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Monday, December 03, 2001

December 2001 Newsletter

The December newsletter has been released and includes information about:

  • March for a Moratorium
  • Adopt-A-Legislator Program
  • Execution of Gerald Mitchell for a crime committed when he was only 17


December e-letter:

Greeting moratorium supporters!

The October 27 Second Annual March for a Moratorium was a success. Over 400
moratorium supporters from around Texas and beyond marched up Congress Ave
in downtown Austin and rallied at the Capitol. Speakers at the rally
included former death row inmate Kerry Cook, Rena and Ireland Beazley
(parents of Napoleon, a juvenile offender on Texas death row), Bishop
Gregory Aymand, Jeanette Popp (mother of murder victim Nancy DePriest), as
well as Renny Cushing and Linda White of Murder Victims Families for
Reconciliation (MVFR). The crowd was especially moved to hear murder
victims' family members speak out against executions. The presence of these
voices of mercy and compassion are sure sign that the movement for a
moratorium is growing.

We expect the march to be an even bigger success next year. Texas
Moratorium Network, along with other march planners, is grateful to
everyone who made contributions, who travelled to attend the march, and who
helped get the word out. The energy bodes well for the 2003 legislative
session.

At the moment, one of our chief projects is building the 2002 Adopt a
Legislator Program.
Last session several legislators became strong
moratorium supporters because their constituents contacted them before the
session and gradually won them over to the cause. What we need now are a
few dedicated individuals around the state to *adopt a legislator* and to
make him or her a moratorium supporter. To sign up, or to learn more,
contact Brian Evans (bcevans@mail.utexas.edu).

In other news:

On October 22, Texas went forward with an especially tragic execution.
Gerald Mitchell was killed for the 1985 murder of Charles Marino. Mitchell
was only 17 at the time of the murder. Most of the world has condemned
execution of juvenile offenders as a barbaric practice. This year, Texas'
House of Representatives passed a bill that would have banned such
executions, but it died in the Senate.
We are still hopeful that the execution of Napoleon Beazley, another
juvenile offender, can be stopped. If you have not read Amnesty
International's report on Napoleon and juvenile's, please do so at:

http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/AMR511052001

In better news, Jeanette Popp has succeeded in convincing the Austin
District Attorney's office *not* to seek the death penalty in the trial of
Joe Achim Marino, her daughter's accused killer. Marino also initially
wanted to be eligible for execution, but a visit from Popp convinced
everyone that another killing was not the answer. This is a major victory
for opponents of the current death penalty system, and for victims' rights.

In January, Sister Helen will be making a tour through Texas. She will be
appearing at a religious retreat in San Antonio on Jan. 19, at a
Defendant's Service at the University of Houston on Jan. 23, at the LBJ
Auditorium on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin on Jan. 24,
at St. Thomas Church in Amarillo on Jan. 25, and at Holy Spirit Parish in
McAllen on Jan. 26. If you live near any of these locations, please try to
make it to her appearance. You won't be disappointed.

Happy Holidays one and all, and we look forward to building support for a
moratorium on executions in 2002!

The Texas Moratorium Network

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Sunday, December 02, 2001

Scheduled Execution: Vincent Cooks

Vincent Cooks is scheduled to become the 256th person executed since 1976 in Texas on Dec. 12. Convicted of the robbery/murder of Dallas Police Officer Gary McCarthy in 1988, Cooks’ appeals have focused on scanty eyewitness testimony.

Cooks has argued on appeal that only one out of ten eyewitnesses to the murder were able to identify him from a lineup, with a number of other witnesses identifying people other than Cooks. Eyewitness accounts have also given inconsistent judgements of the height and weight of the murderer. Some claimed he weighed approximately 220 pounds and was around 5' 10. Cooks weighed 318 pounds at the time of his arrest and is 6' 0. These facts were presented at trial and federal courts have sided with the jury. It is worth remembering that the eyewitness testimony of one person was enough to put Anthony Porter within days of an Illinois execution chamber- testimony that was later shown to be false. Porter has since been fully exonerated of the crime.

