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Sunday, June 27, 2010

2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform Endorses a Moratorium on Executions; Death Row Exoneree Juan Melendez Speaks at Convention

The Texas Democratic Party held its 2010 State Convention June 25-26 in Corpus Christi and adopted a party platform that endorses a moratorium on executions. The convention was attended by more than 7,000 delegates. The party platform has supported a moratorium in every platform since 2004.

In addition to adopting a moratorium in the platform, the Resolutions Committee of the TDP State Convention also passed a resolution in support of a moratorium. Juan Melendez, an innocent person who was wrongfully convicted and spent 17 years on death row before being exonerated and released, was allowed to address the Resolutions Committee when it was considering the moratorium resolution. The photo at left in this post is of Juan addressing the Resolutions Committee.

Click here to view the entire 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

Below is the language in the platform from the section on capital punishment.
Capital Punishment
When capital punishment is imposed, 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. The Dallas Morning News has 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 likelihood that 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 Texas Death Row in 2004 after 17 years of wrongful imprisonment.
We condemn Governor Perry’s manipulation of the forensic science commission investigation of the science which led to the execution of a possibly innocent person.
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;
• restoring the power to the Governor to grant clemency in death penalty cases without a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles. To restore public confidence in the process, the Board should meet in public and decisions should be made by majority vote;
• when the imposition of the death penalty is before the Parole Board or the Governor we urge consideration of all reasonably certain scientific or factual evidence that has become known since the trial; and
• reforming statutes related to the “Law of Parties,” to make sure individuals who actually commit crimes are the primary focus of prosecution.

Here is a video of Juan Melendez speaking to the Resolutions Committee, followed by the Committee discussing the issue, and ending with several members coming up to Juan to offer him handshakes and hugs. Be sure to watch for the standing ovation given to Juan by the committee after his remarks and before they start discussing the issue. It was a very touching moment.



Juan Melendez said, "I was extremely moved by the response of the Resolutions Committee following my testimony and I would like to thank everyone of the Committee members for voting unanimously for a moratorium resolution. I truly believe that the Texas Democratic party is on the right side of history on this and that it is both a morally and politically sound position to take."

On Friday at the TDP State Convention, Juan Melendez gave a 30 minute talk about his experience as an innocent person being sentenced to death to a meeting of the "Democrats Against the Death Penalty" caucus. Also speaking were Rep Lon Burnam, Judi Caruso, Jamie Bush who introduced Juan Melendez and Keith Hampton who dropped by to introduce himself to the caucus attendees. Keith is a candidate for judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The caucus was founded in 2004 by Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network.

Juan Melendez's appearance at the TDP State Convention was organized by Texas Moratorium Network and supported by Witness to Innocence, which made it possible for Juan Melendez to fly to Texas for the convention.

Here is a video of Juan talking to a local Corpus Christi news team.



Juan also spent a lot of time at the convention talking to people who came by the booth of Texas Moratorium Network in the exhibition area. In the photo below are Jamie Bush, Scott Cobb, Alison Dieter, Juan Melendez and Judi Caruso - the Texas Moratorium Network/Witness to Innocence team at the convention. Sherri Clausell and Angie Agapetus, two anti-death penalty activists from Houston, also attended the convention.















Link to news coverage of Juan Melendez from KZTV.com in Corpus Christi.


Link to more photos.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

State Rep. Jessica Farrar to Speak at the Caucus Meeting of "Democrats Against the Death Penalty" at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat from Houston who filed a bill in the 2009 Texas legislative session to abolish the death penalty in Texas (HB 682), will speak at the caucus meeting of "Democrats Against the Death Penalty" at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in Corpus Christi on Friday, June 25, 2010 in Room 225D-E at the American Bank Center.

Also speaking will be Juan Melendez, who spent 17 years, 8 months and 1 day on Florida's death row for a crime he did not commit.


The anti-death penalty caucus was first founded at the 2004 TDP State Convention by Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network. The Texas Democratic Party has endorsed a moratorium on executions in its party platform at each state convention since 2004.

Jessica Farrar is currently in her 8th term as State Representative of District 148. She was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1994 at the age of 27, and she is the longest serving Hispanic from Harris County in the Texas House of Representatives.

Juan Melendez was exonerated and released from death row on January 3, 2002 after a transcript of a taped confession by the real killer came to light sixteen years after he had been sentenced to death.  At that time, the Supreme Court of Florida had upheld Melendez's case three times on appeal even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime and his conviction rested solely on the testimony of two questionable witnesses: a police informant and a co-defendant who was threatened with the electric chair but who ultimately received a sentence of two years probation after testifying against Melendez.  The actual killer who confessed to more than sixteen people was also a police informant.  Melendez's story is featured in the internationally acclaimed documentary “Juan Melendez 6446.”

Juan Melendez has been described as “a living testament to the injustice of capital punishment” because his case highlights the myriad of problems that plague the death penalty system and in particular, the high risk and inevitability of executing the innocent.  While his story is unique, the circumstance of being innocent and on death row is shamefully anything but unique. Since 1973, 138 people, including 11 in Texas, have been released from death row with evidence of innocence. 

Melendez will speak at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention at a critical time in Texas when serious questions have been raised about the likely innocence of Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna, all of whom were executed by the State of Texas.  Melendez's evocative testimony will underscore the need for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and a comprehensive examination of the system to determine how, if at all, the system can be reformed to safeguard against executing the innocent and to protect the public from the actual perpetrators who elude punishment each time the system gets it wrong. 

Texas State Democratic Party State Convention event information:

What: "Democrats Against the Death Penalty" Caucus

Date: Friday, June 25

Time: 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.

Where: Room 225D-E, American Bank Center, Corpus Christi.

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Death Row Survivor Juan Melendez to Speak at State Convention of the Texas Democratic Party at Caucus Meeting of "Democrats Against the Death Penalty"

Juan Melendez, who spent 17 years, 8 months and 1 day on Florida's death row for a crime he did not commit, will speak at the caucus meeting of "Democrats Against the Death Penalty" at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in Corpus Christi on Friday, June 25, 2010 in Room 225D-E at the American Bank Center. 

Also speaking will be State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat from Houston who filed HB 682 in the 2009 Texas legislative session to repeal the death penalty.


The anti-death penalty caucus was first formed at the 2004 TDP State Convention. The Texas Democratic Party has endorsed a moratorium on executions in its party platform at each state convention since 2004.

Melendez was exonerated and released from death row on January 3, 2002 after a transcript of a taped confession by the real killer came to light sixteen years after he had been sentenced to death.  At that time, the Supreme Court of Florida had upheld Melendez's case three times on appeal even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime and his conviction rested solely on the testimony of two questionable witnesses: a police informant and a co-defendant who was threatened with the electric chair but who ultimately received a sentence of two years probation after testifying against Melendez.  The actual killer who confessed to more than sixteen people was also a police informant.  Melendez's story is featured in the internationally acclaimed documentary “Juan Melendez 6446.”

Melendez has been described as “a living testament to the injustice of capital punishment” because his case highlights the myriad of problems that plague the death penalty system and in particular, the high risk and inevitability of executing the innocent.  While his story is unique, the circumstance of being innocent and on death row is shamefully anything but unique. Since 1973, 138 people, including 11 in Texas, have been released from death row with evidence of innocence. 

Melendez will speak at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention at a critical time in Texas when serious questions have been raised about the likely innocence of Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna, all of whom were executed by the State of Texas.  Melendez's evocative testimony will underscore the need for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and a comprehensive examination of the system to determine how, if at all, the system can be reformed to safeguard against executing the innocent and to protect the public from the actual perpetrators who elude punishment each time the system gets it wrong. 

Texas State Democratic Party State Convention event information:
What: "Democrats Against the Death Penalty" Caucus

Date: Friday, June 25

Time: 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.

Where: Room 225D-E, American Bank Center, Corpus Christi.

Juan Melendez is available for interviews at any time during the convention. He speaks English and Spanish. To schedule an interview, contact Judi Caruso at 505-362-1784.


