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Friday, October 01, 2004

Jeanette Popp to speak at the 2nd World Congress Against the Death Penalty

Jeanette Popp to speak at the 2nd World Congress Against the Death Penalty

Jeanette Popp, Chairperson of Texas Moratorium Network, has accepted an invitation to speak at the 2nd World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Montreal, Canada October 6-9, 2004.


Excerpt from their website: "From October 6-9, 2004, Montreal will be the world capital of human rights and a point of convergence for all citizens committed to the universal abolition of the death penalty. Whether you are a citizen, student, teacher, artist, lawyer, magistrate, elected official, or journalist, come join us to say NO to the death penalty in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Cuba and everywhere it affects men and women. 

Jeanette's daughter Nancy was murdered in Austin in 1988. Jeanette became intimately familiar with the many flaws of the Texas criminal justice system after two innocent men were wrongfully convicted of her daughter's murder and spent 12 years in prison. They were exonerated and released in 2001. The real killer was convicted in December 2001. Jeanette succcessfuly pressured the District Attorney not to seek the death penalty for her daughter's murderer. Jeanette's riveting testimony in 2001 helped convince two Texas legislative committees to vote in favor of moratorium legislation. She frequently travels across the nation speaking out against the death penalty. 

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Texas Death Penalty Discussion Day

Texas Death Penalty Discussion Day
October 22-24


We are organizing a "Texas Death Penalty Discussion Day" on October 22-24, as an event during Amnesty International's National Weekend of Faith in Action on the Death Penalty.

Amnesty's event takes place every October and seeks to bring together two important approaches to social justice: grassroots human rights activism and faith-based community action. The NWFA is not a national conference or event; rather, it is a weekend of solidarity action organized locally by faith communities all over the country.

Register for Amnesty's National Weekend of Faith in Action on the Death Penalty 

You do not have to be a member of a faith community to organize a "Death Penalty Discussion Day". Students, teachers, civic organizations and individuals are also welcome to organize death penalty-related events. By registering, you express your intention to organize a death penalty-related event during the weekend of October 22-24 or on a day that is more convenient for your group. (Students and teachers typically organize an event in the week leading up to Oct 22-24.) The nature of your event is totally up to you and your local group. The Amnesty organizing packet contains lots of ideas for types of activities. One possibility would be to watch the DVD "Balancing the Scales" and then have a discussion about the death penalty. There are five people scheduled for execution in Texas in October.

Click Read More for further details.

Amnesty has agreed to distribute TMN's moratorium resolution and our moratorium petition form in the packets that they send to registering Texas faith communities and other Texas registrants. They will also include a free copy of TMN's DVD "Balancing the Scales".

Last year, 35 faith communities in Texas participated in the Faith in Action weekend. We hope to raise that number to at least 100 this year. We have mailed information packets of our own about the "Death Penalty Discussion Day" to almost 1,000 faith communities. Email us, if you would like us to send you information. Or just go to the Amnesty site and register yourself or your faith community. 

In addition to our goal of 100 participating faith communities, individuals and other groups, we hope to get thousands of new signatures on petitions calling for a moratorium. Please sign-up and ask your faith community or school if you can collect petition signatures on October 24 or on another day.

If you do not belong to a faith community, but you would like to help collect petition signatures, email us and we will try to match you up with a church or other faith community in your area that will allow you to collect petition signatures. You can also collect signatures at your school or in your neighborhood. 

We are hoping that this program, as we envision it, can be extremely helpful to church leaders and members alike. The critical question for the Christian is how to best foster respect for life, preserve the dignity of the human person and manifest the redemptive message of Christ. We also need to explore the reasons why Texas continues to lead the nation in executions. Why does the South consistently lead in the number of executions with Texas alone having had more than 324 executions since 1976? How did we get this way? What are the attitudes of our parents, our friends, our neighbors, and members of our church? Have we, our family members or friends been victims of a violent crime? Is there any truth to the allegations that our criminal justice system is biased against people of color or that the death penalty is reserved mostly for poor people? What does the Bible say about the death penalty? What have contemporary church leaders, such as Pope John Paul II said about the death penalty? These are of course only a few of the questions and concerns which will arise in any program devoted to exploring our attitudes toward the death penalty.

