Upcoming Executions
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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.

Curtis McCarty, an innocent man who spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma will be one of the speakers at the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break March 15-19 in Austin, Texas. Curtis is attending as a member of Witness to Innocence. He will join exonerees Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Derrick Jamison, Juan Melendez and Perry Cobb at the alternative spring break to speak with participants about how innocent people can end up on death row.


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.


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.


It is designed for high school and college students to learn and train to be leaders of the next generation of anti-death penalty activists, but it is also for all those who consider themselves students of the world, community, peace and justice.  Please look at the schedule and consider attending. All events are open to the public.

curtis mccarty | www.witnesstoinnocence.orgJuries frequently rely on the testimony of forensic evidence experts to reach just conclusions in criminal trials. What happens when an expert lies in order to win a conviction?
When 18-year-old Pamela Kaye Willis was raped, stabbed, and strangled in her Oklahoma City home on December 10, 1982, Curtis McCarty became a suspect because he was acquainted with her. Soon after the murder in 1983, forensic analyst Joyce Gilchrist examined hairs from the crime scene and found they didnot match McCarty’s. Police interviewed McCarty several times over the next three years, but he was not arrested until 1985. During the three years of police questioning, Gilchrist secretly altered her notes to declare that the crime scene hairs could have been McCarty’s. Attorneys for McCarty did not discover the change in Gilchrist’s notes until 2000, when she underwent investigation for fraud in other cases. When the defense requested retesting of the hairs, the evidence had either been lost or destroyed deliberately. Gilchrist, implicated in two other cases that sent innocent men to death row, was later fired from her job with the Oklahoma City police department.
Curtis McCarty was sentenced to die three times and spent 21 years in prison – 19 on Oklahoma’s death row – for a crime he did not commit before DNA evidence led to his exoneration and release in May 2007.
Curtis McCarty is attending Alternative Spring Break with the help of Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing and Witness to Innocence.

Join us March 15-19, 2010 in Austin, Texas for the award-winning Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. Everyone is welcome. You can attend all events or just the ones that interest you.
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.

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 )
  
Afternoon:  Housing check-in for people who have signed up for housing.  
 
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
 
Tuesday, March 16  Issues Day (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) 
 
Noon to 1 PM:  “Religious Views of the Death Penalty” presented by Steven Crimaldi, National Director of Dead Man Walking School Theater Project. Steven will also explain how students can get involved by doing a production of the play at their schools or in their communities.
 
1- 2 PM: “Mental Illness and the Death Penalty”, presented by Susannah Sheffer of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights. “Prevention, Not Execution”. Read background report: “DOUBLE TRAGEDIES: Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty for People with Severe Mental Illness“. 
 
2:15-2:30 Break
       
2:30-3:30 Mary K. Poirier, mitigation specialist from The McCallister Law Firm. Mary will discuss her work on capital trials in Texas and elsewhere and how activists can work with legal teams. A good mitigation specialist can save someone from being sentenced to death.  
 
3:30-3:45 Break    
 
3:45- 5:00 PM   Bill Pelke, president of Journeyof Hope … From Violence to Healing will speak and present a film of the work of Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing. The film documents family members of murder victims speaking out against the death penalty. Also, we will introduce and hear comments from another special guest arriving Tuesday, death row exoneree Curtis McCarty who spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma.    
 
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Petition Signature Gathering Competition: We will divide into teams and fan out throughout Austin to collect signatures on a petition against the death penalty. People can collect signatures at places such as where SXSW events are taking place such as the convention center, outside certain bookstores or other stores if they allow it, on the streets in downtown Austin and wherever else the teams want to try. The team that collects the most petition signatures (with names, addresses, email addresses and possibly phone numbers) will win a prize of $100. 
 
Evening Free time on your own for enjoying Austin 
 
Wednesday, March 17    (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)
 
Noon – 1:00 Media Workshop with Vincent Villano of Campus Progress. Workshop will give tips on communicating effectively with reporters, writing press releases, organizing press conferences and other topics.
    
1:00 – 2:00 PM  Lobbying Workshop in preparation for next day’s lobbying at capitol, with Alison Brock, Chief of Staff to Texas State Representative Sylvester Turner.  
     
2:00 – 2:15 Break
 
2:15 – 3:15  “Art and Activism” with John Holbrook, photographer of Texas death row, whose work has been exhibited in the Europe and the U.S., including at the Texas Capitol in May 2009. A selection of John’s photographs and other death penalty-themed artworks will be on display. John will talk about his experiences photographing people on Texas death row and his 17 years working as a private investigator on Texas capital murder cases.
 
3:15 – 3:30  Break       
 
3:30 – 4:30 PM Campus Organizing and Coalition Building Workshop with Vincent Villano of Campus Progress. There’s so much more to working in coalition than inviting people to join you in your efforts. It’s hard work and requires skill, understanding and strategy, but the rewards for you, your partners, and your cause are endless (and fun!). Learn the importance of working in coalition, how to identify allies, how to engage non-traditional partners, where coalition building fits in with your campaign plan, and why it might be just what you need to take your issue campaign to the next level.  
  
