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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cultural swing away from capital punishment?

Slate has an interesting discussion on the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding Kansas' death penalty statute. An excerpt from their analysis of Souter's dissent:

No, this case has nothing to do with factual innocence, but it has a lot to do with a big cultural swing away from capital punishment—a swing we saw in last week's two death-penalty cases, which tacitly acknowledged that death is different. Souter is saying that as the American public and members of the court discover how deeply flawed the capital punishment machine really is, the inclination to just go on killing people, mistakes and all, is slightly nauseating. He's saying that it's immoral to blow off the mounting evidence that mistakes are made with platitudes like, "No system is perfect." If the system is broken, smugly funneling yet more people into it is sick.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Part 3 of The Chicago Tribune series on Carlos De Luna

Read Part 3 of The Chicago Tribune series on Carlos De Luna.


Part 3: The secret that wasn't
Violent felon bragged that he was real killer. Last of three parts.

By Maurice Possley and Steve Mills
Tribune staff reporters
Published June 26, 2006

It was a secret they all shared. Some kept it out of fear. Some because no one ever asked. Whatever their reasons, it was a secret that might have saved Carlos De Luna from the execution chamber.

Twenty-three years after Wanda Lopez was murdered in the gas station where she worked, family members and acquaintances of another man, Carlos Hernandez, have broken their silence to support what De Luna had long asserted: Hernandez, a violent felon, killed Lopez in 1983.

A Tribune investigation has identified five people who say Hernandez told them that he stabbed Lopez and tahat De Luna, whom he called his "stupid tocayo," or namesake, went to Death Row in his place.

They also say he admitted killing another woman, in 1979, a crime for which he was indicted but never tried.


Read the rest of the article

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Urge Gov Perry to Stop the Execution of Angel Maturino Resendiz June 27

Urge Gov Perry to Stop the Execution of Angel Maturino Resendiz

The execution of Angel Maturino Resendiz, known as “The Railroad Killer”, on June 27 may endanger the life of another innocent person. There is no doubt that Maturino Resendiz is guilty of murder, however his execution may mean the family of another person on death row named Louis Castro Perez may not be able to prove Perez’s innocence. The Railroad Killer has been convicted of one murder and is suspected in at least 14 other killings nationwide. “If Maturino Resendiz is executed before a full investigation into the possibility that he committed additional murders, including those for which my brother has been sentenced to death, then Texas risks becoming responsible for yet another innocent person’s execution”, said Delia Perez Meyer, sister of Louis Castro Perez.

Please take this opportunity to urge Governor Perry to stop the execution. A protest will take place on the day of the scheduled execution from 5:30-6:30 p.m, in various cities throughout Texas, including outside the Governor's mansion in Austin and outside The Walls Unit in Huntsville.

In addition to sending Gov Perry an email, you can leave him a phone message at: 512-463-2000, fax him at 512-463-1849 (his fax line is often busy, so just keep trying) or write him at:

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

You can also contact Governor Perry through his online contact form.

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Chicago Tribune Revelations in Carlos De Luna Case Create State of Emergency in Texas

Media Advisory

Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, #251
Austin, Texas 78731
512-302-6715

For immediate release: June 25, 2006

Contact: Delia Perez Meyer, (512) 444-5366
Scott Cobb, President, Texas Moratorium Network (512) 689-1544
Hooman Hedayati, President, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty (210) 601-7231

Evidence of Possible Execution of Innocent Man in Carlos De Luna Case
Uncovered by an Investigation Conducted by The Chicago Tribune
Warrants Halt to Tuesday’s Execution of “Railroad Killer” Angel Maturino Resendiz


An immediate halt to executions in Texas is warranted by The Chicago Tribune’s investigation finding that Texas may have executed an innocent man named Carlos De Luna. The Tribune began publishing the results of its investigation in the paper’s June 25th edition. The De Luna case is the third time in 19 months that a major newspaper investigation has concluded that an innocent person may have been executed by the state of Texas.

The Chicago Tribune previously reported in November 2004 that Cameron Willingham was probably innocent of setting the arson fire that killed his three daughters. Willingham was executed by Texas in 2004. The Houston Chronicle has reported that Ruben Cantu, who was executed by Texas in 1993, was also probably innocent.