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5th Annual March to Stop Executions

5th AnnualMarch to Stop Executions
Saturday, October 30th, 2004 Austin, Texas
1 pm - Gather at Republic Park (4th and Guadalupe)
2 pm - March to the Supreme Court/Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Complex (Stopping by Capitol and Mansion)
3:00 pm - Rally at the Supreme Court/CCA Building
Post-march party (Place to be announced)
There will also be a brunch (Details to be announced) organized by the Inside Books Project
Sponsored by the March to Stop Executions Coalition

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Monday, September 20, 2004

TMN website named Political Site of the Day

TMN website named Political Site of the Day


Texas Moratorium Network's website is named Political Site of the Day for Sept 3-5, 2004.


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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Join us for a Walk & Talk Saturday, Sept 18 in Austin


Please join us this Saturday, September 18th, to help us find more supporters in Terry Keel's district. Representative Keel is the chair of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, so we need all the help we can get from his constituents. We will be talking to people one-on-one, asking them to sign a petition in favor of a moratorium and to write Representative Keel. Some of you may be receiving this newsletter because someone showed up on your doorstep and asked you to help out! This is a very effective method of gaining support, and the more volunteers we have, the more people we'll reach.

Here are the details: 

Meet at noon at 602 West 7th Street. (Use Side Entrance)
Training from noon - 1--please bring your lunch! 
Volunteer in Keel's district 1 - 3 

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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Thanks to TMN Supporters IT'S OFFICIAL: AUSTIN WILL HOST THE 2005 NCADP ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Thanks to TMN IT'S OFFICIAL: AUSTIN WILL HOST THE 2005 NCADP ANNUAL CONFERENCE

In January, we asked visitors to our website, subscribers to the TMN newsletter and others to contact the Board members of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and ask them to bring the Annual NCADP Conference to Austin. In an impressive showing of our grassroots strength, many, many people contacted NCADP about the conference. We heard back from D.C. that


"The NCADP Board is impressed with the Texas proposal -- and with the extraordinary level of grassroots support behind it."

The NCADP Board has made it official:

THE 2005 NCADP ANNUAL CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD IN AUSTIN!
The four-day 2005 conference will be held on the same weekend as the 6th Annual March to Stop Executions in October 2005!


Please send an email to the NCADP Board of Directors (through David Elliot, NCADP Communications Director) thanking them for inviting Texas to host the 2005 conference.

We would also like to thank David personally for his help in pressing our case to the Board of Directors and for forwarding so many emails from the Texas anti-death penalty grassroots community.

David's email is delliot@ncadp.org 

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Saturday, July 24, 2004

DA: 'I think this is the beginning of the end of the death penalty'


The Beaumont Enterprise
07/24/2004 

Jefferson County has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to prosecute killer Walter Bell Jr., and expended countless hours of work. 

He's had three trials in Beaumont, been found guilty three times in the 1974 deaths of Ferd and Irene Chisum in their Port Arthur home, and three times has been sentenced to die. 

Now that money and effort might all be for naught. 


Criminal District Court Judge Charles Carver on Friday recommended that the Court of Criminal Appeals commute Bell's sentence to life in prison because he is mentally retarded. 

"I think this is the beginning of the end of the death penalty," Jefferson County District Attorney Tom Maness said Friday. 

If Texas juries had the option to sentence killers to life without the possibility of parole, and capital punishment were abolished, protest from the state's prosecutors would be little more than a grumble, he predicted. 

It's expensive, it's time-consuming and it's stressful to seek the death penalty, Maness said. 

"It's so difficult," he said. "It gets more difficult all the time." 

Beaumont-based attorney Hal Laine defended Bell in his 1982 trial in the murder of Ferd Chisum. 

The death penalty is too random, he said. Similar crimes committed in different counties with different juries can have totally different outcomes. 

"There are many, many murderers who do not face the possibility of a death sentence," he said. 

That possibility is a source of anxiety for attorneys on both sides, Laine said. 

"There are mistakes made. Mistakes do happen," Laine said. "Once the death comes, you can't correct that." 

In the 36 states where juries can choose the death penalty or life without parole, they choose life at a ratio of 3-to-1, said Rick Halperin, a death penalty opponent and Southern Methodist University history professor. 

"It's clear that juries are not in love with death sentencing," he said. 

Reach this reporter at: (409) 833-3311, ext. 415 

rstone@beaumontenterprise.com 

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Monday, June 21, 2004

Texas Democrats call for the state government to declare a moratorium on use of the death penalty

More Convention Coverage

Texas Democrats gather in Houston
Edwards, Kucinich speak at convention
By Rachna Sheth
The Daily Texan
June 21, 2004

Texas Democrats rallied around presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and called for the state government to declare a moratorium on use of the death penalty until a better system can be implemented at the biennial Texas Democratic State Convention, held in Houston this weekend.

