Monday, September 26, 2011

Logo and Signs of Rick Perry and His Running Mate Todd Willingham

Rick Perry has a running mate. His name is Todd Willingham.

Perry Willingham 2012

Graphics designed by Patricia Turner for Texas Moratorium Network.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Screening of "Incendiary: The Willingham Case" Oct 5 to Benefit Charlie Baird for DA Campaign

Texas Moratorium Network is hosting a screening on Wednesday October 5 at the Violet Crown Cinema in Austin of "Incendiary: the Willingham case" about the case of Todd Willingham. We are hosting it as a fundraiser to benefit the campaign of Charlie Baird for Travis County District Attorney. All proceeds go to the campaign of Charlie Baird. Get your tickets now, seating is limited. Charlie Baird needs your support in his race to bring Justice That Works to Austin and Travis County. To learn more about Charlie Baird visit his website

Please Join The Texas Moratorium Network as they host "Incendiary: A Night With The Filmmakers & Charlie Baird" benefiting the Charlie Baird for Travis County District Attorney Campaign.

The evening begins with a reception at 5:30 and the movie beginning promptly at 7:00 p.m. Immediately upon conclusion of the film, the filmmakers and Charlie--who was interviewed for the film--will speak and answer questions.
Wednesday, October 5th 05:30 PM — Wednesday, October 5th 09:30 PM
Violet Crown Cinema
434 West 2nd Street
Austin, TX 78701
Please join the Texas Moratorium Network for a special screening of "Incendiary: The Willingham Case" benefiting the Charlie Baird for Travis County District Attorney Campaign.

This award-winning film features an interview with Charlie Baird.

The event begins with a reception with the filmmakers and Charlie at 5:30 p.m. followed by the film screening. Immediately after the screening, Charlie and the filmmakers will make a brief presentation and answer audience questions.

Only 50 total movie tickets are available, so please get yours today. Please note that, because of limited space in the theater itself, some ticket options and sponsorship options are limited to the reception only.

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Victim's Son Objects to Execution of Man Who Dragged His Father to Death

"You can't fight murder with murder," Ross Byrd, 32, told Reuters late Tuesday, the night before Wednesday's scheduled execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer for one of the most notorious hate crimes in modern times.

"Life in prison would have been fine. I know he can't hurt my daddy anymore. I wish the state would take in mind that this isn't what we want."

Brewer is scheduled to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. today in Huntsville, Texas.

Call Governor Perry to register your opposition to executions 512 463 2000.

More from the AP:

An avowed white supremacist, Brewer, 44, was one of three white men convicted of capital murder in the kidnapping and killing of Byrd Jr., in June 1998.

John King, another white supremacist, is on death row awaiting an execution date. Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence.

Brewer would be the 11th man executed in Texas this year. In Georgia, the execution of Troy Davis, convicted of killing a police officer, is scheduled for the same night.

If both executions go forward, Brewer and Davis would be the 34th and 35th executions in the United States in 2011.

In Texas, a vigil in Huntsville began at midnight with civil rights activist Dick Gregory.


Gregory has joined Ross Byrd and Martin Luther King III in the past to publicly protest Brewer's execution.

Ross Byrd, a recording artist studying for his MBA at nearby Stephen F. Austin University, said Tuesday that he wouldn't attend the execution but will "be there in spirit."

He says he doesn't want to "waste my time" watching anybody die, even a man who killed his dad.

"Life goes on," said Byrd, who has a son. "I've got responsibilities that I have every day. It's not on the front page of my mind. I'm looking for happy times."

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cleve Foster received a stay of execution from U.S. Supreme Court

Cleve Foster just got a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court. No execution in Texas today. The high court granted the stay of execution for Foster about 2-1/2 hours before he was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection around 6 p.m. local time in Texas.He was convicted of the rape and murder of a young woman he met in a bar in Fort Worth.

The justices in the brief order gave no reason why they granted the stay and said his execution will be delayed while it considers his appeal.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rally to Stop Execution of Troy Davis: Friday, Sept 15 at the Texas Capitol

Stop the Execution of Troy Davis: Solidarity Rally in Austin!

