Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rodney Reed Event - Oct 13th


Gather with Rodney's family and friends for and evening of solidarity and struggle.


Starting with a march through Bastrop, followed by music & spoken word, and ending with a screening of the documentary State vs Reed. With food and drink.


From Austin take I-35 South and take Hwy 71 East toward Bastrop. About 25 miles. Take the Hasler/Childers and Loop 150 exit. Take a left at the second light (Loop 150). Go through downtown Bastrop and after you cross the railroad tracks, take a right on Martin Luther King. Go one block and take a right on Walnut to park.

For more info contact 512-494-0667 or

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Michael Richard: Executed by computer crash and a 5 p.m court closing time

Somebody should buy Texas Defender Service some new computers and a heart for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The New York Times:

The stay for the Texas execution was issued two days after the court did not stop Texas from executing another inmate, Michael Richard, leading to some confusion about its intentions.

Lawyers in the case on Tuesday said their appeal had been turned down because of an unusual series of procedural problems.

Professor Dow said the computers crashed at the Texas Defender Service in Houston while lawyers were rewriting his appeal to take advantage of the high court’s unexpected interest in lethal injection.

Because of the resulting delay, the lawyers missed by 20 minutes the 5 p.m. filing deadline at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, where the appeal had to go first before moving to the Supreme Court.

The Texas court refused their pleas to remain open for the extra minutes. Because the lawyers missed that crucial step, Professor Dow said, the Supreme Court had to turn down the appeal, and Mr. Richard was executed.


Why did the U.S. Supreme Court halt the execution of one Texas inmate Thursday while allowing another prisoner, who presented the same arguments against lethal injection, to die two days earlier?

Defense lawyers blamed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which refused requests to stay open after 5 p.m. Tuesday, stopping a key appeal from being filed on behalf of Michael Richard. Richard, convicted of raping and killing a Harris County mother of seven in 1986, was executed later that night.

Michael Richard His appeal wasn't filed to court by 5 p.m.

"It's an inexcusable failure," said Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, which represented Richard. "To close at 5 when the execution is scheduled for 6 p.m.? We need to have access to the courts."

Abel Acosta, chief deputy clerk for the court, said it is longstanding policy for the court to close on time. "The clerk's office consulted with the court, and we were advised that our hours are 8 to 5," he said.

Keilen said the extra time was needed to respond to Tuesday morning's news that the Supreme Court accepted a Kentucky case challenging lethal injections as cruel and unusual punishment.

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John Whitmire calls for moratorium on executions

Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, is calling for a halt to executions in Texas. In 2001, Whitmire voted for a moratorium in committee and he called for a limited moratorium a few years ago on cases having to do with the HPD crime lab. When we approached him about a moratorium last summer to ask him if he would appear at a press conference with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell his aide told us that a moratorium "does not necessarily reflect his position at this time." Now, he is back to calling for a moratorium. We ask that he clarifies his call to support a moratorium to say that it should last long enough for the Legislature to create a capital punishment study commission that would conduct a comprehensive examination of the entire death penalty system in Texas. The commission's work could be completed within two years.

If there is a de facto moratorium on executions in Texas until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the constitutionality of lethal injection, then Texas should use this time to examine the entire system, especially the risk of executing an innocent person.

According to the Houston Chronicle:

Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, said Perry should issue a moratorium because the Supreme Court likely will grant a stay in every Texas execution until the Kentucky case is decided.

Whitmire noted that Perry, until overturned by the Legislature, attempted to use his executive order power to require teenage girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease.

"If he can tell a state agency to vaccinate people, I think he can tell a state agency not to execute people," Whitmire said.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

de facto moratorium?

From a Reuters report:

"I think the signal from the Supreme Court last night is that we will have a moratorium until the Kentucky litigation is resolved. It is essentially a de facto moratorium," said Jordan Steiker of the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

"I think most jurisdictions will put executions on hold in any case and in Texas I think the Supreme Court is withdrawing the option. I think the political actors in Texas regrettably lack the restraint to allow the federal litigation to run its course," he said.

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Is Houston Chronicle moving towards abolition position?

The Houston Chronicle wrote an editorial this week that contains several sentences that seem to be moving the paper's position more into the end the death penalty camp. The editorial endorsed suspending executions pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Baze, but it seemed to have larger concerns as well. Earlier this year, the Dallas Morning News changed its policy and endorsed abolishing the death penalty. The Houston Chronicle has not done that yet, but a close reading of their latest editorial on the subject could lead someone to think they are trying out some abolition arguments.

"There are several good reasons to give every death row inmate an indefinite reprieve. This week the U.S. Supreme Court found another."

That sentence seems to imply that the lethal injection method is not the only reason to support a moratorium on executions.

"Particularly in Texas, the nation's execution leader, the criminal justice system is prone to mistakes and abuse. The system is too unreliable in its assessment of guilt to justify exacting the ultimate, irrevocable penalty."

Those two sentences are clearly abolitionist in sentiment.

Maybe sometime in the near future the Chronicle will stop dancing around the issue and say exactly what it means.

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cruel and unusual?

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Carlton Turner wins reprieve from Supreme Court

Texas inmate wins reprieve from Supreme Court

Associated Press Writer

A condemned killer whose attorneys questioned the lethal injection process that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review avoided execution in the nation's busiest death chamber Thursday night when the high court gave him a reprieve.

Attorneys for Carlton Turner Jr., a suburban Dallas man condemned for killing his parents, had appealed to the high court, which earlier this week agreed to review lethal injection procedures in Kentucky.

In a brief, one paragraph order the court said it had granted his stay of execution. The order came more than four hours after he could have been executed and less than two hours before the death warrant would have expired at midnight CDT.

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New Polling Data on Texas Death Penalty

Gardner Selby, a political columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, wrote an article last week that contained new polling data on the views of Texas Democrats and independent voters on the death penalty. The August poll of 350 Democratic-leaning and 150 independent voters was taken by Wilson Research Strategies. The poll shows that the risk of executing innocent people is a major concern. 79 percent said they're concerned about the possibility of innocent people being executed; 45 percent are very concerned. Forty-four percent of voters prefer life without parole as the punishment for people convicted of capital murder, with 30 percent sticking with the death penalty and 14 percent preferring life in prison with a chance of parole.

The polling data does not come as a surprise to any of us who have been working on the death penalty issue. We have known for a long time that we were making progress in educating the public on the problems in the Texas death penalty system. Our experience has shown us that support for a moratorium is overwhelming among grassroots Democrats in Texas. In 2004, a group of us convinced the Texas Democratic Party to support a moratorium on executions in the party platform.

TMN's Scott Cobb was a member of the platform writing committee that year and wrote the section on capital punishment in the platform. Last summer, he and Hooman Hedayati met with the Democratic nominee for governor of Texas, Chris Bell, and convinced him to support a moratorium. Unfortunately, Bell never went public with his support for a moratorium. If he had, then he might have won more votes in the general election that year, which had four major candidates. Bell needed to identify himself strongly with the core values of the Democratic Party in order to bring out the base and win the election. By publicly endorsing a moratorium, as well as other issues that Democrats care about, such as universal health care, Bell might have had a chance to defeat Perry, given four major candidates. But Bell limited his public comments to support for an Innocence Commission. His comments on health care were also not strong enough to increase turnout for him in November. Had he come out strongly for both a moratorium and universal health coverage, then he might have made enough of an impression among Democratic voters that they would have turned out in large numbers for him. That could have made a difference in last year's four candidate race, five counting the Libertarian candidate.

