DNA testing executions exoneration innocence Kerry Max Cook Robert Roberson

TCADP July 2024 Newsletter: Finding actual innocence after nearly 50 years

In this edition:

Scheduled executions: Ruben Gutierrez faces execution for the sixth time since 2018

Updates on innocence cases: Kerry Max Cook declared actually innocent; State sets execution date for Robert Roberson despite overwhelming new evidence that no crime occurred

Featured events: Membership gatherings this month in Austin, Dallas, and Houston; TCADP Book Group meeting on July 10

Keeping up the fight for justice: Support TCADP with a generous donation

Quote of the month

The State of Texas executed Ramiro Gonzales on June 26, 2024, despite evidence of his remorse and rehabilitation and the repudiation of the finding he constituted a “future danger.” 

We are grateful to everyone who shared Ramiro’s story, signed the petition, watched his clemency video, and stood witness during vigils last week.

Scheduled executions

The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Ruben Gutierrez on July 16, 2024. It is the sixth execution date he has faced since 2018. Gutierrez was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1998 robbery and murder of Escolastica Harrison in Brownsville (Cameron County). In the 25 years he has spent on death row, he has consistently maintained he did not kill Ms. Harrison. Gutierrez has sought DNA testing of crime scene evidence for years, which prosecutors have opposed. State and federal courts have denied his request.

Gutierrez is asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Abbott to commute his sentence or, in the alternative, grant a temporary reprieve.

How you can help
Contact the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to urge them to recommend clemency or at least a temporary reprieve for Ruben Gutierrez, TDCJ #999308, DOB 06/10/1977. Share your concerns with Governor Greg Abbott.  Take action by July 11.

Here is a sample message to email directly to the Board at

Dear Chairman Gutierrez and Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,

I am writing to urge you to recommend clemency – or at least a temporary reprieve – for Ruben Gutierrez (TDCJ #999308, DOB 06/10/1977), who is scheduled to be executed on July 16, 2024. I am deeply troubled that DNA evidence from the crime scene has never been tested. It is unconscionable for Texas to risk executing a man for a crime he may not have committed when the state has the means to ensure certainty.

In the interest of fairness and justice, I implore you to do everything in your power to stop the execution of Ruben Gutierrez.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Your name, city and state

To date this year, there have been nine executions nationwide, including two in Texas. Executions have occurred in Alabama (two), Georgia (one), Missouri (two), and Oklahoma (two); Alabama also has another execution set in July. Texas has executions set for August and September, and we expect more dates to appear on the schedule soon.

Updates on innocence cases

Court finds actual innocence in a 47-year-old death penalty case
On June 19, 2024, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared Kerry Max Cook actually innocent. In their monumental ruling in the 47-year-old death penalty case, the judges cited uncontroverted Brady violations, proof of false testimony, admissions of perjury, and new scientific evidence as reasons for their finding.

Cook spent nearly 20 years on death row for the 1977 murder of Linda Jo Edwards in Tyler, Texas (Smith County). His legal odyssey included three trials. Cook was convicted and sentenced to death in 1978, but the verdict was overturned in 1991, leading to a second trial in 1992 that concluded in a mistrial when jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. A third trial in 1994 sent him back to death row but his conviction was overturned for a second time in 1996. On the eve of a fourth trial in 1999, in which Smith County prosecutors yet again threatened him with the death penalty, Cook agreed to a no-contest plea deal, which resulted in his release from prison. He remained guilty in the eyes of the law, however, even though he never admitted to the crime.

Smith County prosecutors set aside Cook’s conviction in 2016 after an alternate suspect admitted to perjuring himself in front of multiple juries and at pretrial hearings, including lying about the timing of his last sexual encounter with Ms. Edwards. The appeals court’s ruling now official exonerates Cook.

Read this authoritative account of Cook’s case from Michael Hall at Texas Monthly.

The Death Penalty Information Center has added Kerry Max Cook to its official list of individuals who were sentenced to death and later exonerated. There are now 199 people on that list, including 18 Texans.

State sets execution date for Robert Roberson despite overwhelming new evidence that no crime occurred
The State of Texas has set an October 17 execution date for Robert Roberson despite overwhelming new evidence that his daughter, Nikki, died of natural and accidental causes. Roberson has spent more than 20 years on death row for a crime that never occurred; his conviction was based on the outdated and now debunked shaken baby hypothesis. 

A broad and diverse group of eminent scientists and physicians, former federal judges, innocence groups, best-selling novelist John Grisham, and the former lead detective from the case oppose the execution of Roberson. The court set the execution date without granting Roberson’s previously-filed request for a hearing.

Unless the courts or Governor Abbott intervene, Roberson could become the first person in the United States to be executed based on the discredited shaken baby hypothesis. 

Add your name to stop Roberson’s execution and receive regular updates on the campaign from the Innocence Project.

Featured events

Membership gatherings

If you live in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, we invite you to attend one of these upcoming TCADP gatherings:

– TCADP is hosting a summer lunch series for supporters in the Austin area. These gatherings take place at our office in North Austin (1139 West Braker Lane) and feature a special guest speaker. Our next luncheon will take place on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, when we will hear from Dr. Kimberly Harrison about her work as a forensic psychologist and the intersection of the death penalty and mental illness. Lunch will be provided; pre-registration is required. Join us from 12:00 to 1:00 PM that day for conversation and community!

– Join your fellow TCADP supporters in DFW on Thursday, July 18, 2024, from 9:00 to 11:00 AM, at Union Coffee (3705 Cedar Springs Rd, Dallas, TX 75219). Deputy Director Tiara Cooper will hold space for anyone interested in learning more about TCADP and connecting with our efforts and upcoming events. To RSVP, email

– Join TCADP Board Members in the Houston area for Justice & Java on Saturday, July 20, 2024, from 9:30 to 11:00 AM at Slowpokes (Garden Oaks/Oak Forest location; 1203 W 34th St. Suite D., Houston, TX 77018). These gatherings are a relaxed setting for meeting other TCADP members in the region, sharing your passion for this cause, and learning about current campaigns and initiatives. 

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. Our next selection is Little Shoes: The Sensational Depression-Era Murders That Became My Family’s Secret by Pamela Everett. We will discuss the book on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, at 7:00 PM CT. Register here.

Keeping up the fight for justice 

This past weekend, we marked the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Furman v. Georgia, which was issued on June 29, 1972. In Furman, the Justices ruled that the death penalty system, as it was being administered at the time, was arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory. The decision overturned all existing death penalty laws in effect at the time and invalidated the death sentences of 629 people nationwide. 

Even though the death penalty was reinstated by the Court just four years later, we know it remains just as arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory today as it was in 1972. That’s why your support for TCADP is so vital.

As we reflect on everything that has happened since the Furman decision 52 years ago, we can say without a doubt that the death penalty landscape has shifted. Public support is eroding, decisions makers are abandoning it, and powerful voices are calling for change.

True justice will not be possible, however, until we end executions entirely. Please stand with us and keep up the fight for people like Ramiro Gonzales, Robert Roberson, and so many others with a generous summer donation

Thank you for being part of the community that will end the death penalty in Texas.