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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Video: DA Craig Watkins Accepting Award as Public Official of the Year


Most district attorneys make a name for themselves by winning convictions. Craig Watkins has done it by reversing convictions that never should have happened.


November 2008 cover

Every year since 1994, Governing has honored individual state and local government officials for outstanding accomplishment by naming them Public Officials of the Year. Elected, appointed and career officials from any branch of state or local government are eligible. Our readers are invited to nominate individuals who have had a notable positive impact on their department or agency, community or state.

Governing annually receives several hundred nominations from individuals in the public and private sectors. In addition, Governing staff consults experts and scholars in the field, and also nominates outstanding individuals they encounter in the course of their work. Nominations are evaluated by a selection committee, which, after painstaking research, chooses the winners.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Sharon Keller Should Be Impeached and Removed from Office for "willful neglect of duty"

When the Texas Legislature convenes in January, it should take action to remove Sharon Keller from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. We are still waiting for a report from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding the reprehensible actions of Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The last communication we received from the Commission was that their investigation was nearing completion. That was in September. There were several judicial complaints filed against Keller (scroll down for list).

We do not know what, if any, action the Commission will take to discipline Keller for her violation of the unwritten policies of the Court of Criminal Appeals on Sept 25, when she neglected to inform the duty judge that the lawyers of Michael Richard wanted to submit an appeal 15 minutes after the end of the day's office hours. Keller said, "we close at 5" and refused to accept the appeal. In truth, the Court does not "close". Justice is always open. Keller knew it and yet she obstructed justice by her actions. The Commission could recommend that the Texas Supreme Court removes her from office. However, there are two other methods that could be used to remove Keller from her position.

The Texas Constitution Article 15, Section 2 says that "impeachment of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner of the General Land Office, Comptroller and the Judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and District Court shall be tried by the Senate."

Before such a trial can take place, the Texas House has to impeach the officer to be tried. "Impeachment" is the formal charging of misconduct.The actual removal of office would be by the Senate's trial. even if the Senate did not vote to remove her, being officially indicted by the Texas House could be encouragement enough to convince her to resign.

Texas Monthly's Mike Hall raised the idea of impeachment in the magazine's December 2007 issue:
If the commission doesn’t act quickly, we’ll have to wait until January 2009, when the Legislature—which has the power to oust high judges—reconvenes, or worse, 2012, when Keller is up for reelection. The fact is, we need to do it now. Impeach Sharon Keller.
The Texas Constitution also says in Article 15, Section 8 that judges can be removed for causes that are not sufficient for impeachment:
The Judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and District Courts, shall be removed by the Governor on the address of two-thirds of each House of the Legislature, for willful neglect of duty, incompetency, habitual drunkenness, oppression in office, or other reasonable cause which shall not be sufficient ground for impeachment; provided, however, that the cause or causes for which such removal shall be required, shall be stated at length in such address and entered on the journals of each House; and provided further, that the cause or causes shall be notified to the judge so intended to be removed, and he shall be admitted to a hearing in his own defense before any vote for such address shall pass, and in all such cases, the vote shall be taken by yeas and nays and entered on the journals of each House respectively.

Texas Moratorium Network submitted a Public Information Request to Sharon Keller to receive a copy of the letter she wrote to the Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe in response to Ratcliffe's own PIR. Ratcliffe wrote an article on his PIR on Dec 13 ("Judge in death case violated policies: Keller, who shut out appeal, says new written rules reflect unwritten ones on that day"). He wrote that "Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller apparently violated court policies for handling death penalty cases when she closed the court clerk's doors on Michael Richard's efforts to file a last-minute appeal before his execution."

Ratcliffe's reporting seems to have uncovered the smoking gun admission that Keller broke the CCA's policies in effect on the day of Richard's execution. He should be given a journalism award for his work. We congratulate him on his idea of asking for the policies in effect on Sept 25. His article left us wanting to see the entire text of the policies ourselves, so we submitted our own PIR.

Reading the entire text of the policies makes it very clear that Keller violated the rules by not contacting the assigned duty judge about the request by Richard's lawyers to file a late appeal.

We sent a copy to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct of Keller's letter to Ratcliffe and of the document "Execution-day Procedures".

Read the policies and judge for yourselves if she violated them. Here is a link to a pdf of the document we received from the Court. The newly written down text of the unwritten policies in effect on Sept 25, 2007 is below:

Execution-day Procedures

A designated judge will be assigned to be in charge of each scheduled execution. Generally, judges will be assigned in rotating seniority order by the general counsel. Exceptions in order of assignment will be made for prior involvement in the death-row inmate's case as trial judge, prosecutor, or defense counsel, or for recusal. Judges may also trade assignments, with notice to all other judges and general counsel, for other good cause such as anticipated absence from court on the day of execution. Unless the Court has been informed by defense counsel that no pleadings will be filed, or pleadings have been filed and ruled on, general counsel shall be present at the Court on the date of the scheduled execution until the time of execution has passed. The assigned judge shall be present at the Court, or immediately available, on the date of the scheduled execution until the time of execution has passed. Support staff may be requested to remain, also, as needed.

All communications regarding the scheduled execution shall first be referred to the assigned judge. The term “communications” includes pleadings, telephone calls, faxes, emails, and any other means of communication with the Court. The assigned judge may call a special conference or gather votes by telephone, email, fax, or other form of communication.

If the communication includes a request for stay of execution, the assigned judge shall contact, by any reasonable means, the other members of the Court and request a vote on the motion to stay. Non-assigned judges will provide to the assigned judge an adequate means of contact. "Reasonable means" includes calling a special conference and contact by electronic communication.
Below are some of the people who filed complaints last year against Keller with the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
* A group of about 1900 people signed a complaint sent to the Commission by Texas Moratorium Network.
* Twenty lawyers represented by Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project, including:
o Dick DeGuerin
o Chuck Herring
o former State Bar President Broadus Spivey
o University of Houston law professor Mike Olivas
o former appellate Judge Michol O'Connor
o State Representative Harold Dutton
* Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, signed by more than 130 lawyers and others, including:
o State Representative Dora Olivo
o State Representative Garnet Coleman
* National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
* Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
* State Representative Lon Burnam
* State Representative Jessica Farrar
Several newspapers also called for Keller to be removed from office, including the Houston Chronicle, which wrote on Oct 15, 2007:
Judge Keller let her personal bias in favor of the death penalty trample the right of now-executed prisoner Michael Richard to access the courts and have due process. In doing so, she abdicated her role as the state's chief criminal justice to become its chief executioner.

