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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Register for the 2011 Statewide Texas Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty and "Day of Innocence" - March 16

State Rep Harold Dutton at 2005 Lobby Day
The 2011 Statewide Texas Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty and "Day of Innocence" is Wednesday, March 16. Special guests include death row exonerees Anthony Graves, Clarence Brandley, Ron Keine, Shujaa Graham, Gary Drinkard and Albert Burrell. 


People from across Texas will come to the Capitol in Austin to advocate for an end to the death penalty and other reforms that would impact the Texas death penalty, including a package of innocence bills, a bill for a moratorium on executions and commission to study the death penalty system, a bill to require separate trials in death penalty cases and a separate bill that would prohibit death sentences for people convicted under the Law of Parties who do not kill anyone.


Below is the schedule for Lobby Day. We will announce rooms later. Please register for Lobby Day, so that we know how many people are coming and so that we can schedule legislative appointments. In 2009 our Lobby Day resulted in several legislators signing on to support the bills we lobbied for. We expect the same success in 2011. We have held a Lobby Day every session since 2003. Also participating in the Lobby Day will be students from the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break.


If you can not attend the Lobby Day, you can still help by making a donation (not tax-deductible).  Also on March 16, even if you are not in Austin at the Lobby Day, you can call your Texas legislators and let them know your position on the death penalty and urge them to support a moratorium on executions.

Schedule for the Statewide Texas Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty and "Day of Innocence" - March 16, 2011

8 :00 - 9:00 AM Check-in and Meet and Greet at the Texas Capitol. Legislators, staff members, everyone coming to Austin for the Lobby Day and anyone at the capitol and the general public is welcome to attend and meet death row exonerees Anthony Graves, Clarence Brandley, Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, Gary Drinkard and Albert Burrell who all spent many years on death row for crimes they did not commit.

9 - 10 AM Lobby Training. People coming only for Lobby Day will be trained and given assignments. People who received training before Lobby Day can begin lobbying.   Location: Room TBA in the Texas Capitol.

Sometime during the day while the House and Senate are in session the death row exonerees may be recognized and honored with a resolution in the Texas House and/or Senate. Participants in the "Day of Innocence" Lobby Day may also be recognized from the gallery of the House and/or the Senate.

10 AM - Noon Visit legislative offices to lobby and invite legislators and staff to the afternoon panel discussion with death row exonerees.

Noon - 1 PM Lunch on your own. There is a cafeteria in the Texas Capitol.

1 - 2 PM Press conference in Texas House Speaker's Committee Room 2W.6 at Texas Capitol with death row exonerees and others.

2 - 3 Lobbying visits to legislative offices.
    
3:00 - 4:30 PM Panel Discussion on Innocence and the Death Penalty with death row exonerees, Location: room TBA in the Texas Capitol. Panelists and guests include exonerees Anthony Graves, Clarence Brandley, Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, Gary Drinkard and Albert Burrell who are all innocent people who spent many years on death row for crimes they did not commit.
  
4:30:- 5:00 Set up for rally and final legislative office visits.

5:30 - 7:30   "Day of Innocence" Statewide Rally Against the Death Penalty on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol.  
Rally Speakers and other special guests include death row exonerees Anthony Graves, Clarence Brandley, Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, Gary Drinkard and Albert Burrell;  a couple of young people participating in the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break; plus others.

Lobby Day has been organized since 2003 by several organizations working together, the same ones who also organize the annual "March to Abolish the Death Penalty" each October: Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin chapter, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty. Organizations that would like to participate or co-sponsor the Lobby Day can email admin@texasmoratorium.org or call 512-961-6389.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bill Filed in Texas Legislature to Enact a Moratorium on Executions

Yesterday Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston filed HB 1641 to enact a moratorium on executions and create a commission to study the death penalty in Texas. He first filed a bill for a moratorium in 2001.