“Reports that three innocent people may have been executed by Texas should shake the souls of every person in this state”, said Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network. “These continuing reports of executions of innocent people indicate that we now have an emergency situation in Texas. The death penalty system here is clearly not capable of sorting out the guilty from the innocent before strapping people down for their lethal injections. Texas district attorneys and judges should enact a moratorium on executions by agreeing to cancel all execution dates until the next session of the Texas Legislature has an opportunity to address the crisis”, said Cobb.

The execution of Angel Maturino Resendiz, known as “The Railroad Killer”, on June 27 may endanger the life of another innocent person. There is no doubt that Maturino Resendiz is guilty of murder, however his execution may mean the family of another person on death row named Louis Castro Perez may not be able to prove Perez’s innocence. The Railroad Killer has been convicted of one murder and is suspected in at least 14 other killings nationwide. “If Maturino Resendiz is executed before a full investigation into the possibility that he committed additional murders, including those for which my brother has been sentenced to death, then Texas risks becoming responsible for yet another innocent person’s execution”, said Delia Perez Meyer, sister of Louis Castro Perez.

The Texas Democratic Party endorsed a moratorium on executions in its 2006 party platform approved at the party’s state convention June 10. The Travis County Commissioners Court has also passed a resolution calling for a moratorium. Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston has introduced legislation to establish a moratorium on executions and a commission to study the problems in the system in every regular session of the Texas Legislature since 2001.

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Part 2 of Chicago Tribune Series on Carlos De Luna

Part 2 of Chicago Tribune Series on Carlos De Luna

Excerpt

THE FINAL HOURS

After years of failed appeals, De Luna lost his final bid for clemency on Dec. 6, 1989.

By then, prison guards had moved him to the holding cell just steps from the execution chamber in Huntsville. It was there that he met death-house chaplain Carroll Pickett. A Presbyterian minister, Pickett had counseled 32 other prisoners in the seven years since Texas resumed executions in 1982.

As he had with each prisoner, Pickett explained to De Luna every detail of what would take place in the coming hours: how the warden would come and say it was time to go; how there were eight steps from the holding cell to the door of the execution chamber, five more to the gurney; how guards would strap him down; and then, finally, how the warden would remove his glasses to signal for the flow of lethal chemicals to begin.

De Luna's only question for Pickett was whether it would hurt when the needles were inserted in his arm.

Later that day, De Luna, the youngest of nine children, visited with family members--his sister Rose, her fiance, a half brother and his wife.

Shortly before 5 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his appeal. De Luna showered and donned dark blue pants and a light blue shirt.

Increasingly anxious, he asked Pickett if he could call him daddy. "I never had a daddy," Pickett said De Luna told him. "You are like my daddy should have been."

About 7 p.m., after the governor denied De Luna's clemency request, Pickett talked to him about the crime. In ministering to condemned prisoners, Pickett had learned that, in their last hours, most inmates, even those who would claim innocence in a final statement, would confide their guilt to him.

"I'm the last person they're going to talk to," Pickett said in an interview, "so they feel they can finally talk about it."

De Luna told him he was innocent.

Shortly before 10 p.m., De Luna asked to make a call to a former Corpus Christi TV reporter who had covered the trial and kept in touch in the years afterward.

"We both knew there was no hope at that point," the reporter, Karen Boudrie, said. "I asked him point-blank: Is there anything you want to get off your chest?

"He said, `I'm not the bad guy they say I am,'" she recalled. "He said, `I didn't do it.'"

Around 11 p.m., De Luna looked at Pickett and said, "Let's get serious."

They grasped hands through the cell bars, and De Luna asked Pickett to pray that he would be strong in his last minutes and that he would be quickly received into heaven.

When they began, Pickett noticed, De Luna was sitting on the side of the bunk; by the end, he had dropped to his knees on the cell's cold concrete floor.

"A little after 12, the signal came. I stepped back," Pickett recalls in a recording he made shortly after the execution. "The doors opened. I walked into the death chamber, the death house itself. Carlos followed behind me."

De Luna climbed onto the gurney. "As he laid down, he said, `Are you here, chaplain?' I had assured him I would be. He asked me to hold his hand. . . . I told him he had done fine," Pickett says on the tape. "And he said, `This is not so bad.'"

After the witnesses to the execution filed in, the warden asked: "Carlos De Luna, do you have any last words?" De Luna made no reference to the slaying of Wanda Lopez. "I want to say that I don't hold any grudges," he said as part of his short final statement.

At that, the warden removed his glasses.

"After about 10 seconds, [De Luna] raised up his head and looked at me with those big brown eyes," Pickett says on the tape. "The warden looked at me, and I looked at him. He was concerned. I was concerned. Something was not going right. Because he should have been asleep.

"After about 10 seconds more, he raised his head up again. He looked square in my face and my eyes. I just simply squeezed his leg. I don't know what he was trying to say. I wish I did.

"This bothers me and probably will forever and ever. Because nothing was happening. I had told him, I had promised him it wouldn't hurt, it wouldn't take long. Now we were more than 25 seconds into it, and he was still able to raise his head up and look. I was sickened."

Pickett looked at the tube running into De Luna's veins. He could see the bubbles indicating where each chemical ended and the next began.

More than 9 minutes passed.

"He gave a couple of exhales, and that was it." At that, the doctors came in and declared De Luna dead. It was 12:24 a.m.

"The first injection began at 12:14," Pickett spoke into the tape recorder later. "This was 10 minutes. Too long. Way. Too. Long."

Partly as a result of watching De Luna's execution, Pickett eventually became an activist against the death penalty.

"This one I wonder: What was he trying to tell me, if anything, when he raised up his head? ... What did he say? What did he think?

"Whatever," Pickett added, "Carlos De Luna did not need those extra minutes and certainly not those extra 25 seconds. That I will never forget."

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chicago Tribune report is live at www.chicagotribune.com


The first part of The Chicago Tribune report is live at their website. Read the whole story at www.chicagotribune.com. The Tribune also has a page with links to photos and interviews.


`I didn't do it. But I know who did'
New evidence suggests an execution in 1989 in Texas was a case of mistaken identity. First of three parts.

Did this man die ... for this man's crime?

By Maurice Possley and Steve Mills
Tribune staff reporters
Published June 24, 2006

Photos: The victim and crime scene (Warning: Graphic content)

For many years, few questioned whether Carlos De Luna deserved to die.

His closed the book on the stabbing of Wanda Lopez, a single mother and gas station clerk whose final, desperate screams were captured on a 911 tape.

Arrested just blocks from the bloody crime scene, De Luna was swiftly convicted and sentenced to death --even though the parolee proclaimed his innocence and identified another man as the killer.

But 16 years after De Luna died by lethal injection, the Tribune has uncovered evidence strongly suggesting that the acquaintance he named, Carlos Hernandez, was the one who killed Lopez in 1983.

Ending years of silence, Hernandez's relatives and friends recounted how the violent felon repeatedly bragged that De Luna went to Death Row for a murder Hernandez committed.

The newspaper investigation
, involving interviews with dozens of people and a review of thousands of pages of court records, also shows the case was compromised by shaky eyewitness identification, sloppy police work and a failure to thoroughly pursue Hernandez as a possible suspect.

These revelations, which cast significant doubt over De Luna's conviction, were never heard by the jury.

His case represents one of the most compelling examples yet of the discovery of possible innocence after a prisoner's execution.


Read the rest of the article
.

Part 2: Monday
Phantom or er

Part 3: Tuesday
What the jury didn't hear

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First details from ABC's Nightline of Carlos De Luna case - an innocent man executed by Texas



Last night ABC’s Nightline gave us the first details of the case of Carlos De Luna. The investigation was apparently first initiated by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which got the Chicago Tribune interested and then ABC’s Nightline joined the effort a few months ago. The involvement of the NCADP LDEF should come as no surprise, since they were also responsible for spearheading investigations that uncovered the probable wrongful executions of Larry Griffin in Missouri and Ruben Cantu in Texas.

A few notes from the Nightline broadcast:

Wanda Lopez was killed in 1983 in a Corpus Christi convenience store where she was working. She had called 911 after seeing a man with a knife in the store. The man began attacking her and her last screams are recorded on the 911 call. Carlos De Luna was arrested about 40 minutes after the murder hiding under a pick-up truck. He says he ran and hid because he had seen all the commotion and was scared. He was identified by an eyewitness and later convicted and sentenced to death.

Carlos De Luna was convicted and executed based on one nighttime eyewitness account. There was no physical evidence linking De Luna to the crime. Despite a bloody crime scene typical of a stabbing death, not a drop of blood was found on De Luna, even though he was arrested within an hour of the crime. There were no fingerprints found at the crime scene that matched De Luna’s. He was executed in 1989 – proclaiming his innocence to the end. Almost immediately after the crime, tipsters had begun telling the police that another man named Carlos Hernandez had been bragging that he had killed Lopez. One person said that Hernandez said that “Lopez had got the best of my knife”. Hernandez had been well-known in the area for carrying a knife. He was later convicted of another crime and died in prison from liver disease.

Rose Rhotan, sister of De Luna, was interviewed on Nightline saying everyone in the family knew “they were executing the wrong person”.

ABC will air more information on the Carlos De Luna case on tonight’s Weekend Edition of World News Tonight.

The Chicago Tribune will start publishing a three part series on the case tomorrow, Sunday, June 24, 2006.

Click Click here to see The Chicago Tribune's preview of the story. The link contains a short video preview of the story.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Chicago Tribune says Carlos De Luna was an innocent man executed by Texas


On Dec 7, 1989, Carlos De Luna was executed in Texas for a murder in Corpus Christi. But a Chicago Tribune investigation has uncovered evidence he was not the killer.

Click here to see The Chicago Tribune's preview of the story they will report this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The link contains a short video preview of the story.

To learn more watch ABC's Nightline Friday, June 23, 2006.

TDCJ Info on Carlos De Luna

A moratorium on executions has been endorsed by the following media outlets in Texas: Abilene Reporter-News, Austin American-Statesman, Bryan-College Station Eagle, Corpus Christi-Caller-Times, Dallas Morning News, El Paso Times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Galveston County Daily News, Houston Chronicle, KPRC Channel 2 NBC Houston, San Antonio Express News, Victoria Advocate, Wichita Falls Times Record News. Read the endorsements on the TMN website.

The Chicago Tribune reported in November 2004 that Cameron Willingham was also probably innocent despite being executed by Texas in 2004. Willingham had been sentenced to death for an arson fire that killed his three daughters. Willingham’s last words were: "I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit," Willingham said angrily. "I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do."

In November 2005, The Houston Chronicle reported that Ruben Cantu, who was executed by Texas in 1993, was also probably innocent. Sam Millsap, Bexar Co. district attorney at the time of Cantu's conviction – has said that he was the man "who is at least partially responsible for the execution of the 1st innocent man in the State of Texas”.

The Texas Democratic Party endorsed a moratorium on executions in its 2004 and 2006 platforms. The Travis County Commissioners Court has also passed a resolution calling for a moratorium.

Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston has introduced legislation to establish a moratorium on executions in every regular session of the Texas Legislature since 2001.

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Important news story likely to break over the weekend

There is likely to be some big news coming in the next couple of days, so stay tuned for a news story that is likely to increase support for a moratorium on s both with the general public and in the Texas Legislature.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"Please Jesus," she cried and pleaded. "Don't do it. Oh, God, Jesus, please don't."

Everytime someone is executed a whole new set of victims is created, members of the family of the person executed. Parents lose children, children lose a parent. Tuesday in Texas, Lamont Reese was executed. The Huntsville Item reported on his mother's reaction:

As soon as Lamont Reese received the lethal dose Tuesday night, he spoke.

"This is some nasty," he said, referring to the taste many condemned prisoners say they notice in the seconds before death.

With that, Reese, 28, drew his last breath, and his mother broke down. Brenda Reese, Lamont's mother, had been talking calmly through the glass separating she and her son until he drew his final breath.

"No, Jesus," she screamed and began beating on the window. "God, he felt that. They killed my baby.

"Please Jesus," she cried and pleaded. "Don't do it. Oh, God, Jesus, please don't."

Family members surrounded Reese in the witness room at the Huntsville "Walls" Unit, trying to comfort her in the moments after her son's death. "Oh God, Jesus," she began to chant. "Oh God, Jesus. My baby's gone."

With that, Reese began to kick the wall separating her side of the witness room and the victim's witnesses, kicking 2 small holes in the wall.

