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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Motion to postpone consideration of HB 8 passes

The motion to postpone consideration of HB 8 seems to be based on the fear that HB 8 may be unconstitutional. The idea is to seek more input from legal experts, particularly prosecutors and defense attorneys.

They want to do this in the "right way, the constitutional way".

Motion passes 131 - 10. Consideration of HB 8 is postponed till Monday at 3 PM.

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Motion to table Dutton's Amendment passes

88-49, motion to table prevails.

Now, there is a motion to delay the debate until Monday at 3 PM.

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Liveblogging: House debating removing Jessica's Law of Death penalty provision

Rep. Dutton has introduced an amendment to HB 8 (Jessica's Law) that would remove the penalty of death for second offenses of sexual assault against a child. A motion has been made to table the amendment and will be voted on shortly.

One reason that the death penalty provision should be removed is that it could endanger some children. As we said in an earlier post,

"It is frightening to think that this death penalty provision may result in the death of a child who otherwise would not be killed, if the criminal thinks he has to murder the victim in order to eliminate the only witness to the crime. If the punishment for raping a child is the same as the punishment for raping and murdering a child, then a child may one day be murdered who otherwise would not be murdered because some nut is going to reason that he might as well get rid of the only witness since the punishment is the same anyhow".

Another reason to remove the death penalty provision is that, despite what Rep Riddle just misleadingly represented to the House in an exchange with Rep Terri Hodge, applying the death penalty in cases where a child is not murdered is probably unconstitutional. Riddle is misleadingly arguing that there is consensus in the legal community that her bill is constitutional and that she has been told by attorneys that it is, but UT law professor Rob Owen testified to the House Criminal Jurispridence Committee that the Supreme Court would most likely rule it unconstitutional. There is currently a case from Louisiana working its way up to the Supreme Court on this issue.

As we wrote in an earlier post:
In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Coker v. Georgia that the death penalty for people who commit rape of an adult is unconstitutional, because the punishment is disproportionate to the crime. The Court has not ruled on whether they would also consider the death penalty for a person who rapes a child as disproportionate, but it is highly likely that it would. There has not been an execution in the United States for non-homicide crime since 1964. There are provisions for the death penalty for some crimes that do not involve murder, such as treason, but treason is eligible for the death penalty because the assumption is that treason can result in the deaths of people. For example, Robert Hanssen, who is the subject of the current movie "Breach" could have been given the death penalty for his treason, which caused the deaths of at least three people, who were executed by the KGB after Hanssen told the Russians that they were working for the U.S. Hanssen received a sentence of life in prison without parole, instead of the death penalty for which he was eligible, because he cooperated with prosecutors.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Amend HB 8 to Enact a Moratorium on Executions

The Texas House should amend HB 8 to add a provision for a moratorium on executions and the creation of a commission to study the death penalty system. Contact your legislators (if you live in Texas). HB 8 is a version of Jessica's Law that includes a provision for the death penalty for a second offense of sexual assault against a child. The bill is likely to come up for a vote on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives as early as this week. Before Texas lawmakers expand the death penalty in Texas, they should first ensure that the system is not putting innocent people at risk of execution. The problems in the criminal justice system that can lead to innocent people being convicted are statewide problems, but recent events in Dallas make it particularly understandable for a Dallas area legislator to offer an amendment to HB 8.

The Dallas Morning News argued in an editorial in January 2007 that executions should be temporarily halted because of the many innocent people who have recently been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted in Dallas County. The editorial was published following the release of Andrew Gossett, who "became the 11th Dallas County man granted his freedom after DNA confirmed what he had been saying for seven years: He didn't do it. Mr. Gossett had been sentenced to 50 years in prison for a sexual assault he did not commit".