Cooks has also suggested that the jury was unfairly motivated to see him as a violent and dangerous man. As evidence, he has questioned why his legs were shackled during trial. Previous courts have ruled that shackling a defendant in the court seriously damages the presumption of innocence all defendants are entitled to. Far from embracing this claim, federal courts have accepted the prosecutor’s rationale that it was not intended that the jury actually see the shackles. Moreover, at trial prosecutors misconstrued Cooks’ school record, claiming that he had to be removed from class so the rest of the school could function. In fact, Cooks was merely placed in a disciplinary setting for his truancy problem.

The strategy of the prosecution to paint Vincent Cooks as an aggressive and violent person has worked to Cooks’ disadvantage. Federal courts repeatedly have denied Cooks’ contention that the jury was improperly prejudiced. Please write and call to let Gov. Perry know that convictions require evidence, not innuendo.

Please Contact

Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
PO Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2418
phone: (512) 463 1782
fax: (512) 463 1849
e-mail: www.governor.state.tx.us/e-mail.html


Board of Pardons and Paroles
Attn: Gerald Garret
Executive Clemency Section
PO Box 13401, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
phone: (512) 406 5852
fax: (512) 467 0945
e-mail: www.governor.state.tx.us/e-mail.html
web:www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/index.html



Write Op-Ed

The Austin American-Statesman
P.O. Box 670
Austin, TX 78767
phone: (512) 445-3667
fax: (512) 445-3679
e-mail: news@statesman.com
web: www.austin360.com/statesman/editions/today



Dallas Morning News
2726 S. Beckley
Dallas, TX 75224
phone: (214) 977-8462
fax: (214) 977-8019
e-mail: discoveries@dallasnews.com
web: www.dallasnews.com



Houston Chronicle
P.O. Box 4260
Houston, TX 77210
phone: (713) 220-7491
fax: (713) 220-6806
e-mail: hci@chron.com
web: www.houstonchronicle.com

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Tuesday, October 02, 2001

October 2001 Newsletter

The October 2001 newsletter contains information about:

  • 2nd Annual March for a Moratorium
  • Juvenile offender execution
  • Meet your legislators program


TEXAS MORATORIUM NETWORK NEWSLETTER -- OCTOBER 2001

Texas Moratorium Network


512-302-6715

Dear Moratorium Supporter,

As we continue to organize for a moratorium on executions in Texas, we are pleased to report that Sister Helen Prejean has agreed to serve on the Texas Moratorium Network Board of Advisors. Sister Prejean is the author of Dead Man Walking and Chair of the Moratorium Campaign based in New Orleans. She is a tireless activist on this issue both nationally and internationally, and we are excited to have her with us.

There is much more to report for October 2001, so let's get right to it:

2ND ANNUAL MARCH FOR A MORATORIUM LESS THAN 2 WEEKS AWAY!

The 2nd Annual March for a Moratorium is on schedule for Saturday, October 27, 2001, in Austin, Texas. This promises to be the largest public event ever to challenge the death penalty in the State of Texas. Over 1000 Texans are expected to converge of the Capitol to raise their voices for a halt to executions. Come to Austin and be a part of history!

Here are the specifics (for more information, including directions, call us at 512-302-6715, or go to ):

1 pm - Gather at Republic Park (4th and Guadalupe)
2 pm - March to the Capitol
3 pm - Rally at the Capitol
5 pm - Post-event party (Center for Mexican-American Cultural Arts -- 600 River Street)

Speakers will include:

Kerry Cook (an innocent man who spent over 20 years on death row)
Rep. Harold Dutton (sponsor of moratorium bills in the 77th Texas Legislature)
Ireland and Rena Beazley (parents of Napoleon, an African-American juvenile offender sent to Death Row by an all-white jury)
Deborah Bell (President of Texas NOW and founder of the Andrea Pia Yates Support Coalition)
Jeanette Popp (mother of Nancy DePriest, for whose murder Christopher Ochoa and Richard Danziger were wrongly convicted by a Travis County jury)
Jeannine Scott (wife of Yogurt Shop Defendant Michael Scott)
Njeri Shakur (Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement)
Will Harrell (ACLU of Texas)

-------------------------------------------

In Other News ...

