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.

Below is the schedule of events for the first day of the 2010 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, Monday, March 15. You may come to all the events or just individual sessions. Everyone is welcome. You do not need to register, just show up for the events. It is all free.







Monday, March 15  (Jesse H. Jones Communication Center – CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, Google Map )
  
4:30-5 PM:  Introduction to the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break    
 
5:00-6:00 PM “Overview of the Death Penalty Issue” with Brian Evans from Washington, D.C. office of Amnesty International USA’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign        
 
6- 6:30 “Live from Death Row” – Telephone Call from a person on death row, organized by Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Austin Chapter        
 
6:30- 7 PM Snacks and socializing  
   
7:00- 8:30 PM Panel discussion with death row exonerees Shujaa Graham (3 years on California death row),  Perry Cobb (8 years on Illinois death row), Derrick Jamison (17 years on death row in Ohio), plus family members of people on death row, Delia Perez Meyer, Terri Been and Crystal Halprin.  Delia’s brother Louis Perez is on Texas Death Row. Terri’s brother Jeff Wood is on Texas Death Row. Crystal’s husband Randy Halprin is on Texas Death Row. The Law of Parties will be one topic covered by Terri and Crystal.
    
Evening Time on your own for enjoying Austin, including the SXSW film festival

Join us March 15-19, 2010 in Austin, Texas for the award-winning Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. It starts at 4:30 PM on Monday, March 15. The location is the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center – CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, (Google Map). The room is located on the entrance level of the building.

Special guests will be six innocent death row exoneress: Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Derrick Jamison, Perry Cobb and Juan Melendez.  They are attending alternative spring break to speak with participants about how innocent people can end up on death row. Altogether, the six exonerees attending the alternative spring break spent a total of about 65 years on death row for crimes they did not commit.

James Tate, who is attending the 2010 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, will be guest blogging daily for the Dallas Morning News’ Texas Death Penalty blog during the alternative spring break.

James is a student at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Join us March 15-19, 2010 in Austin, Texas for the award-winning Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. It starts at 4:30 PM on Monday, March 15. The location is the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center – CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, (Google Map). The room is located on the entrance level of the building.

Special guests will be six innocent death row exoneress: Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Derrick Jamison, Perry Cobb and Juan Melendez. They are attending alternative spring break to speak with participants about how innocent people can end up on death row. Altogether, the six exonerees attending the alternative spring break spent a total of about 65 years on death row for crimes they did not commit.

It’s free, except for a $25 housing fee for those who need us to arrange housing for you. We will house you in a shared room with other spring breakers in either a hotel or dorm. You are responsible for your travel, food and other expenses, but the program and most of the housing costs are on us. The $25 housing fee is all you pay. Register here.

Alternative Spring Breaks are designed to give college and high school students something more meaningful to do during their week off, rather than just spending time at the beach or sitting at home catching up on school work. The specific purpose of the Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is to bring students together for five days of anti-death penalty activism, education and fun. This is the place to be if you want to become a part of the next generation of human rights leaders. Go to the beach to change your state of mind for a week, come here to change the world forever

We will provide participants with workshops led by experienced, knowledgeable presenters who will teach them skills that they can use to go back home and set up new anti-death penalty student organizations or improve ones that may already exist. The skills participants will learn can also be used in other issues besides the death penalty. Students will gain valuable training and experience in grassroots organizing, lobbying, preparing a public rally and media relations. During the week, students will immediately put what they learn into action during activities such as a Death Penalty Issues Lobby Day and a public rally at the Texas Capitol. There will be opportunities to write press releases, speak in public, meet with legislators or their aides, and carry out a public rally.


Juan Melendez, an innocent man who spent 17 years, eight months and one day on death row in Florida will be one of the speakers at the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. Juan is attending as a member of Witness to Innocence. Juan will join exonerees Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Derrick Jamison and Perry Cobb at alternative spring break to speak with participants about how innocent people can end up on death row. 

To register, visit www.springbreakalternative.org/deathpenalty. The four-day program is free and open to everyone.

To give you a sense of the power of Mr. Melendez’s story, you will find below: (1) information about the documentary “Juan Melendez 6446,” including a link to the trailer of the documentary; (2) background information about Mr. Melendez’s case; (3) feedback from audience members; (4) link to WLKY (Louisville, Kentucky) T.V. news story covering Mr. Melendez’s talk at Central High SchoolLouisville, Kentucky; and (5) a link to an article published at Wakefield High School regarding Mr. Melendez’s talk at the school.  

