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.

To protest the execution of John Balentine on August 22, call Texas Governor Rick Perry at 512 463 2000.

You can also call any member of the Texas House of Representatives and urge them to support a moratorium on execution in the next legislative session that begins in January 2013.

From the AP:

A former auto mechanic who shot and killed three of his former housemates while they were sleeping 14 years ago appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to delay his execution for a third time.
John Balentine, 43, was scheduled to die by injection Wednesday evening.

Balentine, who had a long criminal record in his native Arkansas before he killed the three Texas teens in January 1998, avoided lethal injection in September 2009 when a federal appeals court gave him a reprieve a day before his scheduled trip to the Texas death chamber. Then in June 2011, he was within an hour of execution when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped it.

Balentine’s attorney is seeking to stop his execution again.

“I thought it was done the last time,” Randall Sims, the district attorney in Amarillo, said. “The sad part of every delay is it’s not closure for the families of the victims.”

Balentine’s lawyer, Lydia Brandt, argued he had deficient legal help at his 1999 trial, that his legal assistance during early appeals also was faulty and that the deficiencies have led to issues that should be reviewed in the courts but can’t be addressed now because they weren’t properly brought up earlier.

“Mr. Balentine’s case is illustrative of why capitally sentenced prisoners in Texas have no meaningful opportunity to raise (these) claims,” Brandt told the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Katherine Hayes, an assistant Texas attorney general, disagreed, saying the latest appeals were “only another attempt to delay … proceedings and further postpone his impending execution.”

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit refused Balentine’s appeal, and Brandt’s request for a rehearing before the full appeals court was rejected 11-4 by the court Tuesday. Brandt then took the case to the Supreme Court.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, voting 7-0, rejected a clemency petition for Balentine.

His guilt was not an issue in the appeals.

The 250th execution carried out under Texas Governor Rick Perry is scheduled to take place on Halloween, October 31, 2012. Donnie Lee Roberts Jr is scheduled to lie down on the gurney and become the 250th person executed since Rick Perry became governor in 2000. No other  governor in U.S. history has seen more executions carried out while in office than Rick Perry. Todd Willingham, an innocent person, was wrongfully executed in 2004 after Perry refused to stop the execution to allow new scientific evidence to be fully investigated that a fire that killed Willingham’s three daughters was not an arson fire.

Texas Moratorium Network is calling on people in cities across Texas and elsewhere to organize protests on the date of the 250th execution to call attention to Rick Perry’s appalling record on the death penalty. If there are any stays of execution for the people currently scheduled for execution before the 250th, then the date of the 250th execution will change.

We also urge everyone to attend the 13th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in Austin at the Texas Capitol on November 3, 2012.

In 2009, TMN spearheaded protests in Texas as well as in Canada, France, Germany and Belgium of the 200th execution under Perry.

Dr. Jerry Williams, a Stephen F. Austin sociology professor was a speaker at the Walls Unit protest in 2009.  His sister was brutally murdered and her killer only spent 15 years in prison. He explained at the protest on the day of the 200th execution why he doesn’t believe in execution. “I hated him. I wanted to see him die. I wanted to see him suffer in prison. And I thought justice would be done only in the way, but what I realized over time was that my hate really diminished me. It damaged me and did nothing for him”.

If you plan to hold a protest of the 250th execution under Rick Perry, contact us at admin@texasmoratorium.org and let us know about it, so we can help spread the word for people to attend your protest.

Next year, Texas could reach 500 executions in the modern era after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. Texas carried out its first execution after the reintroduction of capital punishment in 1982. We plan to encourage and help organize worldwide protests when Texas reaches 500 executions. Right now, there have been 484 executions in Texas since 1982.

Today’s immoral execution of Marvin Wilson took place because of the unscientific rules adopted by the all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is led by Sharon Keller. Those rules are used to determine who is ineligible for execution because of mental retardation or other intellectual disability. Marvin Wilson had an IQ of 61, but he was found to be eligible for execution according to the CCA rules.

If you want to help prevent people with mental retardation from being executed, donate to Keith Hampton’s campaign or volunteer for him, so that Texas can have one person on the CCA who appreciates science. Send a message that you are angry that Texas executed a person with mental retardation by donating to Keith Hampton’s campaign.

If elected, Keith Hampton will be the only judge who has handled death penalty cases in all stages of litigation – from accusation, trial, appeal, and all post-conviction proceedings, including appearing before the Supreme Court of the United States.