4:30- 5 PM Discussion of next day’s press conference, lobbying visits and rally.·        
Dinner break (on your own)    
 
7:00 Screen Printing Workshop with Garry Spitzer of CEDP, plus sign-making session for next day’s rally. Screen printing is a method of applying images to signs and t-shirts.    
  
Free Time to enjoy Austin
 
Thursday, March 18: Lobby Day and Justice Rally at the Texas Capitol
 
11 AM – Press conference in Texas House Speaker’s Committee Room 2W.6 at Texas Capitol (Press conference will be organized, moderated and run by students from spring break).
 
12:30- 2:00 Death Penalty Panel with Six Exonerated Former Death Row Inmates and Bill Pelke – President of Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing. Location: Committee Room E2.016 in the Texas State Capitol.
 
Panelists: 
  • Shujaa Graham, who spent 3 years of his life on California’s death-row for a crime he did not commit.
  • Curtis McCarty, who spent 19 years of his life on Oklahoma’s death-row for a crime he did not commit.
  • Ron Keine, who spent almost two years on death row in New Mexico for a crime he did not commit.
  • Perry Cobb, who spent 8 years on death row in Illinois for a crime he did not commit.
  • Derrick Jamison, who spent 17 years on death row in Ohio for a crime he did not commit.
  • Juan Melendez spent seventeen years, eight months and one day on Florida ’s death row for a crime he did not commit.  
  • Bill Pelke, president of Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing and former Chairman of the Board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Bill authored a book entitled “Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing”, which details the May14, 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Pelke, a Bible teacher, by four teenage girls. He shares his story of forgiveness and healing, and how he came to realize that he did not need to see someone else die in order to heal from his grandmother’s death. He also helps organize Journey tours nationally and abroad. Bill has traveled to over forty states and ten countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story over 5,000 times.        
2:00 – 2:45  Break
 
2:45 – 3:45 PM  Screening of 17-minute film about Todd Willingham and how Rick Perry recently shook-up the Texas Forensic Science Commission, followed by a discussion with filmmaker Joshua Riehl and Liz Gilbert, the friend of Todd Willingham who first investigated his innocence and helped find a fire expert to examine the forensic evidence. Gilbert’s role is explained in the article “Trial by Fire” in The New Yorker by David Grann.  Location: Committee Room E2.016 in the Texas State Capitol
 
3:45 – 4:45    Lobbying Visits with legislators and/or their aides.    
 
4:45 – 5:00   Set up for Justice Rally     
 
5:00 – 7:30   Justice Rally Against the Death Penalty on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol (If you get off work at 5, you can still come, just get there as soon after work as possible)
 
Rally Speakers include death row exonerees Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, Perry Cobb, Juan Melendez, Derrick Jamison and Curtis McCarty; Bill Pelke, president of Journey of Hope and past chair of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; students participating in Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break; a representative of Clinton Young; a representative of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty; Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement; Delia Meyer-Perez, whose brother Louis Castro Perez is on death row; Cory Session of the Innocence Project of Texas, Cory’s brother, Tim Cole, was an innocent man who died while in prison and was posthumously exonerated and pardoned by Rick Perry; Regina Kelly – her story was the subject of the film “American Violet”. She was unlawfully targeted and arrested on drug charges; Ron Carlson, whose sister Debra Ruth Carlson, along with two others, was murdered with a pick-ax by Karla Faye Tucker and Daniel Ryan Garrett; plus other speakers.
 
After Rally: Last Supper. Food and discussion of the rally as well as the entire spring break. We will go to a restaurant (everyone buys their own meal and drinks). Fill out feedback forms.
 
Friday, March 19: Fun Day on your own in Austin.
 
This is Spring Break, so today we will have some fun and take a break after all the hard work we have done all week. Everyone is free to choose their own activities. Some things people could do are: Go swimming at Barton Springs Pool, attend a SXSW film or music event, go shopping, take a Segway tour of Austin, go jogging around Town Lake, go bike riding, visit a museum or do something else. Some of these activities cost money, so plan accordingly.

The Galveston County Daily News is renewing its call for a moratorium on executions. What caused them to write again today about the need for a moratorium is because of the Houston judge who last week ruled that the death penalty process used in Texas is unconstitutional because innocent people can be executed. This is not the first time they have called for a moratorium.

Today’s editorial:

Juan Melendez, an innocent man who spent 17 years, eight months and one day on death row in Florida for a crime he did not commit will be one of the speakers at the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, which is March 15-19, 2010 in Austin, Texas. 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. 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.


The Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break March 15-19 in Austin is designed for high school and college students interested in human rights and the death penalty. All the events are also open to people of all ages who are interested in the issue. In addition to five death row exonerees, there will be many other interesting speakers, including the national director of Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, Bill Pelke of Journey of Hope, Susannah Sheffer of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, Brian Evans from the Washington D.C. office of Amnesty International, and Elizabeth Gilbert, the friend of Todd Willingham who first brought his case to the attention of thefire expert who later sent a report to Rick Perry in support of a stay of execution.