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Bill to Abolish the Death Penalty Filed in Texas Legislature

State Rep Harold Dutton of Houston has filed HB 297 to abolish the death penalty in Texas.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stay in Case of 1st U.S. Military Execution Since 1961

The U.S. Military planned on Dec 10, 2008 to conduct its first execution since 1961, but the execution of Private Ronald Gray was stayed Nov 26 by the order of a federal judge.

Ronald Gray Stay of Execution Order

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Texas Executed 18 People in 2008

Texas has no more executions scheduled in 2008. Eighteen people were executed in Texas this year. There probably would have been more, but there was a de facto moratorium on executions lasting from Sept 26, 2007 through the first 2008 execution in Texas on June 11. The de facto moratorium, which was caused by the wait for a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the Baze case, started one day earlier in the rest of the nation, but Texas was able to execute one more person than it should have in 2007 after Sharon Keller said, "We close at 5" and refused to accept an appeal for Michael Richard on Sept 25, 2007.

Nine of the eighteen people executed in Texas in 2008 were African-American.

Six of the eighteen people executed in Texas in 2008 were white.

Three of the eighteen people executed in Texas were Hispanic.

66 percent of the people executed in Texas were Hispanic or black.

33 percent of the people executed in Texas were white.

Seven people were executed from Dallas County, the most from any county in 2008.

In 2007, Texas executed 26 people.

In 2008 as of November 26, there were 18 executions in Texas and 18 in other U.S. states.

Executed Offenders

Execution Link Link Last Name First Name TDCJ Number Age Date Race County
423 Offender Information Last Statement Hudson Robert 999353 45 11/20/2008 Black Dallas
422 Offender Information Last Statement Manns Denard 999405 42 11/13/2008 Black Bell
421 Offender Information Last Statement Whitaker III George 999196 36 11/12/2008 Black Harris
420 Offender Information Last Statement Taylor Elkie 999112 46 11/6/2008 Black Tarrant
419 Offender Information Last Statement Wright Gregory 999253 42 10/30/2008 White Dallas
418 Offender Information Last Statement Nenno Eric 999188 45 10/28/2008 White Harris
417 Offender Information Last Statement Ries Joseph 999335 29 10/21/2008 White Hopkins
416 Offender Information Last Statement Watts Kevin 999456 27 10/16/2008 Black Bexar
415 Offender Information Last Statement Kelly Alvin 999012 57 10/14/2008 White Gregg
414 Offender Information Last Statement Murray William 999313 39 09/17/2008 White Dallas
413 Offender Information Last Statement Rodriguez Michael 999413 40 08/14/2008 Hispanic Dallas
412 Offender Information Last Statement Dorsey Leon 999359 32 8/12/2008 Black Dallas
411 Offender Information Last Statement Chi Heliberto 999437 29 8/7/2008 Hispanic Tarrant
410 Offender Information Last Statement Medellin Jose 999134 33 8/5/2008 Hispanic Harris
409 Offender Information Last Statement Davis Larry 999316 40 7/31/2008 Black Potter
408 Offender Information Last Statement Sonnier Derrick 999054 40 07/23/2008 Black Harris
407 Offender Information Last Statement Turner Carlton 999321 29 07/10/2008 Black Dallas
406 Offender Information Last Statement Chamberlain Karl 999241 37 06/11/2008 White Dallas


Join the "Abolish the Death Penalty Project" on Amazee.com and help us win the Amazee Bucket membership contest. We could win up to $5,000 to use against the death penalty. The project with the most members by Jan 22 wins. If we win, we plan to use one-half of any prize money we win to help needy families of people on death row travel to visit their loved ones on death row. We will use the other half of the prize money to fight against the death penalty.

First go to the project page, then you have to click on "join project" on the right hand side, then click on "register". Then to qualify as one of the members who count towards the contest, you have to upload a picture or avatar of yourself.

We were all moved by the family members who spoke at the 9th Annual March to Stop Executions in Houston, so we were thinking of how we could help them. We all know that the death penalty is reserved for the poor. There are no rich people on death row. We will use one half of any prize money we get through this contest to help family members visit their loved ones on death row. Many families have a hard time making ends meet and the extra cost of traveling long distances to visit their loved ones on death row is a great financial burden. Some of the people on death row have young children who rarely get to visit them. The other half would be used for activities during the upcoming Texas legislative session from Jan to May 2009, such as a big anti-death penalty rally at the capitol and other projects to persuade people to support abolishing the death penalty.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kids Against the Death Penalty Member Carissa Bywater Wins Beauty Pageant; Speaks Out Against Death Penalty During Interview Portion

Kids Against the Death Penalty’s 13 year old Secretary and Committee Chair, Carissa Bywater participated in Today’s Girl Beauty Pageant this morning in Lampasas Texas. (Pictured at left with other KADP members after the pageant.)

“Today's Girl is a scholarship based, educational program which provides guidance for the development of tomorrow's leaders through academic achievement and an awareness of the need to improve their social environment through community service. The mission of the program is to offer a positive environment that allows today's girls to develop poise, self-confidence and character, while developing tomorrow's leaders.”

Carissa is one of the 6 founding members of KADP, and is a highly active volunteer who helps educate not only the Texas community, but the entire world on the injustices of the Death Penalty.

In the interview portion of today’s contest Carissa spoke about her aspirations to become a senator, and her desire to abolish the “law of parties”, and the death penalty as a whole.

Today’s Girl Contestants are judged not only on a variety of skills but beauty as well. Carissa dominated the competition, taking home several awards! She was crowned Overall winner for her division and now holds the title of ‘Today’s Girl 2009 Lampasas Teen’. In addition she won the following categories: ‘Most Beautiful’, ‘Most Photogenic’, and ‘Best Casual Wear’.

Carissa will be attending the state competition in Dallas Texas in June 2009.

If you’d like to know more about KADP’s anti-death penalty movement, please visit their website @ http://www.freewebs.com/kadp .

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Contact Bush to Stop U.S. Army From Conducting 1st Military Execution Since 1961

George W. Bush could not resist having one more execution while he is in elected office to add to the more than 150 he signed off on as Governor of Texas, so the news is not surprising that he approved an execution by the U.S. Army for Dec 10. Theoretically, Bush could still commute the sentence to life in prison. See contact information below to urge Bush to stop this execution. Email Bush at comments@whitehouse.gov.

We can hope that the incoming Obama Administration will enact a moratorium on federal executions. To tell Obama to stop federal executions after he assumes office, you can sign a petition here. Obama has no authority to stop the execution scheduled before he assumes office on Jan 20.

From CNN:

A U.S. soldier convicted of rape and murder two decades ago will be executed December 10 in the nation's first military execution since 1961, the Army said Thursday.

