Amplify Austin district attorney executions Harris County TCADP Annual Conference

TCADP March 2024 Newsletter: Lamenting the execution of Ivan Cantu; Texas primary election day; and new TCADP t-shirts

In this edition:

Scheduled executions: Lamenting the execution of Ivan Cantu; stay for James Harris, Jr.; national developments

TCADP 2024 Annual Conference: TCADP supporters from across Texas and other states will gather in solidarity tomorrow, March 2, 2024, in Fort Worth 

In case you missed it: New report on race and the death penalty in Harris County

Texas primary election: Early voting ends today; election day is Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Support TCADP: A new way to show – better yet, wear – your support for ending the death penalty in Texas

Featured events: Amplify Austin 2024; local political conventions; next TCADP book group meeting

Quote of the month

Scheduled executions

Lamenting the execution of Ivan Cantu
On February 28, 2024, the State of Texas put Ivan Cantu to death despite grave doubts about the integrity of his conviction and widespread calls to stop his execution, including from members of the Collin County jury that sentenced him to death in 2001. Cantu maintained his innocence throughout his two decades on death row. Newly discovered evidence, which was not heard by the jury and never considered by any court, exposed multiple falsehoods in the testimony of the main witness against him at trial.

TCADP is grateful to Cantu’s legal team, his spiritual advisor, Sister Helen Prejean, and everyone who contacted the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor in support of his clemency application, signed the petition by Sister Helen, or advocated for a stay of execution.

According to a statement from Sister Helen, “Ivan was grateful for everyone who supported him in his fight for a fair trial. Remember, by speaking up and taking action for Ivan together, we are bending the arc toward justice and are one step closer to ending the death penalty.”

Cantu was the first Texan executed in 2024. Texas put eight people to death in 2023, more than any other state, and accounts for nearly 600 executions since 1982. During this same time period, sixteen people have been exonerated and released from death row in Texas, and there is significant evidence the State has executed several innocent people. With deep sadness and outrage, we now add Ivan Cantu to that horrendous and shameful list.

Stay of execution for James Harris, Jr.
Thankfully, there will not be an execution this month. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay to James Harris, Jr., whose execution had been scheduled for March 13, 2024, and sent his case back to the trial court. In 2013, Harris, Jr. pled guilty to killing Alton Wilcox in Brazoria County. The Court of Criminal Appeals asked the trial court to review Harris’s allegation that the jury selection process used for his trial violated the Equal Protection Clause.

National developments
There have been two executions nationwide this year. On January 25, 2024, Alabama put Kenneth Smith to death using a new, untested method of nitrogen hypoxia. Several states are now attempting to add this as a method of execution. Idaho attempted to execute 73-year-old Thomas Creech on February 28, 2024, but prison officials had to call it off after they were unable to establish an IV. Creech has been incarcerated since 1974 and is the state’s longest-serving death row inmate. The last execution in Idaho occurred in 2012.

TCADP 2024 Annual Conference 

After months of planning, the TCADP 2024 Annual Conference: Creating Conscious Communities is finally here! We are excited to gather with supporters from across Texas and other states for a day of education and advocacy tomorrow, Saturday, March 2, 2024, on the campus of Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

Read this preview from the Fort Worth Report

We can’t wait to hear from Ms. Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” our panelists, and workshop speakers and to honor four individuals who have raised awareness of death penalty issues. We will post pictures from the conference on the TCADP Facebook page as soon as they are available.

In case you missed it

Texas Defender Service has released an important report about race and the death penalty in Harris County, where nearly 300 people have been sentenced to death since the 1970s. Astonishingly, of the last 21 individuals sentenced to death in Harris County, 20 of them—or 95 percent—have been people of color. Read coverage of the report from the Texas Observer.

Texas primary election

Texas will hold its 2024 primary election on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Early voting ends today, Friday, March 1. Candidates for the Texas Legislature, the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and other offices will be on the ballot. Numerous counties, including El Paso, Harris, Nueces, and Travis, also will be electing District Attorneys (DA) this year. 

Click here for the full list of DA candidates, published by the Texas District & County Attorneys Association, and read this recent essay from TCADP Executive Director Kristin Cuellar about how these elections impact use of the death penalty in Texas.

Access a sample ballot, find your polling place, and more on the Texas Secretary of State’s website

TCADP encourages you to check with local nonprofit media outlets or civic organizations for voter guides and information about candidates. 

New TCADP t-shirts

Receiving a death sentence or being executed in Texas is so random, it amounts to a “lethal lottery” that does nothing to deter crime or promote public safety. Start a conversation about the death penalty by wearing one of our brand-new t-shirts bearing this message. Shirts are available in an assortment of styles and colors and can be purchased through the end of March. Buy yours today!

Featured events

Amplify Austin 2024
Amplify Austin, a 24-hour online event that raises critical funds for hundreds of non-profit organizations in central Texas, including TCADP, will take place from 6 PM CT on Wednesday, March 6 to 6 PM CT on Thursday, March 7, 2024. You don’t have to live in Austin (or the United States) to participate. Donations to TCADP are welcome any time during the 24-hour giving period. Thank you for your support!

Local political conventions
County/Senate District political conventions will take place throughout Texas on Saturday, March 23, 2024. Check with your local parties for details. If you plan to attend and would be interested in taking materials on the death penalty or sponsoring a resolution, let us know! To volunteer at a convention in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, email TCADP Deputy Director Tiara Cooper at For conventions elsewhere in Texas, email TCADP Executive Director Kristin Cuellar at

Texas UU Justice Ministry
Texas UU Justice Ministry (TXUUJM), an Organizational Affiliate of TCADP, will holds its annual gathering from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM CT on Saturday, March 23, 2024, in Dallas. Tiara will be in attendance to share information on the death penalty. Details and registration here.

TCADP book group
The TCADP book group meets on Zoom every six to eight weeks and reads a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and memoirs. Our next meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at 7:00 PM CT, when we will discuss  Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. RSVP here.