Juan Melendez is a board member of Witness to Innocencewhich is the nation’s only organization composed of, by and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones.               

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Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Platform of the Texas Republican Party Endorses the Death Penalty for Rape



The 2010 platform of the Texas Republican Party endorses the death penalty for people convicted of rape.

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 7-2 Coker v. Georgia decision that applying the death penalty in rape cases was forbidden by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as cruel and unusual punishment because the sentence was disproportionate to the crime. Coker resulted in the removal of twenty inmates -- three whites and 17 blacks -- awaiting execution on rape convictions from death rows around the country.

The 2010 Texas GOP platform also says that "all innocent human life must be protected", but it does not address how to protect innocent people from being sentenced to death or executed, which is what likely happened to Todd Willingham.

The sentences in the Texas GOP platform that address the death penalty are:
Sexual Assault – Punishment options for rape should include death.
and
Capital Punishment – Properly applied capital punishment is legitimate, is an effective deterrent, and should be swift and unencumbered.


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Friday, June 18, 2010

Debbie Russell's "Open letter to City Manager Ott & Austin City Council"

Austin officially supports the death penalty?

That's the message to the community right now.

Our chief traveled out of town yesterday, in his formal City of Austin Police Chief uniform, and spoke to media at the Powell execution relaying sympathy for the mother of Ablenedo - but offering no sympathy to the family/friends of Powell, much less the mothers/family of those 'executed' by his officers here in our City. It seems officer's lives are worth more than civilians. He did this on a chartered party bus while other APA officials and police officers partied here in Austin at Scholtz' Garden as the execution was happening. :(

He can say all he wants it's "not about revenge," but those words ring hollow when his actions speak WAY louder.

He can personally be an advocate for the unjust death penalty, and with it, an advocate for revenge-based, not reform-based criminal justice, but should he be doing it as a representative of the City? And doesn't that personal belief extend to how he shapes policies and practices (like rushed/botched investigations we almost always see in capital murder cases)? I challenge any City leader that questions this to publicly raise the issue. I challenge our City Manager to appropriately discipline him for this careless act done in our name.

There's been a lot to be disappointed about in our City lately, but I've never been more ashamed or less hopeful for reform.

In sadness,
Debbie Russell

scene in Huntsville:

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Video and Photos of Monday's Demonstration at Texas Capitol Against David Powell's Execution

Below are photos and a video of the demonstration held at the Texas Capitol on June 14, 2010 to stop the execution of David Powell, which was carried out the next day on June 15, 2010.


The Austin American-Statesman also published an article and photo in the newspaper:

Powell is set to die shortly after 6 p.m. for the shooting death of Austin police officer Ralph Ablanedo during a traffic stop in 1978.
While Ablanedo's family members gathered in Huntsville, where the state's execution chamber is located, more than three dozen Powell supporters rallied Monday at the state Capitol to urge elected officials to halt the execution.
Organizer Scott Cobb, with the Texas Moratorium Network, said Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was the protest's main target. "To kill David Powell is not a reflection of our values as Austinites," he said. "She could really stop this execution."
But Lehmberg, who has for several months received daily calls and e-mails pleading for Powell's life, said Monday that she will not intervene by asking District Judge Mike Lynch to withdraw the execution warrant or Gov. Rick Perry to grant a 30-day reprieve.
"My position hasn't changed, which is that Travis County juries, who are hesitant to ever sentence death, have heard this case three times," Lehmberg said. "I will not intervene and substitute my judgment for theirs, even if I could."




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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New DNA Testing in Texas Case of Possibly Innocent Man Already Executed - Claude Jones

CNN has more on this developing story.