The convention resulted in resolutions by the delegates to support research on the use of medical marijuana, create a federal Department of Peace and reaffirm core party values such as abortion rights.

Republicans held their biennial state convention earlier this month in San Antonio.

The defiance of the 52 Texas House Democrats, also known as the Killer Ds, who fled to Ardmore, Okla. to block redistricting during the 2003 regular session, garnered admiration at the convention with supporters sporting signs saying, "I'm a Killer D fan."

The appearances by potential vice-presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., and former presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, incited enthusiasm among the state convention delegates. UT University Democrat Emily Cadik said it was exciting to be able to see Democratic candidates. National Democrats usually don't come to Texas because "they don't consider it a battleground state," Cadik said.

Former presidential candidate and potential Kerry running mate Edwards gave a speech to a crowd of 8,000 on Friday.

"I want the rest of the country to see what kind of strong Texan Democrats are here. Thank you, Texas," Edwards said. "How proud were you, and all Democrats across America, to see the Killer Ds in Texas stand up to [U.S. Rep.] Tom DeLay?"

In his address, Edwards criticized President George W. Bush for telling the press in a recent interview that he could not think of a single mistake his administration has made since taking office in November 2000.

Edwards said the administration has not sufficiently addressed disparity of education in public schools, healed the racial divisions within the country, properly handled national defense or taken care of the homeless.

Edwards said his vision for the United States includes a more equal public school system and an economy in which people who work full-time for minimum wage do not fall below the poverty line.

The solution to these problems, he said, would be the election of Kerry to the White House this November. 

"When Senator Kerry was down, when his back was against the wall, he showed what a leader he was," Edwards said about his former opponent in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. "What he showed in this campaign is what he's shown America his entire life. He has strength, he has courage, he has determination, he has a real vision for America, and he will win America for everybody."

The crowd chanted "VP, VP, VP" in support of Kerry's possible selection of Edwards as his running mate, but Edwards did not comment on the possibility to the press or the audience.

Not all Democrats displayed enthusiastic support for Sen. Kerry's presidential campaign. State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, who claimed to be the only state representative to vote against a pro-war resolution in the legislature, said he believes Kucinich is the only Democratic presidential candidate who is "dedicated to international world peace."

Kucinich said the war in Iraq was not justified and called for a peace plan with an "exit strategy." Kucinich also called for the repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act, and voiced opposition to amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex unions. 

Both Kucinich and Edwards said they believe Texas could possibly pull an upset in November.

"This state is going to surprise America," Kucinich said.

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Texas Democrats Endorse Moratorium in Party Platform

TEXAS DEMOCRATS ENDORSE MORATORIUM IN PARTY PLATFORM

By JOE STINEBAKER
June 21, 2004

Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle 

Texas Democrats meeting here Saturday approved a platform that reaffirms their support for legal abortion, proposes a temporary moratorium on state executions and calls for the repeal of parts of the U.S. Patriot Act. 

"Texas Democrats believe we must work with people from all walks of life to make our communities stronger, safer, more just and more secure," the platform begins. "Our state and nation are strongest when government works for all the people and guarantees open and fair participation in the democratic process." The 29-page platform, approved at the Democrats' state convention in Houston, essentially is a document laying out the party's basic principles. It is intentionally vague in some portions and precise in others. 

Under the five-paragraph "Choice and Family Planning" section, the platform never mentions abortion. It does, however, say that Democrats "trust the women of Texas to make their own decisions about personal matters, such as when or whether to bear children. No government, no politician and no bureaucrat should interfere in an individual's private and personal decisions." 

The platform's authors haggled a bit over the document's wording in the capital punishment section. Although not calling for the abolition of the death penalty, the platform says "the people must be assured that it is fairly administered." 

The party called for a "temporary moratorium (on) executions" until a Texas Capital Punishment Commission can be created to study the state's death penalty system and report back. Party members also called on the commission to consider recommending state laws banning execution of the mentally ill and allowing a sentence of life without parole. 

Party members also called for the immediate repeal of Patriot Act provisions that "are inconsistent with the letter or spirit of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution."

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Friday, June 18, 2004

Much of the platform planning session was spent on the issue of capital punishment

Democratic convention to focus on fall upsets

June 18, 2004
By R.G. RATCLIFFE and JOE STINEBAKER
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

EXCERPT
Much of the platform planning session was spent on the issue of capital punishment -- a new section of the platform. The proposal recommends "a temporary moratorium (on) executions" until a Texas Capital Punishment Commission can be established to study the state's death penalty system. 

