TCADP Award Recipients 2007-2023

Additional information is available in the conference archives.

Appreciation Awards
TCADP’s Appreciation Awards are bestowed upon individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions towards efforts to end the death penalty in Texas.  We presented our 2023 Appreciation Awards to the following individuals:

Dr. Bill Bush is a Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Texas A&M University-San Antonio whose current research interests include an ongoing historical study of youthful capital offenders. In recent years he has provided support for the clemency campaigns of two individuals who faced execution by the State of Texas for crimes committed when they were 18 years old. Professor Bush’s opinion pieces about the cases of Billy Joe Wardlow (2020) and Ramiro Gonzales (2022) generated awareness of the inappropriateness of sentencing individuals under age 21 to death and the false determination of “future dangerousness.”

Dr. Rachel Jennings is a stalwart TCADP member in San Antonio. A constant presence at vigils on the days of executions in Texas, even during the pandemic, Rachel is a dedicated participant in the activities of TCADP both locally and virtually. She also has given presentations on the death penalty to her church and to college students and published poems on the issue. Rachel teaches English at San Antonio College in San Antonio and serves on the board of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.

Pastor Jesse Rincones is the Executive Director of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas. In the spring of 2022, he became involved in the campaign to stop the execution of Melissa Lucio. Pastor Rincones joined other faith leaders in calling for clemency for Lucio. He also authored an opinion piece about the case, which was published by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, and participated in a bilingual virtual press conference with Lucio’s attorneys that addressed the widespread support for clemency. Lucio received a stay from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals two days before her scheduled execution in April. 

Courage Award
TCADP’s Courage Award recognizes individuals who have encountered the death penalty firsthand and shared their experiences with decision makers and the public at large. We were pleased to present our 2023 Courage Award to Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez.

Mark Gonzalez was elected district attorney of Nueces County in 2016. Prior to his election, he served as a criminal defense lawyer for eight years and was named 2011 Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year by the Corpus Christi Bar Association. Gonzalez is a graduate of Texas A&M Corpus Christi and St. Mary’s University School of Law. 

After an execution date was set for John Ramirez in April 2022, DA Gonzalez petitioned the court to withdraw it, explaining that the motion for a date was made by an Assistant District Attorney without his knowledge. In his motion to withdraw the execution date, DA Gonzalez stated he “has the firm belief that the death penalty is unethical and should not be imposed on Mr. Ramirez or any other person while [he] occupies the office in question.” While his efforts to withdraw the date and stop the execution did not succeed, we commend DA Gonzalez for using his discretion as a DA to seek justice in Nueces County.

Media Awards
TCADP’s Media Award is presented to journalists, media outlets, filmmakers, authors, and artists who raise awareness of death penalty issues through their respective mediums. In 2023, we honored two journalists:

Brant Bingamon writes the column “Death Watch” for the Austin Chronicle, a media outlet with a long commitment to telling the stories of those sentenced to death in Texas. Brant exemplifies this commitment in his portrayal of the innate humanity of individuals facing execution by the State of Texas. 

Keri Blakinger is a journalist and the author ofCorrections in Ink, a memoir tracing her path from figure skating to heroin addiction to prison and, finally, to life as an investigative reporter covering mass incarceration. 

TCADP was honored to present its 2022 Awards to individuals who have deepened our understanding of the legacy of the death penalty, inspired us with their zealous advocacy, and moved us with their compassion for others.

Appreciation Awards
Randi Chavez is the Deputy Director and Head of Mitigation for Texas Defender Service, where she supervises a team of mitigation specialists who work on pre-trial and post-conviction cases across the state. Randi has devoted most of her career as a social worker to advocating for those facing death sentences and those sentenced to death.

Richard Ellis is a capital defense attorney who has represented more than 20 death-sentenced Texans in their federal habeas appeals since 1993. He has obtained nearly a dozen stays of execution for his Texas clients in various state and federal courts.

Marv Knox is the founder of Fellowship Southwest, an ecumenical network that supports practical ministry and social justice advocacy across several states. Among his many contributions to the movement in recent years are endorsing sign-on letters and amicus briefs related to specific cases, authoring opinion pieces, and supporting death penalty reforms at the Texas Legislature.

Media Awards
Maurice Chammah is a journalist with The Marshall Project and the author of Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty, an insightful narrative on the use of the death penalty in Texas since the 1970s and analysis of how this history is shaping the future of capital punishment. His reporting on the criminal justice system has been published by the New York Times, the New YorkerThe Atlantic, and other publications.

Patrick Forbes is the director of “The Phantom,” a documentary film that tells the tragic story of Carlos DeLuna, who was wrongfully executed by the State of Texas in 1989.  The film is a powerful resource for educating elected officials and the public about the fallibility of the death penalty and why it must be abolished.

The TCADP Board of Directors honored three capital defense attorneys whose zealous advocacy has spared numerous individuals from execution and impacted the future of the death penalty in Texas.  Click here for a detailed description of each award recipient.

Appreciation Awards
Cliff Sloan teaches Criminal Justice, Constitutional Law, and Death Penalty Litigation at Georgetown Law.  Cliff led the legal team for Bobby Moore, whose case has fundamentally changed the way the State of Texas assesses intellectual disability claims in capital cases.

Gretchen Sween devotes her full-time practice to defending indigent individuals in death penalty cases.  In June 2020, she secured a rare win at the U.S. Supreme Court in the capital case of Terence Andrus, who was convicted and sentenced to death in Fort Bend County in 2012 after his trial counsel failed to present or even investigate readily available mitigating evidence of his troubled upbringing and mental health issues.