Pvt. Ronald Gray has been on the military's death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, since 1988. A court-martial panel sitting at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, unanimously convicted him of committing two murders and other crimes in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, area, and sentenced him to death.

Gray's execution by injection will be carried out by Fort Leavenworth soldiers at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, the Army said in a news release.
Only the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, can approve the execution of a death sentence [Article 71(a), Uniform Code of Military Justice]. On July 28, 2008, the President approved the death sentence in the case of the United States v Ronald A. Gray.

Contacting the White House

Mailing Address

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Phone Numbers

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

TTY/TDD

Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121
E-Mail

Please send your comments to comments@whitehouse.gov. Due to the large volume of e-mail received, the White House cannot respond to every message. For further up-to-date information on Presidential initiatives, current events, and topics of interest to you, please continue to use the White House website.

Note: Please submit messages in text format only. This inbox is unable to receive e-mails that contain graphics or attachments. After it arrives, you will receive an e-mail confirmation indicating successful delivery.



Join the "Abolish the Death Penalty Project" on Amazee.com and help us win the Amazee Bucket membership contest. We could win up to $5,000 to use against the death penalty. The project with the most members by Jan 22 wins. If we win, we plan to use one-half of any prize money we win to help needy families of people on death row travel to visit their loved ones on death row. We will use the other half of the prize money to fight against the death penalty.

First go to the project page, then you have to click on "join project" on the right hand side, then click on "register". Then to qualify as one of the members who count towards the contest, you have to upload a picture or avatar of yourself.

We were all moved by the family members who spoke at the 9th Annual March to Stop Executions in Houston, so we were thinking of how we could help them. We all know that the death penalty is reserved for the poor. There are no rich people on death row. We will use one half of any prize money we get through this contest to help family members visit their loved ones on death row. Many families have a hard time making ends meet and the extra cost of traveling long distances to visit their loved ones on death row is a great financial burden. Some of the people on death row have young children who rarely get to visit them. The other half would be used for activities during the upcoming Texas legislative session from Jan to May 2009, such as a big anti-death penalty rally at the capitol and other projects to persuade people to support abolishing the death penalty.

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Robert Jean Hudson Executed - #423 in Texas since 1982

The AP reports that Texas executed Robert Jean Hudson tonight.

The 45-year-old was the 18th Texas inmate put to death this year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state. He was the 423rd person executed in Texas since 1982.

He was pronounced dead at 6:24 p.m. CST Thursday.



Join the "Abolish the Death Penalty Project" on Amazee.com and help us win the Amazee Bucket membership contest. We could win up to $5,000 to use against the death penalty. The project with the most members by Jan 22 wins. If we win, we plan to use one-half of any prize money we win to help needy families of people on death row travel to visit their loved ones on death row. We will use the other half of the prize money to fight against the death penalty.

First go to the project page, then you have to click on "join project" on the right hand side, then click on "register". Then to qualify as one of the members who count towards the contest, you have to upload a picture or avatar of yourself.

We were all moved by the family members who spoke at the 9th Annual March to Stop Executions in Houston, so we were thinking of how we could help them. We all know that the death penalty is reserved for the poor. There are no rich people on death row. We will use one half of any prize money we get through this contest to help family members visit their loved ones on death row. Many families have a hard time making ends meet and the extra cost of traveling long distances to visit their loved ones on death row is a great financial burden. Some of the people on death row have young children who rarely get to visit them. The other half would be used for activities during the upcoming Texas legislative session from Jan to May 2009, such as a big anti-death penalty rally at the capitol and other projects to persuade people to support abolishing the death penalty.

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Robert Hudson Set for Execution Today for Crime of Passion

The Houston Chronicle:

Attorneys for Texas death row inmate Robert Jean Hudson don't deny he killed ex-girlfriend Edith Kendrick in a rage nearly a decade ago at her Dallas-area apartment but questioned whether he should be put to death Thursday evening for what they said was not a deliberate act.

"While Ms. Kendrick's murder was brutal, it was a crime of passion," Maurie Levin, a University of Texas law professor, wrote in an appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the punishment. "Mr. Hudson did not attempt to flee, did not resist arrest, immediately confessed to the crime, and expressed his remorse and sorrow in that statement and during the months that followed."

Hudson, 45, would be the 18th Texas inmate executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state. Two other executions scheduled for this week in Texas were stopped by the courts.

"Something came over me and I lost control which caused this," Hudson, who declined to speak with reporters as his scheduled execution in Huntsville neared, told police after his arrest. "I loved Edith... I am sorry for what has happened and have told the truth about the incident."
Sign a petition for Robert Hudson

Facebook Group for Hudson

To send the Governor of Texas an email denouncing this execution, go to:
http://governor.state.tx.us/contact

You can also call and leave him a voice message:

Telephone numbers for Governor Rick Perry of Texas

* Citizen's Opinion Hotline [for Texas callers] :
(800) 252-9600
* Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers] :
(512) 463-1782
* Office of the Governor Main Switchboard [office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST] :
(512) 463-2000
* Citizen's Assistance Telecommunications Device
If you are using a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD),
call 711 to reach Relay Texas

* Office of the Governor Fax:
(512) 463-1849


Join the "Abolish the Death Penalty Project" on Amazee.com and help us win the Amazee Bucket membership contest. We could win up to $5,000 to use against the death penalty. The project with the most members by Jan 22 wins. If we win, we plan to use one-half of any prize money we win to help needy families of people on death row travel to visit their loved ones on death row. We will use the other half of the prize money to fight against the death penalty.

You have to click on "join project" on the right hand side, then click on "register". Then to qualify as one of the members who count towards the contest, you have to upload a picture or avatar of yourself.

We were all moved by the family members who spoke at the 9th Annual March to Stop Executions in Houston, so we were thinking of how we could help them. We all know that the death penalty is reserved for the poor. There are no rich people on death row. We will use one half of any prize money we get through this contest to help family members visit their loved ones on death row. Many families have a hard time making ends meet and the extra cost of traveling long distances to visit their loved ones on death row is a great financial burden. Some of the people on death row have young children who rarely get to visit them. The other half would be used for activities during the upcoming Texas legislative session from Jan to May 2009, such as a big anti-death penalty rally at the capitol and other projects to persuade people to support abolishing the death penalty.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama Picks Opponent of Death Penalty for Attorney General

President-elect Obama today chose Eric Holder as his pick for U.S. Attorney General. He would become the first African-American to head the Justice Department, according to Newsweek.

In an interview with the New York Times in 1997, Holder separated his personal opposition to the death penalty from his professional responsibilities:

Mr Hatch questioned Mr. Holder about his views on the death penalty in general and in particular about a case in which Mr. Holder initially did not seek the death penalty for someone who was accused of killing a District of Columbia police officer.

