Upcoming Executions
Click for a list of upcoming scheduled executions in Texas.
Innocence
The death penalty puts innocent people at risk of execution.
Todd Willingham
Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed under Governor Rick Perry on February 17, 2004.
Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing, an organization led by murder victim family members that conducts public education speaking tours and addresses alternatives to the death penalty, will be at the 18th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 28, 2017 in Austin, Texas. Pictured above Journey members hold a banner at the march in 2011. Journey “storytellers” come from all walks of life and represent the full spectrum and diversity of faith, color and economic situation. They are real people who know first-hand the aftermath of the insanity and horror of murder. They recount their tragedies and their struggles to heal as a way of opening dialogue on the death penalty in schools, colleges, churches and other venues. The Journey spotlights murder victim’s family members who choose not to seek revenge, and instead select the path of love and compassion for all of humanity. Forgiveness is seen as strength and as a way of healing. The greatest resources of the Journey are the people who are a part of it.
Bill authored a book entitled Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing, which details the May 14, 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Pelke, a Bible teacher, by four teenage girls. Paula Cooper who was deemed to be the ringleader was sentenced to die in the electric chair by the state of Indiana. She was fifteen-years-old at the time of the murder.
Pelke originally supported the sentence of death for Cooper, but went through a spiritual transformation in 1986 after praying for love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. He became successfully involved in an international crusade on Paula’s behalf and in 1989 her sentenced was commuted to sixty years in prison. Over 2 million people from Europe, mostly Italy, signed petitions that Paula be removed from death row.  Pope John Paul II requested mercy from Indiana authorities for Paula. Paula was taken off of death row in 1989 and her sentence commuted to sixty years. Bill, a retired steelworker, has dedicated his life to working for abolition of the death penalty. He shares his story of love and compassion and the healing power of forgiveness. Pelke has traveled to over forty states and fifteen countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story thousands of times.
Bill Babbitt was present at San Quentin prison when at one minute after midnight on May 4th, 1999 the state of California executed his brother, Manny Babbitt.
Manny, the recipient of a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been tried and convicted for the murder of an elderly woman who had died of a heart attack after a break-in and beating. When Bill realized that his brother could possibly be involved in the woman’s death, he contacted the police and helped them arrest his brother. In return, the police promised Bill that Manny would receive the psychological help that he needed and that they would help see that Manny would not receive the death penalty. Bill felt certain that when confronted with the reality of Manny’s mental illness, the justice system would hand down a fair sentence but avoid death. He was wrong. The Babbitt family was too poor to afford good counsel. Manny’s first lawyer took their money and then dropped the case. The second, a court-appointed attorney, refused to allow blacks on the jury, drank heavily during the trial and was later disbarred and sued for racism. Today Bill speaks out regularly against the death penalty.
David Kaczynski is the brother of the ‘Unabomber’ Theodore (Ted) Kaczynski. After the anonymous Unabomber demanded in 1995 that his manifesto, titled “Industrial Society and Its Future”, be published in a major newspaper as a condition for ceasing his mail-bomb campaign, the New York Times and the Washington Post both published the manifesto, hoping somebody would recognize the writing style of the author. David recognized Ted’s writing style, and notified authorities. On April 3, 1996, police arrested Ted Kaczynski in his quiet rural shack in Lincoln, Montana. David had received assurance from the FBI that his identity as the informant would be kept secret, but his name was leaked to the media. In addition, he sought a guarantee from federal prosecutors that Ted would receive appropriate psychiatric evaluation and treatment. The Justice Department’s subsequent active pursuit of the death penalty for Ted and attorney general Janet Reno’s initial refusal to accept a plea bargain in exchange for a life sentence was seen as a betrayal by David and other Kaczynski family members, and motivated David to become an anti-death penalty activist. In 2001, David Kaczynski was named executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, a coalition of individuals and organizations who seek abolition of capital punishment. He regularly speaks against the death penalty. He is often alongside Bill Babbitt, who was present at San Quentin prison when at one minute after midnight on May 4th, 1999 the state of California executed his brother, Manny Babbitt. Kaczynski has repeatedly said that if it were not for his family’s financial ability to hire competent counsel, his brother, like Manny Babbitt, most likely would have received the death penalty. Instead, Ted Kaczynski received life in prison without the possibility of parole.
At the age of 20, Terri‘s son, Justin Wolfe, ex-high school football player and normal, average, all American, suburban kid was sentenced to death in Virginia. In 2016, after he had spent approximately 5,700 days in solitary confinement, he was sentenced to 41 years in prison.
Terri heard about a group protesting the death penalty at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. and decided to meet those fighting to abolish the death penalty. Terri began her own journey to save Justin’s life. She has spoken on many occasions with the Journey of Hope, including during our 2009 Germany tour.
From Deadline.com
Jack O’Connell and Laura Dern have been set to star in Trial by Fire, a fact-based drama that Ed Zwick will direct. Oscar-winning Precious scribe Geoffrey Fletcher wrote the script, adapted from the 2009 article in The New Yorker that won David Grann the Polk Award. Zwick will produce through his Bedford Falls banner with Flashlight Films’ Allyn Stewart & Kipp Nelson, and Alex Soros, the latter of whom is financing. Production is set to begin October 2 in Atlanta. Kathryn Dean and Marshall Herskovitz are exec producing and film sales will be represented by Cinetic Media and CAA.