Friday, September 16th at 5:30 PM
Texas State Capitol, 11th and Congress

Organized by Campaign to End the Death Penalty-Austin

Troy Davis was sentenced to death in Georgia for the 1989 killing of police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. His sentencing was in spite of the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, nor was a murder weapon ever found. He was convicted solely on the testimony of 9 witnesses.

Seven of these witnesses have now recanted their testimony and several say they were pressured by the police to identify Troy as the shooter. One of the remaining witnesses was Sylvester Coles, who was initially a suspect and in fact admitted he was carrying the same caliber gun used in the murder half an hour before the slaying took place.

Troy has spent the last two decades on death row for a crime he did not commit. He has faced three execution dates and is now facing his fourth date on September 21st. Please show your support for this innocent man and put public pressure on the Georgia Parole Board to grant Troy clemency.

For more information about the case of Troy Davis, please visit or visit the CEDP Austin Facebook page at

The execution of Troy Davis, a Georgia death row inmate scheduled to die in less than a week, should be halted because of "pervasive, persistent doubts" about his guilt, said William S. Sessions, a former federal district judge in Texas and FBI director under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in a sharply-worded editorial on Thursday.
"Serious questions about Mr. Davis' guilt, highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion, and a lack of relevant physical evidence, continue to plague his conviction," Sessions wrote. He urged a state pardons board to commute the sentence to life in prison.
The unusual plea from Sessions, which appears in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is the latest high-profile call for clemency for Davis, whose looming execution has become a lightning rod for national and international criticism. Among those who have called for a halt to the execution, scheduled for Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., are Pope Benedict XVI, former President Jimmy Carter and the leadership of the NAACP and Amnesty International.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rick Perry Must Be Pressured to Stop Racially Tainted Death Sentence From Being Carried Out Thursday, Sept 15

UPDATE Sept 15: Duane Buck received a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Atlantic has an article on the Duane Buck execution scheduled for Thursday, Sept 15. Call Rick Perry's office at 512-463-2000 to urge him to stop the execution by using his power to issue a 30 day stay of execution. Buck was sentenced to death after a sentencing hearing in which racist testimony by a witness for the prosecution was allowed to be heard by the jury. This execution is a big test for Rick Perry's national ambitions. Will Perry stop a racially tainted death sentence from being carried out or will he play to the type of potential voters in the Republican Party who clapped in approval at the recent GOP debate at the mention of Texas' then-234 executions (Watch video).

Some of us will be at the Texas Capitol at 11th and Congress in Austin Thursday at 5:30 to protest this execution. Others are going to Huntsville from Houston. There are two more executions set for next week in Texas.