Soon after Gossett's release another man, James Waller, became the 12th Dallas County person exonerated by DNA testing since 2001. “Nowhere else in the nation have so many individual wrongful convictions been proven in one county in such a short span,” said Barry C. Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, the legal clinic that championed Mr. Waller’s case. In fact, Mr. Scheck said, those 12 such instances are more than have occurred anywhere else except the entire states of New York and Illinois since the nation’s first DNA exoneration, in 1989.

We need to protect children from sexual predators, but we also need to protect innocent people from being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. If HB 8 passes with the death penalty provision intact, then it is highly likely that another innocent person will wind up on death row for a crime he did not commit. Amending HB 8 to attach a provision for a two-year moratorium on executions would provide enough time for a special commission to study the death penalty system and make recommendations that would decrease the risk of executing an innocent person. While the system is being studied, the prudent step is to halt executions, so that we do not make a mistake that can not be corrected.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Death Penalty Provision in HB 8 is probably unconstitutional

The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence approved HB 8 on a 5-0 vote with four members of the committee absent. Four absent members? Hey people, recess is over, back to work. You were elected to be there to vote on bills and to help the committee reach informed decisions by articulating your position on issues before the committee. The absent members were Representatives Escobar; Hodge; Mallory Caraway; and Paul Moreno.

The bill passed with the provision for the death penalty for repeat child molesters intact. What a waste of time. That provision will most likely be found to be unconstitutional as a violation of the 8th Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The committee heard expert testimony to that effect, but chose to ignore it. At least those members who were present when the testimony was given chose to ignore it. The absent members just ignored the whole thing. Hmm, it would be nice to think that they also thought that the committee was wasting time with this issue, but we don't know what they thought, since they weren't there to tell anyone.

It is frightening to think that this death penalty provision may result in the death of a child who otherwise would not be killed, if the criminal thinks he has to murder the victim in order to eliminate the only witness to the crime. If the punishment for raping a child is the same as the punishment for raping and murdering a child, then a child may one day be murdered who otherwise would not be murdered because some nut is going to reason that he might as well get rid of the only witness since the punishment is the same anyhow.

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Coker v. Georgia that the death penalty for people who commit rape of an adult is unconstitutional, because the punishment is disproportionate to the crime. The Court has not ruled on whether they would also consider the death penalty for a person who rapes a child as disproportionate, but it is highly likely that it would. There has not been an execution in the United States for non-homicide crime since 1964. There are provisions for the death penalty for some crimes that do not involve murder, such as treason, but treason is eligible for the death penalty because the assumption is that treason can result in the deaths of people. For example, Robert Hanssen, who is the subject of the current movie "Breach" could have been given the death penalty for his treason, which caused the deaths of at least three people, who were executed by the KGB after Hanssen told the Russians that they were working for the U.S. Hanssen received a sentence of life in prison without parole, instead of the death penalty for which he was eligible, because he cooperated with prosecutors.

Only five states allow the death penalty for child rapists and only one person (in Louisiana) has been convicted of such a crime and sentenced to death. Several juries in Louisiana have been asked by prosecutors to sentence child rapists to death, but only one jury has so far chosen death.

The Supreme Court has been limiting the use of the death penalty lately, not allowing it to expand. There seems to be a national consensus that the death penalty is not appropriate unless the crime results in a killing. The Supreme Court banned executions of juvenile offenders and people with mental retardation in recent years, because they concluded that a national consensus existed against such executions. At the time of both of those Supreme Court rulings only 18 of the 38 death penalty states had banned executions of either juvenile offenders and people with mental retardation. Today, only five of the 38 death penalty states allow the death penalty for child rapists, so 45 states do not allow it. That looks a lot like a national consensus against such a severe punishment in these cases.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Write your Texas legislators about a moratorium on executions

If you live in Texas, please use this link to contact your state senator and state representative and ask them to support a moratorium on executions and to create a blue ribbon commission to conduct a comprehensive study of the Texas capital punishment system.

