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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Texas Executes 20th Person in 2006


PICT0028
Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).
Ten people protested the execution of Derrick Frazier at the Texas Governor's mansion today.

From the Houston Chronicle:

HUNTSVILLE — Texas death row inmate Derrick Frazier was executed today for the slayings of a South Texas mother and her teenage son at their home nine years ago.

Frazier, 29, was the second convicted murderer to die for the shooting deaths of Betsy Nutt, 41, and her son, Cody, 15. Three months ago, Frazier's companion, Jermaine Herron, was executed.

He's the 20th Texas prisoner executed this year, one more than all of last year in the nation's most active death penalty state. At least seven other executions are scheduled for the remainder of year.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Website for CEDP


Campaign to End the Death Penalty has a newly redesigned national website. It looks very nice! And on the front page is a photo of the annual Texas March to Stop Executions. The photo they use is from the 2003 march, which was the 4th march.

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Urge Gov Perry to Stop the Execution of Derrick Frazier on Aug 31

Derrick Frazier, a 28-year-old black man, is scheduled for execution on August 31, 2006 for the 1997 murder of Betsy Nutt and her son, Cody, both white.

Urge Gov Perry to Stop the Execution of Derrick Frazier
.

Houston Chronicle article.

Call Texas Governor Rick Perry at (512) 463-2000 or Fax him at (512) 463-1849. For more information, visit www.hasanshakur.com.

Come to the Governor's Mansion in Austin or one of the protests sites in the list of cities below to protest the Texas death penalty every time there is a scheduled execution.

Statewide Execution Vigils/Protests


Huntsville - Corner of 12th Street and Avenue I (in front of the Walls Unit) at 5:00 p.m.

Austin - At the Governor's Mansion on the Lavaca St. side between 10th and 11th St. from 5:30 to 6:30 PM.

Beaumont - Diocese of Beaumont, Diocesan Pastoral Office, 703 Archie St. @ 4:00 p.m. on the day of an execution.

College Station - 5:30 to 6 PM, east of Texas A &M campus at the corner of Walton and Texas Ave. across the street from the main entrance.

Corpus Christi - at 6 PM in front of Incarnate Word Convent at 2910 Alameda Street

Dallas - 5:30 pm, at the SMU Women's Center, 3116 Fondren Drive

Houston - St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 5501 Main Street (corner of Binz). Parking is available in the church parking lot on Fannin.

Lewisville - St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church, 1897 W. Main Street. Peace & Justice Ministry conducts Vigils of Witness Against Capital Punishment at 6:00 pm on the day executions are scheduled in Texas.

McKinney - St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Community located at 110 St. Gabriel Way. We gather the last Saturday of the month between 6:00 to 6:30 to pray for those men/women scheduled to be executed in the next month.

San Antonio (Site 1) - Archdiocese of San Antonio, in the St. Joseph Chapel at the Chancery, 2718 W. Woodlawn Ave. (1 mile east of Bandera Rd.) at 11:30 a.m. on the day of execution. Broadcast on Catholic Television of San Antonio (Time-Warner cable channel 15) at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on the day of execution.

San Antonio (Site 2) - Main Plaza across from Bexar County Courthouse and San Fernando Cathedral - Noon

Spring - Prayer Vigil at 6 PM on evenings of executions at St Edward Catholic
Community, 2601 Spring Stuebner Rd for the murder victim, for family and friends of the murder victim, the prison guards and correctional officers, for the family of the condemn man/woman, for the man/woman to be executed and to an end to the death penalty.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Looking for venues for our death penalty art show


We are are searching for visual arts venues in Texas cities where we can exhibit our art show "Justice for All?: Artists Reflect on the Death Penalty". We are especially interested in venues in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. If you know of a gallery, museum or other venue, please contact us at info@deathpenaltyartshow.org or leave a message at 512-302-6715.

The show first ran May 6-22, 2006 in Austin at Gallery Lombardi. There were 54 pieces in the Austin exhibit, selected by three jurors: Annette Carlozzi, senior curator at the Blanton Museum, Lora Reynolds of the Lora Reynolds Gallery in Austin, and Malaquias Montoya, an artist and professor of art at the University of California, Davis.

The exhibit includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, videos and installation art.

The show is online at www.deathpenaltyartshow.org. The online gallery includes not just the works that were selected by the jury, but all of the works that were submitted to the show:
www.deathpenaltyartshow.org/gallery.

You can also see images of the artworks on Flickr.

The show includes audio descriptions from many of the artists that visitors to the exhibition venue can listen to by calling a number on their cell phones. An example of an audio recording is here. Just click on "listen to audio description".