In the January 2011 issue, Texas Monthly endorsed a moratorium on executions:
IT’S TIME TO HALT EXECUTIONS IN Texas. The flaws in our death penalty system have become too obvious to ignore any longer. Five times in the past seven years we’ve learned about a person wrongly convicted and taken off death row or a person convicted on bogus forensic science—and executed. It’s clear: Until the day comes when we are able to guarantee that our system will never put innocent men and women to death, we can’t continue to use a form of punishment that is irreversible. It’s time for Texas to put a moratorium on capital punishment.
This is a law-and-order state, and most citizens support executing murderers. But what about executing people who haven’t done anything wrong? The new Legislature that convenes this month is the most conservative in history, with 22 freshman lawmakers, many of them tea party–inspired folks who promised their constituents that they were going to Austin to grapple with the tyranny of the government. On the campaign trail, these men and women railed against the ineptitude and interference of government in general, about the way the state tramples on the lives of its citizens. “Don’t tread on me!” they cried. Fine, then. Let’s look at recent history, which has offered some appalling examples of the state’s treading all over its citizens.
In the summer of 2008, Michael Blair, who was convicted of a Plano murder in 1994 based on hair-comparison analysis, was taken off death row following a series of DNA tests that showed he was not guilty of the crime. One year later, a nationwide controversy erupted over the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Corsicana man who was convicted in 1992 and executed twelve years later for setting a fire that killed his children. No fewer than seven subsequent reports revealed that Willingham’s conviction was based on forensic science that amounted to little more than folklore. The case bore a striking similarity to that of Ernest Willis, who spent seventeen years on death row for setting a deadly house fire in Iraan before he was exonerated and set free, in 2004. This past November, the Innocence Project and the Texas Observer announced the results of an investigation into the case of Claude Jones, who was convicted of murdering a liquor store owner in 1989 and executed in 2000. Like Blair, Jones had been convicted largely based on the analysis of hair—in Jones’s case a single strand found at the crime scene. But DNA testing on the hair showed that it wasn’t his at all.
Finally there’s the case of Anthony Graves, which we wrote about in tremendous detail back in October and have followed up on this month (see “Innocence Found”). Graves was convicted of a brutal 1992 murder and sentenced to death. There was no evidence to connect him to the crime, no plausible motive, and the only person who could place him at the scene was the crime’s actual perpetrator, Robert Carter, who was executed in 2000 and who had repeatedly recanted his testimony and proclaimed Graves’s innocence. Nonetheless, Graves spent eighteen years behind bars—twelve of them on death row—and was about to face a retrial next month when Burleson County district attorney Bill Parham abruptly set him free. To summarize: Agents of the state grabbed a completely innocent man out of his mother’s apartment, prosecuted him for capital murder, and kept him locked away for almost two decades.
What can we learn from Graves’s ordeal? Governor Rick Perry, campaigning in Lubbock two days later, was asked by a reporter about the case. “I think we have a justice system that is working, and he’s a good example,” Perry said. “I think our system works well; it goes through many layers of observation and appeal, et cetera. So I think our system is working.”
In fact, the Graves case proves the exact opposite. Graves was failed every step of the way by the system—or, to be more precise, by imperfect humans working in a flawed system. He, like so many other wrongly convicted death row inmates, had inexperienced trial attorneys who were no match for a powerful prosecutor. He was also failed by the judges on the state appellate courts; the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest of Perry’s fail-safe layers of appeal, turned him down three times.
Mostly, however, Graves was failed by Charles Sebesta, the district attorney in Burleson County at the time of his arrest. State law directs DAs “not to convict, but to see that justice is done.” But early on Sebesta and the investigators working the case developed a theory that Carter could not have committed the crime alone, and they settled on Graves as his accomplice. The night before Carter was set to testify at Graves’s trial, he told the DA, “I did it all myself, Mr. Sebesta.” But nothing was going to keep the DA from winning. After discussing it with Sebesta, Carter testified at trial the next day that Graves was a murderer.
