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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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