''I am not a proponent of the death penalty, but I will enforce the law as this Congress gives it to us,'' Mr. Holder said.

Mr. Holder said that at first he had not thought the crime met the legal conditions for the death penalty. But he said he changed his mind after a conversation with Attorney General Janet Reno. ''I hope that the committee would feel very assured that even with those statutes that have death penalty provisions will be fully enforced by me,'' he said.
Holder also said in 2000 that he was "personally and professionally disturbed by the [racial] disparity," which showed that "minorities are overrepresented" on federal death rows.

Janet Reno, Attorney General for 8 years under Bill Clinton, was also personally opposed to the death penalty, although she sought the death penalty in some prosecutions.

In an interview with Jim Leherer, Reno explained her position:
JANET RENO: I was personally opposed to the death penalty, and yet I think I have probably asked for the death penalty more than most people in the United States.

JIM LEHRER: Was that difficult for you to do?

JANET RENO: I had concluded when I was the prosecutor that I would vote against the death penalty if I were in the legislature but that I could ask for it when I was satisfied as to guilt and to the proper application of the penalty.
Given that there is more recognition today about the problems with the death penalty and the risk of executing innocent people, we expect that any attorney general under Obama would support significant reform of the federal death penalty and increased support for states that need federal support for reforms at the state-level, such as increased funding for innocence programs.

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Dallas DA Craig Watkins Discusses His Personal Opposition to the Death Penalty

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Sunday, Nov 16, that Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins is personally opposed to the death penalty. Although he is personally opposed, he says that his professional duties require him to authorize death penalty prosecutions in some cases. We hope that other DAs in Texas will follow Watkins' example, including the incoming DA in Travis County.

From the Star-Telegram:

Why are you opposed to capital punishment?

I’m a human being, and as a human being, I will not kill anybody. I don’t want to use my position to take a life, even though you may go out and do a heinous crime. I may be even worse than you because I have the full weight of the government behind me. For me to use the full weight of the government to do the same thing that you did, is that justifiable?

We just agreed to seek the death penalty against a guy that raped a 3-year-old girl and strangled her and left her under a bed. When I see that, the human side of me says, "Yeah, that guy should be killed." But then the government is the supreme being, right? You’re in a supreme position. You’re higher than human existence and you should carry yourself as such.

Given your feelings, when your office seeks the death penalty, do you personally sign off on that?

Professionally that’s something I have to do . . . for the citizens I represent.  . . . It’s the law and I have to implement it. I can’t let my personal views get in the way of what the public wants.

Will your feelings about the death penalty ever affect the policy of your office?

I would like to think that I have the courage to stand up and say no [to capital punishment]. But I’m not at that point. I don’t know if I ever will be. It’s so early in my career as DA. I don’t have any seniority. I don’t have any credibility.  . . . That might be a fight that I should fight, but at this point it’s too early.

Do decisions on capital cases cause you any sleepless nights?

All the time. Not just the ones that I make the decision on. Every time I read in the newspaper that someone is going to the death chamber, I don’t sleep.  . . . They just did one last week with one of the Texas Seven. I pay attention to that. That’s something I struggle with, even though the person did something really bad.

Are you concerned your position on capital punishment will hurt you politically?

I think it will, obviously. I can foresee the attacks that will come my way. But at the end of the day, the public wants honesty and openness. The fact that I am publicly trying to come to a conclusion on this is good for the system, and it’s good for politics. I don’t think politicians are honest enough.

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Confirmed! Eric Cathey Got a Stay

From the AP:

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Houston man who participated in a notorious death row escape attempt a decade ago won a reprieve to keep him from the Texas death chamber Tuesday for the fatal shooting of a woman during an abduction.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued the stay of execution for convicted killer Eric Dewayne Cathey, 37, about 4 1/2 hours before he was scheduled for lethal injection.

Cathey had insisted he wasn't involved in the slaying of 20-year-old Christina Castillo, who was grabbed outside her Houston apartment complex, blindfolded and tied up with duct tape, then shot and dumped in a field. Prosecutors said Cathey was the gunman among several men involved in the 1995 abduction because they believed Castillo's boyfriend was a drug dealer and hoped to get information from her to steal his drugs and money.

Attorneys filed appeals late Monday contending they had evidence of Cathey was mentally retarded and ineligible for execution under U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

"I was surprised, but I'm happy with that," Cathey's lawyer, Kevin Dunn, said. He said the reprieve would give attorneys time to develop additional information to support their mental retardation claim.

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(Unconfirmed) Stay for Eric Cathey

We haven't seen it in the mainstream media yet, but we received this message. Stay tuned while we wait for the AP to report.

Friends--

I don't know why yet but one of the witnesses to Eric's execution which was to be at 6pm tonight in Huntsville, Texas, called a member of the Abolition Movement and told her the execution was off.

Wonderful news in Texas for a change!!!

Gloria

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Terri Been Reports on Problems Visiting Death Row to See Her Brother Jeff Wood

Terri Been is the sister of Jeff Wood. In the post below she reports on a recent visit to death row.

Yesterday’s visit to my brother was bitter sweet to say the least. Overall the visit went well, but it was very emotional and degrading!!! The lockdown has taken its toll not only on the overall policy at Polunsky, but on the spirit of the inmates as well.

I have visited the Polunsky unit MANY times over the course of my brother’s incarceration, but never have I experienced the overwhelming sense of complete and absolute dread that I felt there last night. Now don’t get me wrong, I have experienced dread there before…as my brother came within hours of his execution, and we said what we thought would be our final goodbyes to him, which has crippled and destroyed me emotionally; BUT the dread that I am talking about now reaches further than just those who have an execution date. The dread that I am talking about is a thick blanket that wraps around you and suffocates you when you walk into the visitation room…which you literally feel!

The tone for the evening was set when you pulled up into the facility. In the past we have always had to jump through hoops just to get into the place, but things are far worse now! Guards are now required to do “complete car checks” instead of the normal “pop the hood and trunk” checks. Visitors had their purses gone through, their glove compartments torn apart, bags/luggage in the car were rummaged through…you name it…it was searched. Did it stop there? Hell no; round two started at check in!!

