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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Nation Writes About Jeff Wood

Peter Rothberg wrote about Jeff Wood in his blog at The Nation magazine today. Last summer, Peter also wrote about Kenneth Foster, saying "from any humane perspective state-sponsored killing of people we know did not commit murder should be way beyond the pale."

Save Jeff Wood
posted by Peter Rothberg on 06/30/2008 @ 3:41pm

Foster was convicted under Texas' notorious Law of Parties, under which the distinction between principal actor and accomplice in a crime is abolished. The law can impose the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred whether a person had anything to do with the murder or not. (Texas is the only state that applies this statute in capital cases, making it the only place in the United States where a person can be factually innocent of murder and still face the death penalty.)

Now, Jeff Wood faces similar straits on Texas death row with an execution date of August 21. Having no prior criminal record, Wood was convicted and sentenced to die for killing a convenience store clerk during a January 1996 robbery in Kerrville, TX under the "Law of Parties." Wood was not the shooter in this case and he can reasonably claim that he had no idea that a murder would occur during what he says was meant to be a gas station robbery. The actual shooter in this case -- Daniel Earl Reneau -- was executed by the state of Texas more than six years ago.

Click here to ask Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Wood's sentence and sign an online petition to stop the execution.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Contact Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to Stop the Execution of Jeff Wood and Grant Him Clemency

Jeff Wood is waiting to die on Texas Death Row with an execution date of August 21st, 2008. Please contact Governor Perry and the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles on behalf of Jeff Wood. Jeff was charged under the Law of Parties and was not the shooter in this crime. Jeff could not anticipate that a murder would occur. The actual shooter in this case has already been executed by the state of Texas.

It took over 17,000 people contacting Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to make a difference for Kenneth Foster, whose death sentence under the Law of Parties was commuted by Governor Perry last year. Please help save Jeff as Kenneth was saved.

The cousin of Kris Keeran (the murder victim) wants to save the life of Jeff Wood:

"My cousin was the person killed by Danny, not Jeff. I say this as a family member who realized long ago Jeff had no part in my cousin's murder and he shouldn't be executed. It's insane to kill another person who did not kill Kris. The video showed Jeff took no part in it. Jeff was one of my friends growing up and someone I think deserves a chance. If he didn't kill him, why should we kill Jeff? This is ridiculous."
- Amanda Smith, Texas
June 19, 2008

Don’t know about Jeff Wood’s case? Here is a short case summary:

At approximately 6:00 a.m. on Jan. 2, 1996, while Wood waited outside, Reneau entered the gas station with a gun and pointed it at Kris Keeran, the clerk standing behind the counter. Reneau ordered him to a back room. When he did not move quickly enough, Reneau fired one shot with a 22 caliber handgun that struck Keeran between the eyes. Death was almost instantaneous. Proceeding with the robbery, Reneau went into the back office and took a safe. When hearing the shot, Wood got out of the car to see what was going on. He walked by the door and looked through the glass. Then he went inside, and he looked over the counter and ran to the back, where Reneau was. Wood was then ordered, at gun point by Reneau, to get the surveillance video and to drive the getaway-car.

Additional facts:

  • Wood suffers from severe mental, emotional and learning disabilities. He was abused and beat severely and repeatedly as a child. He is submissive to dominant behavior because of such.
  • At arrest Wood was forced into interrogation by the police and did not have council present. Wood was kept awake the entire time. He was refused sleep. He eventually confessed saying it was a planned robbery. He later revoked this statement.
  • Wood was found not mentally fit to stand trial. He was admitted into a mental hospital and a couple of weeks later was found 'trial ready'.
  • At trial, Wood was not satisfied with his representation. Wood asked to represent himself, but wasn't allowed to do so. The judge found him not capable of doing this. The judge however, did not argue Wood when Wood said he would then order his attorney's not to do anything. Result: Jeff had no witnesses during the punishment phase of his trial on his behalf.
  • The victim's father is against the death penalty and actually campaigned to keep the actual gunman Reneau alive.

Important facts that should be mentioned in your letter to the Governor include:

  • Jeff was charged under the Law of Parties and was not the shooter in this crime.
  • Jeff could not anticipate that a murder would occur.
  • Jeff was not even in the store when the murder took place and had no way of knowing it would happen.
  • The actual shooter in this case has already been executed by the state of Texas.
  • The murder was actually committed by Daniel Earl Reneau, who was executed in Texas on June 13, 2002 for this crime.
  • You can also express your sympathy for the family of the victim, Kris Keeran, while mentioning again that Jeff Wood did not kill Kris.
  • You can also mention that Jeff's case is similar to the case of Kenneth Foster, whose death sentence under the Law of Parties was commuted by Gov. Perry in 2007.
Click here to contact Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shame on Obama for his "Bill Clinton/Ray Rector Moment"

Today, Barack Obama made a disappointing choice in speaking out against the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that executing child rapists is unconstitutional. The Washington Post reports his comments as:

"I have said repeatedly I think the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances, for the most egregious of crimes," said the Illinois senator, speaking to reporters at a hometown press conference. But he added, "I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime, and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that does not violate our Constitution."
Obama's position is even more disappointing because in general he has been a critic of the death penalty's implementation and worked for reforms in Illinois. Unfortunately, Obama's comments today smack of the same type of politics of old opportunism that Bill Clinton practiced in 1992.

In the midst of the 1992 presidential election, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton flew home from the campaign trail to sign the death warrant for Ray Rector, who was executed on January 24, 1992. Rector had mental retardation and right before his execution asked if he could save his dessert "for later". Many people criticized Clinton for using Rector's execution for political purposes to shore up his appeal to moderate and conservative voters. He could have commuted Rector's sentence to life based on his mental condition, which would have been the humane, just thing to do.

