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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.

Here is a Thanksgiving story to make your day.

Kenneth Boyd Jr of Center Texas learned before Thanksgiving that he finally has something to be thankful for after 15 years in prison for three murders he did not commit. He will likely be released Monday. He was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him or any of his co-defendants to the murders.

In June, Shelby County 273rd District Court Judge Charles Mitchell found that former Shelby County District Attorney Karren Price had suppressed evidence. Boyd’s mother suffered a heart attack Thursday, said Boyd’s lawyer Gena Bunn. His mother is in stable condition in a Tyler hospital.

From the CCA ruling: “in light of the newly discovered and newly available evidence presented by Applicant and its probable impact on the State’s case as a whole, the trial court concludes that Applicant has proven by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have voted to convict him.”

More from the News-Journal in Longview Texas:

After more than 15 years behind bars, an East Texas man is set to be released from prison following the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that he was wrongfully convicted of a triple homicide in Shelby County.
Gena Bunn, an attorney with the Holmes and Moore law firm of Longview, represented Kenneth Boyd Jr., of Center in his appeal, overturning a life sentence that was handed to him in 1999. He spent two years before then, after being charged in the 1997 homicides.

“He was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him or any of his co-defendants to the murders,” Bunn said.

Shelby County District Attorney Ken Florence agreed to allow Boyd out of jail on a personal recognizance bond. He was expected to be released late Monday afternoon.

Florence reopened the investigation after Bunn filed the appeal in April. Bunn said it is possible the case against Boyd could be dropped completely.

Boyd was convicted in 1999 of the April 1997, murders of Keith Moore, 25, Christy Calhoun, 13, and Brian Keith Brooks, 26.

Bunn said none of the weapons linked to Boyd matched evidence found at the scene; none of the fingerprints recovered at the crime scene matched Boyd; a search of his car did not reveal any evidence tying him to the crime; there was no eyewitness testimony identifying him as the shooter; and Boyd passed a polygraph exam conducted after he became a suspect in the case.

The state’s case in 1999 consisted “essentially of a pair of jailhouse snitches who testified that Boyd confessed to them,” Bunn said. Both of those people have since recanted their testimony, she said. A few other witnesses — “many, if not all of whom, were high on crack cocaine or other substances” — also testified they saw Boyd about two and a half miles from the crime scene on the night of the murders, she added.

Bunn was appointed to the case two years ago.

“Seeing it and getting more and more involved in the case, it was striking and troubling to me what a grave injustice this was,” Bunn said.

In June, Shelby County 273rd District Court Judge Charles Mitchell found that former Shelby County District Attorney Karren Price had suppressed evidence.

She said other suppressed evidence included letters sent from witnesses to Price contradicting their trial testimony, offense reports indicating a different person was responsible for the murders, and information that another witness had failed a polygraph exam regarding his involvement in the murders and was then offered a deal with the state for his testimony against Boyd.

“He also found that Price had knowingly presented false testimony against Boyd,” she said.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Boyd should be released back to Shelby County.

“The opinion that came out last week gave me a better view of the system,” Bunn said. “Even though justice was delayed, he is getting released now. Better late than never.”

Boyd’s mother suffered a heart attack Thursday, Bunn said. She is in stable condition in a Tyler hospital.

“I worked very hard on this case for the last couple of years but that woman has really stayed on it throughout,” Bunn said. “She insisted that Kenny get a lawyer to handle the appeal, and she made sure he did get a lawyer. If it hadn’t been for her, these injustices still might not have come to light.”
Bunn said when Boyd, who is now in his late 30s, heard the news, he was almost speechless.

“He said, ‘I just don’t know what to say,’” Bunn said.
Florence was cooperative and expedited the release process, Bunn said.

“He has shown a lot of class in the way he handled the case until now,” she said.

Bunn said she hopes the community will be supportive and help Boyd transition smoothly from prison back into society.

“I think for somebody who’s been in prison for 15 years for a crime that I believe he did not commit, then to come out into free world, he’s going to have a lot of challenges,” Bunn said. “I hope the community can help him.”

Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg already sent three people to death row in 2009, 2010 and 2011, so it is not surprising that today she announced she is seeking another death sentence. One day Travis County should elect a progressive district attorney who reflects the values of the community.

In 2011 only six counties sent anyone to death row in Texas, but Travis County was one of those. Remember when the members of the audience at one of the presidential debates cheered and clapped when Rick Perry was asked about all the executions that Texas conducts? If Texas counties send fewer people to death row, then we can begin to silence those people who would clap and cheer for the death penalty.

Travis County should be a death penalty free zone in Texas. There is no law that says a DA has to seek the death penalty. Life without parole is the other option in Texas in capital cases.

Rosemary Lehmberg’s decision will be expensive for Travis County taxpayers. Seeking a death sentence is much more expensive, maybe three times as expensive, as seeking life without parole.

From the Austin American-Statesman:

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said this morning that she has decided to seek the death penalty against Brandon Montgomery Daniel, who police say fatally shot Austin police officer Jaime Padron earlier this year.

“I think it is the right thing to do,” Lehmberg told the American-Statesman.
She declined to comment further.

The Texas Legislature does not start its 2013 session until January, but early filing of bills has begun. Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston has filed HB 164, a bill to abolish the death penalty in Texas.

Rep Dutton first filed a bill to abolish the death penalty in 2003, which was the first abolition bill filed in the Texas Legislature in a long time up to that year. When no one else was willing to file a bill to abolish the death penalty, Rep Dutton stepped up in 2003 and filed an abolition bill. Everyone opposed to the death penalty should thank Rep Dutton for his leading role in the effort in the Texas Legislature to end the death penalty.

It was an exciting day back in 2003 when Dutton’s abolition bill was heard in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. That was the first time an abolition bill was heard in a Texas legislative Committee in the modern era, and maybe ever.

Rep Harold Dutton is pictured speaking at one of our Day of Innocence Lobby Days to Repeal the Death Penalty.

Below Rep Dutton speaks at the 2011 Day of Innocence. Behind him are six death row exonerees who spent years on death row for crimes they did not commit.


 

 

The death sentence given this week to Terence Andrus makes him the 9th person sentenced to death in Texas in 2012. The year is not over yet, but if no one else is sentenced to death, the number this year will be one more than in 2011. New death sentences have declined from their high in the late 90s. In 1999, there were 48 people sentenced to death.

88.8 percent of the nine new death sentences handed out in 2012 in Texas have been given to people of color. Of the nine people sentenced to death so far in Texas in 2012, seven are African-American, one is Hispanic and one white. One of the eight persons is a woman.

Jason Baldwin, of the West Memphis 3, will be in Houston TONIGHT Nov 16, screening a film about his case and visiting with the audience afterwards. Jason, along with Damien Echols and Jesse Miskelly were convicted for the murders of three boys and spent 18 years and 17 days in prison (Echols on death row) for a crime they did not commit. They were freed last year and you can meet Jason tonight at 6:30, 1900 Kane St. in the 6th ward. Tickets $15 at www.gracelaw.org or at the door. — at Dow School.

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