Now, I’m going to flashback to the summer to give you a full picture of the nightmare we call check-in @ Polunsky, so please bare with me here: Imagine, if you will, having to make a run to the local Wal-Mart 3 different times to purchase clothing and shoes just to be allowed into Polunsky. This has happened on numerous occasions and to various visitors…and this literally is no joke! (My sister-in-law, Kristin, and I have experienced this for ourselves.) This past summer we were scheduled for a normal 2 hour visit to see my brother; Kristin had quite literally just gotten off of the plane from overseas two hours before the visit was to take place, and come to find out that the airlines had lost all of her luggage (which she did not get back for almost a full week) so all she had was the clothing on her back. She was not happy because she wasn’t going to be able to “dress up” for him, and due to time restrictions…she decided to make do with what she had on. Having made the trip to the US on several occasions, she learned a few valuable lessons; one being when you’re on a plane for 17 hours you wear “comfortable clothing”. The comfortable clothing that she was wearing was indeed appropriate, but the guard on duty felt that it was a little too form fitting; so we were sent to Wal-Mart…and mind you we are already late because of plane delays. Kristin grabs a baggy Mickey Mouse T-shirt, because there should be NOTHING wrong with a cartoon character T- shirt…or so you’d think. So we get back to Polunsky, where we are turned away again because of the Mickey Mouse Logo…which has been adopted by the Mexican Mafia (one of the most powerful prison gangs in the US). On our second trip to Wal-Mart she purchases a plain black T-shirt; and with her new T-shirt on we walk back into the unit, but were turned away…yet again, this time for her shoes!!! After purchasing a new pair of tennis shoes, we were finally allowed in, but with all of the trips back and forth to Wal-Mart, we had less than an hour visit.

Check in…sounds extreme doesn’t it? Well it can be and has been for MANY people!!! But…it has gotten worse, so in addition to the metal detectors and the wardrobe scrutiny we have always had to go through lets add the following: pat-downs/body searches, and counting your money down to the quarter. Waiting in line to be searched sucks…so if you know somebody who is going to visit, you may want to tell them to get there a little earlier than normal…because you will be searched. Think I’m kidding, ask the black lady a few people ahead of us in line that had to take off her “weave” and have it searched! You may also want to tell them that they will be patted down! Okay, let me rephrase that…you will be rubbed down and felt-up. I have gone through several pat searches in order to get into federal buildings before, but I have never experienced one quite like I got @ Polunsky this night!

When you walk in the door…you are now required to take off you shoes and socks so they can be searched. The metal detectors have new settings, and are picking up what seems to be everything; so ladies if you have jewelry…you might be better off leaving it in the car, because you will pass through the damn thing for every ring, necklace, or earring…not to mention belts. Some ladies even had to cover their breasts with their arms/hands to get through because the underwire in their bra kept setting off the alarm. “Pat-downs” now consist of the following for women: a lady using her two hands to rub the entire length of your leg. Each leg will be rubbed twice: one sweep covers the front/back and includes your ass-cheek, the second sweep of the leg covers the inside/outside, which includes a backhanded rubdown of your “downstairs privates”. The search also includes having each breast examined by hand…starting on the inside of each breast, and cupping around to the outside. It is an absolutely humiliating experience, and is absolutely NOT necessary in my opinion!

I risked not being able to see my brother because I gave them hell about the new procedure. I told them I understood such procedures for those who were allowed contact visits, but Death row families NEVER get to touch or come in contact with the inmates, and that it was the corrupt guards who were causing this nightmare, and we should not be subject to sexual harassment just to get to see our loved ones because they are self-serving and money hungry. I actually said several other things to the guards that were not exactly polite or worth repeating, but at least I said my peace.

You are allowed to take $20 dollars into the unit, however we did not get to take in the full amount of $ because both change machines were down. Luckily, I knew somebody coming out of the early visit that had some change left over; which gave us an additional $7 dollars, but we were not even close to $20. MANY people did not get to take in any money because there was no change…and I tell you that was cruel and was done on purpose!

These men had gone months with Johnny bags! Remember the lockdown was not the only time they were getting these…just weeks before they were restricted to these bags because of the hurricane that hit…so we are talking almost two months on Johnny bags. My brother had lost at least 25 – 30 pounds since I had seen him at the end of August. I spent EVERY bit of change I had with the exception of 1 nickel on food for my brother. 2 hamburgers, three bags of chips, 2 snicker bars, a salad, 3 dr peppers, 5 beef jerky sticks, and a piece of pie were all gone in less than 3 minutes of receiving them. Seriously…no joking; he was quite literally starving and inhaled the food! I am thankful that I was able to provide him with that, but there were many others there that were hungry that got nothing…and I feel so bad for them. So my second piece of advice is to make sure that you have change before you get to the unit…Do NOT count on the machines to be working! Also…if you feed your inmate like we do…you may also want to take the early session because they only have 1 machine now that serves “food” (sandwiches, salads, juice, pie, etc.) and nearly all of the food in that machine was gone from the 1st visit.

I’ll not even get into the property that was taken away or destroyed from these inmates.

Needless to say, the visit was absolute chaos! New Policies, new procedures, and new hours to call and make reservations to visit...the list goes on, but the important thing here is that nobody is handling it well…including the staff!

The only good thing that happened that night was in addition to getting to see my brother, my kids and I had the privilege of talking to several other inmates during our visit. (which is strictly forbidden, but we did it anyway.) We spoke with two of this week’s condemned inmates: Robert Hudson and Rogelio Cannaday. We told them that we had signed their petitions, and that we had written letters to the governor on their behalf. We also told them that there were a great many people who were fighting for them, and that we all would be calling the governor’s office this week in a continued effort to fight for their lives. They were very grateful and sent their thanks.

I could go on, but I have written a book here already! If you are pen-pals, or friends with any of these guys…they need our help in more than one way. Yes we want to fight to save their lives, but we need to fight for their rights inside as well. They also need financial contributions if you can afford it, as most of these guys have nothing left from all of the property raids and shake-downs. Their fans, hot-plates, radios, typewriters, and other various properties were taken and destroyed. Some people may be thinking that these inmates don’t need a radio, but I say different; that is their only link to the outside world other than any visit they may get. Complete Isolation leads to insanity…and being without this contact to the world will only cause more pain and suffering. Please keep these guys and their families in your prayers!

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Rogelio Cannady Gets Stay of Execution

AP is reporting that

Texas death row inmate Rogelio Cannady will avoid execution Wednesday over a 1993 prison killing.

Cannady's execution date was withdrawn today by Judge Ronald Yeager.

Cannady's recently appointed appeals lawyer asked for more time to review the case. The judge ordered a March hearing to reset the punishment date.
Cannady has been sending a friend daily entries on a diary that his friend has been posting online at Death Watch Journal.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Denard Manns Executed in Texas: #422 Since 1982

Denard Manns was executed tonight in Texas, becoming the 422nd person executed in Texas since 1982.


