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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Watch Full Video Online of 48 Hours Episode About Anthony Graves


Click here to watch the full episode from 48 Hours Mystery about the case of Anthony Graves.

After you have watched the episode and learned how an innocent person was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in Texas, you will probably want to take some action to help us stop executions in Texas. Please contact these four key members of the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and urge them to vote in favor of HB 1641, the bill by State Rep. Harold Dutton that would enact a moratorium on executions and create a commission to study the death penalty in Texas.

Will Hartnett (Republican, District 114 - Dallas) 
phone: (512) 463-0576  
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/willhartnett

Jose Aliseda (Republican, District 35 - Beeville)  

phone: (512) 463-0645   
Email form   http://tinyurl.com/josealiseda

Cindy Burkett (Republican, District101 – Mesquite) 

phone: (512) 463-0464  
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/cindyburkett

Stefani Carter (Republican,District 102 – Dallas) 


The video from CBS's 48 Hours does not display correctly when embedded, so please visit the 48 Hours website to watch the full video online.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

"48 Hours Mystery" to Broadcast Episode about Anthony Graves, Saturday, April 23

Next Saturday, April 23, the story of Anthony Graves will be told on "48 Hours Mystery in an episode entitled "Grave Injustice", at 10 PM Eastern and Pacific, 9 PM Central Time. The full program will also be viewable online after it airs. 


Anthony Graves is an innocent man who was exonerated and released on October 27, 2010 after spending 18 years incarcerated for murders that he did not commit. He is still seeking compensation from the State of Texas but so far he has been denied compensation. Last November, Texas Moratorium Network raised and donated more than $3,000 to Anthony to help him after his release (Watch video). 

We plan to urge members of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to watch the program on Anthony Graves next Saturday. After they learn more about Anthony's tragic case of wrongful conviction and near execution, perhaps they will be moved enough by Anthony's story to approve HB 1641, a bill that would create a death penalty study commission and enact a moratorium on executions. 




"48 Hours Mystery" preview: Grave Injustice

April 16, 2011 7:00 PM
Convicted of murder and sentenced to death... 16 years later, students help set him free. Richard Schlesinger reports Saturday, April 23 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7362998n#ixzz1Jr1AnvCR

Call the members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and urge them to vote in favor of HB 1641, which would enact a moratorium on executions and create a death penalty study commission. 

Chair: Pete Gallego (Democrat, District 74 - Alpine)   (512) 463-0566  
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/petegallego

Vice Chair: Will Hartnett (Republican, District 114 - Dallas)  (512) 463-0576  
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/willhartnett

Jose Aliseda (Republican, District 35 - Beeville)   (512) 463-0645   
Email form   http://tinyurl.com/josealiseda

Cindy Burkett (Republican, District101 – Mesquite)  (512) 463-0464  
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/cindyburkett

Stefani Carter (Republican,District 102 – Dallas)   (512) 463-0454  
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/stefanicarter

Wayne Christian (Republican,District 9 – Center)  (512) 463-0556  
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/waynechristian

Yvonne Davis (Democrat, District 111 – Dallas)   (512) 463-0598  
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/yvonnedavis

Eddie Rodriguez (Democrat, District 51 - Austin)   (512) 463-0674   
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/repeddierodriguez

Bill Zedler (Republican,District 96 – Arlington)   (512) 463-0374   
Email form  http://tinyurl.com/billzedler

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Live Streaming Video of Forensic Science Commission Meeting

The Texas Forensic Science Commission is meeting on April 14, 2011 at 1 p.m and April 15, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. Central Time. They will be discussing the Todd Willingham case. 


The meeting will be streamed live by the Innocence Project.  To watch the live stream click here.

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Text of Draft Report on Todd Willingham Case by Texas Forensic Science Commission

Here is the draft of the report on the Todd Willingham case that will be discussed at the meeting of the Texas Forensic Science Commission this Thursday and Friday. The AP says "the Texas Forensic Science Commission said Thursday it will not issue a finding on the arson determination until the state attorney general rules whether it has jurisdiction to do so.".