 
1. Documentary “Juan Melendez 6446″

Juan Melendez 6446,” is a beautifully artistic and compelling documentary that depicts the story of JuanMelendez and highlights the tremendous damage that the death penalty inflicts on so many people involved in the system.  Mr. Melendez’s mother, Dona Andrea Colon, plays a central role in the documentary.  As a woman of unwavering faith and devoted mother, she silently lived with the shame of having a son on death row and faithfully prayed three rosaries everyday, praying for a miracle that would prove her son’s innocence.  Also included in the documentary is a brief but deeply moving discussion by Mr. Melendez’s appellate counsel of the cases of Leo Jones and Frank Lee Smith, both of whom were African-American and good friends of Mr. Melendez on death row.  Leo was executed in spite of his innocence and Frank died of cancer before DNA testing proved that he did not commit the crime for which he was sentenced to death.Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico watched the documentary shortly before he abolished the death penalty in New Mexico in March 2009.  He has since told Mr. Melendez that he was deeply impacted by the documentary.   Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, attended the U.S. premiere of the documentary.  She described it as “powerful” film that is “heartbreaking and maddening and . . . stirs the soul.”    The documentary has been screened at six international film festivals in New York, Montreal (Canada), Glasgow (Scotland), Madrid (Spain), San Juan (Puerto Rico), and most recently in La Habana (Cuba). Here is a link to the short trailer (1.5 minutes) of the documentary:

 http://nylatino.bside.com/2009/films/juanmelendez6446_nylatino2009

2. Background
 

Juan Roberto Melendez spent seventeen years, eight months and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Upon his release on January 3, 2002, he became the 99th death row prisoner in the United States to be released with evidence of innocence since 1973.  At the moment, the number stands at 139 and a significant majority are either Latino or African-American.  Although Mr. Melendez’s story is unique, the circumstance of being innocent and on death row is shamefully anything but unique.

Mr. Melendez’s story highlights the myriad of problems that plague the death penalty system, in particular its high risk and inevitability of being imposed on the innocent, its unfair and unequal application on the  basis of race and ethnicity and its almost exclusive imposition on our most defenseless and vulnerable members of society–the poor. Although his case was riddled with doubt, and there was not one single shred of physical evidence against him, he was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Delbert Baker (a white man) within a week by a “death-qualified” jury.  These “death-qualified” jurors presumed Mr. Melendez’s guilt right from the start.  They rejected his airtight alibi witness and other witnesses (all of whom were African-American) and instead chose to believe the highly questionable testimony of the government’s two critical witnesses.   Had it not been for the extremely fortunate discovery of a taped confession of the real killer sixteen years after Mr. Melendez had been sentenced to death, he almost certainly would have been executed. At the time the taped confession was discovered, the Supreme Court of Florida had already upheld his conviction and death sentence three times on appeal.  Beyond the death penalty, Mr. Melendez’s story is a remarkable story of survival, faith and hope that resonates with people all across the political spectrum.
 

3. Feedback from Audience Members

“Prior to hearing Mr. Melendez’s speech, I was pro-death penalty.  Now I will fight to abolish it!!”
-Norma Francisco, Ph.D.., member of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, San Francisco (August 13, 2006)

“He (Juan Melendez) is the best argument against the death penalty that anyone could ever hear.”
– Journalism student, 
University of New Mexico

“I have not attended a better speech in all my ten plus years in the clinics! Or has one affected me so much as his speech! One student who has always been for the death penalty changed his views that day . . . He was awesome.”
– Linda Herrera, Director of Legal Clinics at Southern Methodist University School of Law

“Your story is one that needs to be heard by everyone and your message of hope is truly an inspiration.”
-Dr. Judy Hendry, communications and journalism professor, University of New Mexico

Juan is a living testament to the injustice of capital punishment and his talk is infinitely more effective than anything I could teach my students.”
Law professor Marjorie CohnThomas Jefferson School of Law

“He is a brilliant speaker and a brilliant story teller . .. . It is so important that he share his story with the public because [he] is a prime example of how one man’s personal story can do more to inform people about the death penalty than all of the cases, newspapers and political rallies combined.”
-Morgan Anderson, law student University of San Francisco School of Law

“Phenomenal!”
-Audience member, Catholic Religious Education Congress, Anaheim, California, March 2007


“Mr. Melendez is an inspiration and ray of hope for anyone who has ever felt hopeless in their situation”

-Teacher, Stronghurst Alternative High School, Albuquerque, New Mexico

“He (Juan Melendez) is a perfect example of hope and survival.”
-Youth in detention, Las Vegas, Nevada