Texas Democrats gathered in Houston for their state convention Thursday, with a focus on rallying the troops for some upsets as last year's bitter redistricting battle plays out in the November election. 

"The thing that comes out of our convention is a call to arms," said state Democratic Chairman Charles Soechting. 

Soechting said Democrats are buoyed by the fact that President Bush's popularity numbers have fallen as the conflict in Iraq has continued. He said that creates the possibility that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry can defeat Bush, and it also may shorten Bush's coattails in Texas races, notably for the state and U.S. House. 

One of Kerry's former rivals for the nomination and a potential running mate, U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, is scheduled to speak to the convention as it officially opens tonight. U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who has remained in the race for the presidential nomination even though Kerry apparently has clinched it, is scheduled to speak Saturday. 

The Texas Democratic Party hasn't carried the state for a presidential candidate since 1976, and has lost every statewide office and control of the Legislature. 

"Our tide will turn when we get a few unexpected wins," said Democratic political consultant Dan McClung. 

In an effort to define themselves before November, Democratic officials spent Thursday morning and afternoon refining the party's proposed platform. The 30-page document says the party "will steadfastly and vociferously oppose those who choose to rule instead of governing in the best interests of the people, who arrogantly abuse power for short-term gain to the detriment of the best interest of our state and nation." 

Much of the platform planning session was spent on the issue of capital punishment -- a new section of the platform. The proposal recommends "a temporary moratorium (on) executions" until a Texas Capital Punishment Commission can be established to study the state's death penalty system. 

As members of the advisory platform committee continued to tinker with the section in an effort to make it more restrictive, committee co-chair, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, of Houston, tried to ensure that the party didn't come off as anti-death penalty. 

"We've had situations where DNA evidence has turned convictions around," he said. "And no one wants a person who shouldn't be to be put to death by accident. But clearly, this doesn't weaken capital punishment. We support the use of capital punishment, with protections." 

Glenn Smith, who managed the unsuccessful 2002 gubernatorial bid of Democrat Tony Sanchez, said Democrats have hit "rock bottom" in terms of state elections. But Smith said the party enthusiasm for rebuilding is the best it has been in years. 

"I haven't seen the level of energy at the grass roots since the Ann Richards campaign in 1990, and it's being done without a leader," Smith said. Richards, the state's last Democratic governor, was elected that year but defeated in 1994 by Bush. 

"People are looking for ways they can contribute to a Democratic national victory," Smith said. "There's a new pragmatic approach." 

But Texas GOP spokesman Ted Royer said the Democrats remain on a "path to irrelevance." 

"The Democrats are just not on the road to recovery," he said. 

The November election represents the final skirmish in one of the biggest political battles between the Texas parties, over congressional representation. 

Democrats came out of the 2002 elections with a 17-15 majority in the state's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. 

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, took advantage of Republican control of the state Legislature to push through a redistricting plan to give the GOP a gain of seven seats. A pair of Democratic legislative walkouts last year slowed the process down, but the new maps were approved after three special sessions. 

U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall of Rockwall switched to the GOP party early this year. And U.S. Rep. Jim Turner, D-Crockett, decided not to seek re-election after the redrawn maps left him without a district. 

TEXAS DEMOCRATS 


OFFICIAL CONVENTION: June 17-19, Houston. Caucus meetings and selection of national convention delegates.


Other:
• 2004 state Democratic Party platform
• Harris County Democratic Party / other local party groups 

But the Democrats are hoping for upsets in races featuring incumbents Martin Frost of Dallas, Chet Edwards of Waco, Max Sandlin of Marshall, Nick Lampson of Beaumont and Charles Stenholm of Abilene. 

"Some of these congressional races may well be decided because Bush didn't run as well as DeLay and some of his demographers thought he would," McClung said. 

"The good news is going to be a few state representative districts, a few congressional districts and a lot of hell because of congressional redistricting." 

Soechting, the state chairman, also has high hopes for these races. 

"We're going to be highlighting out state representatives. That's where our real races are this year," Soechting said. "The congressional races are a way of punishing the Republicans." 

But the congressional districts are drawn to favor the Republican candidates. And Vice President %@!#$& Cheney recently campaigned in Texas to help raise money for Lampson's opponent, former Houston Judge Ted Poe; Edward's opponent, state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth; and Sandlin's opponent, former Tyler Judge Louis Gohmert. 