Draft of Report by Texas Forensic Science Commission on Todd Willingham Case

The Texas Forensic Science Commission will meet, Thursday and Friday, April 14 and 15 in Austin. The last item on the agenda is to "Consider Willingham/Willis (#09-01) report draft and adopt final report". The hearing starts at 1 PM on Thursday and at 9:30 AM on Friday. It is likely that they will not get to the major discussion on the Willingham case until Friday, since it is last on the agenda.

There is a public comment period on the agenda for this meeting right before the discussion on the Todd Willingham report. 


The chair of the Commission, John Bradley, has lost support in the Texas Senate because of the way he has performed his duties as chair, so this will likely be his last meeting.

The hearing is in the Central Services Building, 1711 San Jacinto Boulevard Room 402 in Austin. 
Before his execution, Todd Willingham said, “Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.”

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Forensic Science Commission Meeting April 14-15 in Austin to Adopt Todd Willingham Report

The Texas Forensic Science Commission will meet, Thursday and Friday, April 14 and 15 in Austin. The last item on the agenda is to "Consider Willingham/Willis (#09-01) report draft and adopt final report". The hearing starts at 1 PM on Thursday and at 9:30 AM on Friday. It is likely that they will not get to the major discussion on the Willingham case until Friday, since it is last on the agenda.

There is a public comment period on the agenda for this meeting right before the discussion on the Todd Willingham report. 


The chair of the Commission, John Bradley, has lost support in the Texas Senate because of the way he has performed his duties as chair, so this will likely be his last meeting.

The hearing is in the Central Services Building, 1711 San Jacinto Boulevard Room 402 in Austin. 
Before his execution, Todd Willingham said, “Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.”

From the Austin American-Statesman:

During a two-day meeting to begin Thursday afternoon, the Texas Forensic Science Commission will discuss a draft report on the arson science used to convict and execute Cameron Todd Willingham for a 1991 fatal fire at his Corsicana home.
The report, compiled after input was sought from all nine commissioners, is at the end of the committee agenda, so the discussion might not begin until Friday.
The report’s scope will be limited while the commission awaits answers about whether it has jurisdiction under state law to investigate the Willingham case. The attorney general’s office has until July 30 to provide an answer on that.
The report is expected to focus on advances in arson investigation techniques while avoiding questions about whether Willingham’s investigators were negligent in basing their arson finding on fire conditions now known to be found in accidental and natural fires as well as intentionally set blazes.
Unless another meeting is scheduled before the legislative session ends May 30, this will be the last meeting led by Chairman John Bradley, who is also the Williamson County district attorney. Because Bradley’s nomination does not have enough support in the state Senate, his time on the commission will end when the session closes.
Forensic Science Commission Chair John Bradley


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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Innocence Commission Bill Set for Texas House of Representatives Vote on April 14

The Calendars Committee in the Texas House of Representatives has voted to send the bill to create an Innocence Commission to the floor of the Texas House for a vote on Thursday, April 14. It is HB 115 by Ruth McClendon and Pete Gallego. The vote in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on March 22 was 7 for, 1 against, and 1 absent. 

This was one of the issues we advocated for on the "Day of Innocence" and Statewide Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty on March 16.


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Jeanette Popp and Christopher Ochoa in Austin Yesterday for Upcoming Discovery Network Program

Scott Cobb, Chris Ochoa and Jeanette Popp
in Austin on April 11, 2011
Christopher Ochoa and Jeanette Popp were in Austin yesterday to film interviews for an August 2011 program on the Discovery Network about wrongful convictions. Also in town was John Pray of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which led the effort to exonerate Chris Ochoa.