“One of the most powerful and moving events we have had here-not just the extraordinary story he had to tell, but the grace and skill with which he told it.”
-Simon Keyes, Director of St. Ethelburga’s Ctr. for Peace and Reconciliation, London, England

4. Link to WLKY (Louisville, Kentucky) T.V. news segment featuring Mr. Melendez’s story

http://www.wlky.com/news/22239178/detail.html
5.
Amnesty speaker educates, inspires File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat -  View as HTML
Former death row inmate Juan Melendez speaks to a group of high school ..... 
wakefieldhs.net/howler/pdf/2006-2007/december.pdf - Similar

For more detailed information regarding Mr. Melendez’s case, please see his published article in the Texas Tech Law Review at: 41 Texas Tech Law Review 1 (Fall, 2008), Presumed Guilty: a Death Row Exoneree Shares his Story of Supreme Injustice and Reflections on the Death Penalty (article can be accessed through westlaw). 
Below is a letter of reference for Mr. Melendez from a former career prosecutor.  
From: Gutmann, Joe PSent: Thu 1/28/2010 2:01 PMTo: Edwards, KerrySubject: RE: Juan Melendez
Professor Edwards, 
 I met Juan Melendez 2 weeks ago.  Prior to meeting Juan, I researched his case online.  Juan Melendez is a remarkable man!  His compassion, forgiveness and positive view of life speak volumes of his character.  The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty held it’s annual convention in Louisville.  I am a retired prosecutor (Commonwealth of Kentucky Commonwealth Attorney’s Office) of 20 years and teach undergraduate law classes at The University of Louisville and head the Law & Government Magnet Program at Central High School.  I received notice that Juan was going to be in town for the convention and was willing to speak to groups during his stay.  Unsure of what Juan‘s demeanor and presentation would be like I asked him to speak at the law school before; I would consider having him talk to high school students.  On January 14th he spoke to about 100 law students at The University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law and was amazing.  I have attended many impressive lectures in my day, Juan was incredible and made an impression that I will never forget.  I am proud to call him a friend.  He spoke at Central High School to 100, sophomore-senior law magnet students.  The response from my students was amazing.  Two weeks later, they are still talking about him, the death penalty andAmerican justice.
. . .
Thanks, 
Joe Gutmann

Texas today executed its 451st person since 1982 and the 212th person since Governor Rick Perry took office in 2000.


An Indiana man whose cross-country crime spree with his girlfriend a decade ago ended in a gun battle with police in San Francisco was executed Thursday for robbing and murdering a sheriff’s officer in San Antonio.
No late court appeals were filed for Joshua Maxwell, 31, condemned for gunning down Bexar County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Rudy Lopes and stealing his truck in 2000. The 45-year-old veteran jailer was off duty at the time.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review Maxwell’s case. Maxwell also was convicted of killing a man in Indiana.
Maxwell, his voice breaking and choking back tears, apologized repeatedly in the seconds before lethal drugs began flowing into his arms.
“The person that did that 10 years ago isn’t the same person you see today,” he said. “I hurt a lot of people with decisions I made. I can’t be more sorry than I am right now.”
Nine minutes later, at 6:27 p.m. CST, he was pronounced dead, making him the fourth inmate executed this year in the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.
Maxwell was the fourth Texas inmate executed this year. He was among at least 10 Texas death row inmates with execution dates in the coming months, including two more later this month.

Attend the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break in Austin March 15-19, 2010.
Join us March 15-19, 2010 in Austin, Texas for the award-winning Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break.
Special guests will be six innocent death row exoneress: Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Derrick Jamison, Perry Cobb and Juan Melendez. They are attending alternative spring break to speak with participants about how innocent people can end up on death row. Altogether, the six exonerees attending the alternative spring break spent a total of about 65 years on death row for crimes they did not commit.
It’s free, except for a $25 housing fee for those who need us to arrange housing for you. We will house you in a shared room with other spring breakers in either a hotel or dorm. You are responsible for your travel, food and other expenses, but the program and most of the housing costs are on us. The $25 housing fee is all you pay. Register here.

 ANTI-DEATH PENALTY ALTERNATIVE SPRING BREAK Open to students and nonstudents alike, this weeklong program shows you what it takes to be an activist. You’ll attend workshops, write press releases, speak in public, and more, as well as meet former prisoners who spent time on death row, family members of murder victims, and many others. Register online. Mon.-Fri., March 15-19. UT campus, 210/601-7231. Free.www.springbreakalternative.org (Events)

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