On Tuesday, people who once faced a death sentence called on Texas lawmakers to end to the state's death penalty. They were supporting House Bill 1032, proposed by State Representative Harold Dutton, which would abolish the death penalty in Texas. "As a legislator I didn't want to be in the death penalty business," said Dutton. Sabrina Butler spent several years on death row before she was exonerated of the murder of her nine-month-old son. "I don't want anyone to be put in the same position that I was in," said Butler.KVUE:
Texas leads the nation in the frequency of the use of the death penalty, and every year, one state legislator works to abolish it. On Tuesday, Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) filed bills, for the seventh time, that aim to abolish the death penalty in Texas. Dutton has filed bills every legislative session since 2003. "Texans have become less and less confident in the legal systems to protect the innocent," Dutton said. "Texas has not fixed it's legal processes, so that we cannot guarantee someone who is innocent does not get executed." Supporters of eliminating the death penalty gathered at the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday. Several death row exonerees spoke at this year's "Day of Innocence," including Sabrina Butler, convicted when she was 17 years old in 1990 for killing her baby. "I still feel like a prisoner," Butler said. "He stopped breathing, and I tried to apply CPR and applied it the wrong way." Butler spent six and a half years in prison. "They pretty much knew what they wanted to do before they saw me," Butler said of her trial and conviction. Medical findings eventually determined her baby had a disease that caused the damage they initially thought she had done. Despite being the only woman in the U.S. exonerated after being sentenced to death, Butler's life will never be the same. She has trouble finding employment, because she must still admit her conviction on job applications. "That's the part that makes me feel still like I'm in prison, because this will affect my life, not only my life, my children's life," Butler said. "The first thing on my mind when I got exonerated, I wanted to see my older son." Ron Keine, another death row exoneree, was sentenced to death in New Mexico, until a police officer admitted he actually committed the murder. "He went to the nearest church and confessed," Keine said. "That's what got me out. It wasn't any maneuvering by lawyers." Dutton believes the bill will pass eventually and said he'll keep filing it until it does.
Once condemned to die for crimes they did not commit, two former death row inmates came to the Capitol on Tuesday to support a longshot bill that would shut down the nation’s busiest execution chamber. Ron Keine, who spent almost two years on New Mexico’s death row before the real killer confessed in the mid-1970s, said he came to “the belly of the beast” to show Texas lawmakers that capital punishment is not universally loved. Sabrina Butler, exonerated in the mid-1990s after almost three years on death row for the death of her 9-month-old son in Mississippi, said the stories of condemned but innocent men and women prove that the death-penalty system is too flawed to continue. Ex-death row inmates push to end Texas executions photo Sabrina Butler speaks at a Tuesday news conference with Ron Keine, right, in favor of a bill to abolish the death penalty in Texas. “I do this because I don’t want anybody to be put in the same position I was in, to be put in a cell and told I was going to die,” she told a Capitol news conference. “I’m just here today to help.” Keine and Butler lent their support to an uphill battle waged by Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, since 2003, when he filed the first of seven bills in consecutive legislative sessions to abolish the death penalty in Texas. None has made it out of committee, but Dutton said he refuses to give up. “I think Texas ought not be in the death penalty business until we get the systems fixed … until we can guarantee that no one who is executed is innocent,” Dutton said. “We’ll keep pushing it. For some legislators, at least we’re causing them to think about it a little more than they have.” Former death row inmates push to end executions, 03.03.15 gallery Former death row inmates push to end executions, 03.03.15 Dutton’s House Bill 1032 would end capital punishment in Texas, converting current death sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Keine and Butler also urged support for another Dutton proposal, House Bill 341, which would end capital punishment under the “law of parties,” which allows parties to a capital murder to be executed even if they did not personally commit the murder or murders. Tuesday’s news conference also included Mark Clements, a Chicago man freed based on police misconduct after serving 28 years in prison, who spoke on behalf of Bastrop death row inmate Rodney Reed. Reed, whose execution was halted last week by an appeals court, is innocent of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, Clements insisted. “Why am I in Texas? Texas is dirty. It enhances its laws to place people on death row,” he said.
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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