Wednesday, July 31, 2002

International Pressure Builds to Halt Controversial Texas Execution

Lydia M.V. Brandt 
The Brandt Law Firm, P.C. 
Richardson, Texas 
(972) 699-7020 Voice; (972) 699-7030 Fax 


July 31, 2002 

International Pressure Builds to Halt Controversial Texas Execution 

High-level diplomatic and legal efforts are intensifying to prevent the execution of Javier Suárez Medina, a Mexican national scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas on August 14th. The case has reignited an international controversy over the widespread failure of US police to inform arrested foreign citizens of their guaranteed right to seek consular assistance, in violation of a binding treaty ratified by the United States over thirty years ago. New evidence recently uncovered with the assistance of the Mexican government has raised widespread concern that Mr. Suárez Medina’s trial and sentence failed to meet minimum standards of fairness and reliability. 

In a letter to Mr. Suárez Medina’s attorneys released today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced that it had formally requested that the United States government “take precautionary measures to preserve Mr. Suárez Medina’s life pending the Commission's investigation of the allegations in his petition.” 

Established under the authority of the 35-nation Organization of American States (OAS) and based in Washington, D.C., the Commission is responsible for monitoring and enforcing human rights standards throughout the Western Hemisphere. As a full member of the OAS, the United States is expected to comply with the Inter-American Commission’s procedures and rulings, including the issuance of “precautionary measures” required to preserve the basic human rights of petitioners like Mr. Suárez Medina. 

Meanwhile, the Mexican government has sent a diplomatic protest to the State Department, citing the failure of Texas authorities to honor their consular treaty obligations. Mexico’s protest points out that Javier Suárez Medina was sentenced to death after a trial in which his court-appointed attorney failed to develop and present compelling evidence establishing that he merited a lesser sentence. Recent neuropsychological testing sponsored by the Mexican authorities reveal that Mr. Suárez Medina suffers from significant brain impairments, evidence that was never presented to the jury. 

Repeated attempts by Mexican consular officials to assist Javier Suárez Medina following his arrest were frustrated by Texas police, who provided false information regarding his nationality. According to Mexican authorities, 54 Mexican nationals are under sentence of death in the United States, most of whom were never informed of their consular rights at the time of their arrest. 

The Presidency of the European Union has written to the Governor and to the Texas pardons board, expressing concern over the violation of consular rights and calling for clemency. The letter notes that consular assistance in death penalty cases is “essential and may be decisive,” and that the consular treaty also gives US nationals arrested in other countries “ the right to contact the American consulate.” 

Controversy also surrounds the prosecution’s reliance on an alleged prior offense, to convince the jury that Mr. Suárez Medina represented a future danger to society. The prosecution argued that he was responsible for a violent robbery two years earlier. However, investigations since the trial have determined that Mr. Suárez Medina is innocent of that alleged crime and that the jury based its sentencing decision on a mistaken eye witness identification. 

In a recent letter to the Governor of Texas, the American Bar Association objected to this reliance on an unadjudicated crime which Mr. Suárez Medina “was never even charged with committing” and called for the commutation of his death sentence. “We believe carrying out an execution obtained with such unreliable evidence is inconsistent with principles of fundamental fairness and due process,” wrote ABA President Robert E. Hirshon. 

“With each passing day, more new evidence is coming to light that further undermines the fairness of this death sentence,” said Lydia Brandt, the attorney representing Javier Suárez Medina. “If an American citizen abroad faced execution under these conditions, I’m sure the public would demand that our government do everything possible to obtain a just remedy.” 

Lydia M.V. Brandt, counsel to Javier Suarez Medina 
Richardson, TX 
Tel: (972) 699-7020; Fax: (972) 699-7030

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June 2002 Newsletter

1) Effort to get city councils to adopt moratorium resolutions
2) Review of Napoleon Beazley action
3) Texas Bar Association to vote on moratorium resolution
4) Texas Defender Service needs volunteers
5) 3rd Annual March for a Moratorium set for October 12, 2002. Save the Date!
6) TMN Online Petition and updated website

Texas Moratorium Network

Greetings moratorium supporters!

