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.
Randall Dale Adams in 2001 Calling for a Moratorium on
Executions in Texas

It is now confirmed that Randall Dale Adams died October 30, 2010 in Ohio from a brain tumor at age 61. Condolences, memories and tributes can be left here.

Errol Morris tweeted yesterday on Twitter that Randall Dale Adams died in 2010. We have not yet confirmed Randall’s death. Randall Adams was an innocent person wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in Texas. He was exonerated thanks to the film “The Thin Blue Line” by filmmaker Errol Morris.

In 2001, Randall Dale Adams testified to a committees in the Texas House and Senate and told his story of how he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to Texas death row. His testimony helped convince the committees to vote in favor of a moratorium on executions. Later in 2001, 53 members of the Texas House voted for a moratorium on the floor of the Texas House in a bill filed by Rep Harold Dutton.

This year in 2011, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence again considered a bill for a moratorium on executions, but the committee took no action on the bill. Maybe if the committee members had been able to hear from Randall Adams they would have voted for a moratorium.

Watch the beginning of “The Thin Blue Line” the documentary by Errol Morris that led to the exoneration of Randall Dale Adams, who at the time the film came out was still on death row in Texas.


Watch Errol Morris – The Thin Blue Line in Educational & How-To  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Listen to some music by Phillip Glass composed for the film “The Thin Blue Line”.

Sentenced to death in 1977 for the murder of a police officer in Dallas, Texas, Randall Dale Adams was exonerated as a result of information uncovered by film‑maker Errol Morris and presented in an acclaimed 1988 documentary, The Thin Blue Line.
Patrolman Robert Wood was shot to death during a traffic stop on November 28, 1976, by sixteen-year-old David Ray Harris, who framed Adams to avoid prosecution himself. Another factor in the wrongful conviction was the surprise — and partly perjured — testimony of three eyewitnesses whose existence had been concealed from the defense until the witnesses appeared in the courtroom. A third factor was a statement Adams signed during interrogation that the prosecution construed as an admission that he had been at the scene of the crime.
The day before the murder, Adams was walking along a Dallas street after his car had run out of gasoline. Harris happened by, driving a stolen car. He offered Adams a ride and the two wound up spending the afternoon and evening together, drinking beer, smoking marijuana, pawning various items Harris had stolen, and going to a drive-in movie theater to watch porn movies. Adams then returned to a motel where he was staying.
Shortly after midnight, Wood and his partner, Teresa Turko, spotted Harris driving a blue car with no headlights. The officers stopped the car and, as Wood approached the driver’s side, Harris shot him five times. Wood died on the spot. As the car sped off, Turko fired several shots, but missed. She did not get a license number. She seemed certain that there was only one person in the car — the driver.
Harris drove directly to his home in Vidor, 300 miles southeast of Dallas. Over the next several days, he bragged to friends that he had “offed a pig” in Dallas. When police in Vidor learned of the statements, they took Harris in for questioning. He denied having had anything to do with the murder, claiming he had said otherwise only to “impress” his friends. But when police told him that a ballistics test established that a pistol he had stolen from his father was the murder weapon, Harris changed his story. He now claimed that he had been present at the shooting, but that it had been committed by a hitchhiker he had picked up — Adams.
Adams, an Ohio native working in Dallas, was taken in for questioning. He denied any knowledge of the crime, but he did give a detailed statement describing his activities the day before the murder. Police told him he had failed a polygraph test and that Harris had passed one, but Adams remained resolute in asserting his innocence.
Although polygraph results are not admissible in Texas courts, the results provided some rationale for questioning Harris’s story. However, when a police officer is murdered, authorities usually demand the most severe possible punishment, which in Texas, and most other U.S. jurisdictions, is death. Harris was only sixteen and ineligible for the death penalty; Adams was twenty-seven and thus could be executed.
At trial before Dallas County District Court Judge Don Metcalfe and a jury, Turko testified that she had not seen the killer clearly, but that his hair was the color of Adams’s. She also said that the killer wore a coat with a fur collar. Harris had such a coat, but Adams did not.
Adams took the stand and emphatically denied having any knowledge of the crime. But then the prosecution sprang two surprises. The first was the introduction of Adams’s purported signed statement, which police and prosecutors claimed was a confession, although it said only — falsely, according to Adams — that when he was in the car with Harris, they had at one point been near the crime scene. The second was the testimony of three purported eyewitnesses whose existence had until then been unknown to the defense. One of these witnesses, Michael Randell, testified that he had driven by the scene shortly before the murder and, in the car that had been stopped by the officers, had seen two persons, one of whom he claimed was Adams. The other two witnesses, Robert and Emily Miller, had happened by at about the same time, but claimed to have seen only one person in the car — Adams.
Because the eyewitnesses were called only to rebut Adams’s testimony, prosecutors claimed that Texas law did not require them to inform the defense of their existence before they testified. The weekend after their surprise testimony, however, the defense learned that Emily Miller had initially told police that the man she had seen appeared to be Mexican or a light-skinned African American. When the defense asked to recall the Millers to testify, the prosecution claimed that the couple had left town. In fact, the Millers had only moved from one part of Dallas to another. When the defense asked to introduce Emily Miller’s statement, Judge Metcalfe would not allow it. He said it would be unfair to impeach her credibility when she was not available for further examination.
The jury quickly returned a verdict of guilty and turned to sentencing. Under Texas law, in order for Adams to be sentenced to death, the jury was required to determine, among other things, whether there was “beyond a reasonable doubt [a] probability” that he or she would commit future acts of violence. To establish that Adams met that oxymoronic criterion, the prosecution called Dr. James Grigson, a Dallas psychiatrist known as “Dr. Death,” and Dr. John Holbrook, former chief of psychiatry for the Texas Department of Corrections.
Although the American Psychiatric Association has said on several occasions that future dangerousness was impossible to predict, Grigson and Holbrook testified that Adams would be dangerous unless executed. Grigson testified similarly in more than 100 other Texas cases that ended in death sentences. After hearing the psychiatrists, Adams’s jury voted to sentence him to death. Twenty one months later, at the end of January 1979, