2021: Reckoning with Injustice in the Death Penalty and Beyond
The TCADP 2021 Annual Conference: Reckoning with Injustice in the Death Penalty and Beyond took place as a virtual event on Saturday, February 27, 2021.
Generous support for the TCADP 2021 Annual Conference was provided by the Judith Filler Foundation and by the following sponsors: Flanary Law Firm; Virginia Greenway; Jan Heinrichs; Anne and Bob Michael; Professor Ana Otero; and Omar Vargas.
2021 Panel Discussion
Our esteemed panelists addressed the impact of COVID-19 on use of the death penalty and on incarcerated individuals throughout the state and country.
- Shawn Nolan is the Chief of the Capital Habeas Unit in the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His office represents individuals on death row in Texas, including Ruben Gutierrez, whose June 16, 2020 execution date was stayed at the eleventh hour by the U.S. Supreme Court. One of Shawn’s federal clients, Dustin Honken, was put to death on July 17, 2020. Shawn witnessed his execution.
- Keri Blakinger is a reporter at the The Marshall Project, where she covers criminal justice with a focus on prisons and capital punishment. Keri has written extensively about how corrections systems have responded to the pandemic and the toll the virus has taken on individuals in prisons and jails nationwide.
- Delia Perez Meyer, the sister of Louis Castro Perez. Mr. Perez has spent more than 21 years on Texas’s death row for a crime he maintains he did not commit.
The panel was moderated by Jessica Brand of The Wren Collective.
2021 Award Recipients
The TCADP Board of Directors was humbled to honor 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.
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.
The David P. Atwood Founder’s Award was established by the TCADP Board of Directors in 2011 in honor of Houstonian Dave Atwood, who established our organization more than 20 years ago. The award is given at the discretion of the TCADP Board and honors those who have made a lifelong commitment to justice. 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 recent efforts on behalf of Billy Joe Wardlow and Cesar Fierro.
2021 Keynote Speaker
Our 2021 keynote speaker was capital defense attorney and civil rights advocate, Henderson Hill, who shared his thoughts on this moment of reckoning with racial injustice. Henderson is Senior Counsel with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project. He served as founding director of the 8th Amendment Project and launched and continues to serve as co-director of RedressNC, an initiative to unwind extreme sentences through collaboration with community stakeholders.
2020: A Leap Towards Justice
The TCADP 2020 Annual Conference took place on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at the Whitley Theological Center on the campus of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. The theme of the conference was “2020 Vision for Texas: A Leap Towards Justice.”
View photos from the conference, courtesy of Adrian Garcia/FOMAS Cine, on the TCADP Facebook page.
2020 Conference Sponsors
The Judith Filler Foundation, Underwriter
Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio
David R. Dow
Flanary Law Firm, PLLC
Dr. Kimberly Harrison
Anne and Bob Michael
Professor Ana Otero
2020 Panel: A Leap Towards Justice in Bexar County
Our panel discussion focused on past and present practices and approaches to the death penalty in Bexar County, a community that is emblematic of how the death penalty landscape has changed in Texas. We were delighted to host the following panelists:
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales was elected in November 2018 and sworn into office on January 1, 2019. He has 30 years in practice of criminal law, having experienced both sides of the bar, and also is a former member of the Judiciary. Today, DA Gonzales advocates that every person should have equal rights and opportunities under the justice system and he has pledged to work on promoting criminal justice reform.
Sam Millsap was elected Bexar County District Attorney in 1982 and served in that office until 1987. Throughout his legal career, he has been a trial lawyer, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts. Among other notable cases as Bexar County DA, Millsap prosecuted Ruben Cantu for capital murder; Cantu was executed in 1992. In December 2005, investigative reporting by the Houston Chronicle raised serious questions about Cantu’s guilt. Millsap, acknowledging he made an error in judgment when he decided to seek the death penalty on the basis of testimony by a single eyewitness, assumed personal responsibility for Ruben Cantu’s execution and became an internationally recognized opponent of the death penalty.
Professor Roger Barnes of the University of Incarnate Word moderated the discussion.
2020 Keynote Speakers
We were humbled to present Rodrick Reed and Wana Akan as our 2020 keynote speakers. Rodrick and Wana, along with other members of the Reed family, mobilized millions of people worldwide to oppose Rodney Reed’s scheduled execution on November 20, 2019. They inspired support from celebrities, elected officials, and people of all ages and backgrounds.
