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.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay to Marcus Druery, who had been scheduled to die this coming Wednesday. The appeals court released an order Friday afternoon halting the execution and saying that further review of Druery’s competence was necessary.

The 32-year-old has been diagnosed as schizophrenic by prison and private doctors. On Tuesday, a Brazos County judge refused to order a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether the inmate can understand his legal situation.

Brazos County District Attorney Bill Turner said prosecutors do not dispute that Druery has a mental disorder, but they believe he’s competent enough to face execution.

More

Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement visited Texas death row this weekend and learned that Selwyn Davis had committed suicide. Davis had been sentenced to death in an Austin courtroom. Gloria wrote on Facebook:

“Dear Friends,

It was with great sadness that I found out today about another suicide on Texas death row. An African American man named Selwyn Davis from Austin killed himself a few days ago. He had apparently accumulated a bunch of pills of some kind and then took them all at once. He had tried to kill himself earlier this year by cutting his wrists and throat with razor blades. But they were very dull and he didn’t die.

I hold the TDCJ responsible for his death. They house all men on death row, including those with perfect disciplinary records, in total isolation, denying all human contact.

Psychiatrist Terry Kupers, an expert on long-term isolated prison confinement, is the author of numerous articles on the subject as well as his book titled, “Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It.” He says this about isolation– it causes:
— severe anxiety;
— panic attacks;
— lethargy;
— insomnia;
— nightmares;
— dizziness;
— irrational anger, at time uncontrollable;
— confusion;
— social withdrawal;
— memory loss;
— appetite loss;
— delusions and hallucinations;
— mutilations;
— profound despair and hopelessness;
— suicidal thoughts;
— paranoia; and
— for many, a totally dysfunctional state and inability ever to live normally
outside of confinement.”

Today the Austin American-Statesman also found out about the death and reported on it:

Selwyn P. Davis, sentenced to death by a Travis County jury for the 2006 Austin murder of his girlfriend’s mother, was found dead in his cell on Texas’ death row last week, according to a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Corrections officers conducting routine security checks found Davis, 30, unresponsive on the floor of his cell about 9 p.m. Friday, spokesman Jason Clark wrote in an email.

“Staff began life saving measures, called 911, and took the offender to the unit infirmary,” Clark wrote. “An ambulance then transported Davis to Livingston Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced deceased by an attending physician at 10:04 pm.”

Clark said the cause of death is unknown and that the department’s Office of Inspector General will investigate the death, which is routine.

Davis stabbed Regina Lara to death in her 38 1/2 Street apartment on Aug. 22, 2006.

 

The Austin Human Rights Commission tonight passed a resolution calling for Texas to repeal the death penalty and for a statewide moratorium on executions. The resolution also encourages the Travis County DA not to seek new death sentences and not to request execution dates for people already on death row from Travis County. Thanks to Delia Perez Meyer, who is a member of the Commission and who sponsored the resolution. Texas Moratorium Network wrote the resolution and testified for it at the meeting.

Resolution on the Death Penalty

 WHEREAS, it is appropriate for city governments to give advice on matters of concern to them when actions of the state affect those cities; and

WHEREAS, in Texas a death penalty case can cost taxpayers three times more than seeking and obtaining a sentence of life in prison and of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for a term of life in prison, the additional cost of which is borne by all Texans; and

WHEREAS local taxpayers can be faced with the financial burden of settling lawsuits when innocent people are wrongfully convicted or executed because of problems in the criminal justice system.  For instance, the City of Austin settled two wrongful conviction lawsuits in 2003 brought by Richard Danziger and Christopher Ochoa for a total of more than $14 million, all paid by the citizens of Austin; and

WHEREAS Texas leads the nation in executions with 483 since 1982 (as of July 23, 2012).  The frequency of executions and the inadequacies in our criminal justice system increase the risk that an innocent person will be executed, and the execution of an innocent person by the State of Texas would be a grave injustice and would undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system; and

WHEREAS, twelve people have been exonerated of murder and released from Texas Death Row, including most recently Anthony Graves in October 2010, and 140 people have been exonerated and released from death rows in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970’s:

WHEREAS strong evidence exists in several cases that Texas has already executed innocent people, including Cameron Todd Willingham; and

WHEREAS juries and prosecutors across the nation and in Texas are opting against death in favor of life in prison without parole. In both 2010 and 2011, Texas juries approved new death sentences in only 8 instances each year, the lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1974. Only 6 of the 254 counties in Texas sent anyone to death row in 2011.

WHEREAS other states are increasingly turning away from the death penalty as evidenced by the legislatures in New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2011) and Connecticut (2012) repealing the death penalty and the Supreme Court of New York ruling it unconstitutional in that state; and

WHEREAS there is no law in Texas that requires District Attorneys to seek the death penalty and district attorneys are free to choose to seek life in prison without the possibility of parole in all capital cases; and

WHEREAS, this resolution is not intended to minimize the profound pain that the families of murder victims suffer,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Austin Human Rights Commission recommends to the Austin City Council to encourage the State of Texas to repeal the death penalty in Texas.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Austin Human Rights Commission also supports a moratorium on executions and the creation of a “Texas Capital Punishment Commission” to:

  • study the administration of capital punishment in Texas and correct any injustices or unfair processes that are found and eliminate the risk of executing innocent people; and
  • study whether Texas should repeal the death penalty.

BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that the Austin Human Rights Commission recommends to the Austin City Council to encourage the Travis County District Attorney not to seek death sentences in capital murder cases and not to request execution dates for current death row prisoners who were convicted in Travis County.

 

Today Texas executed Yokamon Hearn.  He was the first person executed with a 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. Switching to pentobarbital, also known as Nembutal, raised the cost of drugs for each execution from $83.55 to $1,286.86.

Hearn was the 483rd person executed in Texas since executions resumed in 1982 after an 18 year moratorium. He was the 244th person executed under Governor Rick Perry.

From the BBC:

Before Wednesday’s execution, the three drugs used for court-ordered executions in Texas were: thiopental sodium, to sedate the prisoner; pancuronium bromide to paralyse them; and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

Several states introduced the use of pentobarbital in the face of shortages of thiopental sodium, which was pulled off the market in 2010.

The European Union banned European manufacturers from exporting that drug to the US to prevent it being used in executions. Pentobarbital is also covered by the EU ban.

In Texas, the state chose to switch drugs after its supply of pancuronium bromide expired.

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.

Page 31 of 354« First...1020...2930313233...405060...Last »
%d bloggers like this: