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.

On Wednesday, July 18, Texas is scheduled to execute Yokamon Hearn. If the execution is carried out, he will be the first person executed with the newly adopted single drug method. Texas had to change from a three drug method to a single drug method because of pressure applied by death penalty opponents to companies who manufacture the drugs and to governments in countries where the drug companies are located.

If Hearn is executed, he will be the 483rd person executed in Texas since executions resumed in 1982 after an 18 year moratorium. He will become the 244th person executed under Governor Rick Perry.

Call Rick Perry’s office at 512 463 2000 to register your opposition to this execution.

 

From The Atlantic:

Next Wednesday, July 18, reckons to be another banner day in the history of capital punishment in America. Sometime between 6 p.m. and midnight, the state of Texas is scheduled to execute a convicted murderer named Yokamon Hearn, a man who has, since early childhood, shown clear and consistent evidence of brain damage.

and

There is nothing ambiguous about the crime. It was horrific on every level. Yokamon Hearn was convicted of murdering Joseph Franklin Meziere on March 25, 1998, as part of a carjacking. Hearn and one of his co-defendants, reads a recent defense brief, “shot Mr. Meziere in the head approximately ten times, with the evidence showing that Hearn likely fired first and fired six shots.” In 2004, when Hearn faced another execution date, news reports indicated that Hearn had bragged about the crime. “This innocent victim was shot almost for sport,” noted one former local prosecutor.

So the trial was going to be a slam-dunk and it was. But it was during the penalty phase of the trial, after Hearn had been convicted of capital murder, where today’s conflict began. Here is how Hearn’s current attorneys put it, the essence of their claim:

Yokamon’s jury learned about violence, more violence, a history of burglaries, and, in sharp contrast, exceedingly superficial and inaccurate mitigation during his sentencing proceedings. Yokamon’s lawyers were the reason the jury learned almost nothing about his life. They failed to conduct a minimally adequate investigation into Yokamon’s life history when, had they done so, they would have uncovered a wealth of compelling mitigating evidence, including:

1) evidence that Yokamon’s parents were severely impaired throughout his life; 2) that he was the victim of neglect at the hands of his parents; 3) that relatives who were portrayed at trial as unflinchingly committed and capable of caring for Yokamon were not so; 4) that he had a history of mental health problems, including suicidal ideations, as a young child and that his emotional problems stemmed from his parents’ inability to parent him; 5) that he was exposed to risk factors commonly associated with brain damage; 6) that Yokamon, in fact, suffered from brain damage; and 7) that he exhibited severe impairments in day-to-day functioning consistent with brain dysfunction. [Numbers added for reference]
The failure of Yokamon’s [original] lawyers to investigate his life constituted grossly deficient performance. Absent those failures, there is a strong likelihood that one or more jurors would have concluded that Yokamon did not deserve the death penalty.

But then it got worse for Hearn because his post-trial lawyer, the one who filed his vital habeas appeal, also did not conduct a detailed investigation into Hearn’s life. So what Hearn’s attorneys are arguing today is a sort of funky capital case calculus equation: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Squared. Until March of this year, until that Martinez case that came down from the Supreme Court, such a formula (what’s formally called “Successive” or “Second” Petitions) would have given Hearn virtually no chance for relief.

In Martinez, in March, the Supreme Court declared by a 7-2 vote that defendants were entitled to have federal courts review their “ineffective assistance of counsel” claims even if those claims were otherwise procedurally barred, if the reason the claims were barred was the ineffectiveness of the lawyers litigating the first round of post-conviction habeas review. Prisoners had a right to effective counsel beyond trial and direct appeal; in other words, a scenario that seems to fit the Hearn case on point. So, back in Texas, emboldened by the Martinez opinion, Hearn’s attorneys filed a new request to have a court look at the “mitigating” evidence they had uncovered about their client’s life history, including his long history of mental impairment.

But when Hearn’s lawyers sought relief from a federal judge they were immediately shut down. U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater ruled last week that Hearn was not entitled to any further relief. Why? Because the 5th Circuit already had ruled, in a case styled Ibarra v. Thaler, that Texas didn’t have to follow the new rule outlined in Martinez. Judge Fitzwater felt duty bound to respect the 5th Circuit’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s precedent. Poof! Just like that, and not for the first time, the most stridently conservative federal appeals court in the nation had just defied the justices.

What the 5th Circuit did, in Ibarra v. Thaler, was to interpret Martinez so narrowly as to make its holding inapplicable in virtually any other case. Even though the justices in Washington had created an exception to “protect prisoners with a potentially legitimate claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel,” the 5th Circuit said that Texas’ appellate procedures vitiated the need for such an exception. Take a few minutes to try to read the Ibarra decision. Look at how hard the 5th Circuit’s majority had to twist to avoid the Supreme Court’s precedent — and to avoid giving Hearn the relief to which he is entitled.

From the Austin American-Statesman and the AP:

DALLAS — Texas will use one drug to carry out executions instead of its usual three-drug method because it has run out of one of the drugs, prison officials said Tuesday.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will use just pentobarbital, a sedative that is typically the first of three drugs administered. The agency’s stock of the second drug, pancuronium bromide, expired, and it was unable to obtain more, spokesman Jason Clark said.

Clark said other states also now use one drug and that courts have upheld the procedure.

Scott Cobb with the Texas Moratorium Network, an anti-death penalty group, predicted the change will be met with further lawsuits from inmates facing execution under the new one-drug protocol.

“There’s always a concern when you institute a new procedure to execute someone because the people who administer it aren’t trained to use it and don’t know what the effects are,” Cobb said. “On a deeper level, even if they start using this one-drug procedure, it’s not going to be the end of their problems,” he said, noting the state supply of pentobarbital is purchased from a Denmark company that protests its use in capital punishment.

“The reasons they (are) having supply problems is, manufacturers don’t want their drugs used for executions,” Cobb said. “So it’s only a matter of time before the new drug supply is diminished.”

Texas is the nation’s most active death penalty state. It has executed 482 people since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1982. Five people have been executed this year. Texas’ next execution is set for July 18.

“Implementing the change in protocol at this time will ensure that the agency is able to fulfill its statutory responsibility for all executions currently scheduled,” Clark said in the statement.

Several states have had difficulty obtaining drugs to carry out executions. Texas prison officials said in May that the state had enough pentobarbital for 23 executions. No executions have taken place since then.

Pentobarbital is the first lethal drug used during each execution in Huntsville, according to Texas death penalty procedures.

Last year, one of the drugs Texas had used in the process became unavailable when its European supplier bowed to pressure from death penalty opponents and stopped making it. No other vendor could be found, so the drug was replaced by pentobarbital.

Pancuronium bromide is a muscle relaxant typically used after pentobarbital. The final drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart.

Arizona, Idaho, Ohio and Washington have used a single drug to carry out executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Ohio was the first to use just pentobarbital, for a March 2011 execution.

In April, an Arizona inmate shook for several seconds after receiving a lethal dose of pentobarbital. The drug had been used by itself.

Additional material from staff writer Chuck Lindell.

Bob Ray Sanders has renewed his call for a moratorium on executions in Texas. A moratorium is the best strategy in Texas for ending the death penalty in Texas soonest. States that conduct a lot of executions, such as Texas, need to go through a period when no executions are conducted before they are likely to reach the conclusion that they can do without the death penalty. A moratorium would also be the best way to ensure that Texas does not execute an innocent person like it did in 2004 when Todd Willingham was executed.

From Bob Ray Sanders:

On June 29, 1972, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty “cruel and unusual punishment” based mostly on the “arbitrary and capricious” nature of how it was being applied by the states. That 5-4 ruling in effect ushered in a moratorium on capital punishment for a few years.

I want to use the anniversary of that ruling to make two appeals: one to call for another moratorium on the death penalty, and the other to ask help for state prisoners who once again are suffering through a sweltering Texas summer.

Prior to the 1972 decision, Texas executed 361 people by electrocution, with the last one occurring in 1964, according to records of the Department of Criminal Justice. In those days, rape was one of the crimes for which one could be put to the death, something that had changed by the time executions were reinstated effective Jan. 1, 1974.

The state retired “Old Sparky” (the electric chair) and in 1977 adopted lethal injection as a means of execution. A Fort Worth resident, Charlie Brooks, became the first person in the country to die by lethal injection in 1982. Since then, 481 other men and women have been killed in the Texas death chamber, and eight more are scheduled to die this year.

Through those years, it has been easy to see that the death penalty as administered in this country, especially in Texas, remains arbitrary and capricious.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled that the state cannot execute people who are mentally ill or those who were juveniles at the time of their crimes — the decisions coming too late for several in those categories who had been put to death.

While I’d like to see the death penalty outlawed outright, as some other states have done in the past few years, at the very least we should call for another moratorium so that we can have a rational discussion about the legality and morality of capital punishment.

250 executions under one Governor. It is an almost unbelievable number, but it could happen by the end of 2012. As of today, 243 people have been executed since Texas Governor Rick Perry took office in 2000. More people have been executed under Perry than under any other governor in U.S. history. One of the people executed under Perry was Todd Willingham in 2004, who was innocent. Rick Perry did not even consider pausing executions after it became apparent that an innocent person had been executed.

Currently, there are eight more executions scheduled in Texas this year, which would bring Perry’s total to 251. More executions could still be scheduled and some of the executions will probably be stayed.

Scheduled Executions

Scheduled Execution Link Last Name First Name TDCJ Number Date of Birth Race Date Received County
07/18/2012 Offender Information Hearn Yokamon 999292 11/06/1978 B 12/31/1998 Dallas
08/01/2012 Offender Information Druery Marcus 999464 11/20/1979 B 12/05/2003 Brazos
08/07/2012 Offender Information Wilson Marvin 999098 01/05/1958 B 05/09/1994 Jefferson
08/22/2012 Offender Information Balentine John 999315 01/30/1969 B 06/11/1999 Potter
09/20/2012 Offender Information Harris Robert 999364 02/28/1972 B 10/06/2000 Dallas
09/25/2012 Offender Information Foster Cleve 999470 10/24/1963 W 03/01/2004 Tarrant
11/08/2012 Offender Information Swain Mario 999475 02/28/1979 B 04/08/2004 Gregg
11/14/2012 Offender Information Hernandez Ramon 999431 11/8/1971 H 10/21/2002 Bexar

Last updated June 25, 2012

Below is the text of the death penalty section of the 2012 Texas Democratic Party platform in which the party calls for the abolition of the death penalty. The full platform is on the TDP website.

DEATH PENALTY

Despite 41 DNA exonerations in Texas in the last 9 years, Rick Perry says he never loses sleep over executing the innocent. Perry has overseen over 240 executions in Texas. Detailed research shows that the Texas death penalty system cannot insure that innocent and undeserving defendants are not sentenced to death. Death penalty exonerations have already revealed deep flaws in our State’s criminal justice system.

Evidence –‐ including scientific evidence, extensive studies by innocence Project, major newspaper and university research strongly suggests that Texas has already executed innocent defendants including Carlos DeLuna, Ruben Cantu, and Cameron Todd Willingham. Former Governor Mark White has stated we must take every step to ensure there is never another innocent man executed.

The application of the death penalty in Texas is disproportionately applied to the poor and minorities. The system has allowed in the past the execution of juveniles, the mentally ill and poor defendants who had such inadequate counsel that their lawyers literally slept through their trials.

Other states are increasingly rejecting the death penalty as evidenced by the legislatures in New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009),Illinois (2011), and Connecticut (2012) repealing the death penalty.

In order to promote public confidence and fairness in the Texas Criminal Justice system, Texas Democrats call for the passage of legislation that would abolish the death penalty in Texas and replace it with the punishment of life in prison without parole.

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