Here is a link to a review of the show from The Austin Chronicle.

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Next planning meeting for 7th Annual March to Stop Executions - Sept 10

The "7th Annual March to Stop Executions" will take place on October 28, 2006 in Austin. It has been held since 2000 by a broad coalition of anti-death penalty groups.

The next planning meeting is Sunday, Sept 10, at 2 PM on the UT-Austin campus in the north dining area of the Texas Union building. Please come and help organize the march.

If you would like to get on the march planning discussion list, send an email to maustin-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

At the last meeting, on Aug 27, there were three representatives from the University Catholic Center Social Justice Committee and Catholic Longhorns for Life. They were very interested in helping organize the march this year. They attended the march last year. They are going to contact the Catholic bishop in Austin and invite him to speak at the march. He last spoke at the march in 2001 (see article below). Also they offered the use of the UCC building on the morning of the march. They also offered Inside Books the use of their kitchen to prepare food for the Inside Books pre-march brunch, if IB decides to organize a brunch again this year as they have in the past (We hope they do!). Below is an article about the 2nd Annual March, which was held in 2001.

Marchers gathered at Capitol demand end to death penalty

By Dick Stanley
American-Statesman Staff
Sunday, October 28, 2001

Maybe it was the anxiety so many feel in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the anthrax incidents on the East Coast.

Or maybe it was because none of the death penalty moratorium bills the Legislature considered this year passed.

Whatever the reason, organizers of the second annual March for a Moratorium against the death penalty estimated that the trek to the south steps of the Capitol drew fewer than half the 700 people who turned out for the first march in 2000.

There was no diminishment of passion, however, against what many marchers and speakers called legalized murder.

"We come to say with loud voices how we respect life," Bishop Gregory Aymond of the Catholic Diocese of Austin told the crowd. "Very often the poorest and least educated do not have proper legal counsel."

He noted that Texas executions account for a third of all state executions in the United States. There have been 13 this year and 253 since the penalty was reinstated in 1982.

Aymond asked legislators to reflect again on the need for the death penalty at their 2003 session, when state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, is expected to resubmit his proposal for a two-year death penalty moratorium, which failed this year.

Led by a group of drummers, the crowd for the march, which was organized by more than two dozen groups, chanted: "The whole world is watching; moratorium now."

Signs carried by many people demanded an end to sleeping lawyers, execution of the innocent and people with mental retardation, and racist sentencing.

Speaker Sandra Cook, wife of former death row inmate Kerry Max Cook, urged the Legislature to "execute the death penalty" in 2003. Her husband spent 22 years in prison in Texas before DNA testing refuted evidence from the 1977 rape and murder of a Tyler woman.

At the back of the crowd, with plastic donation buckets in hand, stood longtime death penalty opponents Ruth Epstein and Marjorie Loehlin of Austin. Epstein is a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and Loehlin, 80, is on the board of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Despite the failure of Dutton's and other bills against the death penalty this year, said Loehlin, at least they were up for discussion.

"That never happened before," she said.

"We're hoping (for passage) next time around," said Epstein.

Would they support the death penalty if terrorists such as the ones responsible for the mass murders of Sept. 11 were facing it?

"Not even then, I would say," Loehlin said.

Added Epstein quickly, "But I wouldn't let them loose."

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Friday, August 25, 2006

March to Stop Executions planning meeting - Aug 27 at 2 PM

We are kicking into higher gear in the planning for this year's annual "March to Stop Executions".

The "7th Annual March to Stop Executions" will take place on October 28, 2006 in Austin. It has been held since 2000 by a broad coalition of anti-death penalty groups.

The first planning meeting is Sunday, Aug 27, at 2 PM on the UT-Austin campus in the north dining area of the Texas Union building. Please come and help organize the march.

If you would like to get on the march planning discussion list, send an email to maustin-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

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Man who spent 17 years on Texas death row paroled

A former Texas death row inmate whose conviction was overturned, partly because of problems in the Houston Police Department's crime lab, walked out of the Harris County Jail today after being paroled. On Sept. 20, 2004, a federal court in Houston, Texas, had overturned the death penalty conviction of Martin Draughon, who had been on death row for 17 years. U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal ruled that a ballistics expert presented evidence that showed that the victim was killed by a bullet that ricocheted off the pavement, instead of being killed by a bullet that had been intentionally aimed at him by Draughon. Such evidence could have persuaded the jury to give him life imprisonment if it had been presented at his trial, she said in her opinion. If it were not for the problems in the HPD crime lab and if Draughon had had a competent lawyer at his first trial, he would not have been sentenced to death in the first place. Draughon accepted a 40 year sentence this past July. He was released from prison on a program called intensive mandatory supervision.

