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Friday, April 13, 2012

TMN Blog Moved to TMN Main Website

We no longer post to this site on Blogger. We have moved all of our archive of past posts to the Texas Moratorium Network main website, which is where we will post all new blog posts in the future.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sign Petition to Help Kerry Max Cook Persuade Texas to Fully Exonerate Him

Here is a personal message from Kerry Max Cook:

"After my story and ongoing legal plight was published on the front-page of the New York Times last week, a National organization called Change.org contacted me and wants to try and collect as many signatures as possible to try and put pressure on Texas to do the right thing and officially recognize my innocence. With this in mind, and with their encouragement, I started a petition on Change.org asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend me for a full pardon based on actual innocence."



Why This Is Important

 In 1978 I was found guilty for the rape and murder of a 21-year-old woman in Texas. I was sentenced to death row. I was innocent.

In 1999 I was proven innocent through DNA testing -- after over 20 years on death row.

The case against me was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. Over the years, every piece of evidence used to convict me was revealed to be bogus.The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the prosecution had suppressed evidence that showed I was innocent in order to build their case against me.

Thirteen years after my innocence was proven and I was released from prison, the state of Texas still has not judicially exonerated me.

I was tried for this murder nearly four times. Despite an Appellate ruling throwing out my second conviction with findings that “Police and prosecutorial misconduct has tainted this entire matter from the outset,” the Smith County District Attorney’s Office was more interested in saving face than justice.

Unwilling to drop the charges against me on the eve of my fourth trial, prosecutors offered a plea-bargain: plead no-contest with no admission of guilt, and go free. By this time my only brother had been murdered, my Dad had died of cancer, and my mother had abandoned me. I took the offer and walked out of the courtroom. But I have never been free.

Two months later, DNA evidence proved my innocence.

Because I pleaded no-contest to the murder, I cannot be declared actually innocent unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends to Governor Rick Perry that I be pardoned and Texas Governor Rick Perry agrees and sets me free.

Without being exonerated, I feel I am still in a Texas prison.

Please sign my petition and ask the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend to Texas Governor Rick Perry that I be pardoned and finally set free from my mental prison sentence now in its 35th year.

Kerry Cook

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Execution in Texas Today Could Still Be Blocked by U.S. Supreme Court

There is an execution scheduled today in Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court could still stop it, according to news reports. Forty-seven-year-old Jesse Joe Hernandez is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville for the slaying of Karlos Borjas 11 years ago.

Today's execution would be the 481st in Texas since 1982 and the 242nd since Rick Perry became Governor. More than 50 percent of all executions in Texas in the modern era have been conducted under Rick Perry. Call the Office of Governor Rick Perry at 512 463 2000 to give him your opinion on the death penalty.

From NBCDFW.com:

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to block the scheduled execution of a convicted child sex offender condemned in the beating death of a 10-month-old boy he was babysitting at a home in Dallas.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lynching and the Death Penalty Symposium: Friday and Saturday March 23-24 in Austin

This Friday and Saturday March 23-24 in Austin there will be a symposium examining lynching and the death penalty.

The Lynching and the Death Penalty symposium begins with a keynote address by Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, titled "Lynching, Racial History and Death Penalty Disqualification." This two-day symposium explores the historical link between lynching and the death penalty and the enduring role of lynching and race discrimination in contemporary capital litigation.

Location: Connally Center for Justice (CCJ), Eidman Courtroom 2.306
Admission: Free and open to the public; advance registration recommended
URL: http://www.utexas.edu/law/centers/capitalpunishment/lynching.html

Symposium Information:
Symposium registration and general contact:

The conference is free, but space is limited. To register for the conference and for additional information, contact Rachel Sidopulos, Center Administrator, William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, at rsidopulos@law.utexas.edu, (512) 232-6277 (phone).

 

Sponsored by:

CPC Logo


Presented by:

WWJC Logo


Student Organization Sponsors:
The American Journal of Criminal Law
Chicano/Hispanic Law Students' Association
Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
The Thurgood Marshall Legal Society

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"INCENDIARY the willingham case" Now Available as a DVD or to Watch Online on ITunes

Co-Director Joe Bailey Jr

We attended the DVD release party tonight at the Violet Crown in Austin.