Wana Akpan is Rodney Reed’s sister-in-law. She first learned about Rodney Reed’s case while serving as an AmeriCorps Survivor Advocate at SAFE Austin- the local sexual assault and domestic violence advocacy agency in Austin, Texas. AmeriCorps members participate in the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March and celebration at Huston-Tillotson University every year. In 2015, the first table Wana encountered at the MLK Day March celebration was one that included TCADP’s flyers and information about Rodney’s case. A woman at the table informed her about Rodney’s case and emphasized how there was crime scene evidence that had never been DNA tested in the case that could prove Rodney’s innocence. Wana has been involved with the efforts to prove Rodney’s innocence and free him ever since. She currently serves as the Communications Manager for the family-led Reed Justice Initiative collaborative established by Rodney Reed’s family members. RJI’s mission is to end the death penalty and eradicate wrongful convictions throughout the United States, starting with Texas.
Rodrick Reed is Rodney Reed’s younger brother. Rodrick and his parents, Sandra Reed and Walter Reed, have been fighting to prove Rodney’s innocence and to free him from the very beginning when he was wrongfully convicted of the murder and rape of Stacey Stites. Rodrick is the Vice President of Reed Justice Initiative. The idea for Reed Justice Initiative was born out of a series of conversations between Rodrick and Rodney, during which Rodney encouraged Rodrick to establish a collaborative to advocate for Rodney and people in similar situations to Rodney.
Here are some of the individuals who led breakout sessions:
- Hannah Cox with Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty
- Jeff Newberry, legal clinic supervisor at the University of Houston Law Center
- Gretchen Sween, capital appellate attorney
- Representatives from the Texas Organizing Project and MOVE Texas
2020 Award Recipients
The 2020 Awards were presented during the luncheon at the TCADP 2020 Annual Conference on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at the Whitley Conference Center on the campus of Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. Click here for detailed descriptions of each award recipient.
TCADP’s Appreciation Awards are bestowed upon individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to our efforts to stop executions and end the death penalty in Texas. Our 2020 Appreciation Awards honored these individuals:
Rick McClatchy, State Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas, for his leadership in responding 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 in conjunction with Bryce Benjet, Senior Staff Attorney for the Innocence Project, and Andrew MacRae of Levatino Pace PLLC. 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. McNeal first learned about Reed’s case while working as a television news journalist in Austin.
TCADP’s Courage Award recognizes individuals who have encountered the death penalty firsthand and bravely shared their experiences with decision makers and the public at large. Our 2020 Courage Award honored a public servant who inspires us every day by speaking truth to power, The Honorable Elsa Alcala.
In 2018, Judge Alcala left the judiciary 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.
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 2020, we were delighted to recognize filmmakers Will Francome, Mark Pizzey, and Laura Shacham and their documentary films, “The Penalty” and “One for Ten.”
2019: Uniting for Justice
The TCADP 2019 Annual Conference: Uniting for Justice took place on Saturday, February 16, 2019 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin, Texas. Photos from the day, courtesy of Joey Native/FOMAS Cine, are available on the TCADP Facebook page.
Dr. Keeley Crowfoot
Fort Worth Monthly Meeting of Friends
Dr. Kimberly Harrison
Law Office of Omar Vargas
Methodist Federation for Social Action – Rio Texas Chapter
Professor Ana Otero
Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio
Support also was provided by the Judith Filler Foundation.
Jason Baldwin delivered a powerful keynote address during the awards luncheon at the conference.
Jason was released from prison on August 19, 2011 after serving more than 18 years in Arkansas for crimes he did not commit. Known collectively as the “West Memphis 3,” Jason and co-defendants Jessie Misskelley, Jr. and Damien Echols, were wrongfully convicted for murdering three 8-year old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The factors surrounding their wrongful conviction led to a worldwide effort to free the three and expose the injustice of the Arkansas legal system.
While in prison, Jason worked many jobs. One of his favorites was as law clerk in the Varner Supermax Law Library, where he served general population, administrative segregation and Safe Keeping (Death Row) inmates. Even when he was not assigned to the law library as a clerk he spent most of his free time there. He also volunteered his time in the Jaycees and Inmate Panel, where he helped forge such programs as an inmate-funded scholarship program that benefited the families of inmates and guards with the goal of erasing the hard line drawn between inmate and staff – reminding all of their humanity and each’s responsibility to their community. In a world where most prisons are violent places, Jason worked tirelessly to foster a sense of community, self-worth and a belief that compassion is healthier than condemnation any day.
Jason is a co-founder of Proclaim Justice and is currently working as the organization’s deputy director. He is currently pursuing undergraduate studies leading to a degree in law.
The TCADP Board of Directors honored several extraordinary individuals during the TCADP 2019 Annual Conference. Most of our 2019 awards related to two cases that profoundly touched our hearts last year: Thomas “Bart” Whitaker and Christopher Young. Click here for detailed descriptions of each award recipient.
TCADP’s Appreciation Awards are bestowed upon individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to our efforts to end the death penalty in Texas. We presented our 2019 Appreciation Awards to the following individuals:
- 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
TCADP’s Courage Award recognizes those who have encountered the death penalty firsthand and bravely shared their experiences with decision makers and with the public at large. We were humbled to present our 2019 Courage Awards to two individuals whose pleas for mercy inspired hundreds of thousands of people in Texas and around the country:
- 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
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. This year, we recognized the work of filmmaker 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
The David P. Atwood Founder’s Award was established by the TCADP Board of Directors in 2011 in honor of Houstonian Dave Atwood, who established our organization more than 20 years ago. The award is given at the discretion of the TCADP Board and honors those who have made a lifelong commitment to justice. The 2019 award was bestowed upon defense attorney 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.
2019 Panel: Voices on the Front Lines
The morning panel discussion at the conference presented views of the death penalty from individuals who have served on the front lines of the criminal justice system.
- The Honorable Elsa Alcala, who has served as a judge and justice in three courts over twenty years. Judge Alcala served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s supreme court for criminal cases, from 2011 to 2018. She authored over 80 signed majority opinions, 93 dissenting opinions, and 195 concurring opinions while on that court, many of which addressed the propriety of the death penalty.
- Retired State District Judge Mike Lynch, who presided over the 167th District Court in Travis County from to 1993 to 2012. Earlier this year, he authored a compelling piece for the Marshall Project, “Why this judge dreads execution day.”
- State Representative Joe Moody, who serves as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas House of Representatives. In the 85th Texas Legislature, he chaired the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Speaker Pro Tem Moody represents House District 78 in El Paso. In July 2018, he explained in an opinion piece that he had “moved from longtime support of capital punishment to the moral certainty that it’s time for Texas to abolish the death penalty.”
- Keri Blakinger, moderator. Keri is a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, where she covers criminal justice with a focus on prisons and capital punishment.
2018: Transforming the Landscape
The TCADP 2018 Annual Conference took place on February 17, 2018 at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.
Miley & Brown, P.C.
Dallas Peace & Justice Center
Dallas Friends Meeting
Keynote Speaker: Reverend Sharon Risher
Rev. Risher was a staff chaplain and trauma specialist with Parkland Hospital in Dallas from 2012-2016. Her mother, two cousins and childhood friend—Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Tywanza Sanders and Myra Thompson, respectively—were killed along with five others at Emanuel AME Church (“Mother Emanuel”) in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. As our keynote speaker, she will address her experiences with the criminal justice system in the wake of these horrific murders and her longstanding opposition to the death penalty.
Morning Panel: Dallas County Exonorees
More than 30 men have been exonerated in Dallas County for crimes they did not commit. Our morning panel featured individuals who were wrongfully convicted and exonerated. They discussed transformations they’ve seen with criminal justice reform since their exonerations, as well as improvements that still need to be made to the system. Mike Ware, the Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Texas, moderated the panel.
- Christopher Scott was wrongfully convicted of capital murder in 1997 and spent 13 years in prison as an innocent man. After his release, Christopher founded House of Renewed Hope to help exonerate other wrongfully convicted prisoners.
- Johnny Pinchback, who in 2011 became the 22nd person exonerated through DNA testing in Dallas County. He spent 27 years in prison as an innocent man.
Johnnie Lindsey, who was scheduled to attend our morning panel passed away on February 2, 2018. Thank you, Johnnie, for the joy, love, and compassion you brought to the world.
2018 Annual Award Winners
TCADP’s Appreciation Awards are bestowed upon individuals and organizations who have made significant – often selfless – contributions towards our efforts to end the death penalty in Texas. We were pleased to present our 2018 Appreciation Awards to the following individuals and organizations:
Reverend Deanna Golsan is the Senior Pastor at Disciples Christian Church in Plano, Texas. She became involved in the death penalty issue after learning that a member of her congregation was the mother of a son on death row. Rev. Golsan served as pastor to the family and as spiritual advisor to the man in the months leading up to his execution, and she witnessed his execution on their behalf. Through that firsthand experience, her position on the issue evolved and she became an outspoken opponent of the death penalty.
Over the last year and a half, she has participated as a speaker in numerous events organized by TCADP, including faith leader luncheons and panel discussions with Shane Claiborne, which took place in Dallas and Fort Worth in the fall of 2016. Rev. Golsan also participated in TCADP’s 2017 Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty and testified in support of death penalty abolition in front of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 201, 2017. She continues to seek opportunities to share her story and engage other faith leaders on this issue.
Dallas County exonorees Christopher Scott, Johnnie Lindsey, and Steven Phillips founded House of Renewed Hope in 2010 “to fight for social justice for the wrongfully accused and convicted.” Together, they work to raise awareness of wrongful convictions, implement reforms, and advocate on behalf of those who are still incarcerated due to flaws in the criminal justice system. They also investigate individual cases and devoted considerable time and effort to the case of Max Soffar, who spent three decades on death row before his death from cancer in 2016. Serious questions continue to surround the integrity and reliability of Soffar’s capital murder conviction. House of Renewed Hope’s work on Soffar’s case is featured in the documentary film, “True Conviction,” which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and is now screening throughout the country.
Since House of Renewed Hope’s inception, the non-profit organization has received nearly 300 claims of innocence. Christopher Scott and Johnnie Lindsey will serve as panelists on the morning of the conference.
Jeff Newberry is a legal clinic supervisor at the University of Houston Law Center, where he works with Professor David R. Dow supervising the law students and interns working in the school’s death penalty clinic. Jeff has worked exclusively on capital appeals since graduating from the UH Law Center in 2010. During that time, he has been a part of teams representing eighteen men whose executions were imminent.
Jeff worked tirelessly for many years to pursue justice for Robert Pruett. Sadly, Robert was executed by the State of Texas on October 12, 2017, despite significant evidence of his innocence. We are grateful for Jeff’s advocacy on Robert’s behalf as well as for the compassion and kindness he displayed towards Robert’s friends and family over the course of his legal ordeal, including five execution dates.
TCADP’s Courage Award recognizes those who have encountered the death penalty firsthand and bravely shared their experiences with decision makers and with the public at large. Previous recipients of the Courage Award include death row exonorees Anthony Graves and Alfred Dewayne Brown; Ron Carlson, who opposed the execution of the woman who killed his sister, Deborah; and Jan Brown, who opposed the death penalty for the man who killed her nine-year-old daughter, Kandy Kirtland.
We were humbled to present the 2018 Courage Award to Glenn and Judy Cherry for their unwavering opposition to the death penalty for the man who killed their son, Jonas Cherry, and their public, selfless efforts to stop Paul David Storey’s execution in April 2017. They not only provided an affidavit to attorneys and met with decision makers but also recorded a powerful video appeal. Their advocacy raised questions as to whether prosecutors withheld information about their opposition to the death penalty from Storey’s defense attorneys during his trial and led to a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Cherrys’ appeal for mercy inspired thousands of people in Texas and around the country.
David P. Atwood Founder’s Award
The David P. Atwood Founder’s Award was established by the TCADP Board of Directors in 2011 in honor of Houstonian Dave Atwood, who founded our organization more than 20 years ago. The award is given at the discretion of the TCADP Board and honors those who have made a lifelong commitment to justice. Past recipients of the Founder’s Award are Reverend Carroll Pickett (former death house chaplain), United Methodist Bishop Joe Wilson (retired, former Bishop of the Central Texas Conference), former State Representative Lon Burnam, the Dominican Sisters of Houston, and State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.
The TCADP Board of Directors was pleased to present the 2018 Founder’s Award to Reverend Doctor Wes Magruder. Rev. Dr. Magruder is the Senior Pastor at Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. He has been an active member of TCADP since 2011, when he drove all the way from Plano to San Antonio to attend our “Religious Leaders Dialogue on the Death Penalty.” The following year, he participated in our Dallas initiative, “A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty,” representing the United Methodist Church’s position against the death penalty.
Since then, he has worked to organize TCADP members in Collin County, staffed TCADP information tables at conferences and community events, and participated in a Faithful Pilgrimage from Dallas to Fort Worth in February 2014, walking 35 miles in one day to draw attention to the death penalty and promote TCADP’s 2014 Annual Conference.
In June 2014, Rev. Dr. Magruder presented a resolution calling on all local churches and lay members of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church to pressure their local and state representatives to work toward the abolition of the death penalty in Texas and for all clergy to sign the Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty. Delegates overwhelmingly passed the resolution as one of the final acts at the conference that year.
Visit our Facebook page to see pictures from the conference.
2017: Moving to Higher Ground
Keynote Speaker: Brian Stolarz
Brian Stolarz served as habeas corpus counsel to Alfred Dewayne Brown, who was exonerated in June 2015 after spending 10 years on Texas’ death row. Stolarz received the 2015 Light of Justice Award from the Texas Defender Service for his efforts to secure justice for Mr. Brown, and his work on the case has been profiled in The Washington Post and the Houston Chronicle, and on the Today Show. His book about his relationship with Dewayne, Grace and Justice on Death Row: The Race Against Time and Texas to Free an Innocent Man, is a Washington Post best-seller. Be sure to read Brian’s recent OpEd published in the Houston Chronicle and watch this short film featuring Brian and Dewayne.
Panel Discussion: Covering the Death Penalty
In addition to offering a diverse array of workshop sessions, we were delighted to present a panel discussion involving local journalists who cover the death penalty. They discussed their approach to the issue and how this might have changed over the years. Panelists also addressed what they saw on the horizon in terms of coverage of the death penalty this year. The panel included:
- Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly
- Joy Diaz, Texas Standard
- Jolie McCollough, Texas Tribune
- Ryan Poppe, Texas Public Radio
2017 Annual Award Winners
TCADP’s Appreciation Award is bestowed upon individuals and organizations who have made significant – often selfless – contributions towards our efforts to end the death penalty in Texas. We were pleased to present our 2017 Appreciation Award to Lindsey Pearlstein, in gratitude for her hundreds of hours of volunteer service with TCADP as a full-time undergraduate student at the University of Texas-Austin.
Lindsey Pearlstein, an Elementary Education major and native of Massachusetts, served as TCADP’s Advocacy Intern in the Fall of 2014 through the Bridging Disciplines Program. She then volunteered in our office on a regular basis the following two semesters, through the end of 2015. We are forever grateful to Lindsey for her contributions to our work and her commitment to social justice, and we can’t wait to see how the next chapter of her life unfolds when she graduates in May 2017.
We were pleased to present our 2017 Courage Award to Alfred Dewayne Brown in recognition of the 10 years he spent as an innocent man on Texas’ death row and his continued pursuit of justice and compensation from the State.
On June 8, 2015, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office dismissed capital murder charges against Brown, who was wrongly convicted of the murders of Houston Police Officer Charles R. Clark and store clerk Alfredia Jones at a check-cashing business in 2003.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Brown’s conviction and death sentence on November 5, 2014, after finding the Harris County District Attorney’s Office withheld material evidence favorable to his case, specifically, a record of a phone call that corroborated his claim that he was at his girlfriend’s apartment the morning the murders took place. In 2013, a homicide detective found a box of phone records in his garage that indicated Brown made the call exactly when he asserted. The file was never shared with Brown’s defense counsel during his original trial.
Brown is the 13th person to be exonerated from death row in Texas. A total of 156 people have been exonerated from death rows nationwide since 1973.
David P. Atwood Founder’s Award
The David P. Atwood Founder’s Award was established by the TCADP Board of Directors in 2010 in honor of Houstonian Dave Atwood, who founded our organization more than 20 years ago. The award honors those who have made a lifelong commitment to justice. We presented the 2017 Founder’s Award to State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. in honor of his many important contributions to the cause of ending the death penalty, particularly his sponsorship of the first death penalty repeal bill to be introduced in the Texas Senate and his advocacy for alternatives to the ultimate punishment.