First, we want to welcome about 400 new members to the newsletter this month. These new people may have come to us various ways. They may have recently visited Sister Helen Prejean's Moratorium Campaign website, or signed up for the newsletter on the TMN website or at the recent Rolling

Thunder event in Austin. No matter how you got here, we hope you stick
around and help us achieve a moratorium on executions in Texas.

If you ever want to be removed from this monthly list, just hit "reply" with
the subject line "REMOVE", but please don't leave. We need your help! Right
now, we have about 2,200 people on this list. Our goal is to reach 10,000 by
the next Texas legislative session in January 2003. That's an ambitious
goal, but we need people on the list so that next session we can put lots of
pressure on the legislature to pass a moratorium. Now, on to the news.


One of the projects we are developing is an effort to ask the Austin City
Council to pass a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions. People
in other Texas cities are also working on their city councils. Hays and
Rollingwood, Texas have already passed moratorium resolutions. San Antonio
and El Paso came close to passing resolutions. Contact us, if you want help
getting in touch with other moratorium supporters in your city, so you can
work together to get city council resolutions passed.

Many city councils around the country have already passed moratorium
resolutions, including Atlanta; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh;
Oakland; Cincinnati; Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem,
Greensboro, and Durham, North Carolina; Tucson, Arizona; Lexington and
Charlottesville, Virginia; and Buffalo, NY.

One of the aspects of the city council push is to ask city councils in other
countries that have sister-city relationships with Texas cities to ask their
Texas sister-cities to support moratorium resolutions. To find out the
sister-cities for your Texas city go to:

Austin has a sister city relationship with Koblenz, Germany. Mayor Gus
Garcia of Austin will lead a delegation to Koblenz, leaving June 18 and
returning June 26th. We would like to ask you to contact the members of the
Koblenz City Council and let them know that you would like them to ask the
Austin City Council to pass a moratorium resolution. In the coming months,
as we develop this project, we will let you know how to contact members of
the Austin City Council, but let's take this one step at a time. First,
let's get our sister city on our side.

In your emails to Koblenz, you can mention that the United States is now the
only country in the world that continues to execute juvenile offenders.
Every other country has agreed by international treaty to ban executions of
juvenile offenders. Texas is the leading executioner of juvenile offenders
among U.S. states. Of course, feel free to mention other issues as well, such as the fact that 65 percent of all people on death row in Texas are members of ethnic or racial minorities and that only poor people get the death penalty.

The mayor of Koblenz is Dr. Eberhard Schulte-Wissermann. His email address

There are 56 members of the Koblenz city council representing five political
parties. You can contact the leaders of each of the five factions at the

following email addresses:

Heribert Heinrich of the SPD Party (20 members), email:
Michael Horter of the CDU (30 members) email:
Hans-Peter Ackermann of the Greens (3 members), email:
Ursula Schwerin of the FDP (2 members), email: Rolf Jahner of the FBG (1 member), email:

You can, of course, write them in English! The SPD and the Greens are the
parties on the left of center. The CDU and FDP are on the right. The FBG's
place on the spectrum is unclear.


Last month we asked you to visit our website and send a free fax to the
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking them to commute Napoleon Beazley's
death sentence to life in prison. A total of 471 people sent faxes. The
final BPP vote was 10-7. The chair of the board, Gerald Garrett voted in

favor of commutation. We are sure that your faxes played some role in
convincing those 7 members to vote for commutation. We also hand-delivered
7,083 petition signatures from Sweden to the BPP. TMN also ran a 1/4 page ad
two weeks in a row on Napoleon's case in The Austin Chronicle. About 150
people showed up May 28th at the Governor's Mansion in Austin to express

their opposition to the execution of Napoleon and to the executions of all
juvenile offenders. Another 70 people or so showed up in Huntsville to
protest. The large number of people who took the time to protest Napoleon's
execution is a good sign of the growing opposition to executions of juvenile


The Texas State Bar Association is poised to vote on a resolution calling
for a moratorium on executions at its annual meeting in Dallas, June 13-15.
So far, only *seven* other state bar associations have passed such
resolutions (Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, North
Carolina, and Pennsylvania). The Resolution will be considered by the
Resolutions Committee on Thursday, June 13 at 4:00 p.m. If you live in the
area, please attend the Committee meeting to show your support, even if you
are not a lawyer.