From The Houston Chronicle:


Judge Rosenthal Rosenthal ruled that Draughon's attorney had failed to hire a ballistics expert to present evidence about the bullet in the trial.

She also cited "serious questions" about the accuracy of analysis in the HPD crime lab, which is still the subject of an independent investigation because of problems in several divisions, including ballistics.

Rather than put Draughon on trial again, prosecutors reached a plea agreement with him that called for a 40-year sentence.

That period is based on a combination of the time he has served and the "good time" he accumulated while in prison.

The conditions of his mandatory supervision include reporting to a parole officer nine times a month, Lyons said.

He also will be fitted with a global positioning system monitor so that parole officials can track his movements.

While living in Livington, Draughon won't be far from the Polunsky Unit and his former home on death row.


State District Judge Jan Krocker, the former assistant district attorney who prosecuted Draughon, did not believe his death sentence should have been overturned.

"If (the victim) was truly killed by a ricocheted bullet, the jury should have heard that evidence 17 years ago and Mr. Draughon should get a new trial," Krocker wrote in an e-mail to the Houston Chronicle. "It would be morally wrong for the execution to go forward if the jury didn't get to hear such important evidence."

However, Krocker does not think Draughon should get a new trial. She is adamant that the ballistics evidence she presented is correct, that the shooting was deliberate and that he should be executed.

Some legal experts say Krocker violated the state judicial code of ethics by becoming actively involved in fighting Draughon's appeal.

Rosenthal rejected Krocker's request to present testimony supporting her ballistics theory. However, she did allow Krocker to submit written statements from witnesses as part of the court record.

Those witnesses included C.E. Anderson, who retired from the HPD lab's firearms division in 1998. In his statement, Anderson, who performed the ballistics analysis of the bullet fragments in the Draughon shooting, stood by his findings.

"The bullet that killed the deceased did not ricochet before it entered the body," he wrote.

But in her order, Rosenthal speculated that the prosecution's assertion that the shooting was intentional may well have been the difference between Draughon's receiving the death penalty or life in prison.

"The (new) ballistics evidence presented (in federal court) establishes that evidence existed that would have supported Draughon's defense theory and would have allowed the jury to find a lack of intent," Rosenthal wrote. "Had the jury done so, Draughon would have been convicted of felony murder, not capital murder."

Jeff Keyes, Draughon's appellate attorney, says the case reveals shortcomings in Harris County criminal justice.

"When we came into the case in 1993, we tried on numerous occasions to get the bullet and the gun to have them examined, and we were denied that by the state courts," said Keyes, who is based in Minnesota. "You take a look at the evidence many years later, and it just gives you a lump in the throat to think that this is the way the system operates."

As for Jan Kroker, the former assistant DA who prosecuted the case and intervened in the appeal, The Texas Observer calls her one of the "worst judges in Texas":

In a county known nationwide for being tough on crime, District Judge Jan Krocker has set herself apart from her fellow judges as one of the toughest. Nineteen of Harris County’s 24 criminal district court judges, including Krocker, cut their teeth as prosecutors in the district attorney’s office. What’s different about Krocker, a Republican in her early 50s, is that she seems to have never really left. A dramatic case in point was her intervention in 2004 in the death penalty appeal of a young man named Martin Draughon. In 1987, while still an assistant district attorney, Krocker prosecuted Draughon for shooting a man to death during a restaurant robbery. During his trial, Draughon’s attorneys argued that the killing was the accidental result of a ricochet from a warning shot, and that Draughon shouldn’t have to face the death penalty. Krocker got the conviction, but Draughon’s appellate attorneys later produced convincing evidence that the Houston crime lab, already under public scrutiny for failings in its DNA work, had blown the ballistics testing of the bullet.

That revelation was embarrassing enough, but what happened next was even worse. Krocker—by now Judge Krocker—had been following the case as it made its way through the appellate process. According to the Houston Chronicle, Krocker contacted the appellate judge and insisted on testifying in the proceedings. The state team did not want her help, calling her intervention “improper and unnecessary.” But Krocker was adamant, arguing that her reputation was on the line in the case, the Chronicle reported. If it wasn’t before, it certainly was after Krocker’s efforts became public. The Chronicle editorial board castigated the judge, saying the case raised “serious issues regarding her impartiality.” At least one defendant convicted in Krocker’s court in an unrelated case requested a retrial, arguing, in effect, that one prosecutor in a Harris County courtroom was enough. The judge in Draughon’s appeal eventually allowed Krocker to submit written affidavits, and then granted Draughon a new trial anyway.