After her outburst, Reese was asked to leave the room by TDCJ personnel.
Her family physically helped her out of the room. As they walked out of
the death chamber, a family member began to sing softly, "He's got the
whole world, in His hands. He's got the whole, wide world in His hands."


Read the rest of the article.

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Major news event involving Carroll Pickett

Good thing The Chicago Tribune does such great investigative work on the Texas Death Penalty. They are the ones who first broke the Cameron Willingham story, suggesting he was an innocent person executed. It sounds like they are on to something big again.


BREAKING STORY

Major news event involving Carroll Pickett (former Texas death house chaplain):

The dates below when the story may air are tentative and subject to changes.

ABC Nightline-Thursday, June 22, 10:30 p.m. central time

ABC Saturday Evening News-June 24, 5:30 p.m. central time

These stories lead in to a very big story from the Chicago Tribune breaking on Sunday, June 25, Monday June 26 and Tuesday June 27. This will be found on the Web at chicagotribune.com.

All the programs and newspaper deal with a young man who was executed wrongly. Pickett was with him all day from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. There is a partial account in his book, Within These Walls.

You can watch a video of Rev. Pickett's talk to this year's anti-death penalty alternative spring breakers.

Rev. Pickett's talk starts around the 11th minute and goes for about 30 minutes.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Waco passes resolution condemning lynchings

90 years after the a young, black man was hanged and burned alive in their city square in front of a crowd of 15,000 people, the Waco City Council approved a resolution, Tuesday, June 20, 2006 condemning lynchings that occurred in the city's past. Waco was the scene of one of the most brutal lynchings in U.S. history, an event that became known as the "Waco Horror".



The Handbook of Texas Online says,

"Of the 492 lynchings that occurred in Texas between 1882 and 1930, the incident that perhaps received the greatest notoriety, both statewide and nationally, was the mutilation and burning of an illiterate seventeen-year-old black farmhand named Jesse Washington by a white mob in Waco, Texas, on May 15, 1916 - an event sometimes dubbed the "Waco Horror."


"We are appalled and grieved by heinous lynchings and other forms of violence that created a culture of fear and injustice," the council said in the resolution. "We recognize that past mob actions hurt our city in ways far beyond the brutal murders, as they deprived our community of broad citizen participation and created a stigma that we strive to overcome."

The resolution did not mention specifically the 1916 lynching of Jesse Washington, a 17-year-old black man who was killed after an all-white jury convicted him in the death of a white woman.



___

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Monday, June 19, 2006

2006 Texas Republican Party Platform Endorses Death Penalty in Rape Cases

The 2006 Texas Republican Party Platform endorses the death penalty for people convicted of rape.

In 1977, the Supreme Court declared in the 7-2 Coker v. Georgia decision that applying the death penalty in rape cases was forbidden by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as cruel and unusual punishment because the sentence was disproportionate to the crime. Coker resulted in the removal of twenty inmates -- three whites and 17 blacks -- awaiting execution on rape convictions from death rows around the country.

From the 2006 Texas GOP Platform:

"Capital Punishment – We believe that properly applied capital punishment is legitimate, is an effective deterrent, and should be swift and unencumbered. When applied to the crime of murder, it raises the value of human life.

Sexual Assault – We believe that rape is a heinous crime for which punishment options should include death."

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Nine minutes - Bill Vaught remembers his brother

It was a short five years ago today; I walked into the Walls Unit in Huntsville with my mother, sister, and two aunts. We watched as the State of Texas executed my brother, John Wheat. We were informed ahead of time the exact steps that were to occur. We would be searched, and then led across the street to the Walls Unit. We would be in a room separated from my brother by wire reinforced glass and bars. There would be a microphone so we could hear everything. He would be given a chance to make a final statement. He could talk as long as he wanted. We would know when he finished because he had provided the warden with a “code word” he would use to indicate he was finished speaking and the process could begin. The first drug to be introduced into his body would paralyze him. Three minutes would pass with him strapped to the gurney totally immobilized. Then a second drug would be introduced into his body to cause his lungs to collapse. We were warned that a sound might occur at this point, but it would just be the air rushing out of his body. It would not be speech or an attempt to speak. Three more minutes would pass. Six minutes after he was immobilized, the third and final drug would be injected. This drug would stop his heart. Again, three minutes would pass before a doctor would be brought in to examine him and pronounce him dead. Five years later, I remember every step, especially the loud “thump” as each drug was introduced. Nine minutes – three drugs – death. Just nine minutes from start to finish. I still recall how little the doctor spoke after the examination. “Time of death 6:13.” Nine minutes from life to death. Five years later and the questions still linger in my mind. Did anyone else notice that none of the drugs were to avoid pain? While my brother was strapped down for those nine minutes, was he in pain? Had he not been immobilized would he have been screaming out for help? Where is the humanity?

