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.

Next Tuesday, April 16, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will hear testimony on HB 2458 that would prohibit seeking or imposing the death penalty on the basis of a person’s race.

Next Tuesday, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will also hear testimony on HB 189 by Rep Dutton that would affect what is allowable testimony in death penalty cases.


(b) Testimony of an informant or of an alleged accomplice of
the defendant is not admissible if the testimony is given in
exchange for a grant or promise by the attorney representing the
state or by another of immunity from prosecution, reduction of
sentence, or any other form of leniency or special treatment.
Article 38.14 does not apply to accomplice testimony described by
this subsection.

(c) A statement against interest made by the defendant to a
person who at the time of the alleged statement was in custody with
or imprisoned or confined with the defendant is admissible only if
the statement is corroborated by an electronic recording.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

 

COMMITTEE:   Criminal Jurisprudence

TIME & DATE: 10:30 AM or upon final adjourn./recess
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

PLACE:       E2.016
CHAIR:       Rep. Abel Herrero

duttonWe had a successful hearing today on HB 319, the bill to prohibit the death penalty under the law of parties. One of the people testifying was Terri Been, the sister of Jeff Wood, who is on Texas death row sentenced to death under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone. Terri took the day off from work today and spent all day waiting to testify. She did a great job testifying. Thank you Terri! You can watch a video of the testimony on the Texas House site on Criminal Jurisprudence Committee April 9, 2013. The testimony on HB 319 starts around hour 5:58 and ends about 25 minutes later.

There were many, many names read of people who signed in in support of HB 319, it sounded like more people signed in in favor of this bill than many or all of the other bills heard today in this committee.

There was a lot of interest from the committee members judging from the questions they had. They seemed to have understood better this time than in previous years the distinction in the proposal having to do with the different sections of the current law of parties statute. A lot of the reason the committee members seemed to be better informed on the proposal was because of the work everyone did on the Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty back in March, when many people went to the offices of the committee members and talked to them about the Law of Parties.

Now, we have to get everyone to contact the committee members and urge them to vote the bill out of committee.

Contact the members of the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and urge them to vote in favor of HB 319.

Position Member
Chair: Rep. Abel Herrero  email (512) 463-0462
Vice Chair: Rep. Stefani Carter email  (512) 463-0454
Members: Rep. Lon Burnam   email   (512) 463-0740
Rep. Terry Canales   email    (512) 463-0426
Rep. Bryan Hughes    email    (512) 463-0271
Rep. Jeff Leach      email    (512) 463-0544
Rep. Joe Moody     email     (512) 463-0728
Rep. Matt Schaefer   email   (512) 463-0584
Rep. Steve Toth     email     (512) 463-0797

 

HB 319, the law of parties bill by Rep Harold Dutton that we lobbied for back in March on the 2013 Statewide Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty, is on the agenda of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee for next Tuesday, April 9. This bill would prohibit executions of people convicted under the Law of Parties even though they themselves did not kill anyone although a co-defendant did kill someone. Jeff Wood and Kenneth Foster Jr are examples of Law of Parties cases. Wood is still on Texas death row while Foster had his sentence commuted to life in 2007 shortly before his scheduled execution. Of the 1,325 people executed in the U.S. in the modern era, 10 people have been executed under the law of parties or as it is known in some states the felony murder rule, 5 of those people have been executed in Texas. Please plan to come to the hearing and sign the form indicated your support for HB 319. 

 

Kenneth Foster Sr and Lawrence Foster.

Kenneth Foster Sr and Lawrence Foster.

 

HB 319 by Dutton
Relating to the extent of a defendant’s criminal responsibility for the conduct of a coconspirator in certain felony cases.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

 

COMMITTEE:   Criminal Jurisprudence

TIME & DATE: 10:30 AM or upon final adjourn./recess
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

PLACE:       E2.016
CHAIR:       Rep. Abel Herrero

Lon BurnamBurnam declares, ‘I’m a 21st-century abolitionist and I’m proud of it’

Posted Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013

By Dave Montgomery, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

AUSTIN — With Texas moving closer to its 500th execution, Rep. Lon Burnam on Wednesday described himself as a “21st-century abolitionist” and denounced the death penalty as “a gross example of institutionalized racism.”

The Fort Worth Democrat joined other death penalty opponents in a “Day of Innocence” to promote legislation to repeal capital punishment. They acknowledged that they are overwhelmingly outnumbered in a state that leads the nation in executions but nevertheless vowed to keep on fighting.

“We are right and the people who are on the other side are wrong,” Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, told about a dozen death penalty opponents in a legislative committee room. “Don’t be discouraged. … Today we have a new beginning.”

Dutton filed his first anti-death penalty bill 10 years ago to stop what he called the “madness” of executions. “Every time I read in the paper that they executed somebody, I as a legislator take full responsibility,” he said. “Everybody in the Legislature had a part in it because we didn’t stop it.”

Burnam, the senior member of Tarrant County’s 11-member House delegation, drew applause as he told fellow death penalty opponents: “I’m a 21st-century abolitionist and I’m proud of it.”

“There is no more gross example of institutionalized racism in this state today than in the death penalty,” Burnam asserted, saying that prisoners put to death in Texas are overwhelmingly poor and “people of color.”

Of the 287 inmates now on Death Row, according to the Texas Department of Corrections, 40 percent are black and 30 percent are Hispanic.

Texas has executed more than 490 inmates since 1976 and is nearing its 500th execution of a prisoner. Depending on appeals, that could come May 7 with the scheduled execution of Carroll Parr, convicted of killing a man in a robbery outside a convenience store in McLennan County in 2003.

“We have executed in Texas almost 500 people,” said Burnam, describing the upcoming threshold as “one of shame.”

Clarence Brandley, a former Death Row inmate who was wrongly convicted in the rape and murder of a 16-year-old student in Conroe, also participated in the event.

In addition to seeking a ban on capital punishment, Texas death penalty opponents are seeking to change Texas’ “law of parties” doctrine under which people can be sentenced to death for assisting in a capital crime even though they didn’t commit the murder.

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram’s Austin

bureau chief.

Message posted by State Rep Lon Burnam on his Facebook page after the press conference on the 2013 Statewide Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty March 13.:

“I spoke today about abolishing the death penalty and the bill I have joint-authored with Rep. Harold Dutton to do so. To my right is Clarence Brandley, one of the dozen men (mostly black) who were declared innocent after being fully convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Texas. It is time for this injustice to end. Find out what you can do at the Texas Moratorium Network website: http://www.texasmoratorium.org/“.

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