Candidates who articulate support for a moratorium are likely to find support from a large number of potential voters, at least from voters who identify themselves as Democratic or independent.

From the Statesman article:

The poll tested seven questions related to the death penalty in Texas, showing that Democrats and independents have misgivings about how Texas applies the punishment.

Less than half the polled voters favor abolishing the death penalty. But 79 percent said they're concerned about the possibility of innocent people being executed; 45 percent are very concerned.

Granted, the poll didn't include Republicans, effectively overlooking the party whose candidates have won every statewide office since 1998.

Is it still meaningful that four in five Democrats and independents have misgivings?

My sense: It'll take Friedman stumping before anyone knows. It's that hard in tough-on-crime Texas to envision another candidate questioning the death penalty, though Bell would support a moratorium while cases are reviewed.

The polled voters appear uncertain what to do about the death sentence, which has been carried out more than 400 times in Texas since 1982.

Very few of the voters rate abolishing the penalty as a vital issue. Forty-four percent of voters prefer life without parole as the punishment for people convicted of capital murder, with 30 percent sticking with the death penalty and 14 percent preferring life in prison with a chance of parole.

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Execution Delayed Again in Texas: Carlton Turner

From the Houston Chronicle:

Carlton Turner's lawyers went to his trial court judge Thursday with a request to withdraw the execution order. When that failed, they went to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which voted 5-4 to refuse to stop the punishment. The case then went to U.S. Supreme Court. The execution, scheduled for after 6 p.m. CDT, was delayed while justices considered the case.


Turner's case was being watched as an indicator of whether executions in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state, could be halted until the high court rules on the Kentucky case sometime next year.

Another execution is scheduled for next week, one of at least three more set for this year in Texas.

On Tuesday, when the justices announced they would consider the issue, another Texas inmate was executed hours later, but attorneys for Turner suggested the short time period didn't allow them to prepare an adequate appeal for the convicted killer, Michael Richard. The justices, however, did consider the motion lawyer David Dow sent before turning it down, and Richard was executed after about a two-hour delay.

Dow, a University of Houston law professor, also was involved in the appeal to spare Turner, who would be the 27th Texas inmate executed this year.

Gov. Rick Perry could issue a one-time 30-day reprieve. He also has authority to commute death sentences to life on the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The board, however, earlier this week voted 7-0 to deny Turner's commutation request.

Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody said Perry's position on executions had not changed.

"The Supreme Court has not yet ruled or issued a decision on this Kentucky case that they've agreed to review," she said. "The governor continues to follow Texas law, so nothing has changed."

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Urge Perry and BPP to Stop Execution of Man from Honduras on Oct 3

You can use the above link to send an email to both Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Heliberto Chi on October 3, 2007. Chi is a citizen of Honduras who was sentenced to death for the March 24, 2001 murder of Armand Paliotta, 56, at the K&G Men's Superstore in southwest Arlington.

Chi's court-appointed attorney, Wes Ball, says that Chi was not allowed to contact his country's consulate as prescribed by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. That 1963 treaty was meant to allow foreigners who are arrested the right to speak with their consulates.

"Nobody told Mr. Chi he had a right to a consular official, and it was never brought to his attention," Ball said.

If Texas executes a person who was not given the right to contact his consulate and seek assistance when he was arrested, then U.S. citizens who travel abroad may not be guaranteed the right by other countries to contact the U.S. consulate when they are arrested.

In the text of your message, urge the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Perry to commute Chi's sentence to life in prison.

The government of Honduras has urged Texas officials to spare the life of Chi. The request was part of a clemency petition signed by 50 nations seeking a commuted sentence for Heliberto Chi.

Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 (VCCR), local authorities must notify all detained foreigners "without delay" of their right to have their consulate informed of their detention. At the request of the national, the authorities must then notify the consulate without delay, facilitate unfettered consular communication and grant consular access to the detainee. Consuls are empowered to arrange for their nationals' legal representation and to provide a wide range of humanitarian and other assistance, with the consent of the detainee. Local laws and regulations must give "full effect" to the rights enshrined in Article 36. The USA ratified the VCCR without reservations in 1969; so fundamental is the right to consular notification and access that the US Department of State considers it to be required under customary international law in all cases, even if the detainee's home country has not signed the VCCR. As of 1 January 2000, at least 167 countries were parties to the VCCR.

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 write, fax or phone the:

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78757

Phone (512) 406-5852

Fax (512) 467-0945

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Houston Chronicle Says Suspend Executions

The Houston Chronicle agrees with us that executions should be suspended pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Baze case. From the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board:

With lethal injections suspected of being cruel and unusual and therefore unconstitutional and unjust, it is inappropriate for Texas to proceed with executions until the court has ruled. A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, however, said executions in Texas would continue, as the cases under review affect only Kentucky.

That is a narrow and mean view of justice. Do the governor and the members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles wish to look back on a series of cruel and possibly illegal executions carried out under a legal cloud?

Death row inmates about to be executed committed their crimes 15-20 years ago. Where is the harm in postponing executions for a few months until the court makes its ruling? After executing more than 400 people since 1977, Texas can afford to wait.

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Carlton Turner Hours Away from Possibly Cruel and Unusual Execution Method

Carlton Turner is set to die today by lethal injection, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a case out of Kentucky in which two death row inmates are challenging lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Constitution's 8th Amendment. A judicious course of action would be for the state of Texas to suspend executions until the Supreme Court determines whether the three drug cocktail used in Kentucky, Texas and other states does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

In 2004, the Supreme Court accepted a case regarding the constitutionality of executing juvenile offenders. Back then, after hearing of the Court's acceptance of the case, Texas scheduled five executions of offenders who had been under 17 at the time of their crimes and refused to suspend those executions until a court compelled them. The situation is similar now. Texas should not wait for a court to tell them to stop. Executions should be suspended now and the governor should set up a commission to study executions in Texas, including the issue of lethal injection as a method and the issue of whether innocent people have been executed in Texas.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Attorneys for a suburban Dallas man condemned for killing his parents hoped a U.S. Supreme Court review of lethal injection procedures in Kentucky could keep him from the Texas death chamber Thursday evening.

Attorneys for Carlton Turner Jr. scrambled to file appeals in the courts to tie his case to one filed by two condemned inmates in Kentucky who argue the three-drug process used in lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel. The U.S. Supreme Court this week agreed to look at the procedure, which also is used in Texas.

The inmate will be forced into a chemical straitjacket, unable to express the fact of his suffocation," the appeal filed in Turner's case alleged.

Turner's lawyers asked his trial court judge in Dallas County to withdraw the execution order. That request was refused Thursday, sending the appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Rejection at the appeals court in Austin would send the case into the federal courts, said Kim Schaefer, a Dallas County prosecutor who handles capital appeals.

Write Gov Perry to Urge Him to Stop the Execution of Carlton Turner

TDCJ Info on Turner

Artwork by Carlton Turner

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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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

March to Stop Executions Benefit October 5th at The Proletariat in Houston

On October 5th The Proletariat in Houston will host a benefit show to raise money for the October 27th March to Stop Executions. This will be an early show starting at 7pm. It will be all ages and the cover is only $6.

The bill includes The Dimes - voted best indie band, best new act, AND winning song of the year honors in this year's Houston Press Music Awards, Wicked Poseur - voted most likely to have released a "a measurable, pleasurable magic gall stone" by The Skyline Network and, opening the show, Program - voted most likely to have released a "nicely woozy concoction that blends Wolfie's manic energy and synths with Material Issue's more deliberate songwriting" by Space City Rock.