Chris is an innocent person who was wrongfully convicted of murdering Jeanette's daughter, Nancy DePriest, in Austin. He spent 12 years in prison before another person confessed to the crime. He and a co-defendant, Richard Danziger, received a settlement of about 14 million dollars from the City of Austin for misconduct by the Austin Police Department leading to their wrongful convictions.

Jeanette Popp signed and wrote a note inside the front cover of her book "Mortal Justice: A True Story of Murder and Vindication" to one of the members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee (We only had one copy of the book with us.) The note urged State Rep. Stefani Carter to read the story of how two innocent people were wrongfully convicted of her daughter's murder and urged Rep Carter to vote HB 1641, the bill for a moratorium on executions. We will drop the book off to Rep Carter's office.

Mortal Justice: A True Story of Murder and Vindication was published March 1, 2009. Jeanette has worked long and hard for many years against the death penalty. She served several years as chairperson of Texas Moratorium Network. Her book tells the story of her daughter's murder, the wrongful conviction of two innocent men Chris Ochoa and Richard Danziger, their eventual exoneration, the subsequent conviction of the real killer, and Jeanette's long activism against the death penalty, including a jailhouse meeting with the real killer and her successful efforts to prevent him from being sentenced to death.


In her new book, Jeanette includes an account of a jailhouse meeting with the man who actually killed her daughter before his trial because she wanted to convince him to take a plea bargain and accept life in prison istead of going to trial and risking the death penalty. 

In the jailhouse meeting, she told him, "Mr Marino, you know I don't want you executed?"

"Ive heard that," he answered stoically.

"It's the truth. I don't want you to die."

He shook his head and told her, "Mrs Popp, I'd rather be executed than spend the rest of my life in prison."

Ms. Popp asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty, because she says she did not want her daughter's memory stained with someone's blood. "I'm not a bleeding heart liberal," she says. "But I do have a heart."
Since the exoneration, she has been an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. That doesn't mean she wants Mr. Marino to ever walk free.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Thursday at UT'Austin: Anthony Graves and Lawrence Foster Spoke on Death Penalty

Lethal Injustice: Standing against the death penalty and harsh punishment.





Update:
We heard Anthony Graves speak Thursday night at CEDP's panel discussion at UT-Austin. He is such an eloquent speaker and his story is so powerful. The members of the Texas Legislature should think about what happened to Anthony and acknowledge that the same thing could happen to any of us. Anthony was completely innocent yet he was condemned to death in Texas. Anthony is walking evidence why Texas should enact a moratorium and start discussing the future of the death penalty in Texas.



Featuring Anthony Graves, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years on Texas death row before he was freed just last year. Lawrence Foster, grandfather of Kenneth Foster who spent 11 years on death row before his sentence was commuted in 2007 by Governor Perry. Laura Brady, abolitionist and activist with the Campaign to END the Death Penalty. 

Come hear their powerful stories about the criminal INjustice system. 

***********
A speaking tour to look at what’s behind our massive prison build-up, why so many people of color are locked up and what we can do about it.

From death rows to super-maxes, over 2.3 million men and women sit behind bars today. "Lethal Injustice" speakers are organizing on the front-lines of the fight against criminal injustice, taking a stand against the racist, prison build-up and harsh sentencing.

This national speaking tour of the Campaign to END the Death Penalty will be featuring panelists including exonerated prisoners, family members, activists, lawyers and scholars.

This event is being held at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas in The University Teaching Center, room UTC1.102. A campus map to this building can be found here.

UTC is located at the corner of University Ave. and 21st Street.

A $5 suggested donation is encouraged, help keep events like this one happening in your area!

Event to begin promptly at 7pm, discussion will follow the speaker's presentations.
 

