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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

24 Innocent Ex-Death Row Inmates to Hold Press Conference in Austin Friday at 2pm

Bob Ray Sanders, a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, writes today that

Twenty-four ex-Death Row prisoners from across the country will meet Friday at the state Capitol in Austin to call for a moratorium on executions in Texas and for the creation of a statewide commission on wrongful convictions, said Kurt Rosenberg, executive director of Witness to Innocence, a Philadelphia-based organization of former Death Row inmates and their families.

Their news conference will be at 2 p.m. in the Speaker’s Committee Room.

The men who will appear at the Capitol have served "a combined total of nearly 200 years on death row for crimes they did not commit," Rosenberg said in a statement announcing the news conference.

"Last month, Texas became third in the nation in death-row exonerations when Michael Blair was the 130th person exonerated from death row," he said. "Blair’s exoneration came on the heels of a statement by Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins that he will re-examine nearly 40 death penalty convictions and would halt executions, if necessary, to give the reviews time to proceed."

Watkins’ announcement also came in the wake of Dallas County’s record-setting number of overall exonerations — 18 since 2001.

"Witness to Innocence believes the rest of the state should follow Watkins’ lead and halt executions while it studies its broken death penalty system, which has exonerated nine people from death row since 1987, third only to Florida and Illinois in death-row exonerations," Rosenberg said.

More and more leaders are recognizing that we do have a broken system in the Lone Star State.

Last summer the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals announced the creation of a Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit to examine weaknesses in the criminal justice system. And, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson of the Texas Supreme Court is among those calling for a statewide innocence commission.

It makes sense that while we recognize an imperfect system with weaknesses that must be examined and corrected, there ought not to be any more executions in Texas until those issues have been fully addressed.

The Star-Telegram is on record supporting a moratorium on executions.

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