O’Connell stars as Cameron Todd Willingham, a poor, uneducated heavy metal devotee with a violent streak and a criminal record. Convicted of triple homicide in the arson deaths of his three small children, Willingham spent 12 years on death row. Dern co-stars as Elizabeth Gilbert, a Texas housewife who forms an unlikely bond with Willingham and, though facing staggering odds, fights magnificently for his freedom on the basis he was wrongly convicted.

 Zwick said he and Stewart separately

chased Grann’s story when it was published eight years ago and decided to team. It has been an uphill battle to get this one made, but a number of elements came together all at the right time. “From the moment I read David’s brilliant reporting eight years ago, I have been possessed by this deeply moving, true story of injustice,” Zwick told Deadline. “David Grann has been one of these caught-in-the-roller-of-his-typewriter guys, quietly doing great work, and now all these wonderful things are happening with his stories being made into movies, from Killers of the Flower Moon to the Robert Redford piece Old Man and the Gun. The story was all there, with these two compelling characters. It is a remarkable story about people. Not just capital punishment but justice, which is a very important word right now. It has to have that pull to keep you pushing it up the hill this many years.”

I asked Zwick why it took so long. “You’ve heard the story at the end of the year from everyone who gets up on that podium and talks about how hard it is,” he said. “The good ones just take longer. I’ve been lucky enough to make movies I care about, and they become increasingly smaller targets that you hit at greater distances. Every year a couple manage to get through that crucible, but it’s harder and harder. We got close a couple of times, but it came down to not being able to get the right actor or financier. Ten years ago, after I completed Blood Diamond, I got involved with Global Witness, an organization that was very good to me. They asked would I go on the board, and it was there that I met Alex Soros. We sat working together for this organization for 10 years; he’s not in the film business, but he followed my travails in trying to get this movie made. Finally, he said maybe I could get involved with you to do this.”

Stewart, who with Nelson produced Sully, called Trial by Fire “more than a provocative account of prosecutorial abuse, an incredibly emotional story about how a single act of kindness can change two lives forever.”

Read the rest on Deadline.com

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will hold a hearing on Wednesday August 2, 2017 to consider the bill filed by State Rep Terry Canales that would prohibit death sentences under the law of parties. HB 252 is different from the bills in the regular session. It adds a section that directs the jury "to determine based on the evidence admitted at the guilt or innocence stage whether the defendant is guilty of the capital felony only as a party under Section 7.02(b), Penal Code." ** REVISION ** HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING COMMITTEE: Criminal Jurisprudence TIME & DATE: 10:30 AM or upon final adjourn./recess Wednesday, August 02, 2017 PLACE: E2.014 CHAIR: Rep. Joe Moody If submitting written testimony, please submit 10 copies (with your name on each copy) to the committee during the hearing if possible HB 136 Rose Relating to the applicability of the death penalty to a capital offense committed by a person with severe mental illness. HB 252 Canales Relating to the extent of a defendant's criminal responsibility for the conduct of a coconspirator in certain felony cases. HB 283 Moody Relating to an application for a writ of habeas corpus based on certain relevant scientific evidence that was not available at the applicant's trial. HB 310 Herrero Relating to certain sentencing procedures in a capital case. HB 345 Turner Relating to the creation of a commission to study intellectual and developmental disability determinations in capital cases in which the state seeks the death penalty.
State Rep Terry Canales has filed a new law of parties bill in the special session. HB 252 is different from the bills in the regular session. It adds a section that directs the jury "to determine based on the evidence admitted at the guilt or innocence stage whether the defendant is guilty of the capital felony only as a party under Section 7.02(b), Penal Code." This change should satisfy the objections that Justin Wood of the Travis County DA's office testified at the hearing in April that he had about the bill. Call the committee clerk to urge Chairman Joe Moody to put HB 252 by Rep. Terry Canales on the agenda for the next meeting during the special session going right now this summer. Committee Clerk: Rachel Wetsel Phone: (512) 463-0768
Terri Been, sister of Jeff Wood, testifying before Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence on April 17, 2017 in support of law of parties reform bills. Under the provisions of the bills, a death sentence could not be sought or imposed on a defendant whose liability for a capital felony offense was based solely on the capital felony occurring in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit another felony offense in which the defendant was a co-conspirator.
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