From the Houston Chronicle:

"From Allah he came and from Allah he shall return," Denard Manns said from the death chamber gurney.


He criticized by name his trial attorneys for what he said was an unfair trial, criticized an appeals lawyer for "purposely bringing up claims that did not exist," and thanked another lawyer for taking on his appeal after he was supposed to be off the case.


Manns expressed love to friends and then said, "I'm ready for the transition."


He uttered what appeared to be a brief prayer three times and was pronounced dead at 6:24 p.m. CST, 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.


Manns, 42, who came to Texas after a second prison sentence in New York for armed robbery, was condemned for the murder 10 years ago of Michelle Robson, 26.


Manns was the 17th convicted killer executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state and the second in as many days. Another three lethal injections are scheduled for next week in Texas.


Manns' appeals in the courts were exhausted and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, acting Wednesday on a petition filed by his lawyer, refused to commute his sentence to life in prison.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

George Whitaker III Executed in Texas

Texas executed George Whitaker III tonight for the 1994 murder of his former girlfriend's sister, Shakeitha Carrier, 16.

Whitaker was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m.

Denard Manns is set for execution in Texas tomorrow and three more executions are scheduled in Texas next week. The last seven executions in the United States have all been in Texas.

Click here to Join the Abolish the Death Penalty Project on Amazee.com and help us win the membership contest. We could win up to $5,000 to use against the death penalty. The project with the most members by Jan 22 wins. We plan to use one-half of any prize money we win to help needy families of people on death row travel to visit their loved ones on death row. We will use the other half of the prize money to fight against the death penalty.

You have to go to the project page, click on "join project" on the right hand side, then click on "register". Then to qualify as one of the members who count towards the contest, you have to upload a profile picture or avatar of yourself. You don't have to do anything else to help us win the membership contest, but if you want, you can contribute content to the project.

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Online Diary of Rogelio Reyes Cannady: Execution Date Nov 19

Rogelio Reyes Cannady is scheduled for execution in Texas on November 19. He is one of three people scheduled to be executed in Texas next week. The Sun in Toronto reports that

Texas officials presented Rogelio Reyes Cannady, 36, with his execution date on Aug. 22. Since then he has been hand writing the daily diary he mails to a friend, who posts it onto the blog, giving the world a rare glimpse into the life of a condemned man.

That friend, Juan Palomo, has visited him on Death Row at least 30 times. During those meetings, "At various points he has expressed remorse ... about the way he lived his life, about the deaths of those two young people and the heartache it brought to their families and his family," Palomo said.
Palomo explains on the blog "Death Watch Journal" how the blog works:
Rogelio writes his journal longhand, in pencil and sends them to me each week. I will post them as soon as possible after I receive them. I welcome your thoughts and will share with him those I believe he will be interested in reading.

I have been corresponding with Rogelio since 1999 and I have visited him periodically since April, 2000. Our last visit was August 30.
Here is an excerpt from Rogelio's entry from Oct 24:

Late night now. Catching up on last letters, most of the day. I really don’t know how things are going to happen and days are growing shorter, it seems. All you who have written: I may not answer properly unless I get a stay of execution. My stamps and envelopes were on short supply and now gone. Still, they won’t budge on returning my stamps and envelopes. So I have to figure out another way. I am weeks away from my execution and the reason they took my stuff is a joke: they were not marked with my name and number. All of you are in my thoughts and in my heart

Click here to Join the Abolish the Death Penalty Project on Amazee.com and help us win the membership contest. We could win up to $5,000 to use against the death penalty. The project with the most members by Jan 22 wins. We plan to use one-half of any prize money we win to help needy families of people on death row travel to visit their loved ones on death row. We will use the other half of the prize money to fight against the death penalty.

You have to go to the project page, click on "join project" on the right hand side, then click on "register". Then to qualify as one of the members who count towards the contest, you have to upload a profile picture or avatar of yourself. You don't have to do anything else to help us win the membership contest, but if you want, you can contribute content to the project.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Two Executions This Week in Texas: George Whitaker III and Denard Manns

One week after the first African-American was elected President of the United States, two African-Americans are set to be executed in Texas this week. 40 percent of the people on death row in Texas are black, although blacks comprise only 11.9 percent of the Texas population. According to the TDCJ website, of the thirteen executions starting with the last one, Elkie Taylor, until March 11, 2009, all the people scheduled for execution in Texas are either African-American (8) or Hispanic (5).


For more information on the issue of race and the death penalty, visit this page at the Death Penalty Information Center.


George Whitaker III Nov 12
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted Monday to turn down George Whitaker's request for a reprieve. The board dismissed Whitaker's appeal in which he argued that jurors should have been told that he only would be eligible for parole after he served 40 years in prison.

Denard Manns Nov 13
Manns is one of two executions scheduled for this week. If both go through, Manns will be the 17th death-row inmate executed in Texas this year. Last year Texas had 26 executions.

To send the Governor of Texas an email denouncing these executions, go to:
http://governor.state.tx.us/contact

You can also call and leave him a voice message:

Telephone numbers for Governor Rick Perry of Texas

* Citizen's Opinion Hotline [for Texas callers] :
(800) 252-9600
* Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers] :
(512) 463-1782
* Office of the Governor Main Switchboard [office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST] :
(512) 463-2000
* Citizen's Assistance Telecommunications Device
If you are using a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD),
call 711 to reach Relay Texas

* Office of the Governor Fax:
(512) 463-1849


Mailing Address

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

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 Texas Capitol on the sidewalk on 11th Street facing Congress Avenue 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 - To learn location or 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 Sunday of the month, following the 11:00 Mass 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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HURRICANE SEASON: the hidden messages in water


HURRICANE SEASON: the hidden messages in water is a two woman show about unnatural disaster and a great shift in universal consciousness. Read more about this inspiring show at the show's website: www.hurricaneseasontour.com.

Texas Moratorium Network will participate in a dialogue at the Austin show. The running time of the show is 2 hours. During the intermission between the first act and finale, representatives of TMN and other groups will be invited to come forward. Sallome Hralima, a powerful solutionary who has training and experience in transformational dialog, will be facilitating the ciphers.

Alixa and Naima are the soul-sister co-conspiracy of arts activists known as Climbing PoeTree. With roots in Haiti and Colombia, Alixa and Naima reside in Brooklyn and track footprints across the country and globe on a mission to overcome destruction with creativity.



AUSTIN the Off Center
11.19.08 | 6:30 PM
Austin, TX
The Off Center
2211 Hidalgo St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 476-7833

doors open (6:30)
show time (7:00)

Ticket Info: 10- 20 dollar sliding scale.