The right thing for Obama to say would have been, "Although I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime, I support the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, in part because it will make children safer, and in part because I believe that death is a disproportinate punishment in cases that do not include murder."

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Even Supporters of the Death Penalty Oppose Execution of Jeff Wood

Here is a message from a supporter of the death penalty who signed the petition to Save Jeff Wood:

8:54 am PDT, Jun 25, James Bennett, Texas

To The Honorable Rick Perry, Gov.: I am a strong proponent of the death penalty, however, in the case of Jeff Wood, there is a possibility,a strong possibility that justice was not served. From the information at hand, there was additional evidence that would have perhaps mitigated Mr. Woods to a lesser sentence than the death penalty. Evidence that Mr. Wood and family consider to be vital. His defense attorney did not bring up or pursue this information. The jury in the sentencing phase, in all probability, would have come forth with a far less harsh sentence. Gov. Perry, I have no emotional stake in this case. Only a desire to know that the punishment fits the crime. The prosecutor may have been a tad over zealous in this case. Thank you James Bennett
and another one
2:49 pm PDT, Jun 23, James C Wood, Texas

First, I would like to start off by saying I am PROUD to be a Texan, and that we execute more people than any other state in the country. While being a strong supporter of the death penalty, I believe it has it's uses, this isn't one of them. As stated multiple times, he wasn't even in the store. To follow through with this would be completely rediculous. Wake up people. James C. Wood

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Honor Roll of Texas Legislators Who Predicted Today's Supreme Court Ruling on Death Penalty

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for people who commit sexual assault of a child is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's 8th Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 5-4 majority opinion, saying "the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child." He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Last session, the Texas Legislature wasted a lot of time approving the death penalty as part of "Jessica's Law" while failing to approve an Innocence Commission, but there were a few who got it right last session and they deserve mention today for their actions last Spring when they voted against "Jessica's Bill" because of the death penalty provision.

From "Honor Roll on HB 8 (Jessica's Law)":

During the debate on HB 8, there were several people who valiantly tried to amend the bill to improve it or who spoke eloquently on the floor against the death penalty provision in the bill, either today or last week, including Representatives Dutton, Turner and Hodge. Special thanks to them.

Thank you also to all the 24 members who voted against HB 8, mostly because of the death penalty provision. When the U.S. Supreme Court finds the death penalty in this bill unconstitutional, these members will be able to say "told you so".

Allen; Bolton; Burnam; Castro; Cohen; Coleman; Davis, Y.; Dukes; Dutton; Farrar; Giddings; Hernandez; Hodge; Howard, D.; McClendon; Miles; Moreno; Naishtat; Olivo; Pickett; Puente; Rodriguez; Thompson; Turner.

A few members felt strongly enough to have their written objections recorded in the House Journal. Thank you for taking this extra step.

Rep Eddie Rodriguez wrote, "the implementation of the death penalty should be reserved for murderous crimes, and I believe that the United States Supreme Court would agree with me."
In the Senate Rodney Ellis was the only dissenter in a 30-1 vote in favor of Jessica's Law.

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Documentary on Johnny Garrett, Innocent Man Executed by Texas

In 2005, Jesse Quackenbush, attorney for Johnny Garrett, attended our Anti-Death Penalty Lobby Day and spoke to a rally on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol about how Garrett was an innocent man executed by Texas. Now, Quackenbush has directed a documentary on Garrett's case. Below is the trailer for the film.



From IndieFlix:



Director: Jesse Quackenbush

Producer: Cinco Rosas

Screenwriter: Jesse Quackenbush

Cinematography: Jesse Quackenbush

Editor: Kyle High

Music: Peter Davison

Cast: Narrated by: Tom Kane

Country: USA

Running Time: 90 minutes


Synopsis:
This documentary takes the “Innocent Man on Texas Death Row” tale to a dark corner feared by all - - proving that an innocent man has been executed by the State.

A clash between good and evil strikes up on the High Plains of Texas when Johnny Frank Garrett, a 17 year old retarded boy is arrested, convicted and ultimately executed for the Halloween night rape, mutilation and murder of Sister Tadea Benz. The 76 year old nun was attacked while she slept in her room at the St. Francis Convent in Amarillo, Texas. Garrett claimed his innocence from the time of his arrest until his dying breath. Sixteen years after Garrett’s execution new evidence rose up from the cold case grave of the Amarillo Police Department proving they executed the wrong man!

During interviews with key players the case of Johnny Frank Garrett unfolds as a recipe for executing the innocent. A death penalty obsessed District Attorney and his lap-dog Medical Examiner, ladder climbing cops, bloodthirsty media, enraged and fearful jurors, incompetent defense lawyers, politicized judges, witch-hunting religious zealots and an ironfisted Governor with national ambitions meld together as perfect ingredients for a plate of government sponsored murder.

In Garrett’s final statement he professed his innocence one last time but did so in a voice driven by hate and vengeance. In his chilling conclusion Garrett promised those responsible for his murder that someday he would have the last word and they would pay for what they had done. For most of Garrett’s enemies “someday” happened long ago.

Regardless of faith, for or against the death penalty, liberal or conservative The Last Word compels viewers to feel not only the collective pain our societal conscience suffers for executing the innocent but also the individual fear of not knowing what margins of error our judges, jurors and executioners will find acceptable tomorrow.


Below is Quackenbush speaking in Austin on Lobby Day.