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Stay of Execution for Cleve Foster


The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday morning granted a temporary stay of execution to Cleve Foster, a former Army recruiter convicted of killing a woman he met in a Fort Worth bar who was scheduled to be executed Tuesday evening in Texas. It is the second time he has been spared hours before his appointed death by the Supreme Court.
The reprieve, in place while the court examines the case of Mr. Foster, 47, is based on whether he received adequate counsel during the course of the case, as well as questions related to his guilt, said Maurie Levin, one of Mr. Foster’s lawyers.
Ms. Levin has also challenged the execution of Mr. Foster based on one of the drugs that is to be used to kill him.
“I’m thrilled that the Supreme Court stayed Mr. Foster’s execution, and we hope they will be looking at the issues raised, including effective Habeus counsel and Mr. Foster’s claims of innocence,” Ms. Levin said. “I am also relieved that at least today that we will not be seeing an execution in the midst of the chaos surrounding questions about lethal injection.”
Mr. Foster, 47, a veteran of the Persian Gulf war of 1991, was convicted in 2004 of killing Nyanuer Pal, 28, a Sudanese immigrant who was known as Mary. Mr. Foster’s roommate, who was also convicted in the murder, died in prison last year
.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

Call Governor Rick Perry to Urge Him to Use His Power to Issue 30 Day Stay for Tuesday's Scheduled Execution of Cleve Foster in Texas

Call Texas Governor Perry to register your opposition to Tuesday's scheduled execution in Texas of Cleve Foster, who is the first person scheduled to be killed by Texas using a new drug after the state was unable to legally acquire the drug used in past executions.

Perry's phone number is  512 463 2000. Email Perry through his website here. Urge Perry to use his power to stop this execution by issuing a 30 day stay of execution.

People will gather in Austin outside the gates of the Texas Capitol at 11th Street and Congress Avenue at 5:30 PM on Tuesday April 5 to protest the scheduled execution of Cleve Foster.

Read a statement by Foster's attorney about the state's plans to use a new execution drug in his scheduled execution, which says in part:

“Texas is rushing to carry out an execution using an entirely new protocol, but they refuse to fully disclose basic information, such as whether any medical authorities were consulted regarding the incorporation of a new drug; the source of the pentobarbitol; and the training of personnel who will implement the new procedure for the first time. 
"Prison officials are not medical professionals. They cannot be trusted to change a medical procedure in the dark of night without public scrutiny, especially when there is such a minimal track record on the use of pentobarbital in lethal injections. To ensure that the new protocol comports with Texas' constitution, we need -- and Texas law requires -- a deliberative process with appropriate authoritative input and public comment.  We expect our state officials to not conduct its business in secret – particularly when it concerns the ultimate act that Texas can take against one of its citizens.  The rush to execute should not trump the need to ensure that appropriate safeguards have been taken, or the far reaching implications of circumventing a deliberate process, especially when it is TDCJ that has waited until the last minute to decide on or announce the change in how it plans to carry out executions."
Foster maintains he was not responsible for the murder of the victim. His co-defendant, who died in prison awaiting execution, also said that Foster did not kill the victim. Read more about the case in legal documents supplied to the Dallas Morning News by Foster's sisters.