After nearly eight months of deliberation, Judge Paul Murphy ruled on June 11 that Jones' father Claude, executed in 2000 for the murder of a Point Blank, Texas, liquor-store owner, should have another day in court. Specifically, that the only physical evidence linking Jones to the crime — a one-inch piece of hair that somehow survived a destruction order years ago — had to be preserved, against the wishes of San Jacinto County, and transferred to an independent forensics laboratory for DNA testing that wasn't available during the original trial.
Barry Scheck, the co-director of the Innocence Project, which sued (along with the Texas Observer magazine) to have the hair tested, said, "We undertook this litigation for two reasons: to find the truth and to vindicate the public's right to know. We're glad the judge agreed with us." William Knull, the Houston lawyer who represented Scheck and the others, called it a "victory for the idea that the public has a right of access to the facts."


Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1996809,00.html?hpt=T2#ixzz0r5cHPqaC


Texas judge orders DNA test decade after execution
DALLAS — For the second time in a year, the guilt of an inmate executed in Texas is in doubt after a judge ordered DNA testing on a strand of hair that was the only physical evidence linking a man to the murder for which he was killed 10 years ago.
Judge Paul C. Murphy ordered testing done on a 1-inch-long strand that helped prosecutors convict Claude Jones of capital murder in the 1989 shooting death of liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager near Point Blank, about 75 miles north of Houston.
"This is a DNA test that could prove someone was wrongly executed," said Barry Scheck, the co-director of the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center that helped ensure the preservation of the strand of hair.
Jones, a career criminal and paroled murderer, always insisted he was innocent. He died in 2000, the last of 40 inmates executed in Texas that year and the last of 152 inmates put to death during former President George W. Bush's time as governor.
Murphy, a retired appellate judge assigned to the case, ordered the test Friday. In April in a separate case, a state forensics panel renewed its review of a questionable arson finding that led to the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of setting the fire that killed his three children.
According to the Innocence Project, Texas leads the nation with 40 DNA exonerations. Gov. Rick Perry issued the state's first posthumous pardon of a DNA exoneree in March. Tim Cole, wrongly convicted of a 1985 rape, died in prison of complications from asthma in 1999.
In Jones' case, a hair analysis expert linked the strand to Jones at his trial. The other primary evidence was testimony from an accomplice, who later acknowledged in an affidavit that he had no firsthand knowledge of the killing and said he testified against Jones to get himself a lighter sentence.
The single strand of hair allegedly belonging to Jones inexplicably survived, although it was supposed to have been destroyed years ago after the case was resolved. In 2007, a state district judge ordered it preserved to leave open the possibility of DNA testing after the Innocence Project, other innocence groups and The Texas Observer, a biweekly magazine, sought a temporary restraining order preventing its destruction.
San Jacinto County District Attorney Bill Burnett, the prosecutor in the case, died two weeks ago of pancreatic cancer. He had pushed first to have the hair destroyed and then to prevent DNA testing, arguing a jury's verdict should be final and only a live defendant could request DNA testing.
Montgomery County Attorney David Walker, who had been handling the case for Burnett, was expected to be out of his office for the rest of the week and did not return a message left Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Duane Jones, Claude Jones' son, said he was willing to accept the results of the testing, which could clear his father or confirm his conviction.
"Every chance we have ... to discover and expand on the truth, it is incumbent on our justice system to do just that," Duane Jones said.
Claude Jones was 60 when he was executed. His first robbery conviction was in 1959. He also served time in Kansas for robbery, murder and assault. While locked up there, he was convicted of killing a fellow inmate by throwing gasoline on him and setting him on fire. By 1984, however, he was out on parole despite a life term.
"If he was caught, he'd fess up to what he had done," Duane Jones said. "This was the only thing he ever denied. He said the only thing he had was his honor, and he was telling the truth about this thing."
Lab notes indicate the hair expert originally thought the sample size was too small. Also, the microscopic hair analysis done on the strand is now considered unreliable, Scheck said.
The hair must be transferred to a laboratory within 60 days, according to the order. The tests could link the hair to Jones, one of his alleged accomplices or the victim. It also could be a stray hair.
Scheck said if the test proves the hair did not come from Jones, it will show the state had no grounds on which to convict. In Texas, a defendant cannot be convicted on the testimony of an accomplice unless there is corroborating evidence, he said.
According to The Innocence Project, which obtained records in a Freedom of Information filing, Bush's staff never mentioned the possibility of DNA testing in briefing material given to the governor when he was considering a stay of execution.
Jones' execution was delayed for 30 minutes when jailers were unable to find a suitable vein in either arm. They eventually used a vein in his leg to inject a lethal cocktail of drugs.