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Radio Interview With Wife of Jeff Wood

Houston Indymedia has an interview with the wife of Jeff Wood.

An interview with Kristin Wood, the wife of Death Row Prisoner Jeff Wood, who is scheduled to be executed on August 21 by the state of Texas for a Law of Parties Conviction. This interview is around 9 minutes long.

audio: MP3 at 8.2 mebibytes

Kristin and Gloria Rubac at the Walls Unit

A Petition to give clemency to Jeff Wood Please sign.

HIMC Radio is on the airwaves every Friday night at 90.1fm in Houston and 89.5 in Galveston, and online at www.kpft.org. We are always looking for new volunteers to help us produce the show, get in touch.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Central Texas ACLU Responds to Fennel Plea Bargain Rejection

The Central Texas chapter of the ACLU sent out this information today. We are glad that CTCLU is closely watching this case.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 24, 2008
Contacts:
Debbie Russell, 512.573.xxxx; president, ACLU-TX Central Texas Chapter (CTCLU);
Stefanie Collins, 512.784-xxxx, member, CTCLU (present at hearing)

----------------CTCLU responds to Fennell plea bargain rejection----------------

COURT SEES NEED FOR FENNELL TRIAL; MORE REASON RODNEY REED NEEDS A RE-TRIAL!

Former Georgetown police officer Jimmy Fennell pleaded guilty on May 20 to one count of kidnapping and one count of improper sexual activity with a person in custody (a disturbingly understated charge). That a District Judge denied the plea bargain provides hope for some justice in this case but the deal exposes the District Attorney's complete lack of will to adequately hold law enforcement accountable for their crimes when they should be held to higher standards as officers of the law. If Mr. Fennell were an everyday man of color with the same alleged history of violence and stalking, the deal might not have been so giving. In a just system, an officer's abuse of the power granted to him by the state should move the state to seek at least the same punishment that any citizen would receive.

It seems Judge Carnes saw through the too-lenient deal which reinforces the need for Rodney Reed to have his appeal granted. Fennell was a prime suspect in the murder of Stacey Stites, which Reed sits on death row for. What we now know of Fennell's pattern of abuse coupled with this recent admission of guilt for such a violent crime should provide the appellate court much doubt as to Reed's guilt, especially considering the alleged suppressed evidence by former Bastrop DA Charles Penick during that trial.

As indicated by our name, the ACLU-TX Central Texas Chapter is committed to monitoring law enforcement in the central Texas region, not just in Austin. We are currently studying recently submitted open records requests at the Georgetown Police Department. Their hiring of Fennell, in addition to other recent actions by GPD, raises many questions about their policies, patterns, practices and their apparent lack of applying discipline. It also highlights the dangerous lack of information available to departments about misconduct history due to state civil service law limitations.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Jeff Wood's Sister Asks For Help For Wrongfully Convicted Brother on Death Row

Please sign petition for Jeff Wood.

Hello.

My name is Terri Been and I am a Texas republican who is AGAINST the death penalty. I am sorry to say that it was not always this way as I was raised to believe in the death penalty; BUT my views changed over 10 years ago when I was thrust unwillingly into the Texas Judicial system; at which time my eyes were opened to the complete injustice of our whole system.

See, I am the sister of a man wrongfully convicted under the law of parties in Texas. This man's name is Jeffery Wood and he is set to die on August 21st, 2008 for a murder he did NOT commit.

I am writing to you because I am feeling helpless, and I do not know what I can do. These days, I find myself slave to the computer...at first I was a slave to the computer waiting for the worst...to see my brother's name upon the list of those waiting to be executed. That time has come and gone, but I find myself still a slave to the computer in hopes of finding people who can help us in our fight against the Texas Judicial System.



With the execution date set less than 3 months from now, we are running out of time. We are desperate for exposure with people who have some kind of influence on the public, or people who know other people who may be able to help. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or just anything that may help...please feel free to get in touch with me.

We now have a homepage for Jeff in addition to the online petition that is circulating, (which can be found on his homepage at the following web address: www.freewebs.com/savejeffwood under the how to help section). I humbly ask you to help my family by taking a few minutes of your time to read a few facts regarding Jeff's case and to sign his petition that we will be sending the governor!

While you are on Jeff's Web Page, I also ask that you take an extra minute or two to look at the other information we have in the how you can help section. For those of you who are familiar with Kenneth Foster's case (which is very similar to Jeff's case) it took their family over 17,000messages to the Governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to get his sentence commuted to Life. This was accomplished by sending petitions, faxes, letters, and by making phone calls. At this point, I am getting a little worried because we only have 353 signatures on the petition, and while I am eternally grateful for every
single signature.I need more. I need calls, letters and faxes to go along with the petition signatures.

I humbly ask that you help my family. Jeff is my baby brother and he did not kill anybody! Please ask yourselves what you would do if you were in my situation.

While I am trying to save my brother because he is innocent of murder, I am fighting to abolish the death penalty completely. In addition to the protesting and campaigning my family and I have been doing with Capital X lately (not only for my brother, but for all who face the Death Penalty), I wrote an editorial about the death penalty and had it published in the Lampasas and Killeen newspapers. This is posted as a bulletin on my page and is entitled.Are we a leader in Human Rights.
(It is not about Jeff, but the death penalty in general. Please feel free to repost this document if you feel compelled to do so.) Also, please take a few minutes to look at the few videos I have on my page.they are very powerful clips and will make you think...maybe even cry.