The system that Perry says is working would never have discovered this shocking detail had it not been for an offhand comment that Sebesta made in a Geraldo Rivera documentary in 2000, six years after the DA had sent Graves to death row. On the show, Sebesta let slip that Carter had told him he had acted alone. That comment was evidence of a conversation that Graves’s defense attorneys said Sebesta had never revealed before. Springing into action, Graves’s new appellate lawyers got to work writing a federal appeal, which led a federal court to overturn the murder conviction in 2006 and order the state to retry Graves or set him free. But for Sebesta’s comment, Graves would almost certainly be dead by now. Does it need to be said that a system reliant on Geraldo Rivera is a system that needs work?
“Charles Sebesta handled this case in a way that would best be described as a criminal justice system’s nightmare,” special prosecutor Kelly Siegler told reporters after Graves was released. “It’s a travesty.” But his case is not an aberration. We know of several other Texas death penalty cases where the very qualities we value in our prosecutors—ambition, relentlessness—led them to refuse to be skeptical of shaky witnesses, to refuse to admit error, to push on at all costs. Randall Dale Adams was convicted of killing a Dallas police officer and sent to death row in 1977. He was released in 1989, after his accuser confessed to the crime himself and a higher court stated that the prosecutors had “knowingly used perjured testimony.” Kerry Max Cook was convicted of killing a woman in Tyler in 1977. He was released in 1997 and his conviction reversed; the Court of Criminal Appeals found that the state had hidden critical evidence. And then there’s Ernest Willis, who was pumped so full of antipsychotic medicine during his trial that he appeared to jurors as a blank-eyed maniac—a fact the prosecutor made great use of at trial.
And these are just the cases we know of. Are there other wrongfully imprisoned people sitting on death row right now whose stories will never come out? Before you answer that question, think about what went into saving Graves. Nicole C├ísarez, a professor at the University of St. Thomas, in Houston, and a dozen of her students spent thousands of hours poring over the case and interviewing people. Graves also had the benefit of good, experienced lawyers and journalists who worked hard to explain his case. And Graves wasn’t the only one with outside help: Just about every single exoneree who has walked off death row has done so in spite of the system, not because of it. The confession that led to Adams’s release was propelled by a documentary film; Cook has a New Jersey prison ministry to thank for his freedom; Willis was lucky enough to wind up with a New York lawyer whose firm spent more than $5 million on his case. Without these benefits, Graves, Adams, Cook, Willis—all of whom are innocent men—would likely have been put to death. And, needless to say, the vast majority of the men on death row will never be so lucky as to have a high-priced lawyer or a filmmaker or a posse of journalism students working on their behalf.
So what’s to be done? First of all, let’s admit, finally, that we have a problem. Second, we have to halt all executions: We can’t allow a process so flawed to continue doling out the ultimate punishment. Finally, we need to examine the system from top to bottom with a sharp, skeptical eye. Consider forensic science. As late as 2009, investigators from the attorney general’s office were trying to work the Graves case using the services of Keith Pikett, a deputy from Fort Bend County who said his bloodhounds could pick the smells of criminals out of scent lineups. Pikett wore out his welcome with law enforcement after sending at least five people to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. This didn’t happen in the dark ages before DNA. This happened in the past few years.
As the Graves case makes clear, we need to pay attention to the conduct of our district attorneys. They’re usually among the most powerful people in any county, and at present there are hardly any criminal or civil penalties for prosecutors who engage in misconduct. We need to create real incentives for our DAs to seek justice instead of convictions. This won’t be easy. Sebesta still claims he did nothing wrong—as did the men who prosecuted Adams, Cook, and Willis. They were the good guys fighting the good fight, and if sometimes they got zealous, well, who can blame them? They’re only human.
Which brings us to the heart of the problem. Can the criminal justice system, a system conceived and operated by humans, ever be completely free of error? The common theme in the cases of Graves, Willis, Cook, and Adams (and Willingham and Jones) is clear: People make mistakes, and so do the institutions they work for. We know this intuitively. We see it every day, when, say, the postman mistakenly delivers our neighbor’s mail or when officials at a football game screw up a call. We can afford these kinds of mistakes. We walk the letter next door. We scream at the TV. But it’s different when we’re dealing with capital punishment. We can afford the mistaken holding penalty. We can’t afford the mistaken death penalty. It’s time to halt executions in Texas.


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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today the Second Person Was Executed in Texas in 2011 and the 466th Since 1982

Texas tonight executed Timothy Adams. He was the second person executed in Texas in 2011 and the 466th person executed in Texas since 1982. The next execution in Texas is set for April 5 when Cleve Foster is scheduled for execution.

From the Houston Chronicle:

"God is still in control," her father, retired Houston firefighter Columbus Adams, told her as he supported her in his arms until a wheelchair could be rolled into position. Adams' mother, Wilma Adams, muttered, "He's going to sleep. He's going to sleep. He's going to a better place. He's going to get to see Jesus."
Adams, put to death for the February 2002 murder of his 19-month-old son, offered no final statement.
He nodded to the witness room containing his family, who had made public pleas that his life be spared. Then, as the poisons began to flow, he breathed heavily and closed his eyes.
The drugs were administered at 6:21 p.m. Adams was declared dead 10 minutes later. He was the 466th killer to be put to death since the state resumed executions in 1982, and the second this year.

Beaumont case cited

In a witness room reserved for the family members of the victim, Adams' former wife Emma Adams wept softy as the killer stopped breathing. A male companion comforted her by placing his arm around her waist.
As others in the room watched wordlessly, weeping could be heard from the adjoining room occupied by the killer's family.
Adams, 42, shot his son, Timothy Adams Jr. during a 2½-hour police standoff at his Houston home. Adams' attorneys contended the shooting came during an emotional crisis prompted by his wife's decision to leave him.
Adams had no prior criminal record, and exhibited exemplary behavior in his seven years on death row, they said.
As the date for Adams' execution approached, members of his family and church publicly pleaded with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare him. Emma Adams did not join in their call for mercy.
The pardons board unanimously rejected the killer's appeal on Friday.
Adams' final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, filed Tuesday morning, mirrored an earlier appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which also ended in failure.
In that appeal, David Dow, a Texas Defender Service lawyer and University of Houston law professor, argued that a 2007 court ruling in a Beaumont woman's baby-killing case should be applied retroactively to Adams.
Appeals justices in the Beaumont case found that the mother no longer presented a continuing danger because her violence had been directed solely at her child and, in prison, she likely never again would become a mother.
The high court rejected Adams' appeal shortly before 6 p.m.
Below are photos of people gathered at the Texas Capitol to protest today's execution.

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Today February 22, 2011 is "Texas for Illinois Day" to Repeal the Death Penalty!

Call Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and urge him to sign the bill to end the death penalty.

Chicago Office: 312-814-2121. Springfield Office: 217-782-0244

Many Texans are doing their part today to convince Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. On Tuesday, February 22, 2011, Texans are calling the Governor of Illinois to urge him to sign the bill to repeal the death penalty.

If Illinois abolishes the death penalty, it will have a major impact in other death penalty states, including Texas. Illinois started with a moratorium on executions in 2000 and now Illinois may abolish the death penalty with just a signature from the governor.

Illinois is just one signature away from becoming the 16th state without the death penalty. The General Assembly passed legislation to repeal the death penalty on January 11, 2011. Now the bill is awaiting Governor Pat Quinn's signature.

Governor Quinn has said he encourages people with opinions to contact his office. In the past, he has indicated support for the death penalty, while also expressing concerns about the problems with the system. You can remind him that regardless of his position on the death penalty, Illinois’ history has made it clear that the system is broken. Illinois legislators decided the system can’t be fixed, so they voted to repeal the death penalty. Illinois can no longer afford to keep the costly and error-ridden death penalty.

Please call Governor Quinn to tell him you want him to sign the death penalty repeal bill.

You can say, "I want to encourage Gov. Quinn to sign the legislation to end the death penalty."

Chicago Office - 312-814-2121

Springfield Office - 217-782-0244


If you don't get through to a person or voicemail, please try again.

The Governor's staff won't ask you for reasons (they only want to know if you support or oppose), but if you'd like talking points or more information, visit the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty website.

The Texas groups participating in the "Texas for Illinois Day" have set a goal to confirm at least 200 calls to Governor Quinn’s office. We need you to let us know you made the call.

After you call, and you can even call both numbers, please send a quick email to (texasforillinois@gmail.com) or leave a comment on the facebook event page with the word “CONNECTED” in the subject line if you actually spoke with someone, and “VOICEMAIL” if you were able to leave a message. If you get a busy signal, please keep trying until you connect with either a person or leave a message. If anything interesting happens with your calls, please be sure to let us know so that we can pass that on to our colleagues in Illinois.

We encourage any and all Texas groups to participate in the "Texas for Illinois Day", even ones that don't primarily work on the death penalty issue, as long as your group wants to help convince the Illinois governor to sign the repeal bill. Currently, the groups participating include Texas Moratorium Network, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin chapter, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Denton chapter, and Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Register Now for the 2011 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break

The dates for this year's Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break are March 14-18, 2011. You can register by clicking here. Now is an important time in the fight to end the death penalty. After 11 years of a moratorium, Illinois may soon abolish the death penalty if the governor signs the abolition bill he has been sent. Attend our alternative spring break and help us end the death penalty in Texas - the number one execution state in the United States. The event includes a statewide "Day of Innocence" Lobby Day and Rally Against the Death Penalty on Thursday March 17 at 5:30 at the Texas Capitol.