While executions have slowed in other states, the torrid pace continues in Texas. So far in 2007, there have been five executions in the U.S. and four of them were in Texas. Through March, there are seven more executions scheduled in the U.S. and six of them are in Texas. In many states, executions have recently been halted because of challenges to the lethal injection process or, as in New Jersey, because of broader questions about the administration of the death penalty, but executions continue in Texas.

Yet, it is in Texas where there have been reports that Texas may have executed three innocent people: Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos De Luna.

Save the date of March 13, which is the date for the Death Penalty Issues Lobby Day and "Day of Innocence" at the capitol.

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Slide Show of Art Show Opening Night Photos

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Some Feedback Comments Left at Art Show



"Very powerful!"

"Awesome and inspiring. Makes you want to act and make changes"

"Very meaningful - poignant, about what we ought not to be doing - killing people."

"What words do you use? There really aren't any. Very personal, powerful, thought-provoking and compelling. I'm a bit numb to think what we are doing".

"Incredibly moving. Unique perspectives that made me think differently".

"Really nice work. Congratulations."

"Thank you - incredibly moving, informative & shows why the DP must be abolished."

"I wish every piece could win an award. What a chilling and powerful statement against state sponsored killing this collection makes. Thanks, TMN."

"Very powerful collection of images that disturb and lead to further thinking".

"A very moving exhibit and I am grateful to all those who worked to make it possible."

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Stephanie Saint Sanchez Selected for Studio Residency

One of the artists from TMN's death penalty art show was recently selected for a studio residency at the Lawndale Art Center. Stephanie Saint Sanchez is a film and video artist and the founder of La Chicana Laundry Pictures. Below is her animation chosen for the death penalty show. Congrats Stephanie!



Lawndale Art Center is pleased to announce the selection of three residents for the inaugural term of the Lawndale Studio Residency.

A jury consisting of Franklin Sirmans, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Menil Collection, John Sparagana, Chicago based artist and Professor of Painting at Rice University and Margo Handwerker, Lawndale Programming Committee member and Curatorial Assistant at the MFAH met at Lawndale on Saturday December 2 and selected the three residents.

From a pool of almost eighty Houston area contemporary artists, the jury selected Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Donna Huanca and Stephanie Saint Sanchez to launch the program.

“We came away feeling really excited about the three artists we chose...” say John Sparagana. “...what the residency can do for each of them at this point in their work and career, and what kind of energy they will bring to Lawndale through their residency”.

Dawolu Jabari Anderson creates large scale drawings that juxtapose archaic aesthetics with contemporary narratives. Anderson’s work has been exhibited extensively including the 2006 Whitney Biennial both individually and as part of the Otabenga Jones collective.

Donna Huanca creates sculpture and installation environments out of fabric swatches. Her work has been exhibited widely in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Buenos Aires. She is a graduate of the University of Houston and in 2006 attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Stephanie Saint Sanchez is a film and video artist and the founder of La Chicana Laundry Pictures. Her work has been screened extensively both locally and nationally and received numerous awards. In 2005, she was the recipient of a CACHH emerging artist grant.

“It is very gratifying to watch this program come to fruition through the hard work and commitment of many individuals on our board and staff” according to William Betts, Interim Executive Director of Lawndale. “This program speaks strongly of Lawndale's core values and provides a unique and generous opportunity to Houston based artists”.

As part of the Studio Residency program, recipients will be provided studio space on the third floor of Lawndale’s Main Street facility, receive a $500 monthly stipend, a $1000 materials budget, and exhibition opportunities in the Lawndale galleries.

The Lawndale Studio Residency program is made possible by the generous support of the Cullen Foundation and the Brown Foundation.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Statesman article on Kerry Cook

The Austin American Statesman has a long article in today's paper on Kerry Cook, who spent 22 years on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit. The article was written now because Kerry's book "Chasing Justice: My Story of Freeing Myself After Two Decades on Death Row for a Crime I Didn't Commit" will be in bookstores on Feb 27. You can listen to Kerry talk about his story on an audio recording on the Statesman site.