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David Powell Execution Vigil Video and Photos Texas Capitol June 15, 2010



Link to YouTube Video.

David Powell Execution Vigil Photos Texas Capitol June 15, 2010

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New Motion for Stay of Execution for David Powell Filed in CCA Tuesday Morning

The Austin-American Statesman now has more about this new filing:

With David Lee Powell scheduled to be executed shortly after 6 p.m. tonight, defense lawyer Richard Burr this morning asked an appeals court to halt the lethal injection because of alleged misconduct by Travis County’s top prosecutor.

The filing with the Court of Criminal Appeals accuses District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg of providing false statements to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which was considering Powell’s request to have his death sentence reduced to a life term.

To counter the defense argument that Powell had led an exemplary life on death row, Lehmberg’s June 4 letter included testimony from Powell’s 1999 retrial, when a witness claimed Powell made an assassination threat against the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Lehmberg, a former member of an anti-death penalty group — Jonathan Shrag — related the assassination threat to a lawyer with the Attorney General’s Office in a 1996 phone call.
But according to Powell’s latest appeal, Lehmberg failed to note Shrag’s testifimony that he had conversations with four or five death row inmates in 1993 and could not say for certain that Powell was the inmate who made the threat. Nor did Lehmberg acknowledge that a prosecutor declined to present the testimony to the jury “because of the uncertainty about whether Mr. Powell made the threat,” the appeal said.

“The district attorney had to know that this representation of the trial record was false and that it would have a devastating effect on the claim that Mr. Powell was not only not dangerous, but that he did not have the character to pose a risk of dangerousness,” the appeal reads.
New Motion for Stay of Execution for David Powell Filed to CCA


Stay Motion in Case of David Powell to CCA filed June 15, 2010

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Parole board unanimously declines to commute David Powell’s sentence: Rick Perry can still grant 30 day reprieve


This is what happens with a parole board composed entirely of appointees of a Republican governor who has been in office for ten years. 


From the Austin American Statesman 
By Tony Plohetski | Friday, June 11, 2010, 02:17 PM
Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole unanimously voted today against commuting the death sentence of David Lee Powell, who fatally shot an Austin police officer 32 years ago.
Powell’s scheduled execution by lethal injection is set for Tuesday in Huntsville.
Powell is among the state longest-serving death row inmates; the state has never executed an inmate who has served so long behind bars.
Powell, 59, was convicted and sentenced to death in the May 18, 1978 death of Police Officer Ralph Ablanedo during a traffic stop in South Austin. Ablanedo was shot 10 times with an AK-47.
Powell’s supporters have said that in his time behind bars, he has counseled fellow inmates and helped others learn to read.
This week, Powell’s attorneys filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus to state District Judge Mike Lynch and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, saying that jurors inaccurately predicted his future dangerousness. Lynch has said that he will let the Court of Criminal Appeals rule. That court has not yet made a decision.
The recommendation of the board of pardons and parole now goes to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who can accept it or grant a one-time 30-day reprieve.


Monday, June 14, people in Austin will gather at the Texas capitol to express their support for stopping the execution of David Powell and commuting his death sentence.  The demonstration in support of clemency will take place Monday, June 14, on the sidewalk in front of the capitol at Congress and 11th Street at 5:30 pm. The execution is scheduled to take place the day after the protest. Groups organizing the protest include Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Moratorium Network and Students Against the Death Penalty. Join the Facebook page for this event here.

Powell has spent 32 years on death row, where he has become an example of how a person sentenced to death can transform his life and make a positive contribution to his community on death row as well as on the society outside prison. The Austin American Statesman has endorsed commuting Powell's death sentence to life in prison without parole. The Austin Chronicle has also said that the execution should not take place. Thousands of people have written letters in support of clemency to District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.


