-Garcia has been on death row since 2013 for a crime he maintains he did not commit. He was represented by a court-appointed attorney “who made a living billing the county to represent more than 100 indigent clients a year.”
Program: The Racist History of the Death Penalty
On Saturday, April 15, 2023, the Dominican Sisters of Houston (a TCADP Organizational Affiliate) will host Brandon Mack, an educator and activist, for a discussion about the death penalty and its racist history. This will be the first in a series of programs during which the Sisters will explore the criminalization of African Americans and how it has led to the school to prison pipeline.
Participants will gather at 9:30 AM and the program will take place from 10:00 to 11:45 AM at the Dominican Center for Spirituality (6501 Almeda Rd; Houston, TX 77021). This program is free and open to the public. Registration is required to ensure enough seating and hand outs are available. For further information and to register, contact Ceil Roeger at email@example.com or 713-440-3714.
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. Join us for a discussion of Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice by Karen Houppert on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 at 7:30 PM Central Time. Register here.