Kerry also has a new website.

Kerry's is a story that needs to be heard in Texas, especially now that the Legislature is in session and will soon be considering whether to pass legislation establishing a moratorium on executions.

According to the article, in 1996, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Cook's conviction in blunt terms: "Prosecutorial and police misconduct has tainted this entire matter from the outset. Little confidence can be placed in the outcome of the appellant's first two trials as a result."

The question the Legislature must deal with is whether there are other innocent people still on Texas death row. We know that Ernest Willis was released from Texas death row in 2004 after spending 17 years there for a crime he did not commit. The Chicago Tribune says that Texas has executed two people, Carlos De Luna and Cameron Todd Willingham, who were innocent. Sam Milsap, the Bexar County DA who convicted Ruben Cantu, now believes that Cantu was innocent of the crime for which he was executed.

How many innocent lives is Texas allowed to say "oops, we did it again" about before the people of Texas demand a stop to an execution system that does not protect innocent people from being sentenced to death and even executed.

There will be a "Day of Innocence" rally and Death Penalty Issues Lobby Day at the Texas capitol on Tuesday, March 13, 2007.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Kerry Cook interview in Statesman coming tomorrow

Kerry Cook sent us this message: "Tomorrow morning -- February 18th -- the Austin American Statesman will publish, in its lifestyle section, a feature piece that is both an interview and review of my new book/memoir, CHASING JUSTICE (in book stores on the 27th of this month). To read that you will go to www.statesman.com For audio and pictures, go to www.statesman.com/multimedia

While I have -- and will continue to do so -- done a considerable amount of state, national and international media on the subject of human rights and the use of the American death penalty -- I think this feature article in my home state of Texas will be one of the most important. Especially with the bicameral Legislature in full session".


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Contact House and Senate Criminal Justice Committees regarding a moratorium on executions

Contact the members of the two committees in the Texas House and Senate who will be hearing moratorium legislation soon. Ask them to enact a temporary, two year moratorium on executions and to create a commission to study the death penalty in Texas. Let them know that Texas may have executed three innocent people: Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos De Luna. A moratorium will help prevent more innocent people from being executed in Texas. Tell them that a moratorium is a top priority for you, because if a moratorium is not enacted this year, another innocent person could be executed. Tell them that a moratorium has been endorsed by most of the major newspaper editorial boards in Texas.

While executions have slowed in other states, the torrid pace continues in Texas. So far in 2007, there have been five executions in the U.S. and four of them were in Texas. Through March, there are seven more executions scheduled in the U.S. and six of them are in Texas.

Criminal Justice Committees in 80th Texas Legislature

House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee:

Name Party District Counties Phone
Aaron Pena (Chair)
email Pena
D 40 Hildago-part 512-463-0426
Allen Vaught (Vice)
email Vaught
D 107 Dallas-part 512-463-0244
Debbie Riddle
email Riddle
R 150 Harris-part 512-463-0572
Juan Escobar
email Escobar
D 43 Jim Hogg, Brooks, Kenedy, Willacy, Cameron-part 512-463-0666
Terri Hodge
email Hodge
D 100 Dallas-part 512-463-0586
Barbara Mallory Caraway
email Mallory Caraway
D 110 Dallas-part 512-463-0664
Paul Moreno
email Moreno
D 77 El Paso-part 512-463-0638
Paula Hightower Pierson
email Pierson
D 93 Tarrant-part 512-463-0562
Robert Talton
email Talton
R 144 Harris-part 512-463-0460


Senate Criminal Justice Committee:

Name Party Dist Counties Phone
John Whitmire (Chair)
email Whitmire
D 15 Harris-part 512-463-0115
Kel Seliger (Vice)
email Seliger
R 31 Andrews, Bailey, Cochran, Crane, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Ector, Gaines, Glasscock, Hansford, Hartley, Hemphill, Howard, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Martin,Midland,Moore, Ochiltree, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, Yoakum 512-463-0131
John Carona
email Corona
R 16 Dallas-part 512-463-0116
Bob Duell
email Duell
R 2 Dallas-part, Delta, Fannin, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains, Rockwall, Smith-part, Van Zandt 512-463-0102
Rodney Ellis
email Ellis
D 13 Fort Bend-part, Harris –part 512-463-0113
Glenn Hegar
email Hegar
R 18 Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Caldwell, Calhoun, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend-part, Goliad, Gonzales, Jackson, Lavaca, Matagorda, Refugio, Victoria,

Waller, Washington, Wharton

512-463-0118
Juan Hinojosa
email Hinojosa
D 20 Brooks, Hidalgo-part, Jim Wells, Nueces 512-463-0120

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Checking out the art


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Photo of Jasmin Hilmer's "The End"


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).
There are lots more photos of opening night on Flickr

All photos are by Cyril Flerov

Thanks Cyril, Great job!

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Ahren Lutz's Painting


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Looking at Rita Fuchsberg's "Ladies-in-Waiting"


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Photo from Opening Night of Art Show


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Examining Ben Woitena's Artwork


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Photo from Opening Night of Art Show


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Listening to Audio Tour at Opening Night


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Photo from Opening Night of Art Show


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Photo from Opening Night of Art Show


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Photo from Opening Night of Art Show


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Originally uploaded by Texas Moratorium Network (TMN).

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Social Network for People who Want to Change the World



We got an invitation to a new social network for non-profits, so we created a TMN page on the site. It's a lot like other social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace, but it's mainly for people who want to make change in the world. Here is a review of it. TMN is also on MySpace.

We're excited to invite you to join our new social network on Change.org!

Change.org is a new social network for hundreds of social causes and over 1 million nonprofit organizations. The Texas Moratorium Network has been invited to be a part of Change.org's early release, and we want you to be the first to join and help build our community.

Change.org enables you to:

1. Connect - connect to people who care about the same issues and see others in your social network who support TMN.

2. Share - post and discuss news stories and ideas related to the issues you care about and share videos, photos, and personal stories.

3.Take Action - magnify your social impact by organizing volunteer events, rallies, and meet-ups or by joining social fundraising communities.

Click the link below to join our community. We look forward to seeing you on the site!

www.change.org/texasmoratorium

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Radio coverage of the death penalty art show

Here is the KPFT radio coverage of the art show by Renee Feltz with KPFT News. There are also some pictures of the exhibit.

Please come to the gallery talk this Friday, Feb 16, at 7 PM.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Alternative Spring Break Posters are Here


The brand-new posters for the 2007 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break are printed and should be appearing on campuses around Texas soon. The spring break is being organized by Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, which writes about it on their blog.

The Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is March 12-16 in Austin.

Shout out to Shannon Dudley of Inkblot Creative in California for the great poster design. Thanks, Shannon!

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People are Talking About the Art Show

Here are some comments about the death penalty art show from someone who was there on opening night. The show runs through Feb 18 at Houston's Gallery M2 (325 West 19th Street). There is a gallery talk on Friday, Feb 16 at 7 PM

Friends,

"I just left the art gallery in the Houston Heights and could barely speak after viewing the death row exhibit called "Justice for All?" It takes a lot to take my breath away, but this sure did. Seeing the large painting of David Castillo, who I remember well, was unnerving. And in the middle of the gallery is a death row cell. Oh my gosh--many people have closets bigger than this cell that they are confined in 23-24 hours a day. Much, much thanks to the Texas Moratorium Network who put this together! I hope they will be able to take it to many other cities.

Please, please do not miss this exhibit. It tore my heart out but it is really something everyone should see."


Gloria Rubac

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Opening Night Reception for Art Show Tonight in Houston


Tonight, Saturday, Feb 10 at 7 PM, is the opening night reception for the death penalty art show, "Justice for All?: Artists Reflect on the Death Penalty".