To those who stood outside the Walls Unit, those who stood outside the governor’s mansion, and those who held vigils in other cities around the world my eternal thanks. I would also like to extend my thanks to those who gave support in other ways. The kind emails, flowers, and food were greatly appreciated. Thanks also to all those who traveled to Huntsville to insure that none of the family who witnessed the execution had to drive afterward. I also want to thank all those whose efforts continue for this cause. If I have forgotten anyone, thank you too.

Bill Vaught

Note: I have lost the email addresses of many who have supported me over the years, please feel free to forward this message as appropriate.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Texas Democratic Party Platform Endorses a Moratorium on Executions

The Texas Democratic Party approved a platform at the party's state convention on Saturday, June 10, that calls for a moratorium on executions and the establishment of a statewide Office of Public Defenders for Capital Cases "to ensure that every person accused of a capital crime has equal access to well-trained trial and appellate attorneys". The capital punishment plank was drafted by TMN's Scott Cobb, who was a member of the 2006 TDP Chair's Advisory Committee on the Platform.

TMN shared a booth at the convention with Texas Students Against the Death Penalty. You can watch some video of the booth at the convention.

A well-attended meeting of the Death Penalty Reform Caucus, started in 2004 and chaired by Scott Cobb, was held at the party's state convention. The caucus heard from Delia Perez Meyer and Christina Lawson. Delia spoke about the case of her brother Louis Perez, who is on death row in Texas. The Travis County DA has agreed to retest some DNA evidence to determine if Perez was wrongfully convicted. Christina related the story of how she lost her father to murder when she was 9 years old and of the conviction and execution of her husband David Martinez, who was executed July 28, 2005.

Below is the text of the Capital Punishment plank from the TDP platform:

When capital punishment is used, Texans must be assured that it is fairly administered. Texas Democrats extend our deepest sympathies to all victims of crime and especially to the family members of murder victims, and we strongly support their rights. The current system cannot ensure that innocent or undeserving defendants are not sentenced to death.

In the modern era, Texas has executed more than 360 people – by far more than any other state in the nation. The frequency of executions and inadequacies in our criminal justice system increase the likelihood that an innocent person will be executed. Texas may have already executed at least two innocent people, according to recent major newspaper investigations into the cases of Ruben Cantu and Cameron Willingham. Ernest Willis was exonerated and released from Texas Death Row on Oct. 6, 2004 after17 years of wrongful imprisonment. In order to promote public confidence in the fairness of the Texas criminal justice system, Texas Democrats support the establishment of a Texas Capital Punishment Commission to study the Texas death penalty system and a moratorium on executions pending action on the Commission’s findings. Texas Democrats support the following specific reforms:

• Establishing a statewide Office of Public Defenders for Capital Cases to ensure that every person accused of a capital crime has equal access to well-trained trial and appellate attorneys, regardless of income, race or the county of jurisdiction.
• Allowing testing of any possibly exculpatory DNA evidence to ensure guilt or innocence before executions are carried out and allowing testing of DNA evidence after an execution to determine if an innocent person has been executed.
• Establishing procedures to determine before a trial takes place whether an accused has mental retardation, in order to be sure that Texas complies with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on executions of people with mental retardation.
• Banning death sentences and executions for people with mental illness.
• Requiring the Board of Pardons and Paroles to meet in person to discuss and vote on every case involving the death sentence.
• Restoring the power to the Governor to grant clemency in death penalty cases without a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

ms. pickles 3rd grade class presents death penalty movie

Here is a video that was a part of the death penalty art show. It's called Ms. Pickle's 3rd Grade Class Presents "Death Penalty Movie" by Stephanie Saint Sanchez.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Model of Dissent - Sophie Scholl - see the movie

How do we react when we are confronted with injustice? How far are we willing to go with our personal commitment? There is a film playing now in Austin and Houston that is a must-see for anyone working to make the world a better place, especially if their work involves challenging an unjust government. "Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage" tells the story of a group of students, including Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst, who challenged the Nazi government by distributing leaflets criticizing the government in 1942-43. They were executed a few days after their arrest. No matter what issue people have chosen to take action on, if their goal is to make the world more just and more peaceful, they will be moved by the film to want to do more and to raise their voices louder.