If you do decide that you are interested in helping us save my brother's life; please forward this to as many people as you know. I need at least 1000 signatures on the petition before we can send it in. And again, I am also desperate for letters, and faxes to be sent to the governor and the Texas Pardons and Parole Board as well.

I feel that the more who know about this and participate in it, the better it will be for all inmates who face death, not just my brother. Up until this point, we have done what we have been told to do...'sit back, and let the system work.' BUT the system has failed my brother,failed his daughter, and failed those of us who love him.Now we are just desperate!

Your help, guidance, and consideration to this matter will be greatly appreciated. ..more than you will ever know!

Please feel free to contact me if you need to, but if you could pass on that info I would be extremely appreciative!

I thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter! Again, your help will be greatly appreciated! God Bless You All and thank you for all that you do!!!!

In struggle,

Terri Been B.S., M. Ed

Athletic Director

mystrus@hotmail.com

210-887-2190 or 512-556-5674

P.S. I am very tired and worn out, so please forgive any grammatical or spelling errors as I just cannot seem to think these days!

Here is one of the comments from the on-line petition:

(This comment comes from a man whom I do do not know, and he is pro-death penalty, but he was interested enough to do the research on it before he signed it...please read...)

Jun 9, 2008, Jack Kelley, Texas

Yes, I am very much in favor of the death penalty. But this case does not warrant execution. This man was outside of the store in the car, when his partner committed murder inside the store. I researched the case, including Wood's appeal, on official State of Texas websites. I showed it to an excellent attorney who told me that Wood's
representation was lacking, and on the merits, this man should not have gotten the death penalty, nor should the death penalty have been upheld on appeal.

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Jeff Wood's Family Protests at Rick Perry's New Home

Jeff Wood is waiting to die on Texas Death Row with an execution date of August 21st, 2008. Jeff was charged under the Law of Parties, and was not the shooter in this crime. Jeff could not anticipate that a murder would occur.The actual shooter in this case has already been executed by the state of Texas.



Click here to learn how you can help

Below are pictures of Jeff's family protesting recently in Austin at Rick Perry's temporary home in Southwest Austin and at the Capitol.

Protesting outside the Governor's residence in Austin Texas.

Capital X trying to make contact with the Governor via intercom, and security cameras.

Paige (Jeff's daughter), and her uncle Steven holding up the sign she made in front of the security camera at the Governor's mansion.

Paige (Jeff's daughter) disappointed that she did not get to speak to the governor.

Day 3 of protesting for Wood's Family

Protesting on Memorial day 2008 outside the state capitol

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jeff Wood: Law of Parties

Jeff Wood is waiting to die on Texas Death Row with an execution date of August 21st, 2008. Jeff was charged under the Law of Parties, and was not the shooter in this crime. Jeff could not anticipate that a murder would occur.The actual shooter in this case has already been executed by the state of Texas.

Click here to learn how you can help.

There were several errors made in Jeff's trial . He did not receive a fair trial.

Jeff also have been diagnosed with mental illnesses dating back to his childhood.

From Jeff Wood's Website

Full name: Jeffrey Lee Wood

Date of birth: 8/ 19 /74
Convicted: Killing a convenience store clerk during a January 1996 robbery in Kerrville, TX
Convicted under: The law of parties.
Previous record: None

Co-defendant: Daniel Earl Reneau (executed on 06/13/2002)

Short case summary: At approximately 6:00 a.m. on Jan. 2, 1996, while Wood waited outside, Reneau entered the gas station with a gun and pointed it at Kris Keeran, the clerk standing behind the counter. Reneau ordered him to a back room. When he did not move quickly enough, Reneau fired one shot with a 22 caliber handgun that struck Keeran between the eyes. Death was almost instantaneous. Proceeding with the robbery, Reneau went into the back office and took a safe. When hearing the shot, Wood got out of the car to see what was going on. He walked by the door and looked through the glass. Then he went inside, and he looked over the counter and ran to the back, where Reneau was. Wood was then ordered, at gun point by Reneau, to get the surveillance video and to drive the getaway-car.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

World Court Hears Case of Mexican Citizens on Death Row

The AP is reporting that "Mexico made an emergency appeal to the U.N.'s highest court Thursday to block the execution of its citizens on death row in the United States." One of the Mexican citizens, Jose Medellin, is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas on Aug. 5.

More from the AP:

Mexico contends the United States is defying a 2004 order by the International Court of Justice to review the cases of 51 condemned Mexican prisoners.

That ruling said the inmates had been denied the right to help from their consulate after their arrests. It said the death row prisoners were entitled to a reconsideration of their trials and sentences to determine whether the violation affected their cases.

Informally known as the World Court, the tribunal is the U.N.'s judicial arm for resolving disputes among nations. Its decisions are binding and final, but it has no enforcement powers.

...

Sandra Babcock, representing Mexico, said that since the court's decision four years ago, 33 Mexicans had sought reviews of their cases in state courts.

Only one request was granted, Babcock said. A second inmate accepted a commutation to life imprisonment in exchange for waiving his claim for a review.

"All other efforts to enforce the judgment have failed," she said.

Mexico listed five of its citizens slated for imminent execution, all in Texas. Medellin, 33, was sentenced to death in the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls 15 years ago.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

News Flash: Sharon Keller Works Past 5 PM to Try to Compel Execution

In an article reporting on the on, off, on, off scheduled execution of Charles Hood last night, the Statesman reports that

The Court of Criminal Appeals refused to order Henderson to reinstate the order because he had recused himself from the case. Prosecutors then successfully asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to order the region's presiding judge, John Ovard, to reinstate the death warrant.