Gallery M2
325 West 19th Street
Houston, Texas 77008

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

TMN on MSNBC

If you were in front of a TV today at around 8:45 AM, you might have seen TMN's Scott Cobb commenting on a proposal by Texas Lt Governor David Dewhurst to make people who repeat the offense of child sexual assault eligible for the death penalty. Scott appeared on the program along with Rusty Hubbarth of Justice for All.

Another live interview is scheduled for around 10:45 AM today.

The main reason for not expanding the death penalty to apply to repeat child rapists is that it will make child victims less safe from sexual predators. If the punishment is the same for raping a child as it is for raping and killing a child, then it creates a perverse incentive for sexual predators to kill the child in order to eliminate what is often the only witness to the crime. If we pass a law making the death penalty apply in these cases, even when there is no homicide involved, then we create the possibility that a child will be killed by the predator instead of surviving the attack.

The death penalty for repeat child rapists also may decrease the likelihood that these heinous crimes will go unreported. The vast majority of these type crimes involve predators who are known by their victims. A child could be pressured not to report an assault by a family member if the other members of the family know that the person may be subject to the death penalty.

Another reason is that juries are less likely to convict people if they think that the punishment is too harsh.

A final reason is that the death penalty for rape of a child may be unconstitutional as a violation of the 8th Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Coker v. Georgia that the death penalty for people who commit rape of an adult is unconstitutional, because the punishment is disproportionate to the crime. The Court has not ruled on whether they would also consider the death penalty for a person who rapes a child as disproportionate, but it is highly likely that it would. There has not been an execution in the United States for non-homicide crime since 1964. Only five states allow the death penalty for child rapists and only one person has been convicted of such a crime and sentenced to death. There seems to be a national consensus that the death penalty is not appropriate unless the crime results in a killing. The Supreme Court banned executions of juvenile offenders and people with mental retardation, because they concluded that a national consensus existed against such executions. At the time of both of those Supreme Court rulings only 18 of the 38 death penalty states had banned executions of either juvenile offenders and people with mental retardation. Today, only five of the 38 death penalty states allow the death penalty for child rapists, so 45 states do not allow it. That seems like a national consensus against such a severe punishment in these cases.

A better approach in these cases, one that will protect children from being killed by their predators, is to allow judges and juries to sentence people to long terms in prison, including life in prison. We should leave it up to juries to decide on the appropriate punishment from a range of such punishments. Currently the range for first time offenders is 5-99 years or life in prison and the punishment for a second offense is an automatic life sentence. That seems like a just system and one that is incredibly tough already.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

List of Artists in the Houston Death Penalty Art Show

Justice for All?: Artists Reflect on the Death Penalty
Gallery M2
325 West 19th Street
Houston, Texas

