Friday, December 29, 2006

Hunger Strike to begin again on Texas Death Row

By Carlton A Turner
As stated in a previous article of mine, I and several others are initiating another ‘Hunger strike’ and participating in other protest activities starting January 1, 2007. On a personal level a few things have changed. This time I have a goal set on the length of time I plan to protest. My hunger strike is set to last until I am no longer able to function without medical assistance. Other activities are stated to continue until at least a semblance of humanity is attained in our environment and the abolishment of the death penalty is aggressively pursued and legislation pushed proactively towards these means. The intensity of these protests will vary with the tactics completed. That is my chronological goal, but let me explain the good of protesting itself...
My immediate goal of protesting is to raise the level of awareness and dedication to the abolishment of the death penalty (our cause). This goal applies to individuals on the inside and outside of the Polunsky Unit. I would never go so far as to say that people don’t care or won’t do anything. However, I will say that it is my opinion that we could all do more... far more! This includes me. I do not dismiss the actions of those who have applied time, efforts and finances into our cause, because everyone who has participated in these actions has a level of dedication not to be disrespected and these same people kept our cause alive. Their work is undoubtedly appreciated! Yet evidently it’s going to take more and I’d like to address this with all consideration for what has already been done for our cause.

Read the rest of the article....

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Death Penalty Art Show in Houston Feb 10-18, 2007

Online gallery of artwork

The death penalty art show will be exhibited in Houston at Gallery M2 from February 10 - 18, 2007 with an opening night reception at 7 PM on the 10th. There will be a gallery talk Friday, Feb 16, at 7 PM with Mary Mikel Stump, Gallery Director of the JCM gallery at Texas State University.

The Austin Chronicle says "the show is nothing short of powerful."

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Speaker's race in Texas; Republican Challenger Supports Moratorium

Every newspaper in Texas is reporting, including the Houston Chronicle, that

"State Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano, is expected to formally announce his candidacy against Craddick as early as the middle of this week, several lawmakers said Saturday.

McCall has a reputation of getting along with different factions. If elected, he is expected to bring a more even-handed approach to the role, allowing members to vote the interests of their districts, rather than succumb to the dictates of the speaker."

McCall is the only Republican in the Texas Legislature who has ever voted in favor of a moratorium. He voted "yes" in 2001 on HB 1328, filed by Rep Dutton, which would have established a 2-year moratorium on executions. The bill received 52 votes on the floor of the House.

One day during the 2001 session, Kerry Cook and TMN's Scott Cobb ran into Rep Brian McCall in the halls of the Texas Legislature near the vending machines and Kerry convinced Rep McCall to endorse a moratorium. Cook spent twenty years on death row before being released and exonerated. McCall remains the only Republican in the Texas Legislature who has endorsed a moratorium on executions. In 2003, we recontacted Rep McCall to ask if he had changed his mind on the need for a moratorium and he told us that he is "still with you".

Whoever wins the speakership, we expect that support for a moratorium will continue to grow among Texas legislators because of the reports that have surfaced in the last two years that at least three people executed by Texas may have been innocent: Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos De Luna.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Former Texas Death Row inmate may be paroled in January

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that "a former death-row inmate awaiting retrial on capital murder charges will remain in jail for at least two more weeks despite bail set by a federal judge here, according to a federal appeals court.

Anthony Graves, who the Texas Innocence Network says is innocent, must remain in the Burleson County Jail until Jan. 4 before he can post bail with the federal court in Galveston, according to a ruling issued late Monday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals."

If Graves is acquitted at his retrial, as is highly likely, then he will become the first Texas death row inmate to be exonerated since Ernest Willis in 2004.

Texas policymakers need to recognize three facts. 1) there are innocent people, such as Graves, who are still caught up in the system, and some are still on death row 2) innocent people, such as Ernest Willis, have recently been exonerated and 3) innocent people have already been executed in Texas, including Cantu, Willingham and De Luna.

It is past time for Texas to enact a moratorium and stop executions before more innocent people suffer.

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Lethal Injection Problems Have Occurred in Texas too

Last week, moratoriums in Florida and California were imposed because of problems with lethal injections. Below are some examples in Texas of some executions where problems occurred. Of course in Texas the most pressing problem with the lethal injection protocol is that innocent people have been given lethal injections. Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos De Luna are not listed below, but they also belong on any list of botched Texas executions. There is no bigger way to botch an execution than executing an innocent person.

The list below is excerpted from a longer list of botched executions nationwide that was compiled by Michael L. Radelet. The list is not intended to be a comprehensive catalogue of botched executions, but simply a listing of examples that are well-known.

1. March 13, 1985. Texas. Stephen Peter Morin. Lethal Injection. Because of Morin's history of drug abuse, the execution technicians were forced to probe both of Morin's arms and one of his legs with needles for nearly 45 minutes before they found a suitable vein.