As you can see, this will be an amazing show! Come out, see some good music, and support a good cause!!

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Execution of Michael Richards Delayed

From The Houston Chronicle:

Lawyers for Richard went to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the lethal injection be halted because of claims Richard was mentally retarded but justices rejected the appeal late Tuesday afternoon. Attorneys then filed late motions in state courts to try to stop the punishment and the execution was delayed beyond the 6 p.m. CDT time it could take place. The death warrant remained in effect until midnight.

The legal wrangling came following a Supreme Court decision earlier Tuesday to consider the constitutionality of lethal injection in a Kentucky case. Gov. Rick Perry's office, however, said Richard's execution should go forward as planned.

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Texas Should Halt All Executions Pending Outcome of Baze/Bowling

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision today to hear a case from Kentucky regarding the constitutionality of lethal injection as a means of execution should spark states to place a temporary moratorium on executions using that method until the case is decided. Read the coverage from the NY Times. The supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in which two petitioners claim that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

Some states will probably choose to voluntarily put off executions until the case is decided, but Texas may try to barrel ahead and execute as many people as possible until a court tells them to stop. Texas had scheduled five executions of juvenile offenders in 2004 after learning that the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to take up the issue of executions of juvenile offenders. The five scheduled executions were later put on hold pending the U.S. Supreme Court decision on juvenile offenders. The court ruled in 2005 that such executions were cruel and unusual punishment.

We call on Governor Perry to use his office to stop executions in Texas pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Ralph Baze and Thomas C. Bowling. Perry can stop executions by using his power to halt any execution for 30 days. He can also ask the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend a longer stay on any pending execution. He can also request that district attorneys stop requesting that convicting courts set execution dates and for DAs to ask courts to withdraw any dates already set. Perry can provide the leadership that persuades district attorneys and the judicial system to halt executions.

Texas district attorneys should also ask convicting courts to withdraw any execution dates already set.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hooman Hedayati Elected to Campus Progress Student Advisory Board

Campus Progress is pleased to announce its 2007-2008 Student Advisory Board.

Members of the Campus Progress Student Advisory Board connect on a regular basis with Campus Progress staff and with each other to help set the course for Campus Progress programs in the coming year and beyond. Board members participate in discussions on an ongoing basis, and contribute time and ideas to Campus Progress. They help us spread the word about Campus Progress and advise us on promising progressive organizations, publications or projects that we should be supporting.


Advisory Board members were selected from a large pool of qualified applicants, and represent a diverse subsection of the different movements, organizing styles, and politics of the progressive student movement. Campus Progress relies heavily on the members of our Student Advisory Board, part of our larger network of Student Representatives, to inform much of the day to day work we do here.

Hooman Hedayati is an Iranian immigrant, student, and political activist who founded Texas Students Against the Death Penalty in 2005 and the national organization, Students Against the Death Penalty in 2006. He has since been committed to activist campaigning for the abolition of capital punishment. Hooman was presented the "Youth Service Award" by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and "Student Action Award" by Campus Progress in 2007. He is also a board member of the Texas Moratorium Network and member of Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Hooman assumed responsibility for organizing the anti-death penalty alternative spring break. He recruited a record number of participants by inclusively using new media advertising outlets. Hooman’s media-savvy promotion of the alternative spring break attracted the attention of MTVu and NPR, which sent a camera crew to Austin to cover the alternative spring break activities.

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Public Information Act Request Regarding Kenneth Foster: 17,285 opposed the execution, 12 favored execution

We submitted a Public Information Act request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles requesting a tally of the number of people who contacted them regarding Kenneth Foster, Jr. The board heard from a total of 17,285 people opposed to the execution (favoring commutation) and 12 who favored the execution.

11,815 people acted by calling, faxing, emailing or writing letters or postcards. 5,470 signed their names on petitions that were sent to the BPP. About 50 percent of the 11,815 came from outside the U.S., 30 percent from other U.S. states and 14 percent from Texas, 6 percent were of unknown origin.

Of the 5,470 petition signatures, 59 percent were from outside the U.S., 14 percent from Texas, 18 percent other U.S. states, and 9 percent unknown origin.

Thank you to everyone who made your voice heard and helped save Kenneth Foster.

The number of individual communications received by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles regarding the case of Kenneth Foster Jr.

Faxes 2536
Postcards 17
Letters 3887
E-mails 5228
Telephone 158
Telegram 1

Total 11, 827

The number of communications that supported the execution.

Texas 6
United States 3
Foreign Countries 0
Unknown 3
Total 12

The number of non-petition communications that opposed the execution.
1665 From within Texas
3485 From other U.S. States
5914 Frem other countries
751 Unknown origin
11815 Total

The number of names signed on petitions opposing the execution:
759 Texas
1006 other U.S. states
3237 other countries
468 Unknown origin
5470 Total

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

NCADP inspired by Texas' YouTube Campaign for Kenneth Foster

Successful social movements require continuous innovation in order to succeed. The movement to end executions often lags behind larger social movements in innovations and in adopting new technology, mostly because there are relatively few people involved in the stop executions movement compared to other movements, like the environmental movement.

During the campaign to save Kenneth Foster, a few of us down here in Texas, started an online video campaign as part of the Save Kenneth Foster effort. We asked everyone who has a webcam to record a statement and upload it to YouTube saying why Texas Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles should stop the execution of Kenneth Foster on August 30, 2007. Later that week Gov. Rick Perry commuted Kenneth Foster's sentence.

Our idea was talked about by other bloggers, including Capital Defense Weekly (CDW site is temporarily down). People on MySpace and Facebook posted links to it. Now, NCADP is taking our idea and running with it in another case, that of Troy Davis. We love it when this happens. Way to go NCADP! October 9th is Troy’s birthday and in celebration of this occasion NCADP is asking all of his supporters worldwide to send him a video birthday message and to post that message on YouTube. We encourage everyone to upload a video for Troy Davis.

There has been a lot of innovative work coming out of Texas, such as using YouTube for an online video campaign and the award-winning "Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break" program, which was the recipient of the Campus Progress Award for "Student Issue Campaign of the Year". Students Against the Death Penalty, an outgrowth of the alternative spring break, was also an early adopter of Facebook, where its group currently has more than 2000 members.

Unfortunately, the national leadership of the anti-death penalty movement has not recognized the innovative work going on in Texas by directing major funding to Texas. In 2006, Texas was turned down for funding by the Tides Foundation, which instead chose to send $70,000 to fight the death penalty in two states where it does not even exist.

Funding should be prioritized to go to those states where the most executions are taking place and to those groups with a proven track record of innovation. More funding to innovative groups equals more innovation equals fewer executions. This is about saving peoples' lives. We hope the situation will change in 2008 and that Texas groups who are doing innovative, effective work will be given the funds that will surely spark even more great work and help reduce the number of executions in Texas.

Texas is not a lost cause. We can stop executions in Texas.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pre-Order "The Bitter Fruit of American Justice: International and Domestic Resistance to the Death Penalty."

Jasmin Hilmer's "The End", which was one of the artworks in Texas Moratorium Network's art show "Justice for All?: Artists Reflect on the Death Penalty" has been selected as the cover art for an upcoming book on the death penalty. Congratulations Jasmin!

The book, by Alan W. Clarke and Laurelyn Whitt, is titled "The Bitter Fruit of American Justice: International and Domestic Resistance to the Death Penalty" It argues that executions in the U.S. have far-reaching effects on relationships between the U.S. and other countries worldwide. It should come out in Fall 2007.