Hurricane Season is a post-Katrina performance uprising: a multi-media show and movement strategy that draws vital connections between shared struggles and common solutions in a critical moment in national and global history.

New Orleans emerged from the floodwaters as a microcosm of the intersecting forces at play across the world:

- global warming and environmental injustice
- extreme poverty amidst affluence and over-consumption
- gentrification and forced relocation of poor people and people of color
- the police, prison, and military industrial complex
- corporate control over public policy
- lack of local ownership and self-determination
- gross disparity of access and power along gender, sexuality, class, and color lines

Through a tapestry of spoken-word poetry, theater, video projection, dance, shadow art, and a sound collage of personal testimonies, Hurricane Season connects the issues that surfaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the “unnatural disasters” disenfranchised communities are experiencing nationwide on a daily basis.

Popular education through cultural activism,
the performance brims with stories missing or mangled in mainstream media. The show is both brutal and uplifting, taking the audience on a voyage of unthinkable tragedy and undeniable promise from the eye of a systemic storm.

With a set built of bamboo,calabash, and water that surrounds the audience in a circle of shadow and light, Hurricane Season transforms spaces into sanctuaries of healing, witness, and imagination.

Every show is followed by a “solutions-cipher,” a forum that addresses the impacts of the issues surfaced in Hurricane Season on a local level, and illuminates solutions already underway. The objective of the post-show “solutions-ciphers” is to cross-pollinate creative strategies for self-determination and to turn the passion generated in the show into action manifested in the community.

Representatives from grassroots groups doing critical and inspiring work in every tour stop, will be featured at the dialogs to garner support for their initiatives and give audience members access into local movements.

Texas Moratorium Network will participate in the post-show dialogue at the Austin show. TMN is a grassroots organization that struggles against the death penalty in the number one execution state in the U.S.

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1st Day of Bill Filing in Texas Legislature

Monday was the first day for Texas legislators to pre-file bills for the legislative session that runs from Jan to May. Seven bills were filed on the first day. The first bill on the list, HB 111, grew out of the case of Kenneth Foster, Jr., who was tried together with a co-defendant. When Gov Perry commuted Foster's sentence in 1987, he said he was concerned that Foster had not had a separate trial. Chair of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Aaron Pena's HB 111 says, "the court may not join two or more defendants in the same criminal trial if any defendant to be tried is indicted or complained against for a capital felony, and the court shall order a severance as to any two or more defendants who are jointly indicted or complained against for a capital felony".

If you want to see a list of bills filed dealing with capital punishment, click here.

Texas Legislature
Bills By Subject
General Subject Index: Crimes--Capital Punishment
81st Legislature Regular Session
Report Date: 11/11/2008

Number of Bills: 7
HB 111 Author: Pena

Last Action: 11/10/2008 H Filed

Caption: Relating to the joint or separate prosecution of a capital felony charged against two or more defendants.

HJR 24 Author: Naishtat

Last Action: 11/10/2008 H Filed

Caption: Proposing a constitutional amendment relating to a moratorium on the execution of persons convicted of capital offenses.

SB 115 Author: Ellis

Last Action: 11/10/2008 S Filed

Caption: Relating to the creation of a commission to investigate and prevent wrongful convictions.

SB 165 Author: Ellis

Last Action: 11/10/2008 S Filed

Caption: Relating to an annual report and analysis by the Office of Court Administration regarding cases involving the trial of a capital offense.

SB 167 Author: Ellis

Last Action: 11/10/2008 S Filed

Caption: Relating to the applicability of the death penalty to a capital offense committed by a person with mental retardation.

SB 169 Author: Ellis

Last Action: 11/10/2008 S Filed

Caption: Relating to the authority of the governor to grant one or more reprieves in a capital case.

SJR 7 Author: Ellis

Last Action: 11/10/2008 S Filed

Caption: Proposing a constitutional amendment authorizing the governor to grant one or more reprieves in a capital case.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Causewiring the Anti-Death Penalty Movement

Anyone interested in using online activism against the death penalty should take a look at the new book, CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World. It is about using online activism to change the world. The author, Tom Watson, also has a blog that is worth a look. He says that Obama's election was "the product of the most socially-wired campaign in American history. In a victory that holds deep lessons for how nonprofit organizations and cause-driven ventures will organize volunteers and build support in the future, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States Tuesday in a near-landslide victory keyed by state-of-the-art social networking and online organizing."

The website SocialActions is also a great place to find useful social activism services. It has a guide to 30 website platforms that can be used for online activism. Another source is MobileActive.org, which concentrates on using cell phones for social change.

If you run an anti-death penalty website, you might take a look at some of the online services that TMN uses and implement them on your own sites.

TMN was an early adopter of online activism from our start back in 2000. Our first website, created using phpWebSite, allowed us to make blog posts long before the word "blog" became popular. We have sinced starting using Blogger as our main blog while keeping our main website at texasmoratorium.org. In addition to our own blog, we reach a larger audience by posting occasionally about death penalty issues on other community blog sites, such as DailyKos and Burnt Orange Report.

Every anti-death penalty organization can share news and action alerts on each others websites by creating a news feed using a service such as Google Reader. Then you include the RSS feeds from other anti-death penalty organizations. You can see an example on the right of our blog and main website. Capital Defense Weekly is a site that uses RSS feeds very well.

We have used Joomla to create websites such as SharonKiller.com and deathpenaltyartshow.org, among others. The TMN PAC website uses WordPress. Our main website still uses phpWebSite, but we want to transition to another content management system soon.

You can also find TMN on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Change.org or read our blog. We feed our blog automatically to Twitter using TwitterFeed. Our Twitter account also is fed action alerts dealing with the death penalty from the SocialActions website, so it should pick up alerts from other anti-death penalty organizations.


We have also used Democracy in Action to let our supporters send messages to the Texas governor, members of the legislature and the board of pardons and paroles. During the campaign for Kenneth Foster, more than 6,000 messages were sent through our DIA-powered alert. We have also used DIA to collect petition signatures. DIA is a system that you have to pay for. Most of the other systems we use are free.

Many campaigns use the Care2 Petition Site, but that system doesn't allow you to download the complete contact information of the people who sign, so that is a weakness with Care2. Another option that does allow you to download all the contact information is Ipetitions.com, which we used to create this petition for a federal death penalty moratorium.

We have found many new volunteers though our profile on VolunteerMatch.

We send text alerts to cell phones using Upoc.

We most recently started using Amazee.com, which is currently running a membership contest that if our "Abolish the Death Penalty" project could win. If our "Abolish the Death Penalty" project has the most members on Amazee by Jan 22, we could win up to $5,000 to use against the death penalty.