We are excited about this year's program (see schedule here), which includes attending the World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival of a new documentary about the Todd Willingham case, plus great panelists including several people exonerated from death row, such as Anthony Graves who was released in October 2010 after 18 years on death row in Texas and Clarence Brandley who spent ten years on death row in Texas before proving his innocence. Other speakers include Sam Millsap, a former elected District Attorny in Texas who now opposes the death penalty because he believes an executed person named Ruben Cantu whom he prosecuted may have been innocent.

Alternative Spring Breaks are designed to give college and high school students something more meaningful to do during their week off, rather than just spending time at the beach or sitting at home catching up on school work. The specific purpose of the Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is to bring students together for five days of anti-death penalty activism, education and fun. This is the place to be if you want to become a part of the next generation of human rights leaders. Go to the beach to change your state of mind for a week, come here to change the world forever

We will provide participants with workshops led by experienced, knowledgeable presenters who will teach them skills that they can use to go back home and set up new anti-death penalty student organizations or improve ones that may already exist. The skills participants will learn can also be used in other issues besides the death penalty. Students will gain valuable training and experience in grassroots organizing, lobbying, preparing a public rally and media relations. During the week, students will immediately put what they learn into action during activities such as a Death Penalty Issues Lobby Day and a public rally at the Texas Capitol. There will be opportunities to write press releases, speak in public, meet with legislators or their aides, and carry out a public rally.

In your free time, Austin has a lot to offer for fun, including the SXSW film, music and interactive festival that takes place the same week as our alternative spring break.

Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is a program of Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin Chapter, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center. Co-sponsors include Campus Progress, Witness to Innocence , Amnesty International, and Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 22, 2011 is "Texas for Illinois Day" to Repeal the Death Penalty!

Call Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and urge him to sign the bill to end the death penalty.

Chicago Office: 312-814-2121. Springfield Office: 217-782-0244

Texans are planning to help convince Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. On Tuesday, February 22, 2011, Texans will be calling the Governor of Illinois to urge him to sign the bill to repeal the death penalty.

If Illinois abolishes the death penalty, it will have a major impact in other death penalty states, including Texas. Illinois started with a moratorium on executions in 2000 and now Illinois may abolish the death penalty with just a signature from the governor.

Illinois is just one signature away from becoming the 16th state without the death penalty. The General Assembly passed legislation to repeal the death penalty on January 11, 2011. Now the bill is awaiting Governor Pat Quinn's signature.

Governor Quinn has said he encourages people with opinions to contact his office. In the past, he has indicated support for the death penalty, while also expressing concerns about the problems with the system. You can remind him that regardless of his position on the death penalty, Illinois’ history has made it clear that the system is broken. Illinois legislators decided the system can’t be fixed, so they voted to repeal the death penalty. Illinois can no longer afford to keep the costly and error-ridden death penalty.

Please call Governor Quinn to tell him you want him to sign the death penalty repeal bill.

You can say, "I want to encourage Gov. Quinn to sign the legislation to end the death penalty."

Chicago Office - 312-814-2121

Springfield Office - 217-782-0244

If you don't get through to a person or voicemail, please try again.

The Governor's staff won't ask you for reasons (they only want to know if you support or oppose), but if you'd like talking points or more information, visit the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty website.

The Texas groups participating in the "Texas for Illinois Day" have set a goal to confirm at least 200 calls to Governor Quinn’s office. We need you to let us know you made the call.

After you call, and you can even call both numbers, please send a quick email to (texasforillinois@gmail.com) or leave a comment on the facebook event page with the word “CONNECTED” in the subject line if you actually spoke with someone, and “VOICEMAIL” if you were able to leave a message. If you get a busy signal, please keep trying until you connect with either a person or leave a message. If anything interesting happens with your calls, please be sure to let us know so that we can pass that on to our colleagues in Illinois.