1) JUVENILE OFFENDER SCHEDULED FOR EXECUTION ON OCTOBER 22nd

In violation of international law, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Gerald Mitchell who was sentenced to death for a crime he committed when he was 17. Executing juvenile offenders is almost universally recognized as a fundamental violation of international law and is forbidden by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which every nation on Earth has ratified except Somalia and the United States. Texas accounts for more than half of all the world's executions of juvenile offenders in the last ten years. Under Texas law, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has the exclusive power to commute a sentence of death to life in prison.

Please fax or call individual Board members as well. For the appropriate contact information, go to:

For background and talking points on this case, go to:


2) MEET YOUR LEGISLATORS

Passage of a moratorium in Texas depends on our legislators, and getting the support of our legislators depends on YOU. Please try to meet or talk with your elected State Representatives whenever you can. For more information, or to join the adopt-a-legislator program, visit the website ), or contact Brian Evans at 512-479-8094 (email: )

Thank you for your continued support, and we hope to see many of you on October 27.

MORATORIUM NOW!

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Sunday, September 23, 2001

September 2001 Newsletter

The September newsletter contains information about cases to watch (Napoleon Beazley, Calvin Burdine, Max Soffar, and Andrea Pia Yates) as well as a speaking schedule for Sister Helen Prejean in Texas.

www.texasmoratorium.org

September 23, 2001

Dear Moratorium Supporters,

We apologize that our newsletter is behind schedule this month. Like all Americans, we have recently been given to shock and mourning. But the need to stop executions in Texas is too important to for us to stop working. We also believe that now it is more important than ever to celebrate our democracy by pursuing reforms that will make it better, more humane, and more just.

Since our last letter, in August, there have been several positive steps toward stopping executions in Texas. First, the plans for the Second Annual March for a Moratorium are rapidly progressing; people from all over Texas and beyond have said they plan to come (more on that at the bottom). Second, recent studies show that in Texas, and nationwide, the pace of executions is slowing. Texas had 40 executions in 2000. This year, it has had 13. Only three more are scheduled. This promising development comes just as two controversial Texas executions were stopped by the courts and civil rights groups are rallying to keep Andrea Yates off death row.

CASES TO WATCH:

-On August 15, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution to Napoleon Beazley in order to consider whether his previous legal counsel had been effective. Napoleon, who is on death row for the Tyler murder of John Luttig, has been the subject of an international letter writing campaign because he was a juvenile at the time of his crime and his trial appears to have been marred by racism and bias. Thorough information on his case is available from the American Bar Association (http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/beazley.html). Please follow their instructions on writing letters to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. If Napoleon's stay is lifted, the Board will be the last hope for stopping his execution.

-Calvin Burdine, a death row inmate convicted in one Texas' infamous sleeping lawyer cases, will get a new trial. The Fifth Circuit Court blocked his execution in late August. They concluded that unconscious counsel equates to no counsel at all. We await word of a trial date.

-September 20 the Fifth Circuit Court hears oral arguments concerning the conviction of Max Soffar, who has been on Texas death row since 1981. Max's was initially represented by the same attorney as Burdine (Joe Cannon). What is worse, there are serious doubts about his guilt. Last December the Fifth Circuit threw out Max's 1981 conviction and death sentence but the state has since managed to convince the court to hear arguments en banc. Max's case, involving a poor legal representation and a dubious confession, is another perfect example of what with wrong with application of the death penalty in Texas. It is one we need to continue watching.

-Looking ahead to another highly controversial case, Texas Moratorium Network has joined with the ACLU, the National Organization for Women, and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in support of the Andrea Pia Yates Support Coalition. Harris County Prosecutors have announced they will seek the death penalty against Andrea Yates for the murders of her five children. The Coalition believes that the death penalty is wholly inappropriate for her because she committed her crime while suffering from postpartum psychosis.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

September 26-28:
Sister Helen will be speaking in Texas at the following times and locations:

Dioceses of Galveston - Houston
Date: 9/26/2001
Houston, Texas
Location: Dioceses of Galveston - Houston
1700 San Jacinto
Houston, TX 77001
Contact: Robert Scamardo (Tel: 713-659-5461; Fax: 713-759-9151)

St. Mary's Catholic Center
Date: 9/27/2001
College Station, Texas
Location: St. Mary's Catholic Center
603 Church Ave.
College Station , TX 77840
Contact: 979-846-5717 ext. 102

Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, Inc. (Red Mass)
Date: 9/28/2001
Beaumont, Texas
Location: Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, Inc. (Red Mass)
801 Laurel St.
Beaumont, TX 77840
Contact: Richard Clarkson (409-838-1000)

MARCH FOR A MORATORIUM UPDATE:

The Second Annual March for a Moratorium is shaping up to be a huge success. On Saturday, October 27, moratorium supporters from all over Texas and beyond will gather in Austin at Republic Park (5th and Guadalupe) at 1 PM. We will march to the Capitol at 2PM. At 3PM will hear speakers on the steps of the Capitol. Committed speakers include State Representative Harold Dutton, Jr., author of House Bill 720 (to enact a moratorium), Deborah Bell, president of Texas National Organization for Women, Will Harell, executive directive of Texas ACLU, and exonerated former Texas death row inmate Kerry Cook.

Word about the march is traveling fast. We have heard from marchers coming from such diverse places as El Paso, Boston, and Washington, D.C. By the end of October, e-mail and print announcements should have reached nearly twenty thousand Texans.

More information, including contact information for travel coordinators, will posted to www.texasmoratorium.org. For the moment, Annette Spanhel (Aspanhel@yahoo.com) is offering camping space on her ranch in Dripping Springs (45 minutes from Austin) for students or anyone who needs to travel to the march on a tight budget.

Please join us in making this the biggest moratorium march Texas has ever seen.

Best wishes,
Texas Moratorium Network

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Sunday, August 12, 2001

Adopt A Legislator Project

Some of our best allies in the legislature were on our side because constituents pressured them from even before the session and refused to let up. We believe that if constituents keep reminding their legislators of the facts--with letters, phone calls, visits, photo-copies of newspaper articles--that legislators will become moratorium supporters. What we need now is dedicated volunteers all around the state to "adopt a legislator" and to focus on turning that legislations into a moratorium supporter.

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August 2001 Newsletter

This first issue contains information about our new monthly e-mail newsletter, the Adopt A Legislator program, the upcoming execution of Napoleon Beazley, and the second Annual March for a Moratorium (Oct 27, 2001, Austin, Texas)

August 12, 2001

Dear Moratorium Supporter,

At time of writing, we have 1 year, 150 days, 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 37 seconds left until the beginning of the next legislative session. The Texas Moratorium Network considers this no time to rest!

In the last session your letters and phone calls to legislators helped create a climate that made important reforms possible, reforms like post-conviction DNA testing and improvements in indigent defense. And moratorium bills took the lead in this progress. As The New York Times put it, A new found willingness of legislators to consider (death penalty reform) became apparent when bills to impose a moratorium passed out of committee, before eventually dying. Such bills had never even been given a hearing in the past. In other words, you made a difference. We know it was heartbreaking when Governor Perry vetoed the ban on execution of the mentally retarded, but we think that's a decision he may live to regret.

Grass-roots efforts are already slowing the pace of executions in Texas, but terrible injustices continue. Please stay involved as we get ready to win the moratorium in 2003. At the moment, we hope you will help us and other activists with four projects:

1. TMN's monthly e-mail newsletter
2. TMN's Adopt a Legislator program
3. Protest the execution of Napoleon Beazley
4. Second Annual March for a Moratorium (Oct 27, 2001, Austin, Tx.)

Please read on for details.

1. Monthly newsletter - ask family and friends to join!

During the session, this e-mail list was used for legislative action alerts. For the interim, we would like to continue to use it as a monthly newsletter. We believe that the better informed Texas moratorium supporters are, the more effective they can be in putting pressure on legislators and media.

We promise that we will issue a newsletter no more than monthly (within the first week of the month). It will contain only information relevant to the death penalty - and efforts to stop executions - in Texas. By limiting the letter's scope in this way, we hope to be brief but useful.

If you ever wish to remove yourself from this list, explanation of how to do so is included at the bottom of every message. On the other hand, if you know others who would like to be added to the list, please refer them to our Web site, texasmoratorium.org. They should click on Join E-mail List.

2. Adopt a Legislator

Some of our best allies in the legislature were on our side because constituents pressured them from even before the session and refused to let up. We believe that if constituents keep reminding their legislators of the facts --with letters, phone calls, visits, photo-copies of newspaper articles --that legislators will become moratorium supporters. What we need now is dedicated volunteers all around the state to adopt a legislator and to focus on turning that legislator into a moratorium supporter.

Would you be interested in adopting your Senator or Representative? Would you like more information about how to contact your legislators and to encourage them to take a stand in support of a moratorium? Please contact Legislative Coordinator Brian Evans (bcevans@mail.utexas.edu; 512-302-6715).

3. Texas to execute juvenile offender -- please contact the Governor

August 15 Texas is set to execute Napoleon Beazley for the 1993 murder of John Luttig in Tyler, Texas. His case is a potent reminder of why Texas needs a moratorium. Napoleon was seventeen at the time of his crime. The United States is among a small minority of countries that still has not banned execution of juvenile offenders as a human rights abuse. Napoleon's death stands to be especially tragic because the Texas legislature nearly established such a ban. House Bill 2048 passed the House and then stalled in the Senate. In addition, Napoleon, who is African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury, one of whom was later quoted making an openly racist remark. Many who know Napoleon insist that he has great potential for rehabilitation, but his trial judge severely limited testimony about his character in his sentencing hearing.

The injustice of this execution has been discussed by an in-depth report by Amnesty International (Too young to vote, old enough to be executed, http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/print/AMR511052001?OpenDocument).

We urge you to read more about this execution and to take action against it.

E-mail appeals to governor Governor Perry can be made online.

-- Go to http://www.governor.state.tx.us
-- click on contact information
-- click on email the governor

The office also maintains the Governor's Opinion Hotline for Texas residents. The telephone number is 800-252-9600.


4. Save the date!

Second Annual March for a Moratorium
Austin, TX.
Saturday, October 27, 2001
2 PM, Republic Park (5th and Guadelupe)
(details to follow)

Last year's moratorium march brought over 700 marchers from Texas and beyond to protest then-Governor George Bush's horrendous record of executions. It may well have been the largest public protest of executions in the history of Texas. This year's march promises to be bigger.

During the legislative session, Governor Rick Perry showed his uncritical support for the death penalty by vetoing even a modest reform to ban execution of persons with mental retardation. Come tell him he is wrong. It's time not only to ban killing the mentally retarded, but to halt Texas executions altogether.

The march is being planned by an Austin-based steering committee with members representing a wide array of activist groups. To contact organizers, please call Texas Moratorium Network at 512-302-6715. More information and up-dates will posted to texasmoratorium.org.

The campaign for a moratorium in Texas is strong and getting stronger. Don't miss the chance to be part of history. Moratorium now!


With best wishes,
Texas Moratorium Network

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Monday, August 06, 2001

Second Annual March for a Moratorium

Second Annual March for a Moratorium
Austin, TX.
Saturday, October 27, 2001
(details to follow)

Last year's moratorium march brought over 700 marchers from Texas and beyond to protest then-Governor George Bush's horrendous record of executions. It may well have been the largest public protest of executions in the history of Texas.  

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Sunday, April 22, 2001

It's time for Texas to pause says conservative Dallas Morning News


Death Penalty 

It's time for Texas to pause 

Dallas Morning News Editorial Board 04/22/2001 

The process takes no more than seven minutes. 

The death-bound prisoner, strapped on a gurney, is already hooked to an intravenous feed of saline solution. Upon the warden's signal, the executioner plunges into the tube a lethal dose of sodium thiopental to sedate the prisoner. This is followed by a muscle relaxant so that involuntary body functions cease, collapsing the diaphragm and lungs. The only sound is the prisoner's one or two snorts as air rushes to equalize pressure in the chest cavity. Potassium chloride is then added to stop the prisoner's heart. Then everyone waits, and a doctor is admitted to pronounce the prisoner dead. 


