In this edition:
Scheduled executions: Thank you for raising your voices against executions in Texas
TCADP 2024 Annual Conference: Ms. Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” will be the keynote speaker! Sponsorship opportunities now available
In case you missed it: Syed Rabbani resentenced to life in prison after appeal lost for three decades; more Americans now believe the death penalty is applied unfairly; Harris County jury imposes another death sentence on Daryl Wheatfall
Give the gift of justice: Support TCADP with a year-end donation
Remembering Dave Atwood
Earlier this week, we learned the sad news that TCADP Founder, David P. Atwood, passed away on Thanksgiving morning. Dave, a retired petroleum industry engineer, established TCADP in 1995 and served as the president of the organization for many years. In his 2008 book, Detour to Death Row, he recounted his interaction with inmates, their families, and the families of their victims. Dave was active in numerous peace and social justice organizations, including Pax Christi Texas and the Houston Peace & Justice Center.
We are grateful to Dave for his deep commitment to abolition of the death penalty and express our condolences to his family and many friends in the Houston activist community and around the world. Read this 2010 profile of Dave from his alma mater, the University of Rochester.
The State of Texas carried out its last execution of the year on November 16, 2023, putting David Renteria to death. His final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court alleged the El Paso District Attorney’s Office violated his constitutional rights by failing to turn over case documents. In his final statement, Renteria acknowledged “… the people that have shown compassion and that have been there for me you are my true family and I have been pleased. I am a man of many faults for those I have hurt and caused pain in their life, I beg for forgiveness.” Read more from the Texas Tribune.
TCADP acknowledges you for raising your voice in opposition to the execution of Mr. Renteria and the 11 other men who faced execution in Texas this year. While we are grateful one-third of those scheduled executions were stopped by the courts, we lament the eight people who were put to death by Texas in 2023, more than any other state.
Nationwide, 24 people were put to death this year by five states: Alabama; Florida; Missouri; Oklahoma; and Texas. On Thursday, November 30, Oklahoma carried out its fourth execution of 2023. Phillip Hancock was put to death despite a recommendation of clemency from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt sat on that recommendation for three weeks until deciding on the morning of Hancock’s scheduled execution to deny clemency. Hancock claimed self-defense in the shooting deaths of two men in Oklahoma City in 2001. Read a statement from his attorney. This is the third time Gov. Stitt has rejected a clemency recommendation from the Board.
At this time, there is one execution scheduled in Texas: Ivan Cantu faces execution on February 28, 2024 (Cantu also had an execution date this year, but it was withdrawn).
TCADP is thrilled to announced that Ms. Opal Lee, an extraordinary woman known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” will serve as the keynote speaker for the TCADP 2024 Annual Conference: Creating Conscious Communities on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Ms. Lee is the oldest living board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF), a national movement started by the late Dr. Ronald Myers to have Juneteenth declared a National Holiday. At 90 years of age, she started her walking campaign from Fort Worth to Washington, DC, to bring awareness to the need for celebrating Juneteenth nationally. Ms. Lee was present on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act establishing June 19 or “Juneteenth” a federal holiday.
Ms. Lee has received seven honorary doctorates, been named the 2021 Texan of the Year by the Dallas Morning News editorial board, the 2021 Unsung Hero of the Pandemic, Fort Worth Inc.’s 2022 Person of the Year, is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and, most recently, became the second African American to have her portrait hung in the Texas State Senate.
In addition to Ms. Lee’s keynote address, the conference will feature a panel discussion about what it means to be in proximity to individuals on death row, as well as an awards luncheon honoring those who have made significant contributions to the cause this year. We will offer workshop sessions on such topics as junk science, victims’ voices, and conservative outreach. Learn more about our speakers and award recipients and make plan to join us for a wonderful day of advocacy and fellowship!
Syed Rabbani removed from death row, while Daryl Wheatfall again sentenced to death
Last month in Harris County, two longstanding capital cases met with vastly different outcomes. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”) had overturned the death sentences for both men after finding that jurors in their original trials – one of which took place in 1988 while the other occurred in 1992 – had not been given the opportunity to fully consider and give effect to mitigating evidence presented during the punishment phase.
- On November 14, 2023, Syed Rabbani was resentenced to life in prison after spending 35 years under an unconstitutional death sentence. His appeal was filed in 1994, but fell by the wayside after a trial court judge determined Rabbani was incompetent to be executed. Rabbani was sentenced to death in 1988 for the fatal shooting of a fellow Bangladeshi immigrant at a Houston convenience store. Only seven people sentenced to death before 1990 are still on death row. Read the full history of this tragic case from the Houston Landing.
- In the case of Daryl Wheatfall, whose death sentence was overturned by the Texas CCA in 2015, Harris County prosecutors pursued another death verdict during his new punishment hearing this fall. This used to be a common occurrence, but prosecutors have waived death in most of the cases that have been remanded in recent years. After deliberating for three days, on November 15, 2023, the jury imposed another death sentence on Wheatfall, who was originally sentenced to death in 1992 for a robbery and murder. It is the first time in eight years that someone has been resentenced to death in Texas.
These cases and other death penalty developments in Texas in 2023 will be chronicled in TCADP’s forthcoming report. Stay tuned for more information.
More Americans believe the death penalty is applied unfairly
According to a new Gallup poll, more Americans now say the death penalty is applied unfairly (50%) than fairly (47%). This is the first time since Gallup started asking about fairness back in 2000 that a majority of respondents indicated they think the death penalty is applied unfairly. Learn more about the latest polling results.
Give the gift of justice
If you missed Giving Tuesday, don’t worry – you can still give the gift of justice this holiday season. We’re asking for your year-end donation to TCADP to support the advocacy and organizing required to fight back against executions in Texas.
Make your secure, tax-deductible donation to TCADP online at https://tcadp.org/donate/ or by mailing a check to TCADP; P.O. Box 82212; Austin, TX 78708. If you would like to donate in honor or memory of a friend or loved one, we will notify them of your gift. Thank you!