In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Take action to stop the executions of Jedidiah Murphy and Will Speer
In case you missed it: John Grisham, physicians, and scientists voice support for Robert Roberson, convicted of a crime that never occurred; federal judge deems Scott Panetti incompetent for execution
Texas Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty: Meet Nan Tolson, State Director
TCADP 2024 Annual Conference: Nominate an individual or organization for an Appreciation, Courage, or Media Award
Featured events: Alabama death row exoneree in Houston; solidarity events across the state in conjunction with World Day Against the Death Penalty; watch parties for the “Dead Man Walking” opera
Quote of the month
“There was no crime scene, no forensic evidence. It was just three words: shaken baby syndrome. Without them, he [Robert Roberson] would be a free man today.”
– Brian Wharton, Retired Detective, Palestine (Texas) Police Department in “Texas death row inmate at mercy of supreme court – and junk science,” The Guardian, September 24, 2023
After a rare six months without an execution in Texas, the State is planning to put two people to death in October. Raise your voice to advocate for clemency for Jedidiah Murphy and Will Speer.
Support clemency for Jedidiah Murphy
The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Jedidiah Murphy on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, a date recognized globally as World Day Against the Death Penalty. Murphy was convicted and sentenced todeathin 2001 by a Dallas County jury for kidnapping and killing 79-year-old Bertie Cunningham while in the throes of a mental health crisis brought on by years of abandonment, neglect, and abuse.
Murphy immediately accepted responsibility for his crime and expressed profound remorse for the irreplaceable loss and pain his actions have caused. In the 23 years he has spent on death row, he has experienced a genuine spiritual and personal transformation grounded in his Jewish faith.
For this case, we’re asking you to email the members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles directly at email@example.com to urge them to recommend clemency (you must include Murphy’s TDCJ #999392 and DOB 09/01/1975 in your appeals). Share your concerns with Governor Greg Abbott.
You’ll find a sample email message for the Board, as well as additional information about Murphy, here. Contact the Board before Friday, October 6, 2023.
Save Will Speer
Just three and a half months ago, Texas named Will Speer as the first Inmate Coordinator for the Death Row Faith Based Program. Now, the State plans to execute him on Thursday, October 26, 2023.
Speer is one of the original members of a voluntary, immersive religious program on Texas death row. Through the program, he has developed deep faith in God and grown to feel sincere remorse for the violent acts of his past. The tools he learned in the program have enabled him to heal from the trauma, neglect, and abuse he experienced as a child. Speer now ministers to others who are incarcerated, carrying a message of healing and redemption. If allowed to live, he wants to devote the rest of his days to serving as a prison minister.
Speer’s legal team is asking the Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare the life of this man whose soul Texas has worked so hard to save. Watch the video and sign the petition to Save Will Speer today.
Nationwide, eighteen people have been put to death this year by five states: Alabama; Florida; Missouri; Oklahoma; and Texas, which has executed five people. The dates for three other men in Texas were withdrawn. Florida is scheduled to execute Michael Zack on October 3, 2023.
Robert Roberson garners notable support while awaiting word from the U.S. Supreme Court
On this Wrongful Conviction Day (October 2), we want to highlight the case of Robert Roberson, who has spent 20 years on death row in Texas for a crime that never occurred: the tragic death of his daughter from natural and accidental causes. Roberson was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to death under the now-discredited Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). He asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision denying him a new trial, but, regrettably, the Justices have declined to consider the case.
This case has garnered support from several notable people, including author John Grisham. In a piece published in the Wall Street Journal, Grisham writes, “We expect our courts to weigh the evidence before them carefully and thoughtfully. But in Mr. Roberson’s case, and in a shocking number of wrongful convictions, judges simply agree with prosecutors and protect bad convictions despite overwhelming evidence of innocence.”
And in a piece published in Bloomberg Law, Stanford University Professor Emeritus Patrick Barnes, one of fifteen leading physicians and scientists who signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Court to review or vacate Roberson’s conviction and death sentence, writes, “My own extensive research was key to the evolution of the science and to discrediting SBS.”