State executions are less grotesque than in the days when electricity was used to shock the life out of convicts, but they still are a gruesome business. Nonetheless, last year Texas found it necessary to take the lives of 39 men and one woman because they took many more than 40 lives in more brutal ways. 

But what if the state was wrong? Texas has executed 245 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976; 449 await execution. What if one, two, three, pick a number, did not commit the crimes alleged? 

Some argue the fact that dozens of people have been moved off Texas death row over the years proves the system of safeguards works. 

However, The Dallas Morning News believes the contrary – the close calls make one wonder how many got called right. Texas leaders are beginning to admit the system's faults. The governor this month signed a bill expediting DNA testing to clarify culpability. The Legislature looks likely to pass a proposal to improve the quality of indigent defense. The attorney general this year confessed state error in allowing a psychologist to use race as a factor in death sentencing hearings. 

Correcting these admitted wrongs may improve the judicial system in the future. But these actions won't redress all avenues of possible error. And they will only reduce the chance of future error; they will not remedy all past wrongs. 

That's why Texas needs to pause in its administration of the death penalty and take a larger look at its justice system. Measures making their way through the Legislature would allow Texans to vote for a moratorium on the death penalty while a commission on capital punishment investigates and evaluates the fairness of the death penalty's implementation. 

The system needs evaluation. Consider the recent testimony of Houston lawyer Scott Atlas before the committee. 

Mr. Atlas and nearly a dozen other lawyers at the Vinson & Elkins firm spent $2.5 million of their time to investigate the case of death row inmate Ricardo Aldape Guerra. The illegal alien, who had no previous arrests, claimed innocence in the 1982 killing of a Houston police officer. The team was able to find alleged eyewitnesses and to obtain evidence about bullet trajectories that proved not only Mr. Aldape Guerra's innocence but also strong police and prosecutor misconduct in coercing false witness testimony. 

Defendants without the pro bono services of a major law firm or the money to spend on quality defense have little hope of being saved from false charges. As a result, the poor – typically minorities – populate death row. 

That's one of the issues being considered by a commission studying the death penalty in Illinois, where last year GOP Gov. George Ryan ordered a moratorium on executions. The commission appointed by the governor includes defense and prosecuting lawyers, judges, death penalty opponents and some nonlawyers. 

Illinois Deputy Gov. Matt Bettenhausen says that public hearings have highlighted the whole issue of fairness, including disparities in charges and sentencing based on wealth as well as race. 

"You can have like cases with similar facts and one will get 40 years and another will get death," Mr. Bettenhausen states. He notes that two-thirds of the 160 Illinois death row inmates are African-American. 

The commission also has met frequently as a working group to consider errors in cases and ways to correct them. No date is set for a final report. 

The legislation being considered in Texas would require a completed review of the state judicial system by the next legislative session. This would allow some assessment of any reforms enacted this year and consideration of other reforms, such as barring the appointment of defense lawyers with state bar disciplinary problems and creating stricter procedures for use of jailhouse informant testimony. It also would allow a determination of whether the death penalty has been applied discriminatorily and whether the process for reviewing claims is fair. In Texas, 42 percent of the death row inmates are black and 22 percent are Hispanic. 

The moratorium on executions would start only if voters approved it in a referendum this November. It would expire by September 2003. 

What redress could a moratorium achieve? 

The state would not be forced to retry the outstanding death penalty cases. However, the commission might recommend that the Legislature determine the need for an independent review of cases where new evidence warrants consideration, especially given that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rarely grants claims of new evidence. 

Our state leaders and citizens should support a study commission and moratorium on executions. The cost of postponing those very final seven minutes for some prisoners would not be great, but the potential savings to the Texas conscience could be. 

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Wednesday, April 18, 2001

KPRC Channel 2 Houston Endorses Moratorium on Executions

KPRC Channel 2 Houston Endorses Moratorium

Moratorium On Executions Needed (4/18/01)
System Has Flaws

HOUSTON, 4:23 p.m. CDT April 18, 2001 -- We would like to believe that the state of Texas has never executed an innocent person. But it could happen. 
Since 1975, 95 inmates in the U.S. -- seven in Texas -- have been released from death row after being found innocent. 