From the Houston Chronicle:
Cleve Foster says he's not afraid to die — but he doesn't want to be a guinea pig.
Foster would be the first Texas inmate executed with a new drug in the nation's busiest death penalty state if his lethal injection scheduled for Tuesday evening is carried out in Huntsville. It's the most significant change in the execution procedure in Texas since the state switched from the electric chair when it resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, like other corrections agencies around the nation, has been unable to find a supplier of sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs it has been using in a lethal chemical mixture. The department announced last month it would begin using pentobarbital as a substitute. The sedative used in surgery and to euthanize animals is already used in executions in Ohio and Oklahoma.
In an interview from death row, Foster, 47, said he thinks Texas' decision to switch is wrong.
"How can Texas use something said to not be fit to kill a dog?" Foster asked, embracing criticisms of the drug that have failed to convince courts to block its use in the other states.
Foster's lawyers have challenged the switch and execution procedures in an attempt to stop his death. They questioned whether Texas prison officials properly followed state administrative procedures when they announced the drug switch and argued the state illegally purchased the drugs to be used with an invalid federal permit.
Foster, a former Army recruiter, and an his roommate Sheldon Ward were sentenced to death for the murder of Nyaneur Pal, a 30-year-old Sudanese refugee they met in a bar. Her body was found in a ditch on Valentine's Day 2002. The men also were charged but never tried for the shooting death of Rachel Urnosky, 22, at her Fort Worth apartment in December 2001.
Foster came close to death in January. He was sitting in a small holding cell in the Texas death house at the Huntsville Unit prison when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped his execution to look at a late appeal from his lawyers.
"I looked at that gray door . . . the world's busiest death chamber," he said. "I thought: Man, there's no good there."
A week later, the high court rejected the appeal, allowing Foster's execution to be reset for Tuesday.
"I'm not scared," he said. "It's hard to explain."
He said he appreciated the dozens of letters he has received, many from religious groups, as his January date approached.
"One thing bothered me," he said. "They took for granted I actually killed somebody."
Foster has insisted Ward was responsible for fatally shooting Pal. Prosecutors, however, are equally adamant that evidence showed Foster actively participated in the woman's death, that he offered no credible explanations and lied and gave contradictory stories about his sexual activities with Pal.
Ward, one of Foster's recruits, died of cancer last year while on death row. The two had been convicted separately. Pal, who was known by the first name Mary, worked at a country club and was seen talking with the pair at a Fort Worth bar. Her body was found hours later in a ditch off a Tarrant County road. She'd been shot once in the head.
A gun recovered from the motel room where Foster and Ward lived was identified as the murder weapon — and as the gun used to kill Urnosky.
Pal's blood and tissue was found on the weapon, and DNA evidence showed both men had sex with her. Foster said he was passed out from sleeping pills when Pal would have been murdered. Ward said the sex was consensual, and Foster was unconscious when Pal had sex with him.
A detective testified Pal was not killed where pipeline workers found her body and that Ward had to have help moving her. Witnesses said Ward and Foster were inseparable.
Foster acknowledged he and Ward were at Urnosky's apartment but said they left when she refused to have sex with them. She was a recent honors graduate from Texas Tech, an officer with the Baptist Student Mission at the Lubbock university and had spent her spring breaks on mission trips.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Approves Innocence Commission Bill

The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee has voted in favor of a bill to create an Innocence Commission. It is HB 115 by Ruth McClendon and Pete Gallego. The vote was 7 for, 1 against, and 1 absent. It now goes to the Calendars Committee, which will vote on whether it gets scheduled for a floor vote.

This was one of the issues we advocated for on the "Day of Innocence" and Statewide Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty on March 16.

HB 115


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

A failure occurs in the criminal justice system when a person convicted of a crime is determined through post-conviction DNA testing or the discovery of new evidence to have been innocent of the crime.  The number of exonerations in Texas has increased since a previous legislature enacted legislation authorizing a convicted person to request a motion for DNA testing in the person's case. Currently, the Texas criminal justice system does not have the institutional means to adequately evaluate wrongful convictions or the factors contributing to those convictions. Wrongful convictions have been attributed to false eyewitness identifications, unreliable or limited science, false confessions, forensic science misconduct, government misconduct, unreliable informants, and ineffective legal representation for defendants. A wrongful conviction can lead to the loss of an innocent person's family, employment, and parental rights and can also affect the families and friends of the innocent individual.

C.S.H.B. 115 creates the Texas Innocence Commission to thoroughly investigate all post-conviction exonerations to ascertain errors and defects in the criminal procedures used to prosecute the defendant's case at issue, identify errors and defects in the criminal justice process in Texas generally, develop solutions and methods to correct the identified errors and defects, and identify procedures and programs to prevent future wrongful convictions.  The establishment of this commission will cast light on the causes of wrongful convictions, promote the adoption of positive reforms to enhance the accuracy of criminal investigations, strengthen the reliability of criminal prosecutions, protect the innocent, and enhance public safety.

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