Rick Perry can still grant a 30 day stay of execution. The contact information for Governor Perry is: (512) 463-1782 or through his email form on his website.


For more information on the Powell case, visit letdavidlive.org.

Date:
Monday, June 14, 2010
Time:
5:30pm - 7:30pm
Location:
Texas State Capitol
Street:
Congress and 11th
City/Town:
Austin, TX

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Lyrics for Song "Let David Live" by Luke Redfield



LET DAVID LIVE

by luke redfield

http://lukeredfield.com
http://letdavidlive.org 

May 31, 2010

young man fell in with the wrong crowd
we all done things of which we ain't proud
he may have not been right in the mind
and that don't pardon his heinous crime
but david lee powell has shown his remorse
for the night in '68 when he went off course

ralph ablanedo was a good man
his call of duty was patrolling the land
pulled david over, was fatefully shot
now killing david won't bring back the cop
the officer's gone, his family has lost
we can't forget what christ has taught

you can't forget what the good book says
you can't forget what forgiveness does
you can't forget if you kill this new man
he's already killed who he was

sentenced to life, then sentenced to death
prison has taken thirty years of his breath
solitary confinement for a whole decade
seven guards testified that david has changed
he teaches inmates how to write and read
counsels drug addicts and they come clean

composing music in his cell
he keeps his mind free from his confined hell
he looks within, where only he can go
if he's truly sorry, only he knows
but if you take this man's life
it's no different than what he did that night

you can't forget what the good book says
you can't forget what forgiveness does
you can't forget if you kill this new man
he's already killed who he was

on june 15th, 2010
the state of texas will make a human life end
to the one scheduled to do the deed:
flip the switch or inject lethally
you're just "doing your job," getting paid by the state
how can you be employed by hate?

texas, y'all claim to be a righteous place
followers, believers in amazing grace
but when it comes to eye for an eye
you're still living in the caveman times
you're still living in the caveman times
pretty soon, pretty soon, we'll all be blind

you can't forget what the good book says
you can't forget what forgiveness does
you can't forget if you kill this new man
he's already killed who he was

would jesus kill david lee?
would the buddha seek vengeance so obsessively?
would gandhi take this man's life?
would martin luther king condone it as right?
would rick perry or george w. bush
have the guts to be the ones to give that button a push?

when you're in the chamber, about to stop his heart
look around and see all of that which you're a part
when you're face to face, and he gives you the nod
and you're looking directly into the face of God
if you take his life, you take your brother, your mother,
your sister, your father, your daughter, your son
'cause you know, inside, we all are one

--

Luke Redfield
http://lukeredfield.com

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sharon Keller Compares State Commission on Judicial Conduct to Soviet Bloc Authorities

 "This course of events would not seem out of place in the old Soviet bloc, where show trials were not really trials, but were degredation ceremonies staged to depose officials who deviated from party doctrine," reads Sharon Keller's latest brief. "Things should be different in this country." (Page 16,PDF)


Part one of Keller's latest filing. Part two of Keller's latest filing.


Sharon Keller could be suspended from office if the Travis County Attorney files misdemeanor charges against Keller for her violation of state law in failing to report millions of dollars in property and income to the Texas Ethics Commission, which already assessed her a $100,000 civil fine. 


The TEC found that there is "credible evidence of violations of section 572.023 of the Government Code", so it is appropriate that criminal charges are filed in addition to the civil penalty assessed by the TEC.




The criminal offense for a violation of section 572.023 of the Government Code is a Class B misdemeanor.
Click here to ask the Travis County Attorney to file charges against Keller since the TEC has said that there is credibile evidence that she violated the law.