Governor Perry found the need for post-conviction DNA testing so pressing that he designated legislation granting access to it an emergency. 

Besides questions of accuracy, the justice system is under fire in Austin for unfairness. Lawmakers are working on a bill to raise standards for public defenders. 

Now a senate resolution asks to set a two-year moratorium on executions while a special commission studies possible flaws in our criminal justice system. 

Channel 2 thinks this is a good idea. 
As long as we think the system has faults, we should hold off on dispensing lethal justice -- until we are sure it is not a lethal mistake. 

Copyright 2001 by Click2Houston.com. 

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Wednesday, April 04, 2001

Action Alert for Moratorium Bills; MORATORIUM RALLY, TUES APRIL 17

Date : April 4, 2001
To : Members of the Texas Moratorium Network




Legislative support for a moratorium in Texas has never been stronger.
When we talk to the legislators and their staff, they told us over and over again that they received *MANY* calls in support of the moratorium. You did that, not the coordinators, and we are grateful.
Two moratorium bills were heard in the House and Senate committee hearings this week. The combined momentum of these bills give us a real chance for a moratorium, but we have to act now. Please don't be silent during this window of opportunity.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Call legislators, if you haven't done so. You can call anytime until they vote.
2. Attend Tues. April 17 Moratorium Rally in Austin.

1. CALL LEGISLATORS
There are two separate committees we need to reach. Please call as many of the following key committee members as possible. Ask House Criminal Jurisprudence members to support House Joint Resolution 56 (death penalty moratorium). Ask Senate Criminal Justice to support Senate Joint Resolution 25 (death penalty moratorium) Senate Bill 680 (death penalty study commission).
When you call, please remember to
  • Say who you are and where you're from
  • Thank them for hearing the bill
  • Mention the bill by number and say briefly what its about (i.e. "death penalty moratorium.")
  • You may tell them why you think a moratorium is necessary, but often they are only interested in counting your opinion as "for" or "against."
  • Thank them again.
 All numbers below are 512
House Criminal Jurisprudence (re House Joint Resolution 56)
Rep. Juan Hinojosa (Chair) 463-0636
Rep. Jim Dunnam (Vice Chair) 463-0508
Rep. Domingo Garcia 463-0654
Rep. Ann Kitchen 463-0700 (Austin, supports moratorium)
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer 463-0616
Rep. Terry Keel 463-0652
Rep. John Shields 463-0658
Rep. Robert Talton 463-0460
Rep. Rick Green 463-0498
Senate Criminal Justice (Senate Joint Resolution 25 and Senate Bill 680)
Sen. Kenneth Armbrister (Chair) 463-0118
Sen. John Whitmire (Vice Chair) 463-0115
Sen. Mike Moncrief 463-0112
Sen. Steve Ogden 463-0105
Sen. Teel Bivins 463-0131
Sen. Todd Staples 463-0103
Sen. Royce West 463-0123
In addition, please contact your own Representative and Senator. You find out who they are and how to reach them at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/fyi.htm, or by calling the Chief Clerk's Office at 463-0845.

2. ATTEND MORATORIUM RALLY, TUES APRIL 17
Mark your calendars for the Moratorium Rally on Tuesday, April 17th, at 5:30 pm in front of the Capitol. Expected speakers include exonerated death row inmates Randall Adams and Kerry Cook, as well as family members of execution victims. More details TBA.

Remember, the Texas legislature meets only once every two years, and the present session will last only another two months.

We need you to act now!

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Saturday, March 31, 2001

Moratorium Legislation Action Alert!

The State Affairs committee in the Texas House of Representatives recently held a public hearing on a bill to establish a moratorium on executions in Texas.