According to Hood's lawyers, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller then contacted Ovard, urging him to reinstate the order allowing the execution to go forward, which he did.
Last Sept 25, Keller refused to work late to accept an appeal from the defense lawyers of Michael Richard, who was executed later that night.

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Clowns Run Out of Time: Execution Cancelled

UPDATE, 11:55: Execution Cancelled after prison officials were faced with a midnight CDT deadline Tuesday to administer the lethal drugs to Charles Dean Hood but feared they could not follow the proper procedures in time after lengthy appeals delayed the scheduled punishment.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Supreme Court Denies Appeal; Hood's Execution Imminent

UPDATE, 11:19 p.m.: The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Charles Dean Hood’s final appeals and the condemned double murderer is set to be executed “any minute now,” according to Michelle Lyons, a spokesperson with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

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All-Time Clown Court Puts Execution Back On

The execution of Hood is apparently back on, following an order from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but it is hard to tell by just reading the online media reports. This AP story does say that he has three unresolved appeals at the U.S. Supreme Court. The big news is that apparently the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals does not close at 5, as Sharon Killer dishonestly claimed on Sept 25. No matter what else happens tonight, one thing should be clear, Sharon Keller should be immediately forced to resign for her unethical behavior last Sept 25. Sharon Keller is a liar. Meanwhile, the all time clown college that is the Texas Judicial System is in full session, trying to execute a person whose trial was presided over by a judge who was secretly having a romantic affair with the DA prosecuting the case.

The Statesman is reporting:

The Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered a North Texas judge to reinstate the death warrant for Charles Dean Hood. The warrant had been recalled earlier in the day. Prosecutors in Collin County successfully asked the state’s highest court to order the region’s presiding judge to reinstate the case. Hood could be executed this evening if the order is reinstated by midnight, when the warrant expires.

UPDATE, 9:13 p.m.: Prosecutors in Collin County have again this evening asked the Court of Criminal appeals to reinstate the execution warrant for Charles Dean Hood. In one court filing, Collin County Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Garon asked the court to order the presiding judge of the state’s First Administrative Judicial District to order the execution warrant reinstated tonight. In another filing, Garon asked for “extraordinary writ relief” because “no judge is available to withdraw the order.

Meanwhile, Texas prison officials say that Hood remains in a holding cell adjacent to death row in Huntsville. The execution warrant that prosecutors are trying to reinstate expires at midnight.

Update: The Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered that a district judge in Collin County had no authority to withdraw Charles Dean Hood’s death warrant. However, the state’s highest court said in an unsigned order that since the judge has now recused himself from the case, the Court of Criminal Appeals has no authority to order the judge to reinstate the death warrant. Hood’s lawyers say they are unsure whether Collin County prosecutors will file additional motions this evening in an attempt to prompt Hood’s execution.

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UPDATE: DA Appeals, Seeks to Execute Hood Tonight

8:23pm From the Statesman: "The Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered that a district judge in Collin County had no authority to withdraw Charles Dean Hood’s death warrant. However, the state’s highest court said in an unsigned order that since the judge has now recused himself from the case, the Court of Criminal Appeals has no authority to order the judge to reinstate the death warrant. Hood’s lawyers say they are unsure whether Collin County prosecutors will file additional motions this evening in an attempt to prompt Hood’s execution."



The Statesman is reporting that

Charles Dean Hood’s scheduled execution today was delayed after a state district judge recalled Hood’s death warrant in the wake of recent allegations that the district attorney and trial judge in the case had a secret intimate relationship that may have undermined Hood’s right to a fair trial.

But Hood’s fate this evening remains unresolved as prosecutors in Collin County have appealed for the state’s highest criminal court to overrule the district judge and order the execution to proceed. The Associated Press reports that state prison officials have declined to return Hood to death row, pending the outcome of the appeal.

“Only in Texas. Only in Texas,” said Lawrence Fox, who teaches law at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania and has been watching the case closely.

“If we’re going to have the death penalty in America, then we better conduct the proceedings in a pristine way … If it (the relationship between the judge and district attorney) is true, he is entitled to a new trial in front of another judge and it doesn’t make a difference that everyone thinks he is guilty.”

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Today's Execution Stayed

Houston Chronicle:

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Collin County state district judge has put off the scheduled execution of Charles Dean Hood for a double slaying in suburban Dallas almost 20 years ago.

In an order signed just over an hour before Hood could have gone to the death chamber Tuesday night, state District Judge Curt Henderson withdrew the execution warrant after defense attorneys for the inmate had sought any correspondence in the Collin County district attorney's office that could be related to accusations of a long-standing romantic relationship between one of Hood's prosecutors and the judge who presided over his trial in 1990.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had refused to consider arguments about the alleged affair, citing technical reasons that disqualified the appeal.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Texas "all-time clown college"

Yesterday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals turned down two appeals from Charles Hood, who was convicted in a courtroom in which the judge was involved in a long time romantic relationship with the prosecutor. Hood is scheduled for execution on Tuesday, June 17, in Huntsville. Protesters will be at the Texas Capitol at 5:30 on Tuesday.

The Statesman reported, "the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected one appeal, known as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, citing problems with the appellate lawyers' signatures. The second appeal was rejected because Texas law limits death row inmates to one habeas petition unless lawyers uncover new information that was not previously available."

Mike Hall of Texas Monthly wrote last week in an email to Evan Smith that the CCA should stop Hood's execution or risk Texas "becoming the all-time clown college of the American judicial system, the state that okayed both sleeping lawyers and lawyers sleeping with each other." Now that the appeal has been rejected by the TCCA, Texas assumes the title of "all-time clown college".