We encourage any and all Texas groups to participate in the "Texas for Illinois Day", even ones that don't primarily work on the death penalty issue, as long as your group wants to help convince the Illinois governor to sign the repeal bill. Currently, the groups participating include Texas Moratorium Network, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin chapter, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Denton chapter, and Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watch Trailer for New Todd Willingham Documentary "Incendiary"; Screening Times at SXSW Film Festival

INCENDIARY is the true story of the conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the arson murder of his three children in 1991, and of the resulting scientific, legal and political firestorm that rages today. Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama, INCENDIARY documents the haunted legacy of a prosecution built on 'folklore'.

The world premiere will be at the SXSW Film Festival, Saturday March 12 at 4:30,Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas.

Additional screenings:

Thursday March 17 at 12:00PM, Rollins Theatre, 701 West Riverside Dr.

Saturday March 19, 5:30PM, Rollins Theatre, 701 West Riverside Dr

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lobbying at the Capitol with Family of Kenneth Foster Jr for Bill to Require Separate Trials in Capital Trials

Texas Moratorium Network's Scott Cobb and Hooman Hedayati of Witness to Innocence went to the Texas Capitol on Feb 16, 2011 with Lawrence Foster and Kenneth Foster Sr (grandfather and father of Kenneth Foster, Jr) to meet with legislators about a bill to require separate rials in capital cases. See photos here. Kenneth Foster Jr's death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2007. He had been convicted and sentenced to death in a dual trial with his co-defendant. Governor Rick Perry said at the time of commuting the death sentence that the Legislature should take up the issue of requiring separate trials in death penalty cases. Perry said the dual trial issue was the reason he commuted the death sentence of Foster.

We also went with the Fosters to speak to Danielle Dirks' capital punishment class at UT-Austin.

And while at the capitol, we met the family of Tim Adams as they were meeting legislators to urge support for clemency for Tim, who is scheduled for execution in Texas Feb 22, 2011. They had earlier in the day held a press conference at the capitol to urge clemency for Timothy Adams.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Texas Scheduled to Execute First Person in 2011 Today in 465th Texas Execution Since 1982

Call Texas Governor Perry to register your opposition to today's execution in Texas of Michael Wayne Hall, who is mentally impaired. 512 463 2000. Email Perry through his website here.

From the Houston Chronicle:
Attorneys for a North Texas man set to die for the 1998 torture-slaying of a 19-year-old mentally challenged woman exactly 13 years ago Tuesday looked to the U.S. Supreme Court to block his execution, the first of the year in the nation's busiest death penalty state.
Michael Wayne Hall, 31, faces lethal injection for the abduction and murder of Amy Robinson. He was one of two men convicted in her 1998 slaying. Hall's partner, Robert Neville, was put to death five years ago.
Lawyers for Hall argued he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty under a Supreme Court ruling barring capital punishment for those with an IQ under 70.
"Mr. Hall's history of mental retardation reaches back to his childhood," attorney Bryce Benjet said.
In appeals, Benjet questioned an assessment from one mental health expert who shifted from an earlier finding and said Hall was not mentally impaired. Three others who examined Hall said he was impaired.
Hall's lawyers went to the Supreme Court a day after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — the state's highest criminal court — refused to stop the punishment. Similar appeals have failed in other courts.

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ACLU Central Texas Event Honoring Judge Charlie Baird Thursday February 17

Join the Central Texas Chapter on Thursday, February 17th as we present our 2010 Civil Libertarian of the Year Award to Judge Charlie Baird. Click here for the Facebook event page.


"Thank You Charlie Baird!"
Thursday, February 17th, 6pm, Victory Grill
1104 E. 11th Street, Austin, TX, 78702
Open to the public; no admission charged

Judge Charlie Baird, having stepped down from the 299th District Court of Travis County December 31, 2010, and now entering private practice in the woman-owned Fowler Law Firm, will be honored by the community for his work on the bench.  Judge Baird led the justice system in his work on defending the innocently-incarcerated and with restorative justice solutions. He favored rehabilitative efforts for non-violent offenders not just as a means to give offenders a chance to succeed in life, but to decrease the burden on society and taxpayers. Fair-minded, compassionate and thoughtful, attorneys and defendants alike respected his approach and diligence to due process. He is also the first judge in the nation to preside over a posthumous exoneration, that of Timothy Cole.