This is a *major* step forward.
Media Coverage
According to a recent poll, almost 2/3rds of Texans believe that an innocent person has been executed in Texas. While some good bills have been introduced to improve the death penalty system, some serious flaws are not being addressed, such as racism and police or prosecutor misconduct. Nor will these bills benefit the men and women who are already on death row as the result of a system that the public no longer trusts.
Texas Moratorium Network is calling for a temporary halt on executions until a comprehensive study of the entire system is undertaken, and additional safeguards are implemented to prevent the wrongfully convicted from being executed.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Please call at least one member of the State Affairs Committee (phone calls to legislative offices should be brief):
  • thanking them for holding the hearing
  • expressing how important it is to halt executions while so many problems in the Texas criminal justice system remain unresolved
  • urging them to support and vote in favor of HB 720.
The members of the House State Affairs Committee are as follows (all area codes are 512):

DEMOCRATS

Steve Wolens      463-0746
Sylvester Turner   463-0554
Kevin Bailey        463-0924
David Counts       463-0480
Debra Danburg    463-0504
John Longorio     463-0618
Ruth McClendon 463-0708

REPUBLICANS

Tom Craddick     463-0500
Paul J. Hilbert     463-0572
Kim Brimer         463-0632
Kenny Marchant 463-0468
Bob Hunter         463-0718
Brian McCall      463-0594
Delwin Jones     463-0542
Tommy Merritt   463-0750
You may also want to call your own Representative, if she or he is not on the State Affairs Committee. If you don't know who your Representative is, you can go to the following website:
http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/fyi.htm
Thank you for your efforts on behalf of this important legislation. If you have any questions, or get any interesting responses, feel free to email us, or call us at: 512.302.6715.

CALL TODAY!

Since the United States Supreme Court decision to reinstate the death penalty in 1976, more than 240 prisoners have been executed in Texas, which is more than in any other state. Last year, Texas executed more prisonersthan in any previous year. Concerns exist regarding the possible execution of innocent individuals and are evidenced by recent initiatives on issues surrounding capital punishment, including the examination of the indigentdefense system, postconviction DNA testing of defendants, and sentencing alternatives. However, Texas does not currently conduct a comprehensive assessment and examination of its capital punishment system. House Bill 720 creates the Texas Capital Punishment Commission to study capital punishment in this state and places a two-year moratorium on all executions in the state.
House Bill 720 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to create the Texas Capital Punishment Commission (commission). The bill requires the commission to study capital punishment in this state, concentrating particularly on issues relating to the legal representation of inmates in capital cases, the certainty of the guilt of individuals convicted in capital cases, and the sufficiency of appellate review of convictions in capital cases. After completing the study, the bill requires the commission to propose legislation to correct any inequities in the capital punishment process in this state and to submit the proposed legislation to the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house of representatives not later than December 1, 2002. The bill also sets forth the composition of the commission, the necessary qualifications of commission members, and when they must be appointed.
H.B. 720 also prohibits the state from executing an inmate on or after September 1, 2001, and before September 1, 2003. The bill also provides that the commission is abolished on January 1, 2003, and that these provisions expire on that date.
EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001.
Source : Texas House Resource Organization

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Friday, March 09, 2001

Moratorium Bills Filed!

Moratorium Bills Filed!

House Bill 720, filed by Rep. Dutton, a Democrat from Houston, calls for a moratorium and for a study to be conducted during the period in which executions are halted.  It has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee.  He has also filed House Joint Resolution 56, which calls for a Constitutional Amendment declaring a moratorium.  HJR 56 has been referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.  And Rep. Naishtatt, a Democrat from Austin, has filed HJR 59, which calls for a Constitutional Amendment granting the Governor the power to establish a moratorium on executions. Soon, there will be a Senate version of a moratorium bill, and yet another version may also be filed in the House.


The next step is a hearing on a moratorium.


We are asking supporters to call your Texas State Representative and State Senator and ask them to cosponsor or otherwise support *any* legislation that calls for a moratorium on executions in Texas. If your State Representative is on the State Affairs or Criminal Jurisprudence committees, please urge them to see to it that moratorium legislation gets a full and public hearing. 


If you don’t know who your state legislators are, you can find out by going to the following website:      http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/fyi.htm


Thank you again for your support for a moratorium on executions in Texas.  With your help, we have made great progress, and we will not cease of efforts until the moratorium is a reality.  If you have any questions, suggestions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call us at: 512-302-6715

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