Please pass this message on to anyone you know who may be able to help pass
the resolution, especially to your lawyer friends. If you are a lawyer
licensed in Texas and can help in any way, or if you are planning on
attending the meeting in Dallas, please contact:

Nancy Trease

Nancy will fill you in on how to get involved. The Texas Bar Association

resolution effort website is


Texas Defender Service has asked us to locate people who can help them
conduct some research for an upcoming report. They are looking for people in
Bowie, Maverick, Dallas, Randall, Harris, Smith, Lubbock and Potter counties
to help review some court files for their study on racism. If you can do

some work on this over the summer, please contact Andrea Keilen at


October 12, 2002 has been chosen for the 3rd Annual March for a Moratorium.
You don't want to miss this high-energy annual event organized each year by
a coalition of many groups under the umbrella of the Moratorium March
Network. Among other speakers last year, Rena and Ireland Beazley spoke
eloquently on the steps of the Texas capitol building about the plight of
their son Napoleon. This year we again expect a good roster of compelling
speakers and a record turnout.

The first organizing meeting will be Saturday, June 29, at 2pm at 1311 E. 13th St. in Austin at the home of Lily Hughes. Contact Lily Hughes with CEDP at 494-0667 or to find out how to get involved in organizing the march. A lot of hard work goes into making the march a successful event. Many groups and individuals have been involved over the years, but as always, the more the better, so please get involved.


TMN has a new website administrator! Richard Reveley began working with us a
couple of months ago. He is making our site a must-visit for news about the
push for a moratorium in Texas. He recently added an online petition. We will collect names and present them to the Texas Legislature next year. Add
your name to the list of people calling for a moratorium on executions in
Texas at You can also download
a petition to collect signatures from your friends and neighbors. And you
can answer our online survey about which issue you find most concerning
about the death penalty in Texas. Thank you, Richard!!!!

And thank YOU for reading to the end of this newsletter. Sorry for the long
email, but there is a lot going on in the push for a moratorium in Texas.
Remember, you can always contact us and find out more about how to get

Best Regards,


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Monday, July 22, 2002

TMN July 2002 Newsletter: Report on Moratorium Resolution at TDP State Convention

July e-letter

Texas Moratorium Network

July 22, 2002

Dear Moratorium Supporters,

There is good news since we wrote to you last month. For starters, the Supreme Court banned execution of persons with mental retardation. Our members made progress towards passing a moratorium resolution at the Texas Democratic convention, and have begun an effort to pass a moratorium resolution in the Austin City Council. But there is also bad news. June and July have been busy months for Texas' death chamber, and execution dates for two juvenile offenders are looming close in August. Please read on for details and actions.

Convention Report:

At the State Democratic Convention in El Paso, the moratorium made significant progress. It was clear that the rank and file of the delegates supported the issue, while the Party leadership actively opposed it, for what they believed were pragmatic reasons. The moratorium resolution once again passed almost without opposition in the Resolutions committee, and its inclusion in the platform itself was narrowly defeated by a 17-11 vote. Voting for resolutions on the floor was cut short by a sudden early adjournment, which led to the rather bizarre scene of angry bikers (who had some resolutions waiting to be heard) assertively confronting the party leadership at the foot of the stage while the media eagerly swarmed around. Our moratorium resolution was one of those that was not heard, so we were upset as well. The resolution may pass when the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) meets in Austin in September. If you would like to contact your SDEC representative (there is one man and one woman for each of the 31 Senate Districts in Texas) you can find their contact information on our website:

Court bans execution of persons with mental retardation:

The Supreme Court's 6-3 decision in Atkins v. Virginia made national headlines. It will have a big impact in Texas, where last year Governor Rick Perry vetoed a bill that aimed to ban such executions. Now the legislature will be forced to revisit the issue.