The ACLU-TX, Central Texas Chapter is mobilizing the community to honor his work and wish him well as he ventures into the private realm and will present Judge Baird with its “Civil Libertarian of the Year” award for 2010 at this event.  NAACP-Austin, Gray Panthers-Austin, LULAC-District 12, Austin AFL-CIO Council, Witness to Innocence, Black Austin Democrats, Texas Moratorium Network, several law firms and many others are already co-sponsoring this event, and bringing their own accolades to present Judge Baird.   

CO-SPONSOR/DONATION 
All firms, groups and individuals are welcome to contact Debbie Russell, debmocracy@yahoo.com, if they wish to co-sponsor the event as well. Community groups/non-profits need not donate funds to sponsor.
For donating to the event (and becoming a member of ACLU-TX), you can go here, and in the "other" box, type the donation amount plus "for CTCLU Baird event" or one can simply bring a check with them made out to ACLU-TX, or if not wanting to donate to us, write a check to "The Victory Grill." 

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Texas Rejects Compensation for Anthony Graves for His Wrongful Conviction and 18 Years on Death Row as an Innocent Person

The State of Texas has rejected the application from Anthony Graves to receive compensation for his wrongful conviction and 18 years on Texas death row.

Read more here on the Houston Chronicle:
The Texas Comptroller's Office has denied state compensation to Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years behind bars before a special prosecutor determined he was innocent and authorities dropped capital murder charges against him, Graves' attorney said today.

The state determined that Graves, 45, who would have received $1.4 million had he been deemed eligible, should receive nothing because the word "innocence" was not used in the document ordering his release, according to Graves' attorney, Nicole Casarez.

Casarez said she was informed of the refusal Friday after phoning the comptroller's office to find out why she hadn't received a response even though the 45-day limit to act on Graves' request had lapsed.

A letter e-mailed to Casarez from the comptroller's office said that the order dismissing the charges must say that Graves is innocent. Casarez said the office should have taken her client's unique circumstances into consideration.

"I had spoken to so many people who seemed to think it was possible, I did get my hopes up and I am very disappointed," Casarez said. "I know that he is very disappointed, too."
Graves can't seek a pardon from Gov. Rick Perry, Casarez said, because he has nothing to be pardoned for and asking for a pardon would be tantamount to admitting guilt. She said a civil suit seeking compensation was one of several options that would be discussed with attorneys who specialize in that particular type of law.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006 overturned Graves' 1994 conviction for the slaying of a grandmother, her 16-year-old granddaughter and four grandchildren in Somerville, Burleson County.

The appeals court found that the prosecution withheld information from the defense and elicited false testimony.

A new trial was ordered and former Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler took over the case as special prosecutor in 2010. She found the original investigation riddled with errors and recommended to Burleson-Washington County District Attorney Bill Parham that the charges be dropped.

Parham agreed and both said at an October news conference that Graves was innocent.
Casarez said other attorneys had assured her that the comptroller's office could approve the compensation because of the public statement's prosecutors had made about his innocence.
"Even though the order didn't contain those magical words ... I was certain the Comptroller's Office would take a very full look at it," she said.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Texas Moratorium Network delivered $3,000 to Anthony Graves that we raised from our supporters and friends. Now that the State of Texas is refusing to compensate Anthony, there may be more people who want to make a donation to Anthony, so here is the link to make an online donation by credit card. You may also send a check made out to "Texas Moratorium Network" to 3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251, Austin, Texas 78731. Donations to TMN are not tax-deductible. Please mark on your check that you donation is for Anthony Graves.






KVUE's Jennie Huerta reported on our delivery of $3,000 in donations we collected from Texas Moratorium Network's supporters and friends from across Texas, other U.S. states and other countries. Scott Cobb, president of TMN, and friends from Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence delivered the donations to Anthony on Saturday, November 20. Watch the video on YouTube.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Family Asks for Clemency for Timothy Adams in Texas Execution Set for Feb 22

photo
Mayra Beltran Chronicle
Timothy Adams' parents, Columbus and Wilma Adams, and his brother Chadrick, are among those asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to intercede, something the board has only done twice during Gov. Rick Perry's tenure.