2. August 20, 1986. Texas. Randy Woolls. Lethal Injection. A drug addict, Woolls helped the execution technicians find a useable vein for the execution.

3. June 24, 1987. Texas. Elliot Rod Johnson. Lethal Injection. Because of collapsed veins, it took nearly an hour to complete the execution.

4. December 13, 1988. Texas. Raymond Landry. Lethal Injection. Pronounced dead 40 minutes after being strapped to the execution gurney and 24 minutes after the drugs first started flowing into his arms. Two minutes after the drugs were administered, the syringe came out of Landry's vein, spraying the deadly chemicals across the room toward witnesses. The curtain separating the witnesses from the inmate was then pulled, and not reopened for fourteen minutes while the execution team reinserted the catheter into the vein. Witnesses reported "at least one groan." A spokesman for the Texas Department of Correction, Charles Brown (sic), said, "There was something of a delay in the execution because of what officials called a 'blowout.' The syringe came out of the vein, and the warden ordered the (execution) team to reinsert the catheter into the vein."

5. May 24, 1989. Texas. Stephen McCoy. Lethal Injection. He had such a violent physical reaction to the drugs (heaving chest, gasping, choking, back arching off the gurney, etc.) that one of the witnesses (male) fainted, crashing into and knocking over another witness. Houston attorney Karen Zellars, who represented McCoy and witnessed the execution, thought the fainting would catalyze a chain reaction. The Texas Attorney General admitted the inmate "seemed to have a somewhat stronger reaction," adding "The drugs might have been administered in a heavier dose or more rapidly."

6. April 23, 1992. Texas. Billy Wayne White. Lethal Injection. White was pronounced dead some 47 minutes after being strapped to the execution gurney. The delay was caused by difficulty finding a vein; White had a long history of heroin abuse. During the execution, White attempted to assist the authorities in finding a suitable vein.

7. May 7, 1992. Texas. Justin Lee May. Lethal Injection. May had an unusually violent reaction to the lethal drugs. According to one reporter who witnessed the execution, May "gasped, coughed and reared against his heavy leather restraints, coughing once again before his body froze ..." Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk wrote, "Compared to other recent executions in Texas, May's reaction was more violent. He went into a coughing spasm, groaned and gasped, lifted his head from the death chamber gurney and would have arched his back if he had not been belted down. After he stopped breathing, his eyes and mouth remained open."

8. April 23, 1998. Texas. Joseph Cannon. Lethal Injection. It took two attempts to complete the execution. After making his final statement, the execution process began. A vein in Cannon's arm collapsed and the needle popped out. Seeing this, Cannon lay back, closed his eyes, and exclaimed to the witnesses, "It's come undone." Officials then pulled a curtain to block the view of the witnesses, reopening it fifteen minutes later when a weeping Cannon made a second final statement and the execution process resumed.

9. August 26, 1998. Texas. Genaro Ruiz Camacho. Lethal Injection. The execution was delayed approximately two hours due, in part, to problems finding suitable veins in Camacho's arms.

10. December 7, 2000. Texas. Claude Jones. Jones was a former intravenous drug abuser. His execution was delayed 30 minutes while the execution "team" struggled to insert an IV into a vein. He had been a longtime intravenous drug user. One member of the execution team commented, "They had to stick him about five times. They finally put it in his leg." Wrote Jim Willett, the warden of the Walls Unit and the man responsible for conducting the execution, "The medical team could not find a vein. Now I was really beginning to worry. If you can't stick a vein then a cut-down has to be performed. I have never seen one and would just as soon go through the rest of my career the same way. Just when I was really getting worried, one of the medical people hit a vein in the left leg. Inside calf to be exact. The executioner had warned me not to panic as it was going to take a while to get the fluids in the body of the inmate tonight because he was going to push the drugs through very slowly. Finally, the drug took effect and Jones took his last breath."

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Moratoriums imposed today in Florida and California

The AP is reporting that "Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all executions in Florida after a medical examiner said Friday that prison officials botched the insertion of the needles when a convicted killer was put to death earlier this week.

Separately, a federal judge in California imposed a moratorium on executions in the nation's most populous state, declaring that the state's method of lethal injection runs the risk of violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment."

The moratoriums in these two states are based on problems with the method of lethal injection. Texas executes many more people than any other state, so there is a strong probability of botched executions in Texas too. However, the bigger problem in Texas is that innocent people are at a high risk of execution in Texas. Recently, there have been credible reports that three innocent people were executed in Texas, Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos De Luna.

The next session of the Texas Legislature, which gets underway in January, should enact emergency legislation to halt executions in Texas, so that we can ensure that no more innocent people are executed in Texas.

Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston is expected to file legislation that would enact a moratorium and create a commission to study capital punishment in Texas.

Robert Black, spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, said, "Perry has no plans to announce a moratorium on the death penalty and executions," Black said Friday. "He believes it is administered fairly, justly and in accordance with the law."

Perry was re-elected in November with 39 percent of the vote.

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