Feb 10-18, 2007
www.deathpenaltyartshow.org

Annie Feldmeier Adams Chicago IL USA
Jill Alo Austin TX USA
John Amador Polunsky Unit TX USA
Keith Amante Austin TX USA
Jason Archer Austin TX USA
William Berkley Polunsky Unit TX USA
David Blow Hickory Creek TX USA
Samuel Brown Minneapolis MN USA
Thomas Buchner Ampfing Bavaria Germany
Anibal Canales Jr Polunsky Unit TX USA
Russell Castillo Jr Liberty Hill TX USA
Barbara Caveng Berlin Germany
Ebbesen Davis Austin TX USA
Reinaldo A. Dennes Polunsky Unit TX USA
Cristina Ferran-Jadick Houston TX USA
Christopher Fitzgerald Austin TX USA
Rita Fuchsberg Poultney VT USA
Tania Guerrera Mount Vernon NY USA
Vincent Gutierrez Polunsky Unit Tx USA
Isabelle Heitzmann Paris France
Linda Hesh Alexandria VA USA
Jasmin Hilmer Hamburg Germany
Renaldo Hudson Sumner IL USA
Mark Jenkinson New York New York USA
Michael W. Jewell Powledge Unit TX USA
Lou Jones Boston MA USA
Stan Kaplan Levittown NY USA
Jim Krantz Chicago IL USA
Robert Kunec Halle/Saale Germany
Jenn Lindberg Austin TX USA
Ahren Lutz Portland OR USA
Kate MacDonald Vancouver BC Canada
Farley C. Matchett Polunsky Unit Tx USA
Michelle Mayer Austin TX USA
Misty Morris Aiken SC USA
Khristian Oliver Polunsky Unit TX USA
Scott L. Panetti Polunsky Unit TX USA
Louis Castro Perez Polunsky Unit TX USA
Bogdan Perzynski Austin TX USA
Shanon Playford Portland OR USA
Roger Preston Las Vegas NV USA
Arnold Prieto Polunsky Unit TX USA
Travis Runnels Polunsky TX USA
Stephanie Saint Sanchez Houston TX USA
Shannon Stoney Houston TX USA
Carlos Trevino Polunsky Unit Tx USA
Carlton A. Turner Polunsky Unit TX USA
Claude van Lingen Austin Tx USA
Collin W Williams Montevallo AL USA
Melinda Wing Phoenix AZ USA
Ben Woitena Houston TX USA
Peter Wortel Haren The Netherlands

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Moratorium on Executions in Tennessee

Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen declared a 90-day moratorium on executions while the state studies its method of lethal injection. Executions also are halted in Missouri, California and North Carolina because of lethal injection concerns.

In Texas, the big issue is whether Texas has executed innocent people, but in Tennessee the issue that sparked the moratorium is whether the protocol used for lethal injections causes the inmate to suffer.

More from the press release from TCASK:

TCASK Applauds Ethical Choice by Governor

Tennessee Joins Florida, California, and North Carolina in Studying Lethal Injection Procedures

Nashville: The Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing applauded Governor Phil Bredesen’s decision to halt executions while Tennessee’s method of lethal injection is studied today. Executions have been botched recently in California, Florida, and Ohio resulting in obvious pain to the condemned. Tennessee’s protocol, which includes no medical personnel and the use of questionable chemicals, one of which is strictly banned for use in euthanizing animals, presented many of the same risks.

“The Governor has taken a courageous and moral step today,” said Reverend Stacy Rector, Executive Director of TCASK. “If Tennessee is going to carry out executions, we owe it to ourselves to ensure that they are carried out in a humane manner. Tennessee’s lethal injection procedure was a botched execution waiting to happen.”

The lethal injection procedure utilized by Tennessee involves a three drug cocktail similar to that used in most other states. The first drug, thiopental, is meant to anesthetize the inmate. The second drug, pavulon, paralyzes the nervous system, and a dose of potassium chloride causes cardiac arrest. However, thiopental is an extremely unstable anesthetic, and potassium chloride has been described by some experts as causing the maximum amount of pain to the cardiovascular system. Because the second drug, pavulon, paralyzes the inmate, it is highly possible that a condemned person would feel all the effects of the potassium chloride, while being unable to speak or move. Pavulon has been banned for veterinary procedures.

“If a drug is not good enough for an animal, it should not be used on a person,” Reverend Rector said.

The issue centers around whether or not the inmate experiences any of the effects of the lethal drugs, but Tennessee’s execution protocol involves absolutely no medical personnel. The maintenance and application of the thiopental is handled by non-medical personnel and no one monitors the inmates to ensure complete anesthesia.

“Procedures involving human life should not be trusted to people with no medical training,” said Reverend Rector. “The people of Tennessee deserve a capital punishment system that they can trust. Whether you are talking about the accuracy of convictions, the fairness of the application, the financial cost to tax-payers, or the execution procedure itself, our current system completely fails to meet this test.”

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