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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.

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.




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/“.

 Below is a report by Gloria Rubac on the 2013 Statewide Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty, which was held on March 13.

                             State Rep Harold Dutton opens our press conference for the 2013 Lobby Day with TMN’s Scott Cobb

Death Penalty abolitionists from around Texas gathered Wednesday at the Texas Capitol for their bi-annual Texas Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty and Day of Innocence. Activists and death row families visited every legislator on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and the Senate Criminal Justice Committee as well as their own senators and representatives.

The anachronistic and very unfair Law of Parties bills were very well received by most and there could be a hearing next Tuesday on those bills. They would change Texas law so that a person could not be executed if arrested under the Law of Parties if they were not the shooter. Right now in Texas dozens of people sit on death row who killed NO ONE!

Particularly powerful presentations were provided by Sylvia Garza from the Rio grand Valley. Her son Robert was not even at the crime scene and killed no one. Yet Bobby has been on death row for ten years and his appeal was turned down by the US Supreme Court in February. He could receive an execution date at any moment.

Legislators also paid rapt attention to information by Clarence Brandley who spent ten years on death row before he was finally freed. He has never received the compensation he deserves for his years of terror in Huntsville, coming within days of execution two times.

The press conference was opened with a moving statement by State Representative Harold Dutton of Houston who said he was ridiculed when he first introduced his bill to abolish the death penalty over a decade ago. “My father told me to always stand up for what was right, so when I was asked Are you crazy? for proposing Texas end executions, it didn’t bother me because I was doing what is right.”

Participating organizations included Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Kids Against the Death Penalty.
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