Upcoming Executions
Click for a list of upcoming scheduled executions in Texas.
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.

The CBS show “Cold Case” recently ran an episode entitled “Flashover” that was loosely based on the Todd Willingham case. In the episode, a man is sent to prison for life for an arson that killed his two young children. Instead of being executed, he is killed in prison by other inmates. Evidence turns up that he did not set the arson.

Sign the email petition to urge the Texas Forensic Science Commission to hold public meetings of the Committee Investigating the Todd Willingham case. Right now, the meetings are being held in secret behind closed doors.

Below are a few short clips of the “Flashover” episode. The full episode is not online. If you are reading this on Facebook or in an email, click here to see the episode clips on the TMN blog.

Link to clip on CBS.

Link to clip on CBS.

Link to clip on CBS.

Link to Clip on CBS.

Promo of show from YouTube.

Texas executed Samuel Bustamante today, April 27. He was the 454th person executed in Texas since 1982 and the 215th person since Rick Perry became governor.
A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally stabbing an illegal immigrant during an attempted robbery a dozen years ago. 
Samuel Bustamante, 40, said nothing, shaking his head when asked by the warden if he wanted to make a final statement. He took several nearly inaudible breaths as the lethal drugs took effect, then slipped into unconsciousness as four female friends he invited to the death chamber watched. 
Eight minutes later, at 6:22 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead, making him the seventh prisoner executed this year in the nation’s most active death penalty state.
No friends or relatives of his victim were present. 
Bustamante was convicted of the 1998 slaying of Rafael Alvarado, 27, a Mexican national in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, who became a target of what Bustamante and some of his friends called “shopping trips” where they would hunt illegal immigrants, then beat and rob them. 
The punishment came about 90 minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch appeal from Bustamante’s attorneys. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, had refused a similar appeal Monday. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles also declined a clemency request.

The Dallas Morning News has an editorial today saying that the Texas Forensic Science Commission should hold public meetings of all of its committees, including the committee dealing with the Todd Willingham investigation.

We agree and after last Friday’s meeting, Texas Moratorium Network started an online petition to allow the public to contact FSC Chair John Bradley and other members of the Commission to urge them to hold public meetings.

Click here to sign the petition, which sends an email to the Commission every time someone signs.

Today’s DMN Editorial:

The Texas Forensic Science Commission has taken a step forward and then tap-danced behind a cloud of secrecy under the leadership of new Chairman John Bradley.
Disturbing philosophy
“I don’t think that is in the best interest of trying to move forward on this, because the ability to discuss and resolve these issues requires us to have those discussions in private. … All of our issues will be released publicly during full commission meetings.”
John Bradley, chairman of the Texas Commission on Forensic Science, when asked about keeping committee meetings open
Meeting Friday for just the second time since Bradley was named in September, the commission resumed work on the four-year-old complaint filed in the Cameron Todd Willingham execution case.
That made good Bradley’s promise to state lawmakers to advance the matter. He also should get credit for asking those commissioners who have been working two-plus years on the case to fully air their opinions.
None disagreed that much more information is needed beyond the searing critique from eminent arson scientist Craig Beyler.
Just how – and how much – information should be gathered is a matter of keen public interest, but Bradley wants the initial course to be charted in private.
That’s an awful approach.
Everyone knows the Beyler report is a potential political grenade. In a report to the commission last summer, Beyler said state and local investigators ignored sound scientific techniques in concluding that arson caused the 1991 fire that killed Willingham’s three daughters in their Corsicana home. Convicted of murder, Willingham was executed in 2004 – Rick Perry, governor.
Commissioners say they need to study a range of documents, including the full transcript of the trial, in which state and local arson investigators testified. Commissioners said they have questions for Beyler and probably for other experts.
Nearly all of the nine commissioners are scientists, and they should pursue the evidence they need. Their job is not to reconsider the verdict against Willingham, but to determine whether junk science was part of his trial.
The matter is now before a four-person committee that Bradley formed to guide the Willingham case. Bradely, the district attorney of Williamson County, named one defense attorney to the committee, which achieves balance. But limiting membership to four means the committee isn’t a commission quorum and, therefore, doesn’t trigger an open-meetings requirement.
Secret meetings run contrary to a basic principle of public service. State law and the Texas Constitution give some investigatory bodies authority to conduct business confidentially. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct is one. The forensics commission, however, is not.
Nowhere did lawmakers give the commission that latitude when they created it in 2005. Procedures the commission adopted in January are silent on the matter. Some commissioners said after Friday’s meeting that they were surprised that committee sessions would be done in secret.
When Perry installed Bradley and three other new members last fall, critics hatched the theory that the governor wanted the Willingham matter frozen until after the 2010 election. Bradley has said he didn’t accept Perry’s appointment to be somebody’s puppet, and we’ll accept that at face value. At the same time, though, he must see that public confidence is at stake. The way to preserve that is to conduct state business where the state can see it.
“I don’t think that is in the best interest of trying to move forward on this, because the ability to discuss and resolve these issues requires us to have those discussions in private. … All of our issues will be released publicly during full commission meetings.”
John Bradley, chairman of the Texas Commission on Forensic Science, when asked about keeping committee meetings open

An organization in France, poster4tomorrow, is holding a poster design contest around the theme that “the death penalty is not justice. I don’t want it done in my name, my country, or our world”.
The call for entires closes on July 18, 2010.
Download the competition rules and regulations here. 
Take a look at the jury here.

They will be holding exhibitions of the winning designs in 100 cities around the world on October 10, 2010. We have emailed them expressing interest in holding an exhibition in a Texas city, since Texas executes more people than any other U.S. state. 

