Friday, August 2, 2002
The Dallas Morning News
Execution For Youth Protested
Lawmaker Asks Officials to Re-examine Death for Juvenile Offenders
AUSTIN- A Fort Worth lawmaker said on Thursday that
executing people for crimes they committed as minors
is “barbaric” and that he will try again to get the
Legislature to outlaw the practice.
Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, was joined by Texas
medical, legal and human rights experts in urging the
governor, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and
the judiciary to re-examine the state’s use of the
death penalty in such cases.
They timed their news conference at the state Capitol
to focus on the scheduled execution later this month
of two such offenders – Toronto Patterson of Dallas
and T.J. Jones of Longview.
Toronto Patterson, scheduled to die Aug. 28 for the
1995 murder of his cousin Kimberly Brewer and her two
young daughters, Jennifer Brewer and Ollie Jean Brown,
in Dallas, was 17 at the time of the crime. He had no
T.J. Jones also was 17 when he robbed and killed
Willard Lewis Davis, 75, of Longview in 1994,
according to court records. Mr. Jones is to die
Texas has executed 11 of 19 juvenile offenders put to
death in the United States since 1984 and accounts for
nearly a third of the 81 juvenile offenders on death
rows across the nation, Rep. Lon Burnam said.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran and
Pakistan are the only counties outside the United
States known to have executed juvenile offenders in
the last three years, he said.
“Texas stands virtually alone in the world and the
nation in its continued practice of executing people
who committed their offenses before age 18,” Rep. Lon
A bill he authored to ban such executions passed the
House but died in the Senate in 2001. He blamed Gov.
Rick Perry for killing it.
Kathy Walt, spokeswoman for the governor, said she
doesn’t recall whether the governor had opposed the
measure. She said the governor supports the current
law, but would give Rep. Lon Burnam’s proposal a
“serious look” if it passes.
Governor Perry’s Democratic challenger, Tony Sanchez,
is opposed to changing the law, according to his
spokesman, Mark Sanders.
Rep. Lon Burnam said he and other supporters hope to
“soften” the hearts of Gov. Rick Perry and other
opponents on the issue.
University of Texas law professor Jordan Steiker, who
joined Rep. Lon Burnam at the news conference, said
the U.S. Supreme Court is moving in the direction of
outlawing the execution of persons for crimes
committed as minors.
“The writing is plainly on the wall, and Texas should
act now with leadership, rather than follow,” Jordan
Dr. Mitch Young, president of The Texas Society of
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said children are not
as mature as adults and shouldn’t be treated the same
by the legal system.
“The majority of juvenile offenders do not go on to
offend as adults,” Dr. Mitch Young said.
Friday, August 2, 2002
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
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