A leader on education, healthcare and economic development, Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations and a former educator and coach. In the 79th Legislative session, he authored the bill establishing Life Without Parole in Texas, and in the 84th Legislative session, he authored SB 1661, a bill to repeal the death penalty in Texas.
As he prepares for the 85th Legislative Session, Senator Lucio is guided by the values he learned growing up in Brownsville, which were enriched as an educator and cultivated in the corridors of the State Capitol, putting people first and advocating for the hard-working families deep in the heart of Texas.
2016: At the Epicenter of the Death Penalty
Keynote Speaker: Sen. Colby Coash
Colby Coash was first elected to the Nebraska State Legislature in 2008 and won reelection in 2012. He represents District 27, which encompasses portions of Lincoln. He serves as the vice-chairman of the General Affairs Committee, vice-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as well as on the Urban Affairs Committee, State-Tribal Relations Committee, Committee on Committees, Reference Committee, Developmental Disability Oversight Committee, Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee, and the Executive Board of the Legislative Council.
As a life-long Nebraskan, Senator Coash has prioritized giving a voice to vulnerable Nebraskans, especially children and people with disabilities. He works hard to promote economic development opportunities across the state in industries that require creativity and special attention in order to grow.
His service on the Judiciary Committee gives him opportunities to lead on issues of justice. He has spearheaded efforts to assist the court system in promoting access to justice for all Nebraska citizens. Furthermore, Senator Coash works to ensure the criminal justice system maintains not only “justice,” but also good stewardship of tax payer money.
In 2015 Senator Coash played a critical role in the abolishment of the death penalty in Nebraska after 38 years of attempts. He used his position as a conservative leader to convince his colleagues that the death penalty did not represent conservative values or the best interests of Nebraskans. Said Senator Ernie Chambers, “Without Coash’s influence and fortitude we would not have been successful in this effort.”
If you missed Senator Coash’s appearance on The Daily Show, watch it here.
Our morning panel discussion focused on past and present use of the death penalty in Harris County, which alone accounts for nearly 300 death sentences and more executions than any state in the country besides Texas. Yet even in Harris County, the death penalty landscape is shifting.
Dr. Stephen Klineberg
A graduate of Haverford College, with an M.A. from the University of Paris and a Ph.D. from Harvard, Stephen Klineberg is a Professor of Sociology at Rice University and the founder of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research. In 1982, he and his students initiated the annual Kinder Houston Area Survey, now in its 35th year of tracking the remarkable changes in the demographic patterns, economic outlooks, experiences and beliefs of Harris County residents. Dr. Klineberg currently serves as the Founding Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Read his opinion piece about Harris County residents’ views on the death penalty, published this summer in the Houston Chronicle.
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
State Representative Alma Allen jointly authored State Representative Jessica Farrar’s death penalty repeal bills in the 2011 and 2013 legislative sessions and has been a steadfast supporter on death penalty-related issues. She also has provided significant leadership as a member of the House Corrections Committee. Rep. Allen has represented District 131 (Houston) since 2004.
Patricia Delgado is one of TCADP’s most dedicated volunteers. She has provided leadership to El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty, a chapter of TCADP, since 2012 and has organized countless activities to engage the public, elected officials, and religious communities. These include bilingual prayer vigils at parishes across El Paso as well as vigils outside the courthouse downtown on the day of executions in Texas; workshops in conjunction with the Diocese of El Paso’s Restorative Justice Ministries; the Lighting of the Star on Franklin Mountain, which last year engaged more than 60 community members, including a strong youth contingent; and outreach to members of El Paso’s legislative delegation. Pat provides a monthly newsletter for El Pasoans, organizes monthly chapter meetings and film screenings, and participates in media requests. She truly is our *star* in El Paso!
KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston Pacifica Radio, is often the first media outlet to contact TCADP when there is breaking news about the death penalty and when we release our year-end report. We have participated in countless interviews with their reporters over the years and appreciate their steadfast coverage of death penalty issues. KPFT also provides support for our local activities and the work of the Houston Chapter and hosts special programs that give voice to the voiceless, including “The Prison Show” and “Execution Watch.”