The state of Texas has executed Marvin Wilson, a man who shouldn’t have been eligible for the death penalty because of his low IQ. If you are angry that Texas has executed a person with an IQ of 61, then plan to come to the 13th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol on November 3, 2012 at 2 PM.

Here is the appeal submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Marvin Wilson, a man with an intellectual disability who is scheduled for execution in Texas on Tuesday August 7 despite having an IQ of 61. The New York Times says: “The court must stop this cruel and unconstitutional execution of a mentally retarded man.”

To protest this execution, call Texas Governor Rick Perry at 512 463 2000.

You can also call any member of the Texas House of Representatives and urge them to support a moratorium on execution in the next legislative session that begins in January 2013.

Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle has more:

At 54, Marvin Wilson can’t use a telephone book. He reads and writes on a first- or second-grade level. Those who know the Southeast Texas man say he can’t match socks, he doesn’t understand what a bank account is for, he’s been known to fasten his belt to the point of nearly cutting off his circulation. The day his son was born, one sister recalled, he reverted to the familiar habit of sucking his thumb.

His IQ, according to the most valid indicator of human intelligence, is 61, below the first percentile. This was one of many clinical tests and factors that led a neuropsychologist with decades of experience to diagnose Wilson with “mild mental retardation.”

Nevertheless, at 6 p.m. Tuesday night, the state of Texas, in your name and mine, is scheduled to kill Marvin Wilson by lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court – citing the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment – banned the execution of the mentally retarded a decade ago.

But like other federal mandates, Texas has found a way around this one, too.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2002 decision in a case called Atkins, exempted all mentally ill offenders from execution, in part because those who struggle with impulse control, for example, are less culpable for their crimes. But also because mentally ill offenders may be especially vulnerable to wrongful convictions since they’re less able to help attorneys build strong defenses.

Wilson is a textbook example. According to his attorneys’ brief, Wilson was fingered as the lead shooter by a more sophisticated accomplice, and evidence of his “confession” in the murder of police informant Jerry Williams came from the accomplice’s wife.

In Atkins, the high court held that the states, many of which had begun to ban executions of the mentally retarded on their own, had reached a national consensus that the practice was immoral.

Steinbeck’s Lennie

Of course, certain conservative factions in Texas, as usual, fell somewhere outside those evolving standards of decency. The Supreme Court left it up to the states to design procedures to implement the ban, but the state with the most active death chamber took that as an invitation to redefine the ban itself.

In a 2004 opinion, Texas’ highest court announced that, where executions were concerned, it didn’t have to define “mental retardation” the same way as other states. It didn’t even have to define it the same way it does for impaired Texas school children.

No, the fine jurists of Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals made up a new definition of “mentally retarded” especially for defendants in capital crimes. It wasn’t based on science or the generally accepted definition of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. It was based on myths, stereotypes and even a fictional character: Lennie in Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

Forget the national consensus. The Texas court was concerned only with the Texas consensus, “the level and degree of mental retardation” that Texans would agree should be exempted from the death penalty.

“Most Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck’s Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt,” the court said. But someone else who didn’t meet that stereotypical description and merely had a clinical diagnosis to prove his mental retardation? Well, that’s a different story.

The court then set about redefining what it means to be mentally retarded in a capital case. The “Briseno factors” are a list of questions fact-finders should ask in criminal cases to determine whether a defendant is mentally retarded enough to be spared. The goal, of course, is to spare as few as possible.

The factors include such subjective and unscientific questions as whether a defendant can plan and lie. (My toddler is capable of both when there’s a cookie within reach.) Another question asks whether family and friends in the defendant’s life “think he was mentally retarded.” Never mind that mental retardation can be genetic and family members themselves may be impaired. The seventh, and most problematic factor invites the fact-finder to look at how the crime was perpetrated, which introduces emotion into a process that should be solely based on reason.

Wilson’s last hope

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has found the lower court’s interpretation reasonable. The Texas Legislature has failed to address the issue after Gov. Rick Perry vetoed an earlier ban on such executions passed by lawmakers.

Wilson’s last hope is for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in today and grant a stay of execution so that the high court can consider his case along with another similar Texas case pending before it.

Once again we need the nation’s highest court to save us from ourselves. To remind us of our humanity. To impose on us the cruel confines of decency.

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