Here is a website where you can read more about the story before seeing the film.

Something that is not widely known is that the same executioner who operated the guillotine to kill the Scholls was employed by the Americans after the war to execute both war criminals and common criminals. Johann Reichhart kept a tally of the executions he performed for the Nazis - a total of 3,165. He was one of ten executioners employed by the Nazis to carry out judicially ordered executions. In 1964, he gave an interview with Die Zeit newspaper in which he said he had changed his mind on capital punishment and now thought it was pointless. You can read about him in "Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany, 1600-1987" by Richard J. Evans.



The Austin Chronicle Review

There's no moment of release, no instant of sudden redemption in this powerful, moving, and altogether devastating film. It moves, instead, like some awful emotional dreadnought, slipped free of reality's moorings and adrift in an ocean of terrible and ever-darkening lunacy. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (an Oscar nominee from Germany for Best Foreign Film this year) chronicles the last desperate and desperately resolved hours of its Sophie Scholl, a real-life German university student who, in 1943 Munich, ran afoul of the gestapo while distributing anti-Nazi leaflets in the commons of her school yard. For her actions, Scholl (Jetsch), her brother Hans (Hinrichs), and their friend Christoph Probst (Stetter) were found guilty of sedition and executed. Scholl is a national hero in the reunified Germany, and – thanks in large part to a recently declassified and as-yet-unpublished series of transcripts of her grueling, three-day questioning by gestapo interrogator Robert Mohr (an icy, utterly believable Held) – what's most disturbing about Scholl's final days isn't her predicament (which, by that time, was commonplace all over Germany), but how closely the words of Mohr and Judge Roland Freisler (Hennicke), who pronounced the death sentence against Scholl and her compatriots, seem to echo current political barbs aimed at painting dissent as unpatriotic and damaging to our men and women on the front lines of the war on terror. Chillingly, these real-life, fully documented statements by histrionic, card-carrying Nazis literally echo what has passed for political discussion on the conservative end of the spectrum. At one point the seethingly unhinged Judge Freisler goes so far as to refer to Hans as a "terrorist," a moment that carries its own peculiar, time-warping frisson. That's shocking enough in its own right but it's unlikely it was the main concern of director Rothemund or his bracingly, uniformly fine cast, all of whom seem far more concerned, understandably so, with telling the day-by-day; hour-by-hour; and, finally, second-by-second end of the life of Scholl, who, as embodied by Jentsch, is clearly the sanest, most human being in the entire film, a committed Christian aflame with the righteous, unbending idealism that only youth can fully provide. This is an unapologetically distressing film, but neither Rothemund nor Jentsch allow themselves or their film to devolve into hysterics. Instead, Sophie Scholl plods along inexorably, one step after another, to its grim, sad end. It's almost unbearable.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

The next big question in death penalty law

The New York Times published an article Friday about mental illness and the death penalty. It concerns Scott Panetti, who was "in and out of mental institutions 14 times and addicted to drugs and alcohol since he almost drowned as a child and was nearly electrocuted by a power line, Panetti wore cowboy costumes to court, delivered rambling monologues, put himself on the witness stand and sought to subpoena the pope, Jesus and President Kennedy." There doesn't seem to be much controversy about whether Panetti is mentally ill. The question to be decided is if he is insane "enough" that executing him would violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against executing the insane. Read the Times article and decide for yourself.

Scott Panetti, a death row inmate, understands that the state says it means to execute him for the murder of his wife's parents.

But Panetti, 48, who represented himself in court despite a long history of mental illness, says he thinks that the state's real reason is a different one. He says the State of Texas, in league with Satan, wants to kill him to keep him from preaching the Gospel.

That delusion has been documented by doctors and acknowledged by judges and prosecutors. It poses what experts call the next big question in death penalty law now that the Supreme Court has barred the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded: What makes someone too mentally ill to be executed?

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