We presented the 2016 Media Award to Houston Chronicle Metro Columnist Lisa Falkenberg in recognition of her groundbreaking work on the Texas grand jury system and the case of Alfred Dewayne Brown. Her columns contributed to Brown’s ultimate exoneration and propelled legislative reform.
On June 8, 2015, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office dismissed capital murder charges against Brown, who spent the last decade on death row. His conviction was overturned in November 2014 due to evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Falkenberg won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of his case. To see her Pulitzer nomination packet, including a letter from the editors who nominated her, visit: http://www.pulitzer.org/works/2015-commentary.
David P. Atwood Founder’s Award
We presented the 2016 Award to the Dominican Sisters of Houston, in gratitude for their longtime support for TCADP and involvement in our activities.
The Dominican Sisters of Houston is a Catholic community of women whose mission is “to publicly commit ourselves to study and address the crucial justice issues of our times,” including the death penalty. At the December 1997 Chapter, the sisters adopted a corporate stance against the death penalty. This was followed by opportunities of study and advocacy. They became early members of TCADP and helped coordinate vigils on the evenings of executions. The Sisters have hosted numerous events on the death penalty featuring murder victims’ family members and others with firsthand experience with the criminal justice system. They also support TCADP’s Religious Outreach programs, including our Interfaith Statement of Opposition to the Death Penalty and other initiatives.
John Mimbela- Mimbela Contractors, Inc.
2015: Death Penalty Fault Lines – A Seismic Shift in Ground
The TCADP 2015 Annual Conference took place on February 21, 2015 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin.
Photos from the day are available on Facebook.
John Mimbela, Mimbela Contractors, Inc. in El Paso
Proclaim Justice and Quest for Justice
Awards Luncheon Sponsors
Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP and Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP
Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio
Dr. Rev. Jeff Hood
Methodist Federation for Social Action – Rio Texas Chapter
Keynote Speaker: Tim Cole
Tim Cole is a former district attorney with more than 20 years of experience in the courtroom. He has tried over 100 felony jury trials in North Texas, including every level of felony charge. Tim was elected to four terms as 97th District Attorney (Archer, Clay & Montague Counties; 1993 to 2006) and served as assistant district attorney in the 271st District (Wise, Jack Counties; 2010-2014). He also served as Counsel to Governor Clements in 1990 and General Counsel for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association from 1988 to 1990.
Tim’s work in high-profile cases has been written about and documented in major publications such as Texas Monthly. He also wrote about his personal experience in a death penalty case, “The Death Penalty Has a Face,” published by Texas Monthly in March 2013.
Tim has achieved certification in both Criminal Law and Criminal Appellate Law, currently the only two specialty certifications available to criminal defense attorneys in Texas. He now works in private practice as a criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth. Tim recently participated in TCADP’s Speakers’ Tour in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with death row exonoree Juan Melendez.
Panel Discussion: “Shifting the Ground Under the Death Penalty” Panelists:
Pat Monks, a native Houstonian, has practiced law as a criminal defense attorney for 27 years and is a lifelong member of the Republican Party. He served as Chair of Precinct 718 of Harris County for more than 10 years and was a member of the Judicial Candidate Selection Committee of Harris County. Pat has attended nearly every precinct, senatorial, and State Republican Convention for the last 20 years. He has served on the TCADP Board of Directors since 2010 and is an active member of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
Brian Stull is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, having joined the project in 2006. He has served as trial and appellate counsel in capital cases in North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. Among other clients, Brian represented Levon “Bo” Jones an innocent man exonerated from North Carolina’s death row in 2008; Adrian Estrada, a Texas man whose death sentence was reversed when the ACLU discovered he had been sentenced to death based on false testimony; Manuel Velez, an innocent Texas man recently released from prison; and Max Soffar, an innocent man dying of liver cancer on Texas’s death row.
Brian authors ACLU amicus briefs filed in various appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and blogs concerning capital punishment for the ACLU Blog of Rights and other outlets. He has investigated conditions of confinement on Texas’s death row and advocated for needed improvements. A native of the first execution-abolition state, Michigan, and an M.S.W. social worker before his legal career, Brian graduated from New York University School of Law, where he trained under capital defense luminary Tony Amsterdam.
Moderator: Dr. Mike Renquist, TCADP Board of Directors
Appreciation Award: Alexandra Noll, for volunteering for TCADP since 2011 and reaching out to other students to join the movement.