From Andrew Cohen's article for
The federal trial judge in a case issues her vital ruling before the capital defendant's lawyers have completed their argument. A local prosecutor who helped convict the death row inmate now pleads with the state parole board to give the guy a new sentencing trial. Defense attorneys say that lawyers for the Attorney General's office are lying to the court. And the governor who can help stop this parade of horribles, Gov. Rick Perry, earns public cheers for his chillingly remorseless stand on capital punishment.
Welcome to Texas, to its death penalty regime, and to the excruciating case of Duane Edward Buck.
Buck is scheduled to be executed Thursday in Huntsville for a double murder he committed in Houston in 1995. No one contests his guilt. Instead, his lawyers say that Texas owes him a new sentencing trial because his first one was unlawfully tainted by race. An expert witness at his trial in 1997 impermissibly told jurors that Buck would be more dangerous in the future because he is black. As I chronicled last week, the six other men in Texas whose trials were similarly tainted all got new sentencing hearings after then-Attorney General John Cornyn conceded the state's error in 2000. Buck, however, has not.
Texas now is opposed to Buck's request. It is squeezing him because it can and because it is politically expedient to do so. The state claims that Buck did not timely raise the issue on appeal in federal court. Even though each of the other men were subsequently re-sentenced to death -- and even though that would be a likely outcome in Buck's case -- Texas says the time for Buck's judicial relief has come and gone. Even though the state helped each of the other men vindicate their constitutional rights, it will not do so in Buck's case. At a time when other states are moving away from capital punishment, this is how far to the right Texas has come on the death penalty since 2000.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Buck's clemency request. Here is the extent of the Board's findings and conclusions: "After a full and careful review of the application and any other information filed with the application, a majority of the Board has decided not to recommend a 120-day Reprieve and Commutation of Death Sentence to Lesser Penalty." That's it. The complete document is two pages long -- the cover letter is three short paragraphs ending with the salutation, "Sincerely," by Clemency Director Maria Ramirez.
Buck's fate now is up to Gov. Perry, the man who has proudly overseen the executions of more death row inmates than any governor in American history, and to the federal appeals courts, which only rarely intercede on behalf of capital defendants. The eerie applause for capital punishment at last week's Republican debate tells Gov. Perry that executions are a "winning" issue for him, at least for now, so you can do the math. It doesn't look likely, does it, that Texas will make good on that 11-year-old promise to Buck. 
The Judge
Last Tuesday, September 6th, Buck's lawyers went to federal court in Houston to get a stay of their client's execution so the issue of his new sentencing trial could be properly evaluated on the merits. On Friday, to no one's surprise, attorneys for the state of Texas responded by objecting to Buck's motion. But on that very day, September 9th, just a few hours after Texas had filed its brief, and before Buck's attorneys even could reply to it, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore issued anine-page ruling siding with the state and against Buck. The judge declared that Buck's arguments had been litigated before and that there were no new facts or legal issues that required her to change her mind.
It is customary in motions practice for the moving party -- here, Buck -- to have an opportunity to file a "reply" brief answering the "response" brief filed by the other side. This is certainly true in capital cases and especially when the judge is inclined to rule against the litigant who made the motion. Often, there are issues of fact or law which arise in the "response" brief which warrant further attention from the court. A "reply" brief keeps honest those drafting the "response" brief and judges typically allow for reply briefs because it is the moving party, after all, which has the burden of persuading the judge to do something (or to not do something).
With Buck's life on the line, none of that happened here. Instead, inexplicably, Judge Gilmore cranked out a nine-page order in a matter of hours without waiting to see whether any of the representations made by Texas were suspect or not -- without giving the condemned man a full chance to make all of his arguments. This is dubious behavior from a federal judge but perhaps not terribly surprising from Judge Gilmore, a 1994 appointee of President Bill Clinton. Over the years, she has earned the nickname "judicial diva" for her decidedly injudicious conduct on the bench.
David Lat, the respected legal blogger who coined the "diva" phrase in 2007, has helped chronicle the many ways in which Judge Gilmore has reportedly engaged in conduct unbecoming of a federal judge. And what did the federal jurist do in response to her new nickname? Why, she wrote a booktitled "You Can't Make This Stuff Up; Tales from a Judicial Diva." This light-hearted offering followed her first book, which was a coloring book for the children of incarcerated inmates. This is the judge who was in such a rush to kick Buck's case out of her court last week that she didn't even wait for all of the arguments to come in before she issued her order.
The State
The current Attorney General of the Lone Star State is a man named Greg Abbott, a former Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, who evidently figured he'd have more power and prestige as the state's lead attorney than he would have as one of its premier judges. And if the Attorney General thing doesn't work out for Abbott there's always the state house in Austin if Gov. Perry makes it to Washington. Six attorneys general in Texas' history have gone on to become governors.
It is Abbott, and not Gov. Perry, who is ultimately responsible for what state lawyers write and say to federal judges. And in the Buck case, the accuracy and fairness of what Texas said last week to Judge Gilmore, what its lawyers said to try to ensure that Buck is executed on Thursday, is very much in doubt. Buck's attorneys have filed a "Rule 11" motion, in which they seek court-imposed sanctions against the attorneys responsible for filing last week's response. They allege that:

The Assistant Attorney General [Georgette Oden] made factual contentions that are contrary to the evidence, and omitted necessary facts within her knowledge regarding the nature of the cases in which her office had previously confessed equal protection and due process violations.
Specifically, Buck's attorneys say that Texas tried to cover up to Judge Gilmore the facts and procedural history surrounding the similarities between the Buck case and the six other cases which Texas in 2000 conceded were impermissibly tainted by racial testimony. Today's state attorneys know full well how far Texas went back then to ensure that those other men got new trials, Buck's attorneys claim, and yet Texas' attorneys "completely" omitted some of that information when they filed their response in Judge Gilmore's court last week (all the more reason, of course, why good judges tend to wait for all the filings to come before rendering their rulings).
Are Abbott and Texas bound by the promises made by Cornyn? Are they bound by the fact that the other men received their due process? Should the state again be allowed to treat Buck differently after allowing his trial to be unconstitutionally tainted back in 1997? Should Texas' executive branch be "rewarded" with Buck's execution after allegedly making false statements to a federal judge? Did the federal courts ever fully adjudicate Buck's equal protection and due process claims? These are all still open questions less than two days before Buck is scheduled to be executed. Reasonable people may ask: Is this any way to run a death penalty regime?
The Prosecutor
In 1997, Linda Geffin was part of the state's prosecution team which convicted Buck. On Monday, she wrote a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Gov. Perry, Attorney General Abbott, and to the prosecutor now in charge of the Buck matter, Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos (whose webpage says she has "dedicated her career to the pursuit of justice"). Geffin, who still works as an attorney for the state of Texas, wrote:
When I read about the clemency petition pending before the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Perry, and about the motion in federal court recognizing that the Attorney General had previously acknowledged the improper injection of race in the sentencing hearing in Mr. Buck's case, I felt compelled to step forward. Mr. Buck committed a terrible crime, and he mustbe punished. But the Attorney General [John Cornyn in 2000] was right when he said that "it isinappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system." It is regrettable that any race-based considerations were placed before Mr. Buck's jury. No individual should be executed without being afforded a fair trial, untainted by considerations of race.
Geffin took a courageous stand. Evidently it wasn't nearly enough. With the Board already having rejected Geffin's argument and Buck's request, Gov. Perry alone now controls Buck's fate, at least as far as Texas is concerned (the federal courts remember still may intervene). The governor could stay the execution for 30 days to allow Buck's attorneys to continue to confer with prosecutor Lykos about their client. Gov. Perry also may ask the district attorney to withdraw the pending execution date or Lykos may do so on her own authority. It all depends, I guess, upon where the district attorney wants her own "pursuit of justice" to take her.
I said it last week and I'll say it again: those who are now evaluating for the first time the presidential hew of candidate Perry would be advised to monitor closely how he handles these death penalty cases. They are indeed a true test, perhaps the truest test, of how a politician maneuvers between law and justice, crime and punishment, and those cornerstone constitutional mandates, like equal protection and due process, which can be as vital as they often are unpopular.  

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Petition to Texas Governor Rick Perry to Acknowledge Cameron Todd Willingham was Wrongfully Executed

We will deliver the signatures and comments on this petition to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is running for president of the United States. A lot of people already signed and we delivered those signatures to Perry in 2009, but we wanted to repost it since Rick Perry is running for president so that more people can sign. It also allows you to leave a comment when you sign. Many people have left great comments, add yours. Click View signatures to read comments.

View Signatures.

This petition was created and written by Texas Moratorium Network. If you have questions, call TMN at 512-961-6389. If you are shocked to learn that Texas has executed an innocent person, please attend the 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 22, 2011 in Austin, Texas at the Capitol.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

235th Execution Carried Out Today Under Governor Rick Perry; 236th is Thursday

The lethal injection of Steven Woods today was the tenth this year in Texas, the 474th since Texas resumed executions in 1982 and the 235th since Governor Rick Perry took office in 2000.