October the 10th 2010 (10/10/10) is the World and European Day against the Death Penalty. On this day we intend to hold 100 exhibitions in 100 cities, curated by 100 local partner organisations. We want to make every exhibition locally relevant by allowing each local team to select part of the posters they want to display.

In this way we hope that every exhibition will become more powerful than was possible last year, as the posters will hopefully relate to, and resonate more powerfully in, every location.

But it’s not just about local focus, we plan to encourage exchanges between the various events around the world by recording and streaming the talks given by hosts in different locations.

On the online side of things, we plan to add mapping and other features for anyone to easily explore all the events and take part. For instance, by making it possible for every poster to be freely downloadable, so anyone can hold their own exhibition in their window, school, wherever and everywhere.

The best 100 designs (as selected by the jury) will be exhibited in 100 locations worldwide on October the 10th in the poster for tomorrow ‘death is not justice’ exhibition.

The best 100 designs will be also be collected and published in a book to be distributed internationally. Every designer of the 100 final posters is entitled to a copy of the book free of charge, but will be asked to cover the postage costs at their own expense. Sorry.

Some of our sponsors have kindly agreed to help us reward the 10 most outstanding designs.
étapes magazine will award ten designers, as chosen by the jury, a subscription to the international issue of the magazine.

école intuit/lab in Paris will award three students, as chosen by the jury, with a free workshop on graphic design.
We’re particularly happy to be able to reward the 10 most outstanding designs, as chosen by the jury, by making them part of the permanent collection of the prestigious design museums in the list below. More design museums are expected to join in the next months.

What are the design requirements?
The designs must be previously unpublished. They must not include any material protected by copyright.
The designs must be portrait (vertical) format posters.What are the file specifications for the posters?
They must be portrait (vertical) format posters.
Please save your designs as RGB colour, JPG files.
File size specifications are 2953×4134 pixels at 150DPI resolution.
Can I submit designs that contain text in languages other than English?
Yes. We encourage you to express yourself freely, which is always done best in your own mother tongue.
Does my poster have to use the brief’s text as title or body copy?
No, the brief is there to inspire you, not to provide you with content, so please do not feel obliged its text in your design. If you want to use it, fine. If you want to use your own words, even better.
Do I have to include a logo in my design?
No, you don not have to include any logo in the artwork. Not from our endorsing charities, nor poster for tomorrow itself.

How can I enter my design into the competition?
First of all you have to register (for free) on our website. Look for the “SIGN UP” link in the top left corner of the menu bar.
When you have an account and you’re logged into the website, a “MY ACCOUNT” link page will be available from the top menu bar.
Click that link to access your own account page, where you will be able to manage your submissions.
Registering is the only way to ensure your artwork will be considered by the jury.Is there any registration fee?
No. poster for tomorrow is completely, absolutely, 100% free to enter.
We are a team, can we participate?
Yes, but I’m afraid you’ll have to register as individual.
One member of your team will have to open an account in his/her own name. When they upload your entries you will be able to add the names of the rest of the team in the submission form.
We are a design studio, can we participate?
Yes, you’re more than welcome to participate, but as a creative team or individual, not as a design studio.
So if you’re an individual, please enter the contest in your own name. If you’re a creative team, please register as normal, then you will be able to add the names of the rest of the team in the submission form when uploading your entries.

How many designs can I enter in the competition?
You’re welcome to submit up to 10 posters. This limit is for technical reasons more than anything else, but we feel 10 poster is enough to give your creativity as much space as it might need.When does the competition close?
The competition closes on July the 18th, 2010.
Designs will be accepted until noon, 12 p.m., (pacific daylight time) on that date.
Is the call for entries available in my own language?
You can see the list of languages in which the call for entries is available in the lefthand column on the home page.
A group of volunteers from around the world is helping us to translate it in many other languages, so it might be available very soon.
Please come back to check to see if your language becomes available.

Click here to join the Texas Moratorium Network Facebook page.

Texas is scheduled to execute Samuel Bustamante Tuesday, April 27. His attorneys are seeking to stop the execution on grounds of mental retardation, according to this Houston Chronicle article. If he is executed, he will be the 454th person executed in Texas since 1982 and the 215th person since Rick Perry became governor.

Use the Governor’s email form to contact Perry to express your opposition to this execution. Or call Perry and leave a voice mail at 512 463 1782.

Click here to join the Texas Moratorium Network Facebook page to stay informed about the Texas death penalty.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Samuel Bustamante, 40, an El Campo laborer, is set to be executed for the crime Tuesday. He would be the seventh killer executed in the state this year and the fourth from Fort Bend County since Texas resumed executions in 1982.

Bustamante’s attorney, Philip Hilder, last week filed a state court appeal arguing that Bustmante, with an overall IQ of 71, is mildly mentally retarded and should be spared death under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Atkins vs. Virginia. In that landmark decision the high court held that executing mentally retarded killers violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

Seeks delay from court

Hilder argued that Bustamante’s abusive childhood might have been a factor in his retardation, and offered comments from the killer’s former common-law wife that he had been childlike and unable to care for himself. When sad or angered, the woman told a Baylor College of Medicine clinical neuropsychologist, Bustamante would roll into a fetal position and cry.

Hilder asked the court to grant Bustamante direct relief or to order an evidentiary hearing to consider evidence of mental retardation.

Bustamante’s accomplices, Diedrick Depriest, Arthur Escamilla and Walter Escamilla, were each sentenced to eight years for aggravated robbery. All since have been released.

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