The debate will be this: Perry and other strong supporters of the death penalty claim that Texas does not and never has executed an inmate with mental retardation, and therefore, they say, no change in the law is needed. Existing law requires juries to consider mental retardation as mitigating factor in the punishment phase of a capital trial (that is, after they have decided guilt).

What's wrong with that argument? First, the facts: Texas has executed at least eight men whose IQs tested below 70. If Texas wants to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling, it needs to mandate that a claim of mental retardation be decided before the guilt phase of a capital trial. A jury upset by accounts a grotesque murder can't be asked to make a calm, rational decision about the mental capacity of a defendant.

Nothing illustrates this better than the sad outcome of Johnny Penry's re-sentencing. Penry, who has an IQ in the mid-fifties, and whose case has been to the Supreme Court twice, received another death sentence just weeks after the Supreme Court's decision. Penry's sentence is under appeal. We will be following it as well as the legislative developments on this issue.

Execution of juvenile offenders:

Two juvenile offenders are scheduled to be executed next month: T.J. Jones, on Aug 8, and Toronto Patterson, on Aug 28. Jones has waived further appeals. Patterson, however, maintains his innocence. The American Bar Association has established a website documenting the facts of his case and addressing issues related to execution of juvenile offenders. Please have a look

The recent attention to mental retardation and the death penalty might offer an opening for making people rethink execution of juvenile offenders. Most death penalty supporters think executions are necessary for punishing the worst of the worst. But are murders who have lesser capacities for moral judgement--either because of mental retardation or being 17 at the time of their offenses--really the worst of the worst?

We think this is a good point to raise in communications to the governor, legislators, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and in letters to local editors.

Austin City Council Resolution

TMN is asking Austin City Council Member Danny Thomas to sponsor a resolution supporting a moratorium. Thomas is a Baptist preacher who is Administrative Pastor at Eph'phatha Full Gospel Baptist Church Ministries and 21-year former Austin police officer. Austin residents, please tell Thomas you would like to see him sponsor a moratorium resolution. He can be reached at the following addresses:

Austin City Council

Danny Thomas, Council Member Place 6
Phone: (512) 974-2266
Fax: (512) 974-1890

Physical Address:
Municipal Building
124 West 8th Street, #115
Austin, TX 78701

Mailing Address:
PO Box 1088
Austin TX, 78767

Death Row Database

TMN is developing a searchable database of Texas Death Row, to be avalibale on our website ( We would like your input on the database before we announce its availability to the media. Try it out and let us know if it is useful or if you have any suggestions for other information to include. After we receive your feedback, we will tell the media that they can use it as a resource. The information on the official TDCJ site is not searchable, but you can search our database by such parameters as race, county, gender, etc. To find juvenile offenders, set "age at offense" to 17. And don't forget to sign our petition:

Final points:

Just this last week we have been disappointed to see Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Sanchez emphasize "enforcement of the death penalty" in his latest campaign commercial. In the past, Sanchez has expressed concerns about the fairness of Texas' death penalty system, but his spokesman says that the recent ad signals his opposition to a moratorium.

Wouldn't it be more appropriate for Sanchez to emphasize fairness in the criminal justice system instead of just promising more executions? We urge you to tell him so. His offices can be reached at 512-615-1300 or

In the coming months, Jeanette Popp, mother of murder victim Nancy De Priest, and Chair of Texas Moratorium Network, will be making a speaking tour of Texas. Jeanette is a powerful speaker and her story has made many people rethink their support for the death penalty. Please contact TMN if you would like to help arrange for Jeanette to come to your community.

Finally, save the date: The Third Annual March for a Moratorium will take place on Saturday, October 12, in Austin, Texas. Details will be posted to our website

If you would like to make a financial contribution to defray the cost of Jeanette's travel, or expenses associated with the march, please send a check to

Texas Moratorium Network
14804 Moonseed Cove
Austin, Texas, 78728.

Thank you for your continuing support.

With best wishes,

Texas Moratorium Network

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Saturday, July 20, 2002

Former Texas Death Row Chaplain Speaks Out Against Executions

The Australian Magazine, July 20, 2002

A former Texas prison chaplain turns his macabre experience toward the common good. 

Carroll Pickett stood alongside each of 95 inmates as a lethal injection slowed his heart rate and the state of Texas executed another prisoner. He was the prison chaplain in Huntsville, Texas, for 15 years, and he grieved for each and every doomed man.

He had a habit of resting one hand lightly on the ankle of the condemned prisoner as he lay waiting to die, with family members and the media watching behind glass only metres away.

Pickett became chaplain at The Walls, Huntsville's maximum-security prison, in 1980, 2 years before the state lifted an 18-year moratorium on the death penalty and put the 1st man to death by lethal injection, rather than the older, less humane method of the electric chair. The affable Presbyterian minister had built up 3 small-town parishes in rural Texas and was unaware of the state prison's death chamber before moving to Huntsville.

"Somehow I don't think it was God's intention that I remain a country minister all my life," he says. "Maybe somebody knew I'd be needed at the prison in 1982, and that's how I came to be there when the state started executing people again."

From the beginning, he was told by the prison warden that he was to play a vital role in the executions: "Spend the day with the prisoner before the execution, talk to him, listen to him and - above all - seduce his emotions so he won't fight." Pickett decided to do more; he wanted to be present as a friend for the convicted man's last day on Earth. Although opposed to capital punishment, the Presbyterian Church gave tacit support to the minister's role in the death house over the years.

In the days leading to the 1st execution, Pickett was plagued with questions of how he could be party to such a barbaric and un-Christian act. "I strongly believed a person's need for comfort was no greater than when he is forced to deal with the realities of death," he writes. Finally, he resolved that no-one, not even a hardened criminal about to be executed, should be made to face death alone. "I made up my mind I would do more than seduce the condemned man's mind, I would minister as best I could."

Five years after retiring, the 69-year-old has crystallised his thoughts and nightmares about the death chamber in a recently published book, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, written with another Texan author, Carlton Stowers.

The execution routine became a macabre pattern in Pickett's life. The chaplain would meet the inmate on death row at 6am on the day before the execution, which was scheduled for one minute past midnight. He never read the prisoner's charge sheet before meeting him: "I was convinced that if I was to counsel and befriend him over the next 18 hours, I could best do so with as clean a slate as possible." Throughout that final day, the chaplain would be on hand to talk about anything with the convict. He would offerprayers or hymns, write letters, and meet members of his family who would come to say goodbye and sometimes watch the execution.

"This was the hardest part of all, because here was another set of victims and nobody wanted to hear from them," Pickett says. "Maybe the guy did commit the crime, but his mother didn't do it and his 4 brothers didn't do it."

No single death prompted him to finally leave the job; it was a series of executions that led him to believe the state was killing people who were mentally retarded. Despite assurances from the governor's office and the White House that no-one who was mentally unfit would be put to death, Pickett maintains some inmates never knew what was happening to them. When Johnny Paul Penry arrived in the death house with colouring books and crayons, Pickett knew the man couldn't understand the state was going to kill him in a matter of hours. Soon after came the execution of Carlos de Luna, another man with a similarly low level of intelligence. Pickett spent the days afterwards wracked with a guilt he had never known, believing he had failed the inmate in his final hours. His anxiety increased after the execution of Leonel Herrera, the 1st 
man on death row Pickett seriously considered might have been innocent. "There are times, generally in the wee hours of my own restless nights, when the voices of the Leonel Herreras whom I've met still visit me, crying out their innocence. And I am doomed to forever wonder," he writes.After five years trying to ignore the awful memories of the death chamber, Pickett has found a new calling as a vocal member of the anti-capital punishment lobby. "I want to talk about it now," he says. "As so many inmates would say to me, `How can Texas kill people who kill people, to show people that killing people is wrong?'"