From the Houston Chronicle:
In a session fraught with emotion and tears, family and friends of killer Timothy Wayne Adams on Tuesday publicly called on the state's pardons board to spare the life of the one-time security guard who is to be executed later this month for the murder of his 19-month-old son.
The public plea came one day after the Texas Defender Service formally asked the board to recommend that Gov. Rick Perrycommute the 42-year-old man's sentence to life in prison. During Perry's tenure, the board only twice has recommended commutation, and the governor on both occasions allowed the executions to proceed.
Defender Service lawyer Katherine Black said Adams has exhausted his court appeals.
"My grandson meant the world to me," said the killer's father, careerHouston firefighter Columbus Adams. "The family and I have been suffering tremendously from that day to this day. In dealing with my son, I told him I would be with him to the end. He has been remorseful from day one."
Both the elder Adams and his wife, Wilma, said they have forgiven their son.
"I would ask the governor and the board to, just for a moment, try to put themselves in my place and see how they would feel," Wilma Adams said. "We all make terrible mistakes, but God is a forgiving God and we all need to learn to forgive. Taking Timothy's life is not going to bring back my grandson."
The condemned man's parents said they visit him as often as once a week, and as relatives, church colleagues and friends gathered at the Adams' northeast Houston home, a death row photo of the killer stood in a place of honor on a living room table.
Adams is set to die Feb. 22 for the Feb. 20, 2002 murder of Timothy Adams Jr., whom he shot during a standoff with police at his home. The police siege grew out of a dispute between Adams and his wife, Emma, who was in the process of moving out of the couple's residence. During the episode, Adams also threatened to commit suicide.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Veteran Who Shot Baby Seeks Clemency before Scheduled Feb 22 Texas Execution

Timothy Adams is scheduled to die in Texas by lethal injection on Feb. 22. Today, his lawyers, family members and three of the jurors who sentenced him to death sent a clemency petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Adams and his supporters say that at his original trial, jurors never heard mitigating information about his past that could have changed their sentencing decision.

From the Texas Tribune:
He was an Army veteran and a Houston security guard who had never been arrested until February 2002, when a fight with his wife sent Timothy Adams into a suicidal spiral. During a stand-off with police, Adams fatally shot his 19-month-old son twice in the chest — landing him a spot on death row.

Adams is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Feb. 22. Today, his lawyers, family members and three of the jurors who sentenced him to death sent a clemency petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and to Gov. Rick Perry, asking them to commute Adams' sentence to life in prison. Adams and his supporters say that at his original trial, jurors never heard mitigating information about his past that could have changed their sentencing decision.

Jurors Rebecca Hayes, Ngoc Duong and Kathryn Starling said had they known more about Adams' religious background and his hard-working, family-oriented character, they would not have sentenced him to death. "Those deliberations were the most emotional experience of my life, and I have carried the guilt around for years knowing that I sentenced Adams, a man who had done wrong but who was otherwise a good, religious, and hard-working person, to death," Hayes said in a sworn statement.

Columbus Adams, Timothy Adams' father and a veteran Houston firefighter, said the loss of their grandson was tragedy enough for their family. Losing his son, he said in a press statement, would only cause more anguish. "We pray that God will fill Governor Perry’s heart with compassion. If not for Tim, then at least for our family."

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

New Film on Todd Willingham Case "Incendiary" to Premiere at 2011 SXSW Film Festival

A new documentary entitled "Incendiary" about the Todd Willingham case will have its world premiere at the 2011 SXSW film festival. We will make a trip to the premiere with the participants of the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break.

Watch an excerpt sequence at the Texas Tribune.
Check out the official website for the film.
Like the facebook page for the film
Follow the film on twitter.

INCENDIARY is the true story of the conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the arson murder of his three children in 1991, and of the resulting scientific, legal and political firestorm that rages today. A potential landmark death penalty case, Willingham's execution based upon junk science begs re-examinations of other arson convictions, criminal prosecution for obstructors of due process, and a re-evaluation of the law's ultimate punishment. Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama, INCENDIARY documents the haunted legacy of a prosecution built on 'folklore'.

The filmmakers are Austin's own Steve Mims and Joe Bailey. Steve Mims's award-winning shorts and features have screened in festivals and on television. He teaches at UT Austin. INCENDIARY is UT Law graduate Joe Bailey, Jr.’s first feature-length film. He works as a cinematographer and sound recordist in Austin.

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