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.

We have a winner in our drawing to win a phone call from Sister Helen Prejean.

Terri Been is the winner. She will soon be receiving a personal phone call from the Nobel Prize nominated internationally-known author and anti-death penalty and human rights advocate Sister Helen Prejean.

Terri wrote on Facebook, “Yeahhhhhhh!!!!! I won the phone call from Sister Helen Prejean! I can’t wait to speak with her!!!! Thanks to Scott Cobb of the Texas Moratorium Network for setting up the contest! What a once in a lifetime opportunity!!!!”

Terri’s brother, Jeff Wood, is on death row in Texas, convicted under the Law of Parties even though he never killed anyone. He was outside of a store sitting in a car while his companion went inside and robbed and murdered the clerk of the store. 

Thank you very much to Sister Helen for supporting Texas Moratorium Network’s efforts against the death penalty in Texas and for agreeing to take time out of her very busy schedule to speak to Terri on the phone!

We held the drawing primarily on the TMN Facebook page.

Justin DuClos of Massachusetts is the winner of the second place prize, a signed copy of the book Mortal Justice by Jeanette Popp and Wanda Evans. The book tells the story of the murder of Jeanette’s daughter Nancy and Jeanette’s long activism against the death penalty. Two men were wrongfully convicted of the murder and spent 12 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. When the real killer was discovered and convicted, Jeanette met with the killer in a jail in Austin Texas and told him that she did not want him to receive the death penalty.

You can learn more about Sister Helen Prejean on her websites.

http://www.sisterhelen.org

http://www.dmwplay.org

http://dmwplay.ning.com

http://www.moratoriumcampaign.org

Kids Against the Death Penalty have been working hard on new videos that they have posted on YouTube. This is the kind of hard work that was the reason they were named the 2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year.

Click here to watch their below video entitled “Remembering the Fallen: A Reflection of the 2009 Texas Executions” on YouTube.

Here is their video on Jeff Wood.

Here is their video on the Law of Parties.

Here is their video on Darlie Routier.

Two big Texas death penalty related stories in 2009 were the charges of misconduct against Judge Sharon Keller and passage through the Texas House of a bill to ban executions of non-killers convicted solely under the Law of Parties. This is part one of a look back at big stories of 2009. Coming up in Part Two of our look back at 2009: protesting 200 executions under Rick Perry, the Todd Willingham case and the largest anti-death penalty march and rally in Texas since 2000.

Sharon Keller – In February 2009, one day after the New York Times wrote an editorial about Keller, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct filed Notice of Formal Proceedings against Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

In 2007 Texas Moratorium Network was one of several groups that filed a judicial complaint against Sharon Keller. (We also created a website called www.sharonkiller.com.) Our complaint was co-signed by almost 1900 people. In 2007, we also talked to several legislators who also subsequently signed on to a complaint or filed their own complaints against Keller: Reps Dutton, Olivo, Coleman, Farrar and Burnam.

Last December (2008), TMN approached Rep Lon Burnam and asked him to file a resolution to impeach Keller. Today, the New York Times wrote an editorial supporting Burnam’s resolution.

Rep Burnam did file his impeachment resolution (Watch video) and the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence took testimony on April 27, 2009 on Burnam’s resolution to impeach Sharon Keller.

No action was taken on the resolution, in part because the trial of Sharon Keller was scheduled for August, so the committee members wanted to let the SCJC process proceed.

Below is a video of TMN’s Hooman Hedayati testifying to the committee.

In August, the trial of Sharon Keller was held in San Antonio. We attended the trial and held a demonstration outside the courthouse on the first day. Our rally appeared in a story on CNN, which was our first of two appearances on CNN in 2009. The second came in October about Todd Willingham.

Judge Berchelmann, the special master who heard the testimony at the trial, has not yet submitted his findings to the State Commisssion on Judicial Conduct. He is expected to do so in 2010.

The Law of Parties Bill

The Texas House passed a bill that would have banned executions of people convicted under the Law of Parties who did not actually kill anyone. Rep Hodge and Rep Dutton both filed Law of Parties bills in response to the cases of Kenneth Foster, Jeff Wood and other people who have been sentenced to death despite not having killed anyone. Prior to the start of the session, we had lobbied legislators looking for a sponsor for the Law of Parties bill, so we were happy when both Rep Dutton and Rep Hodge filed bills.

We held a press conference with Rep Dutton and Kenneth Foster’s and Jeff Wood’s family to explain the law of parties bill. Watch video of press conference TV coverage.

We held a lobby day in March during which we met with legislators about the Law of Parties bill. It was the largest lobby day against the death penalty ever held in Texas. We lobbied 90 legislative offices. People came from all over Texas to participate, including the father and grandfather of Kenneth Foster, and family members of Jeff Wood, Randy Halprin and several other families of people convicted under the Law of Parties. In addition to building support for the law of parties bill on the lobby day, we found additional legislative sponsors for a bill to abolish the death penalty and the moratorium bill.

We followed up in April with a second mini-lobby day after the law of parties bill had passed the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. We lobbied for passage by the full House. Watch Rep Hodge urging people to call their legislators about her bill.

On May 2, there was a second rally for the law of parties bill. Watch video here.

On May 15, the bill passed the full Texas House and was renamed the “Kenneth Foster, Jr Act”. We live blogged and issued a press release. After passing the House, the bill died in the senate after Governor Rick Perry threatened to veto it.

The bill died in part because of false information given out by prosecutors such as Williamson County Attorney John Bradley, who said in the Austin American-Statesman: “To exempt all defendants in capital cases because they didn’t pull the trigger “is irrational. Under that reasoning, Hitler, Osama bin Laden and Charles Manson could never get the death penalty. You have to look at the facts of each case … whether their participation merits holding them culpable”.

HB 2267 said

(b) A defendant who is found guilty in a capital felony case
only as a party under Section 7.02(b), Penal Code, may not be
sentenced to death, and the state may not seek the death penalty in
any case in which the defendant’s liability is based solely on that
section.

People like Hitler, Manson and Osama bin Laden would not have been prosecuted under Section 7.02(b), but prosecutors used that scare tactic to help kill the bill.

Coming up in Part Two of our look back at 2009: protesting 200 executions under Rick Perry, the Todd Willingham case and the largest anti-death penalty march and rally in Texas since 2000.

As we close the door on the first decade of the 21st century, it’s a good time to look back at ten years of marching against the death penalty in Texas. When the death penalty is abolished in Texas, a large reason will be because of the organizing and organizing skills learned and applied by building the multi-group, diverse coalition that works each year to organize the annual march and that also works together the rest of the year on various events and campaigns around individual cases (like Kenneth Foster, Jeff Wood, Frances Newton and others) and issues including a moratorium, the Law of Parties, innocence, abolition and more. Each October since the march was first held in 2000, people from all walks of life and all parts of Texas, the U.S. and other countries have taken a day out of their year and gathered in Austin to raise their voices together and loudly express their united opposition to the death penalty. The annual march is a coming together of activists, family members of those on death row, community leaders, exonerated prisoners and all those calling for abolition.

The annual march is organized by several Texas anti-death penalty organizations, including the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Moratorium Network, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center and Kids Against the Death Penalty.