Pre-Order Price Guarantee! Order now and if the price decreases between your order time and release date, you'll receive the lowest price. This title has not yet been released. You may order it now and we will ship it to you when it arrives. Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

8th Annual March to Stop Executions

We decided to hold the annual March to Stop Executions for the first time in Houston this year. It has been held in Austin each year since 2000. Take a look at last year's march in Austin. Then visit the new website for this year's march. For more information call the organizers in Houston at 713-503-2633. Here is a flyer. Contact us at 512-302-6715, if you are interested in going to the march from Austin with a group of people on a bus.

The March to Stop Executions has been held each October since 2000 sponsored by several Texas anti-death penalty organizations, including Texas Moratorium Network, the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Texas Students Against the Death Penalty.

Facebook event.

Get involved in the struggle to stop executions. Work with the committee that is planning the 8th Annual March to Stop Executions, which will be held in Houston on October 27, 2007. Meetings are on the 2nd & 4th Mondays at S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, 3815 Live Oak, at 7:00 PM. All are welcome and needed.

For more information: Ester King at 713-521-0384 or Gloria Rubac at 713-503-2633

Sponsored by the 8th Annual March to Stop Executions Committee.

Saturday, October 27, 2007
1:00pm - 5:00pm
Start at HPD Substation march to S.H.A.P.E. Community Center
2202 St Emanuel
Houston, TX

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

More info on reason for stay of execution for Joseph Lave

More info from the AP on why Dallas County DA Craig Watkins requested a stay of execution for Joseph Lave:

Mike Ware, special assistant in Watkins' conviction integrity unit, said Thursday prosecutors discovered evidence that had not been turned over to Lave's defense attorneys. The evidence, a second polygraph test given co-defendant Timothy Bates, came to light within the last few days, Ware said.

While he wouldn't describe the polygraph results in detail, it "does go directly to his credibility," Ware said.

Lave's lawyers had been requesting the information for years as part of the post-conviction process and Ware said it appeared the administrations of two previous district attorneys failed to turn it over. Watkins became Dallas County district attorney in January and has since allowed an outside review of cases where inmates are seeking post-conviction DNA testing.

Ware said Lave's case, tried in 1994, continues to be examined, but said prosecutors believe several attorneys no longer with the DA's attorney's office misled the court by saying the evidence did not exist.

"This office and this administration is about honesty, about candor, about integrity ... we do not feel it would be right to allow the execution to go through without disclosing this information to Mr. Lave's attorneys," Ware said.

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Sept 19 Panel Discussion at UT-Austin on "The Death Penalty in America: A Fading Practice?"

Wednesday, September 19 - 'The Death Penalty in America: A Fading Practice?'David Oshinsky

Historian David Oshinsky won the Pulitzer Prize for his book on the campaign to wipe out the most feared childhood disease of the 1950s—polio. He will speak on his current project, the history of capital punishment in the U.S.

John Butler
Sheldon Ekland-Olson
George Forgie
Camille Parmesan
Michael Starbird

Discussion guide (PDF, 54KB)

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Stay of Execution for Joseph Lave at Request of Dallas DA

Execution set for Thursday stopped by court order

Associated Press Writer

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- The scheduled Thursday night execution of a Texas prisoner for his part in the slaying of two workers during a robbery was stopped after the Dallas County district attorney's office asked that the execution order be withdrawn.

Joseph Lave, 42, would have been the 25th inmate given lethal injection in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state.

In an order signed late Wednesday, a state district judge in Dallas agreed with the request from District Attorney Craig Watkins, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Thursday.

Lave was convicted of being one of three robbers involved in the beating and slashing deaths of Justin Marquart and Frederick Banzaf, both 18, on the night before Thanksgiving in 1992.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hair Evidence preserved by judge: Innocent man executed?

From the Texas Observer blog:

A San Jacinto County district judge has ruled that a crucial piece of evidence that might help determine whether Texas executed an innocent man almost seven years ago must be preserved while The Texas Observer, the Innocence Project, and other criminal justice groups pursue a lawsuit seeking to have it tested by an independent laboratory.

Judge Elizabeth Coker on Monday issued a temporary restraining order barring county officials from destroying evidence in the case of Claude Howard Jones, who was executed on December 7, 2000, for killing a liquor store owner. Coker scheduled a hearing for October 3 to consider allowing DNA testing of a hair found at the crime scene.

Jones’s conviction rested largely on a single, 1-inch strand of hair found on the liquor store counter. A state expert testified at trial that the hair closely resembled Jones’, but it was never subjected to DNA testing.

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2nd of 5 Texas Executions this Month Set for Thursday: Joseph Lave

Send and email to Texas Governor Rick Perry urging him to Stop the Execution of Joseph Lave scheduled for September 13, 2007

The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Joseph Lave on September 13, 2007. Lave was sentenced to death for the January 1992 capital murder of Justin Marquart during a robbery at a Richardson sporting goods store.

Joseph Lave was not the only participant in this crime, yet the other participant received a lighter sentence while Lave was sentenced to die. Lave surrendered to the police once he heard that they were looking for him. During the trial, Timothy Bates, an accomplice to the crime, testified against Lave who was convicted and sentenced to death under the controversial Texas “law of parties.”

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

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Message from Mumia Abu-Jamal's Lawyer

Thanks to Gloria Rubac for passing along this message from Mumia's lawyer.

Dear Friends:

We continue to await a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, concerning my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal. This complex case was orally argued before a three-judge panel on May 17, 2007, following extensive litigation which included voluminous briefing and motions. In my experience of successfully defending a large number of murder cases involving the death penalty, it was a great day.

It is impossible to know what the federal court ruling will be. If the judges follow the law and fairly apply the U.S. Constitution, we will win. As to when, long ago I projected a decision would be forthcoming this fall; it could come any day. One thing is certain: whomever loses will seek a rehearing and petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

I have previously described the different rulings that the federal court could make. Nevertheless some people have recently sent out e-mail containing false information. Contrary to their claim, the federal court cannot impose a sentence of “life in prison without parole”. Only a jury verdict could result in such an outcome, unless in the event of a penalty reversal the prosecution elected not to seek the death penalty. Likewise the court unfortunately cannot order that Mumia be released, for that would require a new guilt-phase jury trial and a favorable verdict which is certainly our goal. To once more clarify the legal situation, the scenarios of how the U.S. Court of Appeals might rule include:

  • Grant an entirely new jury trial of the guilt phase;
  • Order a new jury trial limited to the issue of life or death;
  • Remand the case back to the U.S. District Court for further proceedings; or
  • Deny all relief.

Racism, fraud, and politics are threads that have run through this case since Mumia’s 1981 arrest. The issues in this matter concern the right to a fair trial, the struggle against the death penalty, and the political repression of an outspoken journalist.

Mumia’s objective is a reversal of the murder conviction and death sentence, and the granting of an entirely new trial. At the end of that jury trial I expect to win and see my client freed so that he can finally go home to his family.

Thank you for your interest in this campaign for human rights.

Yours very truly,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Claude Howard Jones: Another Innocent Man Executed in Texas?

Add another name to the growing list of people already executed in Texas who may have been innocent. The list already includes Cameron Willingham, Carlos De Luna and Ruben Cantu. Now, here is another name: Claude Howard Jones, who was executed when George Bush was governor.

Full Story is here:

More info and legal documents here.