More from CNN:
Steven Michael Woods Jr. was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal injection dose began, said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It was the 10th execution carried out in Texas this year.
"You're not about to witness an execution. You are about to witness a murder," Woods said before he was injected, according to Lyons. Woods added that his co-defendant was the one responsible for two 2001 killings, she said.
Earlier Tuesday, the state's high court rejected a stay of execution for Woods.
"We're disappointed in the outcome," attorney Brad Levenson said after the court's decision. His office had filed for a stay of execution on grounds of juror bias.
Woods was sentenced to death for the slayings of 21-year-old Ronald Whitehead and 19-year-old Bethena Brosz in 2002. Co-defendant Marcus Rhodes was sentenced to life in prison.
Duane Edward Buck is one step closer to execution after a ruling late Tuesday by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which recommended against granting him clemency.
The ruling was made after Phyllis Taylor, one of Buck's surviving victim's, spoke with the chairwoman of the board earlier in the day.
Taylor was one of three people shot by Buck in 1995 after an early morning argument. Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler were killed when Buck returned to Gardner's home with two rifles and opened fire on his victims. According to Texas officials, Buck shot Gardner in front of her daughter, who begged for her mother's life.
In a statement released after the board's ruling, Buck's attorney, Katherine C. Black, said the recommendation, "fails to recognize what the highest legal officer in the state of Texas has acknowledged: No one should be executed based on a process tainted by considerations of race."
Black is referring to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who was the state's attorney general in 2000, when he spoke of seven death row inmates, including Buck. Cornyn said he believed the inmates had been unfairly sentenced to death based on testimony that was racially tainted by psychologist Walter Quijano, who repeatedly told juries that black or Hispanic defendants were more likely to commit future crimes.
Because of that testimony, six of those seven inmates were granted re-sentencing trials. Buck was not among them.
"We want to make sure people aren't executed based on the color of their skin," Black said.
On Monday, Linda Geffin, a former Harris County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Buck, joined Taylor in calling on state officials to stop Buck's execution.
"The decision as to whether Mr. Buck's execution will go forward now lies squarely with Gov. Perry, who has the power to issue a 30-day reprieve, and District Attorney (Patricia) Lykos, who has the power to ask for a withdrawal of the execution date," Black said.
"We urge Gov. Perry to grant a temporary reprieve to allow all parties involved to work together to ensure that Mr. Buck receives a new and fair sentencing hearing untainted by race-based testimony."
But Perry is not known for his leniency when it comes to the death penalty.
Woods' execution Tuesday night was the 235th for Perry in his 11 years as the governor.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Urge Rick Perry to Stop Execution of Steven Woods on Tuesday Sept 13

Spiegel has an article on the Steven Woods execution scheduled for Tuesday, Sept 13. Call Rick Perry's office at 512-463-2000 to urge him to stop the execution by using his power to issue a 30 day stay of execution.

Some of us will be at the Texas Capitol at 11th and Congress in Austin tomorrow at 5:30 to protest this execution. Others are going to Huntsville from Houston. There is another execution set for this Thursday in Texas and two more next week.

From Spiegel:

In Texas, Steven Michael Woods is slated for execution on Tuesday, despite considerable doubts about his guilt. The inmate is fighting to have his sentence commuted, but his chances are diminishing. State Governor Rick Perry is considered a champion of the death penalty.
It's a gruesome record, but Rick Perry is proud of it. "Your state has executed 234 death-row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times," NBC's Brian Williams told the Texas governor during this week's presidential debate. Did he ever struggle to sleep at night, Williams continued, "with the idea that anyone of those might have been innocent"?
Before Williams had finished, the auditorium erupted in cheers, even whistles, as if the spectators welcomed this killer number. Then Perry answered grimly: "No sir, I never struggled with that at all." Asked what he made of the applause, he said: "I think Americans understand justice."
This bizarre moment was almost lost in the subsequent coverage of the Republican candidates' debate. For one man, however, it was a bad omen: Steven Michael Woods.
Woods, 31, is incarcerated in the Allan B. Polunsky Unit, which houses Texas' death row, a four-hour drive east of the capital Austin. His execution for capital murder is set for Tuesday -- one day after the next Republican debate. It would be the 19th execution this year in Texas alone.
Grave Doubts about Verdict
There's more, though: Woods, his lawyers and his friends insist he is innocent.
There are indeed grave doubts about the verdict. Marcus Rhodes, Wood's co-defendant and a former friend, has admitted to the double murder in question and already been sentenced -- but to life in prison. Rhodes' DNA was found on the weapons, but not that of Woods.
Yet all courts so far have rejected Wood's appeals. Even the US Supreme Court refused to take up the case. Alex Calhoun, Wood's defense lawyer, has now filed a clemency petition with Governor Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, as a last resort.
Woods was deprived of his constitutional rights and convicted based on "false or misleading testimony," Calhoun alleges in the 20-page petition to Perry. Furthermore, the prosecution had "illegally withheld significant evidence."
"I am sure that the Board of Pardons and Paroles will, using their judgment and innate sense of fairness, recognize the injustice and patent unfairness," Calhoun told SPIEGEL ONLINE. However, this sounds like overblown optimism: Since he took office in December 2000, Perry has not once shown clemency in a capital punishment case -- sometimes in spite of doubts. And it is highly unlikely that Woods would be the first person to get it.
Woods' story started as a horrifying criminal case. On May 2, 2001, two people were brutally murdered in a deserted field north of Dallas: Ronald Whitehead, 21, and Bethena Brosz, 19. Whitehead was shot in the head six times, Brosz twice as well as once in the knee. Both also had their throats cut. Whitehead's dead body was found hours later, Brosz was still alive but died 36 hours later in a hospital.
Whitehead was a drug dealer, Brosz a chance acquaintance. The 19-year-old planned to study astronomy. "Beth was just in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people," her mother Janet Shires wrote on a memorial website. The suspects in the murders were tried separately. Woods, then 21, was sentenced to death in August 2002. Witnesses had claimed that he had bragged about the murders. His lawyers didn't dispute his presence at the murder scene but named Rhodes the killer.
Before Rhodes' trial could start in January of 2003, he confessed to killing Whitehead and Brosz alone -- without implicating Woods. In a plea deal, he was sentenced to life, not death.
For years Woods has tried to overturn his sentence -- unsuccessfully. Texas law is against him: Even if he had never pulled the trigger or swung the knives, he'd still be as guilty as the killer by his mere presence. In Texas that's called the Law of Parties.
The Polunsky Unit where Woods has been kept since is infamous for its terrible conditions. In 2004, dozens of death-row inmates went on hunger strike to protest their treatment, Woods among them.
'They're Killing the Wrong Person'
The courts weren't impressed. Even a broad coalition of activists for the abolition of the death penalty fighting for Woods hasn't been able to achieve anything. One of them is the Los Angeles student Tali Kaluski, 25. She learned about the case when she was asked to design and print t-shirts for Woods supporters. Woods thanked her in a letter. She visited him in jail in January.
"They're killing the wrong person," says Kaluski. "He's such a shy, quiet person." She says that Woods told her that he was in the car with Rhodes but had no idea then what he had planned. "How can a killer get life and Steven death?" she asks.
By now, the Office of Capital Writs (OCW), a state agency that represents death-row inmates in post-conviction habeas corpus and related proceedings, is working on the Woods case, too. OCW lead attorney Brad Levenson has filed another petition with the Supreme Court to review the verdict. On 44 pages he lists what went wrong during the trial and after. Woods' original lawyers had been "ineffective," the jury "prejudiced," the petition claims.
Insiders have little hope, as time is running out. "The concept of clemency in this red neck, peckerwood state is a hollow illusion, existing only for the sake of providing the appearance of due process," says one lawyer involved, who refuses to disclose his name for fear of angering the courts. "If history is any guide, I fear that Mr. Woods' case will be denied without a second thought."
Even the US media have shown little interest. Capital punishment is no longer a hot-button issue here. "The public is a lot more ambivalent than they had been, say 15 years ago," Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, told the Website Politico. "They see it as a grayer issue now."
Woods' execution is set for Tuesday, 6 p.m. local time. Tali Kaluski, who now calls herself Woods' "fiancee," is already in Livingston, at least to be closer to him in the final days.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Anthony Graves Responds to Clapping at GOP Debate in Approval of 234 Texas Executions