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Protest at Governor's Mansion of Justin Fuller Execution


PICT0022
Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).
August 24, 2006

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Petition for Justice for Rodney Reed

CEDP has created an online petition for Rodney Reed.

From The Texas Observer

In April 1996, the body of Stacey Stites, a white, 20-year-old woman from Giddings, was found dumped in a field in Bastrop, southeast of Austin. A year after the crime, an extensive list of suspects was suddenly narrowed to oneRodney Reed, a 29-year-old black man from Bastrop. In less than 4 hours of deliberation, the all-white jury that heard the case convicted Reed of rape and murder, based on a single piece of DNA evidence found at the crime scene. Soon after, Reed was sentenced to death. Now, 10 years after the crime, Reed sits on death row, his case pending before the states highest criminal appeals court. A recently released documentary raises fresh questions about Reeds case and offers a detailed look at possible corruption in the small-town justice system that convicted him.

In October 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals remanded Reeds case to the state district court in Bastrop based on evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. In June, after hearing new evidence left out of the original trial, state District Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett ruled that Reeds attorneys failed to prove the new evidence could have changed the outcome of the trial. Reeds attorneys appealed the ruling, and the Court of Criminal Appeals is expected to take up Reeds case again this fall.

The newly released documentary, State vs. Reed, outlines evidence left out of the trial that clouds its outcome. The film was recently screened in Austin, with proceeds benefiting Reeds family. The film sheds light on the racially charged atmosphere surrounding the case: Reed is a black man accused of killing a white woman who was engaged to a white Bastrop police officer. Reed also claims he was having an affair with Stites during her engagement.

The affair could explain the one piece of DNA linking Reed to the crime scene: a small amount of sperm found in Stites body. The affair also gives motive to another possible suspect who largely escaped investigation, Stites fianc, Bastrop Police Officer Jimmy Fennell. My personal opinion when I heard that she had been killed was that Fennell did it, says former Bastrop prosecutor Steven Keng in the film. When we heard she had been having an affair with a black guy, it was like well, thats why he did it because... that would be a tremendous blow to his ego.

Reeds defenders continue to argue that the prosecution did not adequately investigate other possible suspects, including Fennell. Police officers never searched the apartment of Fennell and Stites, the last place she was known to have been. Fennell also twice failed a polygraph test when questioned about Stites death. Yet he was quickly eliminated as a suspect.

Fennells red pickup truck, which Stites reportedly took to work the morning she was killed, was found parked down the road from her body, leading investigators to suspect that she was transported in the truck. State investigators found only Stites and Fennells fingerprints in the truck.

In 2001, Reed found in his case file a previously unnoticed lab report filed by the state during his trial, which the prosecution failed to share with his defense team. The report states that DNA found on a beer can at the crime scene matched Stites and two Bastrop police officers. One of those police officers was Ed Samela, appointed lead detective for the case. 3 months after Samela began investigating the case, he was found dead from a gunshot wound to his head. The death was ruled suicide. None of this, however, has yet won Reed a new trial.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Prison system backs off change on death-row visits

Look what happens when you complain, as did a group of European anti-death penalty activists. Congratulations to Sandrine Ageorges, who had started a petition asking the prison to reverse itself. See you at the march in October, Sandrine!

From The Houston Chronicle, Aug 21:

State prison officials reversed course today on restricting death row visitors who have traveled more than 300 miles to 1 special 8-hour visit per trip.

Special visits, which consist of 2 4-hour sessions on consecutive days,are permitted once a month. But long-distance travellers who arrive late in a month will be allowed to "piggyback" a 2nd visit early in the next month, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.

All such visits to the Polunksy Unit's death row in Livingston will be at the warden's discretion.

Lyons said TDCJ had made no systemwide policy change regarding long-distance visitors, but for about six weeks the warden at Polunsky had restricted special visits there to one per trip. That practice grew out of concern that some visitors, especially those from Europe, had abused department policy by establishing residences near the prison.

Lyons said prison officials will remain alert to signs that long-distance visitors have established residences in the area. Some had obtained local post office boxes and telephone numbers. At least one had planned to open a business.

Regular weekly visits consisting of 2-hour sessions are not affected.

Lyons said the earlier restrictions on multiple special visits had applied only to the Polunsky Unit.

The restriction on multiple visits had raised concerns among European death row activists, scores of whom visit condemned prisons in American prisons. Sandrine Ageorges, a French death penalty opponent, began circulating a petition opposing visiting restrictions.