Truth Hangs by a Hair

David Pasztor | September 10, 2007 |

One strand of hair, a piece of evidence crucial to determining whether Texas executed an innocent man almost seven years ago, is apparently at risk of being destroyed by San Jacinto County officials who are resisting a formal request by The Texas Observer, the Innocence Project, and other criminal justice organizations to make it available for independent scientific testing.

Observer lawyers are calling on San Jacinto County District Attorney Bill Burnett to preserve the hair until a lawsuit determines whether it must be released under state open-records laws. DNA testing might provide a strong indication as to whether Claude Howard Jones was, in fact, innocent of the murder for which he was executed.

"If the state of Texas did execute an innocent man, the people of Texas deserve to know what was done in their name," said Observer Executive Editor Jake Bernstein. "This case begs for further examination. It's not as if the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has an exemplary track record when it comes to scrutinizing death sentences."

The 1-inch hair of ambiguous origin was the only piece of physical evidence that purportedly linked Jones to the November 14, 1989, murder of liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager in Point Blank, about 85 miles north of Houston. Jones was put to death by lethal injection on December 7, 2000, the last execution conducted under former Gov. George W. Bush.

Jones maintained his innocence until his death. No DNA testing was conducted on the hair, which has remained in the files of the San Jacinto district court clerk’s office. At Jones’ 1990 trial, a state expert who examined the hair by microscope testified that of all the people known to have been in the liquor store on the day of the murder, the stray hair most closely resembled Jones’.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Texas Monthly Profiles Dallas DA Craig Watkins as former HPD Chief Bradford Prepares to Challenge Harris County DA Rosenthal

In light of the news that Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal is getting a big-name challenger in former HPD Police Chief C.O. Bradford, the article about Dallas County district attorney Craig Watkins entitled "Craig's List" in the September edition of Texas Monthly is of even more interest. Bradford (pictured above) will make his announcement official Sept. 18 at the Downtown Aquarium in Houston.

From the September 2007 Issue of Texas Monthly...

Craig’s List

Watkins, photographed at the Frank Crowley Courts Building, in downtown Dallas, on July 23, 2007. Photograph by Mike McGregor

Craig Watkins, the first black district attorney in Dallas County (and, indeed, the state), has a few things on his agenda: rethink the concept of guilt and innocence, review the methods of his own prosecutors, and reinvent his office. And he’s only getting started.

by Michael Hall

Craig Watkins spent much of his first eight months in office campaigning for a job he already won: district attorney of Dallas County. He felt as if he had to, partly because the things he’s trying to do are so radical and partly because he wants to show people that the first black DA there—or anywhere else in Texas—is no Malcolm X. Dallas County has a reputation as one of the most conservative, hard-nosed jurisdictions in the United States, famous over the years for giving out five-thousand-year sentences to kidnappers, keeping minorities off juries, and sending a man to death row who would eventually become the best-known wrongly convicted person in the country—Randall Dale Adams, the subject of the acclaimed 1988 documentary The Thin Blue Line. It’s the office that, since 2001, has freed thirteen innocent men, all of whom were exonerated by DNA tests, more than any other…

TM does not put their stories online, but they do have an interview with the author of the article on Craig Watkins, senior editor Michael Hall, on their website. Here are three questions: As much as this story is about a young, ambitious DA splashing the political pool of Dallas County, it’s also largely centered on some forms of racism. How do you think things would be different if Watkins were white?

MH: First off, I think there’s a chance he wouldn’t have won, because he had so much support from black South Dallas voters; on the other "hand", of course, the Democrats won 42 contested races for judges and four other countywide campaigns in the 2006 election, so he probably would have won too. Now that he’s in office, Watkins—because he’s black—has a certain amount of (to use the Seinfeld idea) hand that he wouldn’t have if he were white, because of Dallas County’s history with blacks: the DA’s office had an actual policy of keeping blacks off juries until (at least) the eighties; blacks have been (and still are) terrified of even going down to the courthouse; most of the thirteen DNA exonerees are black. I think the fact that the chief law enforcement officer of Dallas County is black carries some real moral weight that wouldn’t be so heavy if he were (merely) a white Democrat. How much of a chance does Watkins have at restoring the fallen criminal justice system in Dallas County?

MH: I think that’s one thing he’s already done. Establishing an open file policy has already changed things in a big way, forcing prosecutors to turn over all their evidence, which will level the playing field between them and the defense and cut down on bad convictions. And if there are any more DNA exonerations (I’m pretty sure there will be), there could be further calls for real change in the way we prosecute criminals, especially the ways we use eyewitness testimony. Do you foresee other counties in Texas following Watkins’s active approach to correcting skewed criminal justice systems?

MH: It will depend on how successful he is. If there is another batch of DNA exonerations, I think he will get everyone’s attention even more than he already has, and perhaps the state legislature and other DA offices will start making some similar reforms.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Former HPD Chief Bradford to Challenge District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal in Harris County

The politcial wisdom in Texas is that Democrats are taking over the large counties. They were expected to begin dominating large county elections next decade, but it may have started earlier than expected. In 2006, a Democrat won election to the office of Dallas County District Attorney and the party swept all the Dallas county wide elections. At a town hall meeting this summer, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party said that the party would be trying to do the same thing in Harris County in 2008. Now, comes word that Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal is getting a high name recognition opponent. The Democrats are likely to win many more down ballot races across the country this year, because of the unpopularity of George W. Bush, so Rosenthal could very well lose his bid for re-election if his opponent runs a decent campaign. Now, Democrats need to recruit some quality opponents for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Bradford was Houston's second African-American chief. Lee P. Brown, who resigned in 1990 and later served as Houston's mayor, was the first. Bradford began his career with the Houston Police Department in 1979. After various assignments, he was promoted to assistant chief of police in 1991. Bradford graduated magna cum laude from Texas Southern University while working full time as a police officer. He has a law degree from the University of Houston's Bates School of Law.

Sept. 6, 2007, 10:56PM
Former HPD Chief Bradford sets sights on DA post
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Former Houston Police Chief C.O. "Brad" Bradford wants to make neighborhoods safer — not as the city's top cop, but as the county's lead prosecutor.

He plans to take on District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal next November, but he's kicking off his campaign later this month.

Bradford says the DA should address the root causes of crime.

"The district attorney has to understand crime within a community context," he said. "Arrest, prosecution and confinement are not enough."

That doesn't sound like Texas justice as usual. And it may not be what people expect of their DA, especially in Harris County, which has sent more people to death row than any state outside of Texas.

Bradford believes in the death penalty and aggressive prosecution of repeat offenders, but his approach would be a little different than locals are used to. For example, Bradford says he would create a new section of non-lawyer professionals in the DA's office to deal with public health, substance abuse, counseling and crime prevention. His plan sounds like a throwback to the Houston Police Department's community policing.

That approach has been tried in other places and hasn't worked, Rosenthal says.

"Community prosecution is not new. We've looked at it and I haven't found a successful model," he says. "We can't dedicate staff to go be social workers."

Bradford says creating a more user-friendly DA's office doesn't equate to being soft on crime.

Much of Bradford's campaign will be spent reintroducing himself and selling his ideas to the voting public.

Houstonians' minds, however, are largely made up on Bradford. While this is his first run for elected office, he was police chief for seven years. Bradford was first appointed by Mayor Bob Lanier in 1996, and served during most of Mayor Lee Brown's six years.

His tenure was marked by controversy in its latter years.

It included a last-minute pay raise from Brown that increased his pension and an indictment on a perjury charge that eventually was dismissed by a trial judge. The city's crime lab debacle also came to light during his time at HPD's helm. Bradford maintains the pay raise was justified.