We use GrandCentral for voice mail.

We use Upcoming.org and Eventful.com to promote events, such as upcoming execution protests.

We use ConstantContact for our email newsletter that goes out to thousands of people.

We use Magnify.net to create our video aggregation page.

We use Picnik to edit photos for flyers and websites. Then we store them on Picassa, Flickr or Photobucket. Right now, Picassa is our favorite. See photos of the recent March in Houston on Picassa here.

We use Wufoo to collect information through forms, such as registering people for Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break.

We have used SproutBuilder to create widgets to promote actions such as the Save Jeff Wood widget.

We use Scribd.com to post documents online.

We use Widgetbox to get more people to read our blog posts and Feedburner to allow people to subscribe to receive our blogposts by email. Subscribe to Texas Moratorium Network blogposts by Email.

We are developing a new tool using CauseCaller to allow people to call the governor and members of the Texas Legislature. It should be ready by January. We might also use it to allow people to call members of the U.S. Congress and the new president to push for a federal moratorium.

If you think we have been doing a good job using online social activism tools, especially for an all-volunteer organization, please vote for us in the



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Death Row Lockdown Ends Wednesday - Visits to Resume

Gloria Rubac of the The Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement informs us by email that visits will resume on Wednesday at Polunsky.

From Gloria:

The lockdown ends on Wednesday.

Just called again to clarify and was told that visits start Wednesday. Of course, on Wednesday it is press day so visits are only in the morning, from 8-12 noon.

Thanks to all who helped put the pressure on Texas officials to end this ridiculous lockdown. The Abolition Movement will continue to work around the isolation and mind-destroying conditions on Texas' death row.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reginald Blanton Petition and Website

Statement from the support group for Reginald Blanton:

This petition is to bring awareness to the wrongful conviction of Reginald Blanton, Texas death row inmate. Reginald was railroaded to Texas death row for a crime he did not commit.

The trial was shoddy, and false testimony was used to get a conviction. Other factors in the trial include, prosecutorial misconduct, perjured testimony, ineffective assistance of counsel, mitigating evidence, insufficient investigation and actual innocence.

Reginald's court appointed lawyer did not try his best to help Reginald. He did not have a jury of his peers, there was no eyewitness and no murder weapon was found. Because of his street gang affiliation, Reginald was "guilty" before he ever went to trial. There was reasonable doubt, and this alone should have thrown out his guilty verdict.

We the undersigned are asking that this case be looked over, and a new trial be presented to assure that he receives justice.

More information and facts can be read on this site, created for this case.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sign Petition to President-elect Obama to Shut Down the Federal Death Penalty System

We created a petition to urge President-elect Obama to "stop all federal executions and place a moratorium on federal prosecutions that seek the death penalty pending an independent study of the death penalty system that examines racial disparities, prejudicial errors, adequacy of legal representation, and other inequities in capital prosecutions".

Sign the petition here
.

You can also send him an email on his transition website.

Read our previous post on this topic, "Obama Administration Urged to Stay All Federal Executions and Impose Moratorium on Death Penalty"

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama Administration Urged to Stay All Federal Executions and Impose Moratorium on Death Penalty

Yesterday we asked people to write President-elect Obama through a form on his new transition website to tell him that he should issue an executive order soon after taking office to establish a moratorium on federal executions and directing the Justice Department to establish new rules to protect innocent people from execution, for instance by having the federal government not seek the death penalty in any prosecutions during his term in office and to use federal money to better fund state-level innocence protection programs.

Now, a coalition of more than 20 organizations and individuals, coordinated by the Constitution Project, have announced the publication of a catalogue of key criminal justice issues and policy recommendations for the next administration and congress. Visit their website here. Their recommendations include steps to reform the federal death penalty. They recommend that Obama "stay all federal executions and place a moratorium on federal capital charges pending an independent study of the death penalty system that examines racial disparities, prejudicial errors, adequacy of legal representation, and other inequities in capital prosecutions."

They say:

Since 1988, approximately 73% of all approved capital prosecutions have been against defendants of color, and white federal defendants are almost twice as likely as defendants of color to have the death penalty reduced to life sentences through plea bargains. The U.S. Department of Justice's own study reveals that over 40% of all requests for capital prosecutions came from only 5 of the 94 federal districts. The failure to address this pervasively unequal application of the death penalty sends an unacceptable message that the value of a defendant's life falls along racial lines.
Press Release: COALITION RELEASES CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICY ROADMAP

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Sign the Petition for Humberto Garza - Law of Parties Case on Texas Death Row

Target:
Governor Rick Perry and The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

Sponsored by:
His loving family.

As the family of Humberto Garza III we prayerfully ask you to join us in the fight for his life and the fight against the injustice that placed him on Texas Death Row. This injustice is The Texas Law of Parties. We ask that you sign this petition and let the world know of Humberto and what we are fighting for. We need support and it must start now, please join us in fighting for Humberto Garza. We thank you for your prayers and your support. May God bless you all.

Sign the petition here
. The Garza family attended the recent 9th Annual March to Stop Executions in Houston and talked about their situation.

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Tell President-Elect Obama to End the Federal Death Penalty

Follow this link to tell President-elect Obama that he should issue an executive order soon after taking office to establish a moratorium on federal executions and directing the Justice Department to establish new rules to protect innocent people from execution, for instance by having the federal government not seek the death penalty in any prosecutions during his term in office and to use federal money to better fund state-level innocence protection programs. You can also give him your other ideas on reforming the criminal justice system.

http://change.gov/page/s/ofthepeople

The page linked to above on Obama's new transition website invites people to "tell us your ideas and help us solve the biggest challenges facing our country."

"Since the federal government got back into the death penalty business in 1988, attorneys general have authorized 420 prosecutions, according to statistics kept by the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project: 180 during the 1990s, an average of 18 per year, and 240 since 2000, an average of 40 per year, mostly attributable to the Bush administration. "Of the 420 authorized prosecutions, 162 actually reached trial and sentencing. Juries imposed 105 life sentences and 57 death sentences. Since 2001, the beginning of the Bush administration, there have been 32 federal defendants sentenced to death ." (Marcia Coyle, National Law Journal, April 30, 2007).

Minorities Dominate Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions
Since 1988, the federal government has authorized seeking the death penalty against 382 defendants. Of the 382 approved prosecutions, 278 (73%) were against minority defendants. Of these defendants, 104 have been white, 64 Hispanic, 16 Asian/Indian/Pacific Islander, 3 Arab and 195 African American. Of the 44 inmates currently on federal death row, 26 (59%) are members of a minority group.
(Source: Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project (June 28, 2006)).

More information on the Federal Death Penalty

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