Federal judge deems Scott Panetti incompetent for execution
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas has determined that Scott Panetti is not competent for execution. Panetti has been on death row since 1995 after he was allowed to represent himself during his trial dressed in a purple cowboy costume.
In a response to the ruling, attorney Gregory W. Wiercioch stated, “Judge Pitman’s ruling prevents the State of Texas from exacting vengeance on a person who suffers from a pervasive, severe form of schizophrenia that causes him to inaccurately perceive the world around him. … executing him would not serve the retributive goal of capital punishment and would simply be a miserable spectacle.” TCADP is grateful for this ruling and for the many mental health professionals and advocates, legal experts, and faith leaders who have supported Panetti’s case over the years.
Texas Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty
TCADP is excited to announce the launch of Texas Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP), under the leadership of State Director Nan Tolson. Nan is a native Texan and lifelong conservative. Previously, she worked for Governor Greg Abbott for over five years and spent time working for Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, and Fair Chance Waco — a second-chance hiring advocacy organization. Nan is passionate about educating conservatives on the death penalty and looks forward to working with a variety of stakeholders, supporters, and partners to end the death penalty in the Lone Star State.
You can support Texas CCATDP’s efforts by following them on X (Twitter) and Facebook. You can also refer your friends and family to their newsletter sign up form. Email Nan at ConservativesConcernedTexas@gmail.com for information about upcoming events, action items, and other opportunities to get involved.
Nominate an individual or organization for a TCADP 2024 Annual Award
TCADP is accepting nominations for our annual Courage, Appreciation, and Media Awards. With these awards, we recognize outstanding 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 2024 Annual Conference, which will take place in Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Stay tuned for more details about this informative and inspirational day of advocacy!
Houston event with Alabama exoneree Anthony Ray Hinton
TCADP is proud to co-sponsor The Sun Does Shine: Anthony Ray Hinton on Life, Freedom, and Justice, an event benefiting The Jung Center in Houston on Tuesday, October 3, 2023. Hinton will share his extraordinary story of faith, compassion, and the fortitude of the human spirit as someone who spent 30 years on Alabama’s death row as an innocent man. Purchase tickets here.
World Day Against the Death Penalty
Since 2003, the global community has recognized October 10 as World Day Against the Death Penalty. This year, to mark World Day and protest the scheduled execution of Jedidiah Murphy, TCADP is hosting or co-sponsoring solidarity events around the state. Check our website for details and a full list of events statewide.
– The Restorative Justice Ministry and El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty will hold an Interfaith Citywide Prayer Vigil on Sunday, October 8, 2023 at 3:00 PM, at Memorial Park in central El Paso.
– Interfaith prayer vigils will take place in Austin (in front of the State Capitol), Dallas (in front of the Frank Crowley County Courthouse), and Fort Worth (All Peoples Church) on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. Details here.
– A discussion about the death penalty will occur in Bryan-College Station at the home of a former TCADP Board Member on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the address.
– “United to End the Death Penalty” events will take place in San Antonio at San Fernando Cathedral and on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. The program will culminate in an educational panel that evening featuring individuals impacted by the death penalty. Register here.
If you are planning an event in Texas on World Day and would like it to be listed on the TCADP website and in our press materials, email TCADP Deputy Director Tiara Cooper at TCooper@tcadp.org.
In addition to these in-person events, there will be a “National Christian Prayer Call to End the Death Penalty” on October 10 hosted by EJUSA’s Evangelical Network, CCATDP, Live Free, Faith Leaders of Color Coalition, and Justice for Julius. It will be a space of power, peace, and prayer. 5:30 to 6:30 PM CT. Virtual. RSVP here.
The Met: Live in HD “Dead Man Walking” Opera
Cinemark and Regal movie theaters throughout the United States will host a screening of The Metropolitan Opera’s live performance of “Dead Man Walking” on Saturday, October 21, 2023, as well as an encore presentation on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
If you would like to organize a viewing party for TCADP supporters in your community, email TCADP Deputy Director Tiara Cooper at TCooper@tcadp.org.