Appreciation Award: Rev. Cheryl Smith, for bringing light to the death penalty issue through regular vigils outside the Walls Unit in Huntsville.
Courage Award: Manuel Velez, for spending nine years in prison, including four years on death row, as an innocent man and making he made the ultimate sacrifice to take a plea offered by the state in order to ensure his freedom and be reunited with his family.
Media Award: Alex Hannaford, for writing countless articles about the death penalty for publications such as The Guardian, Texas Observer, and the Nation and for creating “The Last 40 Miles,” an animated short film that presents a death row inmate’s final journey from death row in Livingston to the death chamber in Huntsville.
2014: Lighting the Way
The 2014 TCADP Annual Conference took place on February 22, 2014 at University Christian Church in Fort Worth.
A tremendous thank you to the staff at University Christian Church and all the speakers, sponsors, and TCADP members and volunteers who made the conference possible. Read more about them and everything that happened at the conference in the program.
The morning panel discussion included Kathryn Kase, the Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service, and Shari Silberstein, the Executive Director of Equal Justice USA. Kathryn provided valuable information on the role that Texas plays in the national movement and how we are providing the model for collaboration aimed at decreasing use of the death penalty in our state. Shari framed the national movement and strategy for abolition, with a particular focus on state legislative efforts. EJUSA is pioneering a new outreach effort, Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty.
The 2014 Keynote Speaker during the Award Luncheon was Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders. Bob Ray Sanders is often criticized for writing about things he could not have experienced because, some readers say, “he can’t be that old.” The truth is Bob Ray has been a professional journalist for 40 years and in three media: newspaper, television and radio. A Fort Worth native who knows and cares about his community, and those with whom he shares this planet, this is a columnist who is not afraid to speak out on behalf of downtrodden people.
2013: “Changing the Conversation”
TCADP’s 2013 Annual Conference took place on February 23, 2013 at St. Edward’s University in Austin.
Story on the conference from Facebook and Twitter Posts – http://sfy.co/jFTn
TCADP Annual Award Winners Celebrated at the Conference
- Appreciation: JC Dufresne, who played an instrumental role in the Texas Democratic Party’s decision to endorse abolition of the death penalty in its 2012 Platform.
- Appreciation: Methodist Federation for Social Action-Southwest Texas Chapter, for their years of involvement and ongoing contributions to the abolition movement.
- Media: Joe Bailey, Jr. and Steve Mims, Filmmakers of “Incendiary”, a documentary about the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 despite serious flaws in the forensic science used to convict him and doubts about his guilt.
In addition to the annual awards luncheon, the conference featured a plenary session on how instances of wrongful convictions and evidence of wrongful executions are changing the conversation on the death penalty. Panelists included:
- Anthony Graves, a motivational speaker and legal consultant who spent 12.5 years on death row before being exonerated in 2010; and
- Professor James Liebman, Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law, and the lead author of Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution
2012: “Seizing the Momentum … Creating the Climate for Change”
The TCADP 2012 Annual Conference took place on February 18, 2012 in the University of Incarnate Word Sky Room in San Antonio.
Panel Discussion: The Impact of Texas’ Changing Demographics on the Death Penalty – Learn about the panelists!
2011 TCADP Annual Conference
Seizing the Momentum… Advancing Statewide Vision through Local Action
February 19, 2011
Schmidt-Jones Family Life Center, First United Methodist Church, Austin, Texas
Sam Millsap, former Bexar County District Attorney
Dennis Reeves, Assistant Public Defender of the Regional Public Defenders Office for Capital Cases
Karen Peissinger, El Paso TCADP Chapter Leader
Sachin Chheda, NCADP Deputy Director (moderator)
2011 TCADP Annual Awards
Courage: Anthony Graves and his family
Media: Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly
Appreciation: Jim and Sherry Coombes; Marj Loehlin; Dennis Longmire
Founder’s Award: Reverend Carroll Pickett
Seizing the Momentum: Building Capacity, Community, and Coalition
February 20, 2010
Highland Park United Methodist Church, Dallas
Co-Sponsored by the SMU Human Rights Education Program
Raising Our Voices for Abolition
February 21, 2009
Schmidt-Jones Family Life Center, First United Methodist Church, Austin, Texas