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Monday, October 01, 2007

First-ever local moratorium on death penalty in Texas called by Nueces County DA

Congratulations to the Nueces County District Attorney for putting a hold on seeking the death penalty until after the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of lethal injections. This is probably the first time in Texas, if not anywhere, that a DA has put into effect a local moratorium on seeking the death penalty in response to a pending Supreme Court case. Nueces County has perhaps more reason than most counties to be extra cautious, because in 1989 Carlos De Luna was executed by Texas after being convicted in Nueces County. An investigation by the Chicago Tribune in 2006 uncovered evidence that he was probably not the killer and was in fact most likely innocent.

Governor Perry should take a cue from the DA in Nueces County and take steps to stop all executions in Texas pending the ruling by the Supreme Court. Perry can start by issuing a 30-day stay of execution for Heliberto Chi, who is scheduled for execution on Oct 3. He can then write a letter to all district attorneys in Texas asking them to work with convicting courts to withdraw all scheduled execution dates and not set any new dates until after the Court's ruling.

Click here to send an email to Governor Perry.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Nueces D.A. won't seek death penalty while Supreme Court has yet to rule
By Mary Ann Cavazos

CORPUS CHRISTI -- The Nueces County District Attorney's Office put a hold on
seeking the death penalty in capital murder cases on Monday in light of the
Supreme Court's decision last week to hear a case that questions whether
lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

Under Texas law, capital murder carries only two possible sentences: death or
life in prison without parole.

"Until we can get some direction from the Supreme Court, we will waive the
death penalty and seek life in prison, which is the only other punishment
allowed," District Attorney Carlos Valdez said.

The case, which will be heard by the high court early next year, was filed by
two inmates on death row in Kentucky who claim that lethal injection is
inhumane and violates the Eighth Amendment.

The local self-imposed moratorium, which took effect Monday, will not affect
any of the county's pending capital murder cases because the office already
had decided not to seek the death penalty.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Skurka said it also won't affect the cases of
four Nueces County men on death row for capital murder but is more of a
precautionary measure.

Most states that allow the death penalty use lethal injection to put inmates
to death. But at least six states have halted executions because of issues
surrounding the method, which uses a combination of anesthetic, muscle
paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart.

So far this year, 42 people have been executed in the country. Texas, which
has put 26 inmates to death by lethal injection, leads with the most executions.

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