Thursday, March 17, 2011

Text of Resolution Passed by Texas House on "Day of Innocence" to Honor Death Row Exonerees

82R12583 MMS-D
 By: DuttonH.R. No. 829
        WHEREAS, Six former death row inmates who have been
 exonerated of the crime for which they were convicted are visiting
 the State Capitol on March 16, 2011, the Day of Innocence, in
 support of a moratorium on executions and other related measures;
        WHEREAS, These men are among the 138 individuals who have
 been released from death row since 1973, either because their
 convictions were overturned and they then won acquittal at retrial
 or had the charges against them dropped, or because they were given
 an absolute pardon by the governor based on new evidence of their
 innocence; their lives forever changed by their wrongful
 conviction, these six individuals are now working to reform the
 criminal justice system; and
        WHEREAS, Convicted of murder in Texas in 1981, Clarence
 Brandley was just weeks away from his scheduled execution when
 evidence of coerced testimony and blatant racism in his first two
 trials prompted the FBI to intervene; three years later, the
 charges against him were dismissed; Mr. Brandley subsequently
 married, apprenticed as an electrician, and became a Baptist
 minister; his life became the subject of a book, White Lies, and a
 cable TV movie, Whitewash: The Clarence Brandley Story; and
        WHEREAS, Sentenced to death in Louisiana in 1987, Albert
 Burrell was 17 days away from execution in 1996 when his attorneys
 won a stay; the attorney general's office dismissed the charges
 against him in 2000, citing "a total lack of credible evidence," and
 later DNA analysis reinforced that assessment; Albert Burrell
 currently lives and works in Center; and
        WHEREAS, Gary Drinkard was convicted in Alabama in 1995; in
 2000, the state supreme court ordered a retrial on the basis of
 prosecutorial misconduct, and the following year a second jury
 found him innocent; Mr. Drinkard's case was subsequently presented
 to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to illustrate the critical
 need that those facing the death penalty have for competent legal
 representation; and
        WHEREAS, Framed for murder, Shujaa Graham was sentenced in
 California in 1976; the state supreme court overturned his
 conviction because the district attorney had systematically
 excluded African American jurors in his first trial; Mr. Graham was
 ultimately acquitted in 1981, and since then he has played a leading
 role in the anti-death penalty and human rights movements; and
        WHEREAS, Ron Keine was sentenced to death in New Mexico in
 1974 after a witness, under intense pressure from prosecutors,
 fabricated a story about his guilt; the following year, the real
 killer turned himself in, and a new trial for Mr. Keine and his
 codefendants was eventually ordered; before the trial could be
 held, though, a judge threw out the murder indictment on the grounds
 that ballistic tests conclusively linked the confessed killer to
 the murder weapon; freed in 1976, Mr. Keine now owns a business in
 Michigan and is a leader in the campaign to abolish the death
 penalty; and
        WHEREAS, Anthony Graves of Brenham was arrested in 1992 and
 convicted in Texas in 1994, primarily on the testimony of one
 witness who later recanted his story; the Fifth Circuit Court of
 Appeals ultimately overturned Mr. Graves's conviction in 2006, and
 he was then sent to the Burleson County jail to await his new trial,
 which would be four years in coming; during that time, he was kept
 in solitary confinement; finally, in 2010, 18 years after Mr.
 Graves was first imprisoned, a special prosecutor determined that
 no case against him had ever existed, and the charges against him
 were dropped; and
        WHEREAS, There is no way to restore to these men the years
 they have lost, or to compensate them for the mental and emotional
 anguish they have suffered; notwithstanding the immeasurable pain
 they have endured, however, they have found the resilience to take a
 terrible ordeal and channel their response into constructive
 endeavor; their strength and purposefulness are a testament to
 their remarkable spirit and a continuing inspiration to countless
 fellow citizens; now, therefore, be it
        RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 82nd Texas
 Legislature hereby honor Clarence Brandley, Albert Burrell, Gary
 Drinkard, Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, and Anthony Graves for their
 tenacity in the pursuit of justice and for their significant
 contributions to the debate over an issue of paramount public
 concern; and, be it further
        RESOLVED, That official copies of this resolution be prepared
 for these gentlemen as an expression of high regard by the Texas
 House of Representatives.

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