The award-winning documentary INCENDIARY:  THE WILLINGHAM CASE is now available on Apple’s iTunes Movie Store and DVD
INCENDIARY follows a tragic tale that started with a 1991 house fire that resulted in the deaths of Cameron Todd Willingham’s three daughters in a Corsicana, Texas.  Convicted largely on faulty arson evidence, Willingham was sentenced to death for the murder of his children.  Despite overwhelming expert criticism of the prosecution’s “junk science,” he was executed in 2004.  Subsequent investigations of the case landed the Willingham case into the national spotlight, made brighter and more intense by the presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama, INCENDIARY explores both the intricate arson forensics surrounding the case and the polarized public responses to Willingham’s execution.  Co-directors Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr. bring a unique combination of filmmaking and legal backgrounds to the film.
"It's a riddle and a brainteaser of a film that asks you to figure out who is telling the truth and why,” said Mims.  While Willingham’s death has become a call for reform in forensics and a rallying cry for the anti-death penalty movement, he remains an indisputable "monster" in the eyes of Governor Perry, who ignored the science that could have saved Willingham’s life.  
"We set out to make a film that sticks to the facts of the original event and the scientific evidence surrounding the case," said Bailey.  "We had no other cause.  But with the inevitable injection of politics into the story, the film needed to pull back the curtain on some rough and ready political hardball."  
Winner of the 2011 Louis Black South by Southwest Award, INCENDIARY garnered critical acclaim in limited theatrical release.  Anne Hornaday of the Washington Post wrote: “Nonfiction filmmaking at its most classic.  Crime, punishment, morality and hardball politics make for an explosive narrative mix all their own.” “Alarming viewing for anyone who cares about the American justice system,” wrote Sheri Linden for the Los Angeles Times.  Art Levine of the Huffington Post called INCENDIARY:  “A gripping, visually stunning indictment of a miscarriage of justice as great as that chronicled in Errol Morris’s groundbreaking THE THIN BLUE LINE.” 
INCENDIARY:  THE WILLINGHAM CASE is available for rental or purchase on Apple’s iTunes store and on DVD via incendiarymovie.com.
For more information on INCENDIARY and the Willingham case, visit INCENDIARYMOVIE.COM.

Co-Director Steve Mims (middle)

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

If Teresa Hawthorne Must Recuse Herself From Death Penalty Case, Then Sharon Keller Must Recuse Herself From All Cases

Judge Teresa Hawthorne
In Texas it is apparently ok for a Republican judge to say that they are "pro prosecution", as Judge Sharon Keller has done, and not have to recuse herself from any cases, but if a Democratic judge expresses any doubts about the constitutionality of the death penalty, then she must recuse herself. If Judge Teresa Hawthorne must recuse herself from the current death penalty case because of "bias", then Judge Sharon Keller should recuse herself from all cases before her court.

Prosecutors, with the help of a judge appointed by Rick Perry, may have been successful today in forcing Judge Hawthorne to recuse herself (just as other prosecutors were successful in shutting down the 2010 hearing in Judge Charlie Baird's court on the Todd Willingham case), but as we said in an earlier post "these type of rulings are likely to continue as more and more judges reach the same conclusion. One day, we expect it will be the U.S. Supreme Court that will rule the death penalty unconstitutional, but until then we are happy to see lower level courts build momentum towards the day when the death penalty will be rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court."

From the Dallas Observer:
Teresa Hawthorne, the Dallas County judge who ruled that the state's death penalty statute was unconstitutional, must recuse herself from a capital murder case, a judge ruled today.
and
Assistant District Attorney David Alex argued that Hawthorne's bias against the death penalty was clear from statements she made during a December 19 pre-trial hearing. He quoted, in bits and pieces, things the judge said in open court that day, such as: "I remember when women and blacks could not vote. I remember when so-called witches were burned. I remember when gays had to hide to be in the military." Hawthorne said then she wasn't trying to engage in judicial activism; she insisted last month that she was not trying to "buck the system or stir the waters." Alex vehemently disagreed.

"The judge analogized the death penalty to some very heinous times in our American history," Alex told the court. It's obvious, he said, that she has "very strong emotional, personal feelings against the death penalty. ... But none of these things have anything to do with legal precedent."



Judge Sharon Keller

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