"I was entitled to it. I deserved it," he says, noting that he had not received a pay raise in the preceding three years.

It was Rosenthal who prosecuted Bradford on the perjury charge, which a judge dismissed in mid-trial saying the case was weak. Bradford says the perjury case is one more example of Rosenthal's poor judgment. Rosenthal says his office took the facts it had to a grand jury and he doesn't see how that was an abuse of his discretion.

Rosenthal already has questioned Bradford's lack of criminal prosecutorial experience and his handling of the crime lab.

Bradford's responses to those criticisms are that the district attorney does not prosecute cases. The position, he contends, is more administrative. Bradford earned his law degree in 1992, while he was a sergeant on the police force.

As far as the crime lab goes, Bradford says he accepts responsibility for the issues that boiled to the surface during his watch.

"I relied heavily on people with science and technology backgrounds. That was my mistake," he says.

Instead, Bradford says, he should have instituted independent audits. But at least he recused himself and took a step back once evidence was in question, he says, something Rosenthal refused to do.

"I don't know how we could recuse ourselves and get the job done," Rosenthal says. "One of the things we learned is that we needed to be more technologically savvy about what it took to introduce evidence. Now I know about the kinds of things I need to look at (to ensure) the evidence is accurate."

Rosenthal, who was a member of the DA's office for 22 years before running for the top job, says he plans to rely on his experience during his re-election campaign.

In his last election, Rosenthal walked away with 55 percent of the vote against a relative unknown. He's never faced a serious political threat since getting elected in 2000.

Since retiring from the police department, Bradford has served as a senior associate at Brown Group International, the former mayor's consulting group. He's also developed case strategy for the law firm Willie & Associates.

Bradford will make his announcement official Sept. 18 at the Downtown Aquarium.

Departing columnist

The race will be the marquee local election on the ballot next November. I, however, won't be here to cover it. This is my last column for the Houston Chronicle. In October, I will begin writing for the Washington Post.

My time in Houston has defined my career. I started out as a general assignment reporter, working nights in 2001. Nine months later, I became a City Hall reporter. While covering people rooted to this city, I began to feel connected as well.

This city and this paper have given me amazing opportunities. Houston, Harris County and Texas politicians always keep it interesting. I'm sure that won't change.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Message from Kenneth Foster About What Happened on Aug 30

Below is message from Kenneth detailing what he went through on August 30. Amazing.

"Resurrection: August 30th, 2007

Like thieves in the night they swooped me up. It was the eve of my own State sanctioned murder, approximately 8:20 PM and I was listening to shout-outs pour in to me on 96.1 KDOL. Unexpectedly, there was a knock at my cell door. There stood a death row Lieutenant and 2 Wardens (Simmons and Hirch.) "Strip out!" was the Lieutenant's order. "For what reason?" I responded. "Because we told you to" was all that I got back. Having no idea what the situation could be I complied with the order. Though I was being provoked I didn't want to act before knowing what the situation was. I stripped out and exited the cell. I could feel in my bones that something wasn't right. And as we exited the pod my feelings were true - there waiting for me was a 5 man extraction team and all of the shift supervisors (several Sergeants) and to top it off several plain clothed people (at first I thought these were Sheriffs, but later found out that it was the TDC Regional Director Mr. Treon and the Warden from the Walls Unit.) As soon as I set my eyes on this circus like spectacle I immediately dropped to the ground and announced that I wasn't going anywhere until somebody told me where I was going and why. In his typical tyrannical rage Warden Hirch said "I told you we'd tell you when you got up the hallway." I told him that if he wanted me to cooperate with him that he needed to give me some understanding to what was going on and that's when he told me that I was being taken to the Walls Unit right then. I needed a minute to think, so I stood up. By this time I had ankle chains on, so I began shuffling down the hallway. I was placed in an isolated cage and was again told to strip down. I saw this as nothing but a degrading process and I began to voice that. I looked at the Lieutenant and told him that all he was doing he just did 5 minutes ago and that all this was being done just to provoke me and degrade me. I put on the clothes they gave me and was cuffed again and as soon as I stepped out that cage I laid down in protest. I emphatically stated that I was not going to participate in what they were trying to do to me. I told them that I would not dignify this lynch show. I told them the only thing that I could and that is that they were terrorists and they were only terrorizing. It wasn't bad enough that I was set to die the next day, but I was basically being terrorized in the middle of the night. I was chained all the way up and placed on a stretcher and i was carried to a dark tinted van where I was loaded in the back. I saw other death row prisoners watching me through their windows. I could only hope that word would get to my DRIVE comrades. There is no doubt that DRIVE planned to be in motion with civil disobedience against the wrongful murder that was sitting over my head and alongside of that vibe of resistance was a lot of rumors about something violent to take place. I did the best I could talking to the Staff assuring them that DRIVE does not condone violence in regards to this Struggle, but nevertheless extreme precautions were taken. And it wasn't just the vibe of DRIVE that was felt, there was a whole other vibe that was being felt and that was the disapproval of the people. There was social discontent being exuded and the system felt it. And that led to this expedition.

I was loaded into the van and ran smack into a 4 car SWAT team escort to the Walls Unit. We had a caravan on our way there and there were a lot of officers armed to the teeth with handguns, shotguns, assault rifles in every car. There was enough arsenal to wage a small war. Though I was sickened by he whole process I can't lie and say that I didn't feel that every execution should have this type of security concern. There is no way that people should be able to be friendly while being escorted down the road and murdered. What this proved to me is that when the people rise up their strength will be acknowledged.

It was about a 45 minute drive to Huntsville . I silently watched the street signs as I went. We arrived at the Walls, a Unit that resembled more of a College than a prison. It seemed that I was taken into the heart of the Unit somewhere deep behind a maze of streets and buildings. I could only think in my mind that they was taking me to the death chamber, the place that had taken so many men that I knew. As the van backed up and they opened the door to take me out, I would not walk, so they gladly packed me into the death house. I was dropped on the floor, my wrists were in excruciating pain. I was being told to stand up, but I would not. I only grabbed my wrists which were now bruised and hurting. I looked around the room and I was surrounded by approximately 10 officers and while I wanted to continue to resist, I took great notice that no use of force camera was rolling. I felt the set up, thus I didn't give them what they wanted. I allowed myself to be fingerprinted and then I was placed in the death watch cell.

After I gained my composure I surveyed the room. It was one of the most intensely cold and numb places I had ever seen. It was a narrow room with about 4 other cells. I was in the very first - just a few steps away from the death chamber. In front of my cell was a long table with drink containers and several Bibles. Straight up - it was like a funeral home. I couldn't help but to again look towards the death chamber. It was a big steel door with a square window at the top. It was a one way mirror, so one could not see in. I just stared at it. I couldn't help but to think about my good friend John Amador that was just executed hours before. I felt his presence with me. I thought of his last words which were so profound. I was in the Texas catacomb and yet while I was there I didn't feel death calling me.

I began pacing my cell for a moment. The Unit Wardens spoke to me and were very respectful. They offered me food and drink, but I refused. For years I had been living off of polluted TDC faucet water, so polluted TDC faucet water would do me just fine then. Slowly but surely my property was gone through and give to me piece by piece. I then began to sort through my property and divide it up for my family (just in case.) Once I got things pretty situated I remembered that I had something to do for my wife. I had a letter to read that she had specifically wrote for me if I got to the point that I didn't feel I'd get a stay. Though that feeling had never hit me 100% I felt that this time was as good as any. I reached into her folder and grabbed the letter that she had written: "You cannot read this unless you are not granted a stay. Open/read this no earlier than the morning of August 30th" on the front. While I wasn't unsure of the stay it was approximately 2:30 in the morning of August 30th and I was across from the death chamber, so I felt now was the time to read that letter. What I opened to was one of the best love letters of my life. In no way did it feel like a goodbye letter and in fact was an “I will see you later” letter. My wife and I are resolute on the fact that we are soul mates and no matter in this life or the next we will continually swirl around each other. Her letter did nothing short of hold me up during this time. It was a beautiful speech made to the man whose heart only she understands. And I was at peace with it. Something in me told me that those would not be our last love letters.