Years at the coalface have led Pickett to believe that the death penalty does nothing to deter would-be criminals. He is concerned that the burgeoning Texan prison system is actually serving to increase the number of people who are put behind bars. "We started out with 22,000 inmates in the 1980s and now there are 160,000. There's a lot of people in there who don't need to be. I think we're executing innocent people."

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Wednesday, July 03, 2002

James Byrd Jr's son fighting for life of killer

July 3, 2002, 10:47PM

Byrd son fighting for life of killer

Four years after father's dragging death, Ross Byrd speaks about his change of heart over executions

Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

When Ross Byrd left the Jasper County trial of the man who masterminded his father's 1998 dragging death, he told the press, "One down, two to go."

Minutes earlier, John W. "Bill" King became the first of two white men sentenced to death for the racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr., a black man. A third man was sentenced to life in prison.

Throughout King's trial, Byrd told reporters he wanted his father's killers to receive the death penalty for the gruesome killing. His father was chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death.

King's execution date looms with his state appeals nearly exhausted, and Byrd is speaking out about the white supremacist's fate.

But this time, he is fighting to save the life of the very man who took that right from his father.

On Wednesday, Byrd traveled to the state prison in Huntsville to lead a 24-hour fast and prayer vigil on King's behalf. He was joined by dozens of supporters and anti-death penalty advocates that included Martin Luther King III, whose father was assassinated in 1968, longtime social activist %@!#$& Gregory and former Houston Mayor Pro Tem Jew Don Boney.

"When I heard King had exhausted his appeals, I began thinking, `How can this help me or solve my pain?' and I realized it couldn't," Byrd said.

Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray said King has unsuccessfully used every state appeals option available.

Allen Richard Ellis, King's appeals attorney, said he will file a federal court appeal in mid-August. He said that appeal could be King's last chance unless the federal court allows him to open new appeals at the state level.

There is no hard and fast rule for setting an execution date after a final appeal is denied. Ellis said King still has enough appeal options left that discussing an execution date is premature.

King's lawyer said he learned about the prayer vigil Wednesday afternoon.

"It's a wonderful gesture," Ellis said. "I think it's a great example for all of us to live in a spirit of forgiveness instead of revenge."

Although Byrd initially supported the death penalty in King's case, he said his attitude began to change as the reality of his loss set in. Byrd said he now believes the death penalty is wrong in all cases and is hoping King's sentence will be commuted to life in prison without parole.

"To want to see the men who killed my daddy die by the state is the same for me to go out and kill them myself," Byrd said in a news conference before leaving for Huntsville.

The conference was held in the same community center where one of the state's largest grass-roots, anti-death penalty movements began two decades ago. Shape Community Center was a meeting point for advocates of former death row inmate Clarence Brandley, who was released from prison when his sentence was overturned in 1989.

Byrd attributed his change on King's sentence to religious conviction.

"It's the big picture we're trying to look at, and the big picture is God says, `Thou shall not kill,' " Byrd said.

Gregory stood beside Byrd wearing a sandwich board that bore the same Scriptural passage in bold letters. He said the message from Byrd and other activists gathered for the vigil was a simple belief that "any form of killing is wrong," even if performed by the state.

King, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said Byrd's stance on the execution of John King reflects the SCLC position that capital punishment violates basic human rights of all people.

"It's not a black or white issue," he said. "It's a right or wrong issue."

King invited children and volunteers gathered at Shape to join Byrd in praying for the convicted murderer during the vigil that runs through noon today.

Boney, who helped organize the vigil, said he did not know whether John King knew about Byrd's actions. He said no effort had been made to have the two men meet. Boney also said no one in the group had officially contacted Gov. Rick Perry to ask for clemency, but he is hopeful the prayer vigil would attract the governor's attention.

Ellis said he did not think his client was aware of the rally, but he said King would not be offended that a black man was praying for him. The lawyer said King's racist beliefs were "grossly over-represented" in trial testimony.

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