David P. Atwood Founder’s Award
The recipient of the 2021 Founder’s Award was defense attorney Richard (“Dick”) Burr in recognition of his lifetime of zealous advocacy on behalf of individuals on death row in Texas and, particularly, his efforts on behalf of Billy Joe Wardlow and Cesar Fierro.

Appreciation Awards:

  • Rick McClatchy, State Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas, who led a clergy response to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s abrupt decision in April 2019 to remove chaplains from the execution chamber, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution to Patrick Murphy on grounds of religious discrimination.
  • Quinncy McNeal, a Houston-based attorney with Mayer Brown who is part of Rodney Reed’s legal defense team.  The team secured a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminals on November 15, 2019, just five days before Reed was scheduled to be put to death.

Courage Award:

  • The Honorable Elsa Alcala, who left the judiciary in 2018 after 20 years as a state judge in Texas, having served three different courts. During her 7.5 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, she authored over 80 signed majority opinions, 93 dissenting opinions, and 195 concurring opinions, many of which addressed the propriety of the death penalty.  During the 2019 Texas legislative session, she advocated zealously for death penalty reforms as the policy director for the Texas Defender Service.

Media Award:

Appreciation Awards:

  • State Representative Donna Howard, for co-authoring legislation to repeal the death penalty in the 85th Texas Legislature
  • Larry James, for his outreach efforts on behalf of Chris Young, who was executed by the State of Texas on July 17, 2018

Courage Awards:

  • Mitesh Patel, for publicly and selflessly calling for mercy for the man who killed his father and recognizing the spark of redemption in Chris Young
  • Kent Whitaker, for displaying unconditional love and forgiveness in his tireless determination to secure clemency for his son, Thomas “Bart” Whitaker

Media Award:

  • Laurence Thrush, whose powerful video interviews with Chris Young and his daughter, Crishelle Young, played a central role in our public mobilization campaign to stop Young’s execution.

David P. Atwood Founder’s Award:

  • Keith Hampton, in recognition of the decades of zealous legal representation he has provided to individuals on death row in Texas and, particularly, his inspiring efforts to secure clemency for Kenneth Foster and Thomas Whitaker.

Appreciation Awards:

  • Reverend Deanna Golsan, for sharing her story about her change of heart on the death penalty and her experience of ministering to the family of a man facing execution – and to the man himself – with Texas legislators and other faith leaders.
  • House of Renewed Hope, an organization founded by several Dallas County exonorees who investigate wrongful convictions and correct injustices. We are especially grateful for their work on the death penalty case of Max Stoffar.
  • Jeff Newberry, for his legal representation of Robert Pruett, who was executed by the State of Texas on October 12, 2017, and for the compassion and kindness he displayed towards Robert’s friends and family.

Courage Award:

  • Glenn and Judy Cherry, for their unwavering opposition to the death penalty for the man who killed their son, Jonas, and their public efforts to stop the execution of Paul David Story in April 2017.

David P. Atwood Founder’s Award:

  • Rev. Wes Magruder, in recognition of his many important contributions to the cause of ending the death penalty, particularly his leadership in engaging United Methodists in the North Texas Conference on this issue.

Appreciation Award: Lindsey Pearlstein
Courage Award: Alfred Dewayne Brown
David P. Atwood Founder’s Award: State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

Appreciation Awards: State Representative Alma Allen; Patricia Delgado; and KPFT 90.1 FM
Media Award: Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle
David P. Atwood Founder’s Award
: Dominican Sisters of Houston

Appreciation Awards: Rev. Cheryl Smith; Alexandra Noll
Courage Award: Manuel Velez
Media Award: Alex Hannaford

Appreciation Awards: Paula Keeth; Maria Castillo; Ariana Campos; Burnham Terrell (posthumous)
Courage Award: State Rep. Terry Canales
David P. Atwood Founder’s Award
: Lon Burnam

Appreciation Awards: JC Dufresne; MFSA- Southwest Chapter
Media Awards: Steve Mims and Joe Bailey

Appreciation Awards: Kelly Epstein, Brother Brian Halderman
Courage Award: Jan Brown
Media Award: Jordan Smith
David P. Atwood Founder’s Award
: Bishop Joe A. Wilson

Appreciation Awards: Mary Loehlin; Professor Dennis Longmire; Jim and Sherry Coombes
Courage Award: Anthony Graves and his family
Media Award: Pamela Colloff
David P. Atwood Founder’s Award
: Rev. Carroll Pickett

Appreciation Awards: Ron Carlson; Academy of Oriental Medicine in Austin
Courage Awards: Father Mark Miller and the other leaders of the TCADP Odessa Chapter, Judge Charlie Baird
Media Award: David Grann

Appreciation Awards: Deborah Michalewicz; Steve James; Peter Gilbert
Courage Award: Mayor John Cook
Media Award: Bob Ray Sanders
Special Thanks
: Sara Hickman

Appreciation Awards: Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza; Genevieve Tarlton Hearon
Courage Award: Dallas Morning News Editorial Board
Special Thanks: Les Breeding

Appreciation Awards: Bill Pelke; Mario Marazziti; Susybelle Gosslee; President Vicente Fox; Bishop Gregory Aymond; Micki Dickoff
Courage Awards: Rev. Carol Pickett; Sam Millsap