From Mike Hall's email:

But it’s not merely justice that is important. As the U.S. Supreme Court has said, a court “not only must be unbiased but also must avoid even the appearance of bias.”

And this is why the CCA needs to grant this writ and not, as it has done over the past ten years, rush to execution. After Holland left the district court, she served on the CCA from 1997 until 2001. She worked with eight of the nine currently sitting judges. If they ignore this appeal, this affidavit from a former officer of the Texas courts about one of their former peers, they risk not only the appearance of injustice but the reality of Texas becoming the all-time clown college of the American judicial system, the state that okayed both sleeping lawyers and lawyers sleeping with each other. The state that wouldn’t halt its execution machine long enough to ask a simple question. The CCA should grant this writ, call a hearing, subpoena Holland and O’Connell, and get to the bottom of the matter. Because it’s more than a man’s life that is at stake. It’s the absolute integrity of the way we run our judicial system.
Click here to CONTACT GOVERNOR PERRY and tell him to stop the execution of Charles Dean Hood:

In Austin or from out of state: (512) 463-1782
Calling from Texas: (800) 252-9600
Fax: (512) 463-1849

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

TDP Resolutions Committee Approves Death Penalty Abolition Resolution

At last weekend's Democratic State Convention, the Resolutions Committee approved a resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty. In the end, only one committee member voted against the resolution. The resolution did not get a floor vote. It was referred to the SDEC Resolutions Committee for further consideration, like many other resolutions. Lee Greenwood, who spoke at Friday's caucus meeting of "Democrats Against the Death Penalty" was allowed to speak to the resolutions committee. Her son was executed last year in Huntsville. Other caucus participants, including Sherry Clausell and Barbara Acuna, lobbied the committee members. The abolition resolution had been passed by several senatorial or county conventions. Many people at the convention wore red stickers saying "Abolish the Death Penalty".

The 2008 Texas Democratic Party platform continues to call for a moratorium on executions. This is the third time the platform has called for a moratorium. The first platform that called for a halt to executions and the creation of a commission to study the problems in the Texas death penalty was in 2004.

At the State Convention, there was a caucus meeting of "Democrats Against the Death Penalty", which was founded by Texas Moratorium Network's Scott Cobb in 2004. Speakers at the caucus this year were Rev. Carroll Pickett, Judge Charlie Baird, Lee Greenwood and Sissy Farenthold. More than 300 people attended the caucus, packing the room and standing along the walls.

Picket is a former chaplain of the death house in Huntsville. He accompanied 95 people to their executions in his capacity as chaplain.

Judge Baird is a former member of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and current Judge of the 299th District Court in Austin.

Leeatriss Greenwood is the mother of Joseph Nichols who was executed last year in Huntsville. Greenwood received a standing ovation at the caucus meeting after telling the moving story of her son's execution. She and many others believer her son was wrongfully convicted. "You stand in front of a glass and I watched them kill him. That's not easy. That is one of the hardest things that you will ever do," said Greenwood.

Sissy Farenthold is a former Texas state representative who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1972, getting into a runoff with the eventual winner.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Judge, Prosecutor Make Beast with Two Backs: Man Sentenced to Death

There are many problems in the Texas death penalty system, but here is one that even we had not heard of before. A judge presiding over a death penalty trial who was making the beast with two backs with the prosecutor. The trial resulted in a death sentence and next week the man is set for execution. The Austin-American Statesman is reporting that:

The capital murder conviction of Charles Dean Hood, who is set to be executed Tuesday, should be overturned because the judge at his 1990 trial was secretly dating the district attorney, an appeal filed Thursday alleged.

Judge Verla Sue Holland, now retired, could not have provided Hood with a fair and impartial trial while involved in a long-term intimate relationship with then-Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell, the appeal said. O'Connell played an active role in prosecuting Hood for the double murder that put him on death row.

"The wall of silence that has long protected Judge Holland must now come down," the appeal said. "An intimate relationship ... not only implies a special willingness of the judge to accept the prosecutor's representations and arguments, but also suggests extensive personal contacts beyond the confines of the courtroom."

Neither Holland nor O'Connell were married at the time, but they worked to keep the relationship secret, the appeal said.
Last year, we had the shocking case of Judge Sharon Killer saying, "We close at 5" and shuffling off to dinner while a man was executed without having access to her court. Now this. Texas is disgraced again.

More from the Statesman:
Hood's latest appeal did not attack the facts of the case but focused on the right to a fair trial before an impartial judge.

According to the Texas Constitution, judges cannot sit on cases where they have a personal interest or "where either of the parties may be connected with the judge."

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a judge must not only be unbiased, "but also must avoid even the appearance of bias."

The appearance of irresponsible or improper conduct by judges diminishes public confidence in judicial integrity and breeds skepticism and mistrust, Hood's appeal argued.


CONTACT GOVERNOR PERRY and tell him to stop the execution of Charles Dean Hood:

In Austin or from out of state: (512) 463-1782
Calling from Texas: (800) 252-9600
Fax: (512) 463-1849
Email: send message from the website:
http://www.governor.statetx.us/contact

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

DMN News Explains Anti-Death Penalty Stance

The Dallas Morning News yesterday explained again their position favoring abolishing the death penalty in an Ask the Editor post:

For more than a century, this newspaper favored the death penalty. Beginning in 2003 – but, more earnestly, in 2006 -- the Editorial Board began to have misgivings. What with DNA technological advances, it was becoming clear that the death penalty wasn't flawless. That's why last year – after much debate and soul searching and after Texas authorized the alternative death sentence of prison without parole – we decided to revise our thinking. We simply couldn't reconcile the fact that the death penalty is both imperfect and irreversible.