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Friday, May 28, 2004

Parole board votes to stop execution of mentally ill inmate Kelsey Patterson


May 18, 2004, 1:07AM

Parole board votes to stop execution
Perry to have last word on mentally ill killer's fate
By MIKE TOLSON
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

In the rarest of moves, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 5-1 Monday to commute the death sentence of mentally ill inmate Kelsey Patterson, who is scheduled for execution this evening. 

The board's recommendation of a life sentence, or at minimum a 120-day reprieve, goes to Gov. Rick Perry for action. The recommendation is under review and a timely decision will be made today, a spokesman for the governor's office said. 

"I can still hardly believe it, but I'll take it," said Patterson's attorney, Gary Hart. "I'm delighted, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Governor Perry will continue to do the right thing and not just because of these issues of Kelsey's mental competency that we are currently litigating but all of Kelsey's issues. I believe the board was influenced by the totality of the picture." • • • • • 
"I believe the board was influenced by the totality of the picture." 

Gary Hart, 
Kelsey Patterson's attorney



• • • • • 
That picture includes a long history of schizophrenia and three previous aggravated assaults that were never prosecuted because of Patterson's delusional state at the time they occurred. However, when he shot to death a businessman and his secretary in his hometown of Palestine in 1992, he was prosecuted for capital murder and sent to death row despite the absence of motive. 

Hart claims Patterson, 50, is delusional and not competent for execution. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected his request for a stay. Last-minute appeals are still pending with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Board recommendations for commutation are exceedingly rare in capital cases. The most common reasons are troubled prosecutions, evidence of innocence or changes in case law. In March, for instance, Robert Smith received a unanimous vote to commute when a Harris County court determined he was mentally retarded -- the only such recommendation presented to Perry regarding a capital defendant. The vote, like Perry's consent, was a foregone conclusion because the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of the retarded in 2001. 

Commutation on humanitarian grounds is all but unheard of. The overriding issue in Patterson's application to the board was his extreme mental condition, which has left him suffering from delusions for most of his adult life. 

"At the time that he killed Louis Oates and Kay Harris, Patterson was acting under the influence of a mental illness that rendered him incapable of conforming his conduct to the law," Hart wrote in Patterson's application. "It does not serve either the retributive or deterrence goals of capital punishment to put him to death for those acts. He is far less culpable, because of his mental illness, than the average murderer, and the prospect of the death penalty would not have quelled the delusions that fueled his criminal act." 

The board, as is its custom, issued no explanation for its recommendation. 

For many years Patterson has said the only reason he shot Oates and Harris was because local officials planted devices in his body to control his actions. They forced him to commit this crime, he insisted, as their way of doing away with him. 

Mental illness, even severe as in Patterson's case, is not a bar to execution. Texas has executed several mentally ill inmates. The law requires only that a condemned prisoner understand that his execution is imminent and the reason for it. 

Hart said death row warden James Jones approached Patterson on May 4 and asked him to complete paperwork directing the prison what to do with his remains and the leftover funds from his inmate trust account. Patterson refused, telling Jones he was not eligible to be executed because he has obtained amnesty. 

The defense attorney has tried without success to persuade various courts to grant a Patterson a stay, contending he is incompetent to be executed. In a letter to Perry requesting a 30-day reprieve, Hart pointed to recent visits to Patterson by a member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and by a spiritual counselor from the Salvation Army. On both occasions, Patterson told his visitors that he would not be executed. 

Kathryn Honaker Cox, a Salvation Army major who visits regularly with death row inmates, reported numerous examples of delusional behavior and said in one instance Patterson stood in the day room where visits are conducted and for an entire hour held his arms outstretched as if he were flying. Cox also said Patterson's sisters tearfully related to her last April that he would not sit down to visit with them because he refused to believe they were really his sisters. He claimed they were spies sent to get information about him, Cox said in an affidavit. 

Patterson did meet with his sisters on Friday. They said he was seriously delusional and believed his plate of beans was talking to him. Patterson also told them that day he had been talking to a woman whom they knew had died three years ago. 

"This is not the first time Kelsey has talked to his beans or the dead," Hart said. 

Patterson was diagnosed with schizophrenia in early adulthood. When unmedicated and living on his own, he had a tendency to become explosively violent. On three separate occasions, he shot co-workers without provocation and hit another across the head with a two-by-four. He was sent to state psychiatric facilities after each of the assaults and never was formally prosecuted because of his delusional state at the time of the assaults. 

Patterson was seen last by mental health experts in 1999. A psychologist retained by Hart and a psychiatrist appointed by a federal judge agreed that Patterson was seriously ill and delusional, but neither could determine his competency for execution at the time because Patterson would not agree to a full evaluation. 

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