The first march was called the “March on the Mansion” and was held on October 15, 2000. One of the original ideas for the march came in emails sent by Scott Cobb when he was studying abroad in Germany in the summer of 2000. He had read online about several members of the Austin chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty who had been arrested at the Governor’s Mansion protesting the upcoming execution of Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham). Scott emailed some of the CEDP members mentioned in the news article who had been arrested as well as others suggesting a march before the presidential election that November and a group of people back in Austin started organizing for the first march, which was attended by about 750 people. A picture of the first march appeared in the New York Times.
The second and third marches were called “March for a Moratorium” and were held on October 27, 2001 and October 12, 2002. In 2003, the march name changed to “March to Stop Executions”. Clarence Brandley, who had been exonerated and released from death row in 1990 after spending nine years there, spoke at the 2003 march, saying “I was always wishing and hoping that someone would just look at the evidence and the facts, because the evidence was clear that I did not commit the crime.” The “5th Annual March to Stop Executions” was on October 30, 2004. The “6th Annual March to Stop Executions” was held October 29, 2005 in conjunction with the 2005 National Conference of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which came to Austin at the suggestion of the march organizers, who wrote an application to NCADP for them to hold the conference in Austin and organized a successful grassroots campaign to convince NCADP to come to Austin that year.
The “7th Annual March to Stop Executions”, which was sponsored by a record number of 50 organizations, was held October 28, 2006 and included family members of Carlos De Luna and Cameron Todd Willingham, who both had been the subject of separate investigations by The Chicago Tribune that concluded they were probably innocent people executed by Texas. Standing outside the gates of the Texas Governor’s Mansion with hundreds of supporters, the families of Willingham and De Luna delivered separate letters to Governor Perry asking him to stop executions and investigate the cases of Willingham and De Luna to determine if they were wrongfully executed. After DPS troopers refused to take the letters, Mary Arredondo, sister of Carlos De Luna, and Eugenia Willingham, stepmother of Todd, dropped them through the gate of the governor’s mansion and left them lying on the walkway leading to the main door.
The “8th Annual March to Stop Executions” was held in Houston on October 27. 2007. The “9th Annual March to Stop Executions” was October 25, 2008 in Houston. For the Houston marches, the Houston-based Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement were the main organizers. They held the Houston marches in one of Houston’s inner-city neighborhoods and ended the marches at the S.H.A.P.E community center.
The 2009 march was the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty and was the biggest march since 2000 and also received probably the most media coverage since 2000, including articles in every major newspaper in Texas and a large photograph on the front page of the Dallas Morning News.
Thank you to everyone who has ever attended, supported or helped organize the annual march in Texas. Because of your passion and commitment to building a more just society, the death penalty will one day be abolished in Texas.
If you read this post on Facebook and the photos below are not visible, click here to see them.
Photos from the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty – October 24, 2009 Photo Credit Jennifer Ross.
Below are photos from the 1st March on the Mansion in 2000.
Below are photos from the 2nd March in 2001
Below are photos from the 3rd March in 2002
Below are photos from the 4th March in 2003
Below are photos from the 5th March in 2004
Below are photos from the 6th March in 2005
Below are photos from the 7th March in 2006
Below are photos from the 8th March in 2007
Below are photos from the 9th March in 2008

If you can’t seen the videos below, click here to watch them on the march website.

10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in Austin (2009)


Promotional Video for 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty (2009)

Please spread this to your friends on your social networks. If you have a blog or website you can embed it on your sites.

9th Annual March in Houston (2008)

8th Annual March in Houston (2007) Videos by StopExecutionsNow!

More 8th Annual March (2007) videos by CapnJackSorrow

6th Annual March in Austin (2005)
“A Voice from Death Row” produced by Austin filmmaker Nathan Christ

The Houston Chronicle reports that as death sentences have decline, life without parole sentences have risen. People sentenced to life without parole are sentenced to die in prison, so they constitute a new kind of condemned person. The Texas Life Without Parole bill was passed in 2005. The author of the bill wanted to have three options in capital cases, 1) death, 2) life without parole, and 3) life with the possibility of parole after 40 years; however conservatives and Republicans refused to support the bill unless the possibility of parole after 40 years was removed from the bill. That left only two options, death and life without parole.

The article also points out that Bexar (San Antonio) and Tarrant County (Fort Worth) now send more people to death row than Harris County.



Exceprts: 

Bexar and Tarrant each sent eight newly convicted killers to death row in the four years since the law took effect, state prison data show. In the same period, larger Harris and Dallas counties sent six apiece, based on the Chronicle’s analysis of Texas Department of Criminal Justice death row arrivals.

and

No one disputes Texas’ life-without-parole law has had another, more measurable impact.

Welcome to ‘life row’

Already, the 4-year-old law has created a kind of “life row” — a perpetual population of convicted killers and accomplices who can never win reductions in their sentence regardless of behavior, youth , mental deficiency or other factors. This group appears to be growing faster than death row itself. Texas’ death row population stands at 332, TDCJ data show. As of Nov. 30, a total of 226 inmates were serving life without parole.

Read the full article here.

JURIES DECIDED THESE NINE DESERVE TO DIE

Nine people were sentenced to death in Texas in 2009:
Jerry Martin: Walker County (tried in Leon County). Killed a 59-year-old prison guard.
Fabian Hernandez: El Paso County. Killed ex-wife and her friend.
Demontrell Miller: Smith County. Fatally beat his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son.
Paul Devoe: Travis County. Murdered two women as part of a six-person, two-state homicidal rampage.
James Broadnax: Dallas County. Shot and killed two men.
Armando Leza: Bexar County. Robbed and killed a disabled woman.
Christian Olsen: Brazos County. Broke into a home and murdered a woman with a metal bar.
Erick Davila: Tarrant County. Opened fire at a birthday party, killing a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother.
Raul Cortez: Collin County. Killed a family of four in a home invasion.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Death Penalty Information Center, news reports and interviews.

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