Many foreign visitors, she said, could not afford to visit Texas for a single 8-hour visit. Shorter weekly visits, she contended, were insufficient to build rapport with inmates.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Texas prison authorities freedom fry French visitors to death row

A couple of months ago, we decided to set the date for the 7th Annual March to Stop Executions on Oct 28, the last weekend of the month, in order to accomodate our friends from Europe who wanted to attend the march and on the same trip make two visits during one trip to the U.S. to their friends on death row. Europeans have to fly more than 10,000 miles round-trip to visit death row. Now, TDCJ is nonsensically trying to limit the ability of people from Europe from visiting death row at the end of one month and again at the start of another month. In an attempt to get the rule changed back, the Europeans have started an online petition.

You have to wonder if TDCJ is acting on sound penological grounds or if they are acting out of petulance towards "foreigners" establishing relationships with people on death row that do not meet with the approval of conservative prison authorities. Texas policymakers have a long history of instituting rules that retaliate against people because of their private relationships. Most Europeans who visit people on death row are motivated to establish friendships with them because the death penalty is considered by most Europeans, and many Texans, as a crime against humanity. Visiting people under a sentence of death is a way for people of conscience to contribute a bit of humanity to the world. TDCJ should be greatful, because inmates who receive visitations are undoubtedly easier to manage. TDCJ seems to have changed its rules to retaliate against the Europeans' support for people sentenced to death in Texas. The Texans at TDCJ are retaliating against the strongly held idea, prevalent in Europe, that every human being has worth, no matter what crimes a person may have committed. It is a difference of opinion, but it should not be the basis for changing a rule that contributes to maintaining order on death row.

TDCJ's action brings to mind what happened in 2003 when the Republican-led U.S. Congress renamed french fries, which by the way originated in Belgium, to freedom fries in an act of petulance against France's position on the war in Iraq. Just this year, the policy on Freedom Fries was reversed and French Fries are again served in the congressional cafeteria. The US politician who led the campaign to change the name of french fries to "freedom fries" has turned against the war, saying "If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong."

We can only hope that the people who instituted the new anti-European visitation rules will come to their senses and change the rule back to what it was.

Below is information reported in The Houston Chronicle:

"the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has rolled up the welcome mat for prison visitors...who must travel long distances to the state's far-flung prisons. TDCJ's recently implemented action limits European visitors — or anyone who has traveled more than 300 miles — to one "special visit" per trip. The special visit consists of two four-hour sessions scheduled on consecutive days. Regular weekly visits, consisting of two-hour sessions, are not affected by the change.

Some European visitors, irate that they will be limited to one eight-hour visit per trip to the United States, have launched a petition calling on the state agency to reconsider.

"Most visitors," Sandrine Ageorges said in an e-mail from her home in France, "can only afford to stay a week or so. Two special visits, when one visits at the end of a month back to back with another (early monthly visit) makes the trip, the expense and the time really worthwhile to all concerned."

Ageorges, who noted that she has advocated for Texas death row inmates for 10 years, typically visits the United States four times a year, sometimes staying a month.

She is one of scores of European death penalty opponents, some of whom have married inmates by proxy, who journey to the United States to visit condemned prisoners. European capital-punishment foes and media are especially drawn to Texas, whose execution of 373 inmates since the punishment was resumed in 1982 has made it notorious in activist circles.

Ageorges said the regular two-hour weekly visits are less than satisfactory because "two hours is about the time a segregated prisoner needs to adjust to a visitor."

"A regular visit in itself is very short when you consider that most overseas visitors make at least a 10,000-mile round trip to come for a visit," Ageorges said, adding that she has made the journey for a single two-hour visit with an inmate.

"This recent modification to the special visitation rule (done very quietly by the warden) is probably one too many for all death row visitors and for the prisoners," she wrote. "Our longtime fears are taking shape and we cannot sit there and let it happen."

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Starting to plan for 7th Annual March to Stop Executions


Next Monday (8/21), we are going to start planning the 7th Annual March to Stop Executions on Oct 28 in Austin. If you are in Austin, you can come by the weekly CEDP meeting next Monday where one item on the agenda will be the first planning discussion about the march. The meeting is August 21 on the UT campus at 7pm in Pearce Hall, Room 2.404 on the ground floor.

Here is a news story on last year's march. It contains a link to a video on the march. Another news story.

If you can't make the meeting, you can always send ideas and other comments about this year's march to the maustin list. Something we will be deciding next week is the start and end places for the march, so if you liked last year's start at City Hall, let us know, of if you prefer Republic Park, as in past years, let us know that too.

Also, did you like ending up opposite the governor's mansion, like last year, or would you prefer other places, like the court of criminal appeals, where we have had ended it a couple of times, or the south steps of the capitol, or somewhere else?