I finished getting situated around 3:30 AM and fell into a hard sleep. But, I could not sleep long. I was up by 6:30 AM. I woke feeling nothing but love in my bones. It was such an amazing feeling, because even though I stood hours away from my scheduled execution I didn't feel any fear. I just felt love surrounding my body and stood head up as I had been doing. I washed up, but was allowed a shower around 7:30. By the time I finished and got dressed I was ready to go see my family at visit. I was ready to face the day head on.

I started off my visits with my most beloved revolutionary sister and brother Walidah Imarisha and Ray Ramirez. I only had 4 hours to visit with everyone, so we knew that our exchange would be short and sweet. I was already in the mindset that I wouldn't be doing any goodbyes, but right off the bat the latest media news was what was at hand. Reports of the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times plus more - were the topics. Movement, movement and more movement was all we had to talk about. There was no time for goodbyes. We wrapped up our visit in about 40 minutes and we ended with fist in the air and revolutionary salutes. My next visit would be with my childhood cousin Beverly Fisher and close friend from France Emilie Artaud. I hadn't seen my cousin in over 11 years, so that was such a warming thing. Again - no time for goodbyes - news of activism in France and mobilization for the day. Things were positive and as my friend Emilie was ready to leave we exchanged smiles. Up next was the man himself, my super star point guard of the team Adam Axel. Here is a young man that was able to move mountains and I have no doubts that if it wasn't for him, I might not be where I am today. His efforts alongside of the CEDP proved to be life savers. Our visit was so very upbeat and nothing but victory was tapping at our minds. My father found his way in inbetween everyone else and I have never seen my father so alive and positive. His mind was already convinced that victory was ours and no one or nothing could convince him to otherwise. We all had good talks and as those visits winded down my wife and my grandparents came in. Everything was joyous. It had been years since I had seen my grandmother and though ailing with Alzheimer's she was as beautiful as ever to me. In fact everything was beautiful. Not once did we feel a need for a goodbye, so after I spoke with my grandfather he departed the visiting room with my grandmother just leaving me and my wife. There we sat hand in hand, eye to eye talking about this future that we had together. We talked and talked. I told her about her letter that I read and we just gave a knowing smile to each other. We had decided to spend the last hour with each other and as the time got closer to 12noon I noticed my father walking up to our booth. Neither of us was expecting that, so we looked over to him as he approached and when he got near us he just threw his fist in the air and screamed - "^, 1!!!" He yelled to me that the Board had voted 6-1 in my favor. Next to my wife’s screams for joy all I could do was let off a grin from ear to ear. As my wife and father embraced I could only tell my father to give her a kiss for me. And while my father was saying that it was all up to the Governor at that point I knew that there was no more guessing to it.

When the Board didn't deliver their decision on the 28th as planned I knew that something greater was in the works. I knew that they were feeling the pressure and would want to consult with the higher ups. As I told my supporters - if the decision comes back negative it's over. That would be a sign that nothing else would go for me. But... if it comes back in my favor I knew that it had been decided that I would live. So, when that 6-1 came down I knew that victory was mine. My father left the visitation room leaving me and my wife to rejoice amongst each other. We gave each other kisses and I pointed something out to her. I told her that I was always looking for the signs from God. Once upon a time as a youth I didn't know how to pay attention, though I was always getting signs. Now I'm very much more alert. And while I had been getting mixed signals from all the bad dreams my closest friends were having, one sign came right before I left the death chamber to go to visit. The night before when all my property was taken and searched they took all the shoe strings from my shoes. I had not known this, because they kept my shoes and said that they would give them to me when I went to visit. So, that morning before visit I told them that I had some tennis shoes and some boots and that I would like my boots. As I got dressed and my boots were handed to me and I saw the missing laces I could only crack a very wide smile, because my mind drifted to my poem "The Final Call" where I start saying:

"I'm coming
straight off death row in
boots with no laces."

I pointed this out to them and before I closed my visit with my wife I reminded her I'm coming straight off death row. She replied emphasizing "OFF!" I smiled and concurred. "Yes, OFF!" We ended our visit with a kiss from behind the glass and I was escorted back to the death chamber. As I was placed in the cell I spoke to some of the rank that was around me. I let one of them know why my family was so excited. I know that they were monitoring all attitudes, actions and behaviors, so I wanted them to know why my family got so excited. The guard looked back at me and said "well, today just might be your day." No sooner than he said that the Warden walked through the door on his cell phone. He looked at me and said, "They're commuting your sentence." I guess I was kind of surprised that he told me just like that, so I was like, "That's it? It's done?" He said, "Yeah, your sentence was just commuted. We'll have you out of here in just a few." My head was tingling and I wasted no time to drop to my knees and say a little prayer of thanks to the Most High, because I knew that He had had His hands around this situation. A few minutes later I was headed back to Polunsky.

On the drive back everything seemed brand new. Even officers were telling me that I had a new chance at life and I knew that. The sky was brighter and my heart was lighter. I got back to Polunsky Unit and was just hoping to be able to get around some comrades. While I was in a holding cell I had the fortune to see my best friend and mentor Tony Ford pass by and he had a smile so big on his face that I would have swore he had 2 mouths. That was a perfect passing, because that was my best friend and I'm glad he got to see my face before I left. I was placed on a pod where I only stayed about 30 minutes. As I walked through the door there was an elder comrade of mine in the dayroom - Harvey Earvin - and I went up to the bars and let him hug me. I went into the cell and had only enough time for about 3 persons to send me short kites of congratulations. And in no time a team came to pick me up. They wanted me OFF death row and I was ready to go. In just that fast of time I was being moved off death row and sent to the Byrd Unit to be reprocessed as a general population prisoner. Having had an international campaign, an armed SWAT team escort and a political commutation there wasn't too many people that didn't know who I was. Most had good things to say to me and one guard even came up to me and asked how I was being treated. I told him that I was being treated ok thus far. Not knowing if this was a man of importance I asked him who he was. He simply replied "Just an officer." But then he added in "I listen to KPFT everyday. And Democracy Now!" I could only smile and say - "Right on, brotha!"

And Right On it has been. After a 10 year battle of fighting the death penalty I can finally sit back and breathe a bit. I can finally let off a small sigh. I've said if from the beginning that as long as the battle was on that I couldn't do that. And though the war isn't over a huge battle has been won and I can finally sit back and exhale and even let go a few tears of joy joyous tears that say that I'm going to continue to have the fuel to do positive and great things. I have so many to live for, so many that didn't get the chance to carry on that greatness they attained while on death row. I can't speak for the men that have gotten off death row before me, but I know that I'm ready to do something phenomenal. This will not be a wasted opportunity. So many people stood by my side, supported me and believed in me and I owe them something. I owe them 100% effort and dedication to the struggle we merged in on.