The Austin Chronicle has more on Sharon Keller's bombastic rants against the State Commission on Judicial Conduct:
But the bombast doesn't stop there – hells no! Keller goes on to charge that the real motivation behind her persecution is a fundamental disagreement that TDS has with Keller's views on the death penalty. The objections of the SCJC's lawyers "amount to nothing more than an attempt to re-write history simply because" the lawyers don't "like 'Judge Keller's attitude'" and disagree with "Judge Keller's 'viewpoint' about the death penalty," Keller's brief reads. "Judge Keller is not – or at least should not be – on trial because of her beliefs, but because the [lawyers] charged her with denying Mr. Richard access to the CCA on the evening of his execution." Indeed, though for many CCA watchers it might be difficult to separate Keller's feelings about the death penalty from the way she presents in court – need we bring up Keller's amazing performance in the Roy Criner case, on stage for all to see in the infamous Frontline interview? And that's just one example. (There are plenty of other examples out there – just a few can be found here.)
Considering that impartial attitude is one of the canons of judicial ethics, it's not surprising that Keller's opinions about capital punishment have made many attorneys scratch their chins in wonder at some of the opinions Keller has expressed over the years, while sitting on the state's highest criminal bench. (Full list of canons is here.)
Regardless, it seems quite unlikely that the SCJC will derail the Keller hearing process that is already in motion. Indeed, Keller is slated to have her day in court before the Commission nextFriday, June 18, beginning at 9a in the John H. Reagan State Office Building.
Texas Lawyer's Mary Alice Robbins reports:
The judicial conduct commission's executive director and examiner, Seana Willing, and the commission's special counsel John J. "Mike" McKetta, a shareholder in Austin's Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody, argue in their objections that Berchelmann's findings are irrelevant and erroneous. They contend that Berchelmann improperly turned the hearing on Keller's conduct into something resembling a tort case or other similar proceeding in which comparative responsibility or fault is an issue.
The judicial conduct commission will consider both sides' objections in In Re Sharon Keller at a June 18 hearing in Austin.
In her response, Keller argues that the special master correctly found that she did not break any rule, law or canon of conduct. Keller also argues that "this proceeding continues to taint her name and drain her resources," despite the fact that the special master found she violated no laws or rules. She urges the commission to adopt the special master's findings of fact.
Keller argues in her response that the commission's examiner "plays fast and loose with the record" by arguing in her objections that one of Keller's duties was the performance of the CCA's mandatory execution-day protocol. On Sept. 25, 2007, the CCA had an "oral tradition" that communications from outside the court on execution days were expected to be directed to the judge assigned to the case, but there were no court rules governing execution procedures, Keller contends in the response. [See Keller's response: Part 1 and Part 2.]
In the examiner's objection, Willing and McKetta argue that Keller knew and had known for years the details of the execution-day procedures.
The state executed Richard on Sept. 25, 2007. Richard died by lethal injection after Texas Defender Service (TDS), which represented Richard, did not file a motion for stay and an application for writ of prohibition on his behalf in the CCA. On the morning of Richard's execution day, the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to consider whether the combination of chemicals used in lethal injections constitute cruel and unusual punishment — an issue that Richard's attorneys were trying to address. However, Richard's attorneys did not file Richard's pleadings in the CCA prior to 5 p.m.

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Media Coverage of June 9 Press Conference to Stop Execution of David Powell



Media coverage of press conference on the David Powell case that we helped organize on June 9, 2010. David Powell is scheduled for execution in Texas on June 15, 2010. For more information, visit letdavidlive.org.

TMN's Scott Cobb moderated the press conference. Speakers were David Powell's lawyer Richard Burr (photo left); Sissy Farenthold; Jude Filler; David Powell's uncle Clemens Struve; and Walter Long.

KEYETV
had a long video report on the 10 PM news, but the video is not online, only the text.

KVUE had reports on both the 5 and 10 pm news, but they are not posted online.

Austin American-Statesman: "District attorney finds fault in Powell defense request. Friends, loved ones talk about how death row inmate has helped them as his execution nears".

Austin Chronicle: Final Appeals: Powell Set to Die June 15

MyFoxAustin at nine Video



MyFoxAustin at five Video



KLBJ590 radio

News8Austin (Video)



Austin's Nokoa Newspaper was also present, but its report is not yet online.














TMN's Scott Cobb














David Powell's Uncle Clemens Struve
















Media















Walter Long


Richard Burr (YouTube)


Clemens Struve, David Powell's uncle (YouTube)

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