As always, we look forward to working with everyone on the march, to seeing lots of people in the movement together again in Austin and to making a lot of noise at this year's march. Maybe we can focus attention on the three cases of probable wrongful executions that have been in the news a lot since last year's march.

By the day of the march, we will have heard back from the Tides Foundation about whether they are going to approve the grant application that we just submitted to them for $50,000 as a joint application from the anti-death penalty groups that have worked together on the march all these years, CEDP, TMN, TDPAM, TCADP, TSADP and Victims of Texas. Representatives from each of those organizations held a series of meetings over the past six weeks to write the grant. The grant was for a campaign to win a moratorium on executions in Texas by 2009. In the application, we wrote that "our campaign features a program of statewide education, organizing, and networking events to be conducted throughout the year. We will engage in systematic outreach and grassroots organizing designed to persuade the Texas legislature of the need for a moratorium on executions and the creation of a commission to study the death penalty".

If the grant is approved, then 2007 is going to see some major strides in anti-death penalty organizing in Texas. We are optimistic that the grant will be approved. After all, you would think they would jump at the opportunity to fund a serious campaign against the death penalty in the one state where the most executions take place, but you never know. We expect to hear back from Tides by mid-October.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Petition against new special visit rule for TX death row

Many people from countries other than the U.S. visit people on Texas Death Row, but the prison authorities have decided to limit international visitors to inmates
at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston by restricting international visitors to one visit per visitor's trip to Texas. Several of our friends from overseas have written a petition to try to convince the prison authorities not to further restrict visitation for long distance and overseas visitors, which according to the peition:
serves:

"absolutely no penological purpose whatsoever but demonstrates a clear intent to:

a) Retaliate against those who support death row prisoners, often from the other side of the world. Overseas visitors travel at their own expense and use their yearly vacation to do so and long distance families and friends also travel at a dear cost to visit with their loved ones, this visiting time is precious for all concerned.

b) Further punish those on death row who are already being punished beyond their death sentence by being placed in administrative segragation (while they are not serving a term of penal servitude but are sentenced to die) to cut them further from the outside world. To these men and women, overseas support is the only support available and their only mean to sustain some kind of sanity to counterbalance the outrageous deprivations they are already enduring while waiting for their death.

We urge you to rescind this decision as it is unjustified, counterproductive, cruel and totally unnecessary to maintain order and discipline on death row.

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Visits/petition.html

Please sign and forward around you.

This petition needs to be signed with your FULL name and ONCE only.Incomplete names and double signatures will be removed completely.

For those overseas, please consider sending a personal letter to your ambassador or consul in Houston (or in Washington if your country doesn't have direct representation in Texas) using the petition text in order to ask them to voice your concern to TDCJ-ID Director, Nathaniel Quaterman in Austin. Contat me directly if you need the detailed info for TDCJ addresses, fax and phone numbers.

This petition will run until Sept 20th, 2006, so please don't wait to sign it and circulate it among your friends.

Thank you!

Sandrine Ageorges

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Four Executions in Texas in August

William Wyatt, Jr. Aug 3 EXECUTED

Richard Hinojosa Aug 17

Urge Governor Perry to Stop the Execution of Richard Hinojosa

TDCJ Info on Richard Hinojosa

Justin Fuller Aug 24

Urge Governor Perry to Stop the Execution of Justin Fuller

TDCJ Info on Justin Fuller

Derrick Frazier (aka Hasan Shakur) Aug 31

Urge Governor Perry to Stop the Execution of Derrick Frazier

TDCJ Info on Derrick Frazier

Website for Derrick Frazier

Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: (512) 463-2000
[office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CST]

Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849

For anyone who wonders about stays on the day of an execution here is a number to call:

TDCJ Public information---1-936-437-1303 ----just ask if the execution is still scheduled.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Video of artwork from "Justice for All?: Artists Reflect on the Death Penalty"

Here is a video of the artwork selected for our recent death penalty art show. You can also see images of all the artwork and listen to audio recordings from many of the artists at the show website.

Thanks to Hooman Hedayati of TSADP for putting the video together.

This is same as previous video but with different background music.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hooking Up Online Against the Death Penalty

Inside Higher Ed, "the online source for news, opinion and jobs for all of higher education", recently ran a piece on online organizing on Facebook called "Hooking Up, Politically". The article mentioned Hooman Hedayati of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty and TSADP's Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. "Facebook is becoming a key resource for student leaders who mine the site for users with similar interests and world views. Politicians and nonprofit groups have discovered the power of grassroots online organizing, and college leaders, who are even more used to the networking functions, are staking out their Web presence, as well", says the article.

There is a global group on Facebook called Students Against the Death Penalty (you must be logged on to Facebook to see the page) that has students from all over the nation expressing interest in a national anti-death penalty student organization. Any student in the nation can join a Facebook global group, as opposed to the usual Facebook groups, which are limited to individual campuses. There are already almost 1,500 members of the global SADP group. And Hooman has come up with an organizing contest aimed at doubling those numbers rather quickly. Read about the contest on the TSADP blog. We hope it works out. There is a real need for a national student anti-death penalty organization and it is heartening that there seems to be a national student group growing up organically from the grassroots.

Last Fall, TSADP placed an online ad on Facebook advertising the 6th Annual March to Stop Executions. At the march, we were chatting with a young woman who was attending the march with her mother. We asked them how they had heard about the march and they said the daughter had seen the ad on Facebook. That shows you how valuable online organizing is. TMN is also looking for ways to increase use of the new generation of online “Web 2.0” social networking tools. One of our members, Crystal, has started a Texas Moratorium Network site on MySpace. Take a look at it and leave her a message or add TMN as one of your MySpace friends.

There is also an article on Texas Moratorium network in Wikipedia. Anybody can edit any article on Wikipedia, including the article on TMN or the article on Capital Punishment in the United States. If you have something to say, go ahead and make changes to the articles on Wikipedia. There are also Wiki articles on individual people, such as Frances Newton.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

A good reason why local governments should pass moratorium resolutions

If you live in or near San Antonio, Texas, you should not pass up the chance on Sept 7 to hear Joan Cheever read from, discuss and sign copies of her book "Back From the Dead: One Woman's Search for the Men Who Walked off America's Death Row". She will be at the Twig Book Shop, 5005 Broadway.

Here is the website for Joan Cheever and her book: "Back From the Dead".

San Antonio is the white hot center of death penalty interest in Texas right now, because of the Ruben Cantu case. Texas Moratorium Network is working with TSADP to persuade the San Antonio City Council to pass a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions. One of the main reasons why city councils should endorse moratorium resolutions is because local governments can be held liable for wrongful conviction and wrongful death lawsuits. A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed against a local government, for example, when misconduct by members of its police department contribute to an innocent person being convicted (and in the case of Cantu executed).

The city council of Austin settled separate lawsuits with Christopher Ochoa and Richard Danziger for a total of $14.3 million because misconduct by members of the Austin police department contributed to their wrongful convictions in Austin. They spent 12 years in prison before being exonerated and released in 2001. Travis County also settled a separate lawsuit with Richard Danziger for another $950,000.

Another example from another state: On May 5, 2006, a federal jury in Virginia awarded $2.25 million to Earl Washington Jr. who claimed a police investigator fabricated a rape and murder confession that sent him to death row. In this case, the lawsuit was not settled with a local government, but with the estate of a state police investigator, Curtis Reese Wilmore, who died in 1994. Jurors awarded Washington damages upon finding that Wilmore deliberately fabricated evidence that led to his conviction and death sentence. Washington's attoney's will try to get the state of Virginia to pay the damages against Wilmore's estate, according to the news article.

Cheever revisits history of '72 death row inmates

08/04/2006

Steve Bennett
San Antonio Express-News Book Editor

In the summer of 1972, Joan Cheever was keeping an eye on the Marco Polo players at the San Antonio Country Club pool as a high school lifeguard when the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Furman vs. Georgia decision declaring the death penalty unconstitutional. Cheever paid it little mind; she was more concerned with her tan.

Little did she know that some 20years later the decision (reversed in 1976) would practically consume her life.

After a college summer internship with the San Antonio Light, as a reporter assigned often to the "cop shop," and a law degree from St. Mary's University, Cheever found her true love: journalism.

As managing editor of the National Law Review, Cheever knows the meaning of a deadline. As a lawyer representing a man on death row for nine years, Cheever knows the meaning of dodging a deadline — she and co-counsel Robert Hirschhorn had San Antonio convicted killer Walter Williams' execution for the murder of a convenience store clerk postponed four times. But on Oct. 5, 1994, Williams' luck ran out; he was executed by lethal injection, and Cheever was the only person there for him.

"The experience that changed my life was witnessing an execution," Cheever says. "I wasn't prepared for that. I don't think anybody's prepared for that."

That night in Huntsville, and over the next few months, Cheever wondered what would have happened if, like the 589 inmates on death row in 1972 — winners of "America's death row lottery" — her client's sentence had been converted to life. More broadly, she wondered, what do convicted killers do with their second chance? Do they kill again?