Anthony Graves asks "How can you applaud death?" in response to members of the audience at the GOP debate clapping and cheering about the 234 executions conducted under Rick Perry. We need to show the nation a counter example to the clapping at the GOP debate, so please make plans to attend the 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. Come clap for justice, not killing. On October 22nd in Austin, it is our turn to clap and cheer when as many as 20-25 death row exonerees urge us to end the death penalty.

Watch video of people clapping at GOP debate.

From ABC News:

Anthony Graves read in the newspaper about the crowd at the Republican presidential debate applauding the fact that Gov. Rick Perry had authorized 234 executions during his tenure.
“How can you applaud death?” Graves asked.

Graves is one of 12 death row inmates who have been exonerated in Texas since 1973. Five of those exonerations occurred while Rick Perry was governor, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that opposes capital punishment.

“The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place in which when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court if that’s required,” Perry said during the debate Wednesday.

Perry defended the use of the death penalty in his state and told the audience, “I think Americans understand justice.”

But Graves said his mother would not be one of those Americans. Graves spent 18 years in prison and 12 years on death row as a convicted murder. In 2010 his conviction was overturned and he was released.

“He should ask my mother about that, ” he says. “She lost her son for 18 years.”

Graves says he was stunned at the governor’s comments because he was exonerated less than a year ago. “I was exonerated from the very same system that he is boasting about. He’s a politician, but I’m an exoneree and I think I know more about the subject.”

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

"Scant evidence that he (Steven Woods) killed anyone" says Austin Chronicle

The Austin Chronicle says there is "scant evidence" that Steven Woods killed anyone. He is scheduled for execution in Texas under Governor Rick Perry on Sept 13. This is a case that likely would have a high chance for a commutation to life in other death penalty states, since the physical evidence does not indicate that the person being executed actually killed anyone while there is clear evidence linking his co-defendant as the killer.
"Unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in to stop it – or the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends and the governor grants clemency (a remote chance) – inmate Steven Woods will be put to death Sept. 13, even though there is scant evidence suggesting that he actually killed anyone. Woods was sentenced to death for a 2001 double murder in The Colony, near Dallas. After his conviction, a co-defendant, Marcus Rhodes, made a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty in exchange for two life sentences. Nonetheless, while there was clear physical evidence linking Rhodes to the crime, there was no such evidence linking Woods. "There is no physical proof linking him to the crime," says attorney Alex Calhoun, who has represented Woods on appeal and who has filed a clemency petition with the parole board, seeking to have Woods' sentence commuted to life. That would be far more equitable, he argues; while that is a good argument against sending Woods to death, it's been the argument in two out of the three cases in which the board has recommended clemency under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry. Perry only granted clemency in one of those (that of Kenneth Foster), and he said he did so because Foster and a co-defendant had a shared trial, not because Foster literally was not guilty of killing anyone.
Meanwhile, Brad Levenson, director of the state's Office of Capital Writs, responsible for representing indigent death row inmates on appeal, late last week filed a final appeal in Woods' case. In the appeal, Levenson argues that Calhoun rendered ineffective assistance when he failed to pursue in a timely manner evidence that one of Woods' jurors was so biased that his presence on the jury violated Woods' right to an impartial panel. (Should the ineffective assistance claim fail, Levenson argues that the presence of the juror alone should render the Woods verdict unsound.) The appeal comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court announcing that it would hear two cases this fall that relate to the right to effective counsel on appeal. Whether Texas courts will see fit to stay Woods' execution until the high court has an opportunity to weigh in on the topic remains to be seen."

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