I can't help but to think about those I left behind - the others that now sit on death watch. This has been such a traumatic journey and there are so many pains and scars. I hope that my fight has given some new hope to the struggle showing that the impossible can be done. And if it ever happens once it can happen again - and it must! History was made on August 30, 2007 and it's this day that I pray HOPE was resurrected amongst our fighters in an otherwise grim-minded people where over 400 murders have brutalized us. Today is a new day and we're taking Texas by the horns and we're not letting go. We can't let go until we break the beast and I can't help but to end in the same way that I ended my almost prophetic poem "The Final Call":

"These words are a prose of focus on death row... of letting go of the fear and hate of Selves... let's take it off the shelves and activate the way... the way today is leaving the gates... and the point I was trying to make is

In Struggle,
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DRIVE Movement

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

1st of 5 September Executions in Texas is Today

Texas is set to start a roll of five executions this month today. Meanwhile, a debate is brewing about whether the national anti-death penalty movement should be doing more in Texas to stop or at least slow down executions. Many people feel that the national anti-death penalty movement has failed Texas, choosing to send money to non-death penalty states such as Wisconsin and Iowa, instead of Texas.

Last week, Kenneth Foster's execution was stopped in Texas after a well-organized campaign to educate the public about the unfairness of applying the death penalty in his case because he had not killed anyone. But two days before Foster's sentence was commuted, another man named DaRoyce Mosley was executed. If the national anti-death penalty movement had sent funds to Texas instead of Wisconsin and Iowa last year, then maybe the life of Mosely could have been saved too, because it is highly likely that Mosely was also not the person who pulled the trigger that killed anyone, but that it was his uncle, who made a deal with prosecutors to testify against his much younger nephew.

The Associated Press
Monday, September 3, 2007

HUNTSVILLE, Texas: Texas plans to execute five convicted killers this month, with the first scheduled for Wednesday in the United States' busiest capital punishment state.

Wednesday's lethal injection of 30-year-old Tony Roach would bring the number of executions in Texas this year to 24, equaling the total for all of last year.

Four men were executed last month, including two last week. A third set to die last week, Kenneth Foster, received a commutation from Governor Rick Perry after supporters and death penalty opponents waged an intense campaign pointing out Foster was not the gunman in the fatal shooting case that resulted in his death sentence. The unusual commutation sent Foster to a life prison term.

No similar campaign has surfaced for Roach or the four other men headed to the death chamber this month.

Roach's lawyer, Joe Marr Wilson, said last-minute appeals were not likely.

"Commutation facts aren't really there," Wilson said. "It's a bad deal, but he's just kind of the middle of the road and kind of hard to do anything with."

Joseph Lave is set to die next week, followed by Clifford Kimmel, set for Sept. 20. Michael Wayne Richard is scheduled for Sept. 25. Two days later will be Carlton Turner.

The record for executions in the state is 40, set in 2000. Only one execution — Heliberto Chi in October — is scheduled so far over the last three months of this year.

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Did Texas Execute Innocent Men? Full Video Online of Dan Rather Reports

In “Did Texas Execute Innocent Men?” Dan Rather speaks with key players in the cases of both Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna both of whom died by lethal injection in Texas where more than one-third of the nation’s executions take place.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Houston Chronicle's Profile Showed No Courage Regarding Kenneth Foster

The Houston Chronicle did not call for halting the execution of Kenneth Foster before his sentence was commuted last week, but they have an editorial today saying stopping it was the right thing to do. This is a case of recognizing political courage when you see it all around you, but not finding any within the members of your own editorial board. Unlike the Houston Chronicle, other papers did have the courage to do the right thing and ask the governor to commute the execution before it was scheduled, including the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Maybe next time, the Chronicle will speak out sooner.


Aug. 31, 2007, 9:14PM
Timely judgment
Gov. Perry was wise to acknowledge flaws in Kenneth Foster's death sentence.

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

From his cell on death row, Kenneth Foster didn't pretend to be an innocent. In 1996, Foster drove the car in a nighttime crime spree, ferrying friends to two armed robberies before following a pair of cars into a neighborhood. After Foster's companion got out and shot one of the drivers, the 19-year-old Foster whisked the murderer and his other passengers from the scene.

Repugnant though they are, Foster's crimes did not include the murder of Michael LaHood, a 25-year-old law student. Through an unprecedented turn of events, Foster Thursday narrowly escaped dying for that murder. To the surprise of many, Gov. Rick Perry heeded the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Foster's sentence to life.

The governor's decision did not, however, arise from the "law of parties" — the unique Texas law that holds all participants in a capital crime equally culpable, if it can be proved they "should have anticipated" the fatal outcome. The advocates for reducing Foster's sentence included 13 members of the Legislature, most of whom argued that Foster had no idea a shooting would take place. Foster and his co-defendants testified that while Foster knew of the previous crimes that night, he didn't anticipate murder.

He certainly should have. His friend, after all, brandished a loaded gun. But guesswork about the calculations of an impulsive 19-year-old who was high on marijuana and drunk is too flimsy a basis for execution.

Perry, though, questioned something else: the fairness of a trial in which shooter and driver were convicted at the same time. When the Legislature reconvenes in 2009, lawmakers should act on the governor's recommendation to reconsider the flawed Texas law that allows such dual trials.

Perry's commutation came only hours before Foster was to die. That there was not one question, but two about the propriety of his sentence underscores qualms about the unflinching way Texas imposes the death penalty. Foster would have been the 403rd person to die since the death penalty was restored here.

The case is extraordinary, not just because Foster was saved at such a late hour, but because the governor agreed with the parole board that the sentence was unwarranted. Not required to follow its recommendations, Perry once before rejected the board's 5-1 vote for clemency in the case of a schizophrenic inmate. That prisoner was executed in 2004.

Foster's role in Michael LaHood's death deeply harmed his loved ones and society. Putting Foster to death, however, would have been an unfit punishment for the part he played. The pro-death penalty Perry was wise to acknowledge that, in this case, life in prison was just.

At the same time, Foster's close call — and the multiple questions about the fairness of the sentence — only deepens doubts about other Texas convictions that ended in lethal injection. It took a timely mix of evidence, representation and political leadership to forestall Kenneth Foster's execution. Absent any one of these at the right moment, the miscarriage of justice would have been permanent.

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DMN Editorial in Today's Paper Calling for a Moratorium

The Dallas Morning News is again calling for a moratorium on executions in today's newspaper. Texas Moratorium Network plans to be at the capitol again in the next few weeks talking with legislators to drum up new support for a moratorium. We support achieving a moratorium by one of two ways, 1) passing a version of a bill that has been filed by Rep Dutton since 2001 which would enact a moratorium by amending the criminal code by passage of a bill or ) achieving a moratorium by letting the voters of Texas decide on a constitutional amendment, which is an approach that has been filed in the past by different legislators.

Here is an excerpt from the DMN editorial today:

Calling a moratorium on executions.

This has been our call for some time. Considering the sobering questions that have been raised across the state, it is appropriate for lawmakers to give themselves time to take a fresh look at capital punishment.

We're not naive about the Legislature's willingness to take on the subject, since it would be politically costly to look "soft on crime." We're looking for political courage, though. We're looking for leadership that's unafraid to call for debate and thoughtful review on life-and-death issues.DEATH NO MORE

• Texas has executed 402 people since capital punishment was reinstated nationally 21 years ago. That is four times the number of the second-most-active state, Virginia.

• Texas' per capita execution rate is second only to Oklahoma's.

• 374 people are now waiting on death row in Texas, including 364 men in Livingston and 10 women in Gatesville

• 22 men have been executed this year; five more are scheduled to die in September.

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