Participants will gain valuable training and experience in grassroots organizing, lobbying, preparing a public rally and working with the media. During the week, students will immediately put what they learn into action during activities such as an Anti-Death Penalty Lobby Day with a rally at the Texas Capitol. There will be opportunities to write press releases, organize a press conference, speak in public, meet with legislators or their aides, and carry out a public rally at the capitol.



Please register at the website http://springbreakalternative.org/deathpenalty

Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is a program of Students Against the Death Penalty. Co-organizers include Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Austin Chapter, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texans Against the Death Penalty,  Campus Progress, Witness to Innocence and Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing 

The young nephews of an American death row inmate started Kids Against the Death Penalty and recently traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to attend and speak at the 4th World Congress Against the Death Penalty.

Gavin, Nick and Nathan Been (12, 13 and 15) are just like any American teenagers – teasing their mom Terri about growing taller than her and asking her to drive them around to meet up with their friends.

Except their uncle Jeff Wood is on Texas death row convicted under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone.

Watch an extract from Gavin’s speech at the “Words of Victims” evening during the World Congress:

Kids Against the Death Penalty from ECPM on Vimeo.

On March 4th, the CCA affirmed the March 24th date for Hank Skinner’s execution, or more exactly it states it doesn’t have jurisdiction to overrule the Judge’s order.

Please help Hank get the DNA testing. I have added a list of newspapers and journalists to whom you can copy your letter to the DA, below:

Hank sent a 5-page letter to the Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer with a number of exhibits, which was received by her office on January 27th 2010.

These documents can be downloaded in the “legal documents” section – “DNA Issue” paragraph on the website.

Please take the time to read the letter, the exhibits document all the points and statements made by Hank in his letter.

As you will understand from his letter, Hank is asking the D.A. to put the execution warrant on hold, to grant him a 120-day reprieve and order the DNA testing. It is important to support him in this vital attempt. Of course the purpose is NOT to write to the D.A. and attack her for what she hasn’t done or should have done. What needs to be emphasized is that justice calls for the truth and the untested evidence is crucial to prove his innocence. Her position as D.A. is to ensure that justice is served and not to allow the execution of an innocent man when so many issues remain unresolved just a few weeks from his execution date.

You can send your letters with reference “Hank Skinner – Execution Date March 24, 2010” to:

Ms. Lynn Switzer
District Attorney
Gray County Courthouse
Pampa TX 79065

For more impact, you may consider copying your letter to a local media of your choice and also to enclose a copy of Hank’s letter as well. If you do so, make sure you include the information after your signature; ie: cc. Houston Chronicle (whathever newpaper you choose or the journalist’s name). Here is a non-exhaustive short list of newspapers and/or journalists you can cc your letter to:

The Pampa news
PO Box 2198
Pampa TX 79066
Editor bphillips@thepampanews.com

The Amarillo Globe news
Letters to the Editor
PO Box 2091
Amarillo TX 79166
Fax 1 806 345 3400
Letters@amarillo.com

The Houston Chronicle
Roma Khanna – roma.khanna@chron.com

The Austin American-Statesman
Chuck Lindell – clindell@statesman.com
Steven Kreytak – skreytak@statesman.com

The Dallas Morning News
Emily Ramshaw – eramshaw@dallasnews.com
Editor Michael Grabell – mgrabell@dallasnews.com

The Texas Tribune
Brandi Grissom – bgrissom@texastribune.org

CBS News – 60 minutes
60m@cbsnews.com

The Chicago Tribune
Steve Mills – smmills@tribune.com

The Columbus Dispatch
Jeff Dutton – jdutton@dispatch.com

Here are some points you can raise:

– All of the state’s chief investigators and medical examiner on the case testified in pre-trial and trial that they personally collected the evidence in question that we are seeking to test, that they believe evidence would conclusively show who killed Twila, Scooter and Randy. So why won’t they allow it to be tested?

– Both the State’s star witnesses (Andrea Reed & Howard Mitchell) have testified that they believe Hank to be innocent.

– All three of the previous D.A.s have publicly stated that they believe the evidence needs to be tested.

– Article 2.01 of the TX code of criminal procedure compels the D.A. to test the evidence or, allow the deffense to test it.

– The D.A. has admitted in Ch 64 DNA pleadings that the evidence is in a condition making testing possible, that the chain of custody has been maintained, that the evidence is capable of providing a probative result and idendity is an issue in Hank’s case.

– Texas should not execute a man it does not know for a fact to be guilty. After Andrea Reed’s recantation, according to the state own’s experts, the remaining evidence does nothing to prove guilt at all. The A.G has stated through his spokesman that it would violate the constitution to murder someone who is innocent – that has got to apply equally to someone they do not know for a fact to be guilty.

http://www.hankskinner.org

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