Perhaps this reader missed the fuller explanation of our thinking and the process by which we got to our new position. We published a special Points section on April 15, 2007, addressing this change of heart. And we published two additional editorials – "Life without parole should be new standard" and "Texas' next step" – the next day. This package of editorials – plus a dissenting column from one of our Editorial Board members and a variety of reader reactions, both pro and con – all appeared during these two days. We made clear we'd carefully considered dissenting views. All of these essays – plus the transcript of an online chat I did at the time – are collected at dallasnews.com/deathnomore.

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Texas Democratic Party Platform Endorses a Moratorium on Executions

The Texas Democratic Party once again endorsed a moratorium on executions in Texas in the Party platform adopted at last weekend's state convention. In addition to endorsing a moratorium on executions, the Resolutions Committee at the State Convention also passed a resolution in favor of abolishing the death penalty. The abolition resolution was not brought to the floor of the convention for a vote before the convention adjourned, so it will be referred to the State Democratic Executive Committee's resolutions committee for further consideration. We will post more on the abolition resolution later.

The section in the party platform dealing with capital punishment was drafted by Scott Cobb, who was a member of the chair's advisory committee on the platform.

From the 2008 TDP Platform:

Capital Punishment
When capital punishment is used, Texans must be assured that it is fairly administered. Texas Democrats extend our deepest sympathies to all victims of crime and especially to the families of murder victims, and we strongly support their rights. The Texas death penalty system has been severely criticized by religious leaders, appellate courts and major newspapers that have observed that the current system cannot ensure that innocent or undeserving defendants are not sentenced to death. Last year, the Dallas Morning News called for abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

In the modern era, Texas has executed over 400 people, far more than any other state in the nation. The frequency of executions and inadequacies in our criminal justice system increase the likelihoodthat an innocent person will be executed. The State of Texas may have already executed at least two innocent people, according to major newspaper investigations into the cases of Carlos DeLuna and Cameron Todd Willingham. Another inmate, Ernest Willis, was exonerated and released from exas Death Row in 2004 after 17 years of wrongful imprisonment. In order to promote public confidence in the fairness of the Texas criminal justice system, Texas Democrats support the establishment of a Texas Capital Punishment Commission to study the Texas death penalty system and a moratorium on executions pending action on the Commission’s findings.

Texas Democrats support the following specific reforms:
• establishing a statewide Office of Public Defenders for Capital Cases to ensure that every person accused of a capital crime has equal access to well-trained trial and appellate attorneys, regardless of income, race or the county of jurisdiction;
• allowing testing of any possibly exculpatory DNA evidence to ensure guilt or innocence before executions are carried out, and allowing testing of DNA evidence after an execution to determine if an innocent person has been executed;
• establishing procedures to determine before a trial takes place whether an accused has mental retardation, in order to be sure that Texas complies with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on executions of people with mental retardation;
• banning death sentences and executions for people with mental illness;
• requiring the Board of Pardons and Paroles to meet in person to discuss and vote on every case involving the death sentence; and
• restoring the power to the Governor to grant clemency in death penalty cases without a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Karl Chamberlain Executed in Texas

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that

Texas has executed convicted killer Karl Eugene Chamberlain for the rape-slaying of a woman in Dallas 17 years ago, making him the first Texas prisoner in nearly nine months to be put to death in the nation's most active death penalty state.

Chamberlain, 37, died by injection Wednesday night
This was the first execution in Texas since Sept 25, 2007, and the 406th person executed in Texas since 1982.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Texas Executions Set to Resume Wednesday, June 11

From the New York Times:
Texas’s Court of Criminal Appeals issued rulings on Monday that rejected challenges from five death row inmates to lethal injections there, which also rely on the three-chemical cocktail. Karl Chamberlain, who raped and murdered a 30-year-old woman in 1991, is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

The last execution before the de facto moratorium happened in Texas, and it was the subject of controversy. The presiding judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals, Judge Sharon Keller, closed the courthouse at its regular time of 5 p.m. and turned back an attempt from a death row inmate to file appeal papers a few minutes later. The inmate, Michael Richard, was executed that evening.

Opponents of the death penalty in Texas said they had hoped the criticism that followed that episode would inform the court’s decisions on the recent lethal injection challenges.

“Those of us who thought the court was taking a thoughtful and rigorous look at this were wrong,” said David R. Dow of the Texas Defender Service. “I don’t think the court has shown the interest in really developing a coherent body of law, but instead reacts from one decision to the next like a pinball.”

Mr. Chamberlain, scheduled to die on Wednesday, would be the 406th prisoner to be executed in Texas since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

“Texas is still Texas,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty. “They are the ones with the most dates coming up, and by the year’s end, I’m quite confident they will lead the country in executions.”

Come to the Texas Capitol at 5:30 PM on Wednesday, June 11, to protest the resumption of executions in Texas.

CONTACT GOVERNOR PERRY:

In Austin or from out of state: (512) 463-1782
Calling from Texas: (800) 252-9600
Fax: (512) 463-1849
Email: send message from the website:
http://www.governor.statetx.us/contact


Karl Chamberlain June 11
TDCJ Info on Karl Chamberlain


Statewide Execution Vigils
Google Map


Huntsville - Corner of 12th Street and Avenue I (in front of the Walls Unit) at 5:00 p.m.
Austin - At the Governor's Mansion on the Lavaca St. side between 10th and 11th St. from 5:30 to 6:30 PM.