She set off on a quest for what she has come to call "the class of '72," a story she tells in "Back From the Dead" (John Wiley & Sons, $24.95).

"Really what drove me, compelled me to search for the class of '72 was that I always believed that he (Williams) would get off death row and go into the general prison population," says the self-described "death penalty junkie." "And when I stood five feet away and watched the execution, I thought that night the answer to my question as to what he would have done if he'd gotten off death row, that question died with him.

"But in the next couple of years I realized that no, there was a group of people that did have a second chance, not because they were innocent, or DNA, or anything like that, but that they happened to be in the right place at the right time in U.S. history."

Over a decade of working on the book, Cheever was able to track down more than 100 inmates who walked off death row in 1972.

"What surprised me is that they called me and wanted to talk to me," she says. "They'd been living anonymous lives until my letter came, and they picked up the phone and talked freely and openly. They put their face on the death penalty, and that's very, um, brave."

Among those were Chuck Culhane, a published poet and teacher, and Moreese "Pops" Bickham, a spiritual man who has found solace in his 25 great-grandchildren.

She even found William Henry Furman, whose name is on the historic case.

"It was very difficult to choose who to profile. There were a lot of uplifting and good stories that came out of the class of '72," Cheever says.

Of the 322 who got out of jail, only five killed again.

"That's an incredibly low number, five out of 322," she says.

One of those was Kenneth McDuff, the Texas serial murderer whom Cheever describes as "evil."

"McDuff never should have been paroled," she says. "Two days later, the bodies started piling up."

McDuff scared her too much to visit him in prison, but there were some scary moments when she broke her rule of never being alone in a room with a convicted killer. What drove her was what drives every journalist, she says.

"You just have to keep digging, keep going," she says. "Even though there was the fear factor, which I write about in the book, I just felt like I had to keep finding them, I had to keep talking to them. They had a message, and I needed to deliver it."

Cheever stresses repeatedly that she doesn't want to downplay victims' pain and suffering, and that she believes murder is senseless and cruel. It's tough to keep a dry eye reading her chapter on meeting Walter Williams' victim's mother.

But, she adds, "What we need to look at is who's on death row. We tend to think it's the worst of the worst, and that's not who's on death row. I mean, I thought it was a more exclusive club than it is.

"The people who are on death row, yes, they are murderers, but they are also people of color, people who are poor, didn't get a good lawyer, a co-defendant, the accomplice — maybe the guy who pulled the trigger got a plea bargain. So it's not a fair system. It really is good luck, bad luck.

"What I found out also is there are some continuing themes of what makes some successful. And it's education, if they got skills on the inside. They had family, they had friends. They had friendships with prison officials who supported them, and faith. So it's a combination of different elements that helped them to succeed once they got out."
Joan Cheever will read from, discuss and sign copies of "Back From the Dead" on Sept. 7 at the Twig Book Shop, 5005 Broadway.

sbennett@express-news.net

San Antonio Express-News publish date Aug. 5, 2006

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

North Carolina Creates Innocence Commission - Are you paying attention Texas lawmakers?

North Carolina's governor today signed a bill establishing an Innocence Commission in his state. The new North Carolina Innocence Commission is far different than what has been proposed in Texas, where a bill filed in the last session of the Texas Legislature for a proposed innocence commission would have only established a commission to study old death penalty cases to find out what went wrong in the system. It would not have had the authority to review convicted felons' claims of innocence, as in NC.

North Carolina's public and policymakers seem to be somewhat ahead of their Texas counterparts. In Texas, it seems as if some people are still struggling with the recent shocking news that Texas may have executed three innocent people, Carlos De Luna, Cameron Willingham and Ruben Cantu. Some of the old time defenders of the system in Texas don't yet seem willing to admit that the system they have been defending for decades as having never executed an innocent person has in fact already executed at least three innocent people. We expect, as the shock of the recent revelations in Texas wears off, that Texas policymakers will embrace reforms, including a moratorium on executions, as the only way to ensure that innocent people are not executed in Texas.

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Protest the Execution Today in Texas of William Wyatt, Jr, Aug 3

Urge Gov Perry to Stop the Execution of William Wyatt, Jr

TDCJ Info on William Wyatt, Jr

Texas is the number one execution state in the U.S. If William Wyatt Jr is executed, he will become the 372nd person executed in Texas since 1982.

There is no doubt that Wyatt committed the offense for which he was sentenced to death. However, the many problems with the Texas death penalty system means that all executions in Texas should be stayed.

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.

Please take this opportunity to petition Governor Perry to stop the execution, using the link above. A protest will take place on Thursday 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.

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