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


College Station - 6 to 7 PM on execution days, corner of Texas Avenue and University Drive.


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


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


Houston - For June 11th execution there will be a demonstration at the Mecom Fountains from 5:00 until 6:30. The fountains are at the entrance to Herman Park where Main Street, Montrose Blvd and Fannin Street all intersect at a traffic circle just south of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. To learn if a stay has been granted before you come out, call Burnham Terrell, 713/921-0948.


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


McKinney - St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Community located at 110 St. Gabriel Way. We gather the last Saturday of the month between 6:00 to 6:30 to pray for those men/women scheduled to be executed in the next month and to remember the victims, their families, and all lives touched, including us as a society.


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


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


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

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Judge Hervey Media Advisory on Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit

MEDIA ADVISORY

From the Office of Judge Barbara Hervey, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals


For Media Use Only

June 4, 2008

Contact: 512-463-1575, Rose Cardona, Briefing Attorney to Judge Barbara Hervey


On behalf of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Judge Barbara Hervey officially announces the establishment of the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit: “This is a call to action to address the growing concerns with our criminal justice system. Although we applaud all previous studies and dialogue, it is now time to act and move for reform. While more government does not necessarily mean better government, reflection and willingness to improve does respond to the needs of our system and our citizens.”

The Court will continue to work closely with Governor Rick Perry, Senator Rodney Ellis, the innocence projects/clinics, and all parties affected by the criminal justice system, including currently incarcerated individuals who may have been wrongfully convicted. Some of the issues to be addressed by the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit will include:

  • Improving the quality of defense counsel available for indigent defendants.
  • Implementing procedures to improve eyewitness identification.
  • Making recommendations to eliminate improper interrogations and to protect against false confessions.
  • Reforming the standards for collection, preservation, and storage of evidence.
  • Improving crime lab reliability.
  • Improving attorney practices and accountability.
  • Adequately compensating the wrongfully convicted.
  • Implementing writ training.
  • Establishing local, “home rule” protocol for the prevention of wrongful convictions

The Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit intends to focus on the strengths and the weaknesses within the Texas criminal justice system. It is not a forum for any particular group, nor does it embrace the plan of one particular political party. The present “unit” includes:

  • Judge Barbara Hervey, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Senator Rodney Ellis, Texas Senate
  • Mary Anne Wiley, Deputy General Counsel to Governor Rick Perry
  • Bill Allison, Clinical Professor of Law/Director, UT Criminal Defense Clinic
  • Pat Johnson, Director, Texas DPS Crime Lab
  • James McLaughlin, General Counsel/Executive Director, Texas Police Chief’s Association
  • Craig Watkins, District Attorney, Dallas
  • Jaime Esparza, District Attorney, El Paso
  • Jim McReynolds, Texas House of Representatives
  • Gary Udashen, Criminal Defense Attorney, Dallas
  • Judge Sid Harle, District Judge, San Antonio
  • Jim Bethke, Director, Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sister of Executed Man: Texas Guilty of Failing to Protect Innocent

"When it comes to capital punishment, Texas is guilty of failing to protect the innocent"
by Rose Rhoton
Austin American-Statesman
Monday, June 02, 2008

Excerpt from Rose Rhotan's article in the Austin American-Statesman:

'I want to say that I hold no grudges.'

These were the final words of my brother Carlos De Luna before he was executed by the state of Texas in 1989 for a crime he did not commit. His last words express remarkable forgiveness from an innocent man facing the ultimate miscarriage of justice. Unfortunately, in the 19 years since his execution, the numerous problems that led to his wrongful conviction have never been addressed and continue to plague the Texas capital punishment system. With executions in the state about to resume, I hope that legislators and the courts will learn lessons from my brother's story.

Carlos was convicted, sentenced to death and executed in six short years, despite overwhelming problems with the case. In 1983, convenience store clerk Wanda Lopez was stabbed to death, and Carlos became a suspect when he was found near the scene shortly after the crime took place. But the crime had all the hallmarks of a violent felon who had a history of knife attacks against women in the area. This individual had repeatedly bragged to friends and family members that he committed the crime and that his "stupid tocayo," or namesake, had taken the fall. Police and prosecutors ignored the information and refused to look into the alternate suspect who many in the community believe committed the crime.

Instead, prosecutors convicted my brother on the basis of faulty eyewitness testimony and no supporting forensic evidence. The main eyewitness told the Chicago Tribune, in the newspaper's re-investigation of the case, that he has serious doubts about Carlos' guilt. The identification was made while Carlos was in the backseat of a police car and after the police told the witness they had arrested Carlos near the scene, giving the witness a false sense of certainty that Carlos was guilty.

Unfortunately, my brother's story is not unique. Far from it. The well-documented problems in his case are unacceptably common. The nature of eyewitness identification, for instance, is often flawed. It plays a role in 75 percent of all DNA exonerations nationwide.

Read the rest of the article.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Protest Resumption of Executions in Texas on June 3

Send a message to Texas Governor Rick Perry and members of the Texas Legislature protesting the resumption of executions in Texas on June 3.

Derrick Sonnier, is scheduled to be executed in Huntsville on June 3rd.

This will be the first execution in Texas since Sept 25th when Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller said, "we close at 5" and refused to accept an appeal 20 minutes late for a man later executed that night. Around 1900 people signed on to a complaint that we submitted asking the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to remove Keller for her unethical action.

Protest at the Texas Capitol


Tuesday, June 3rd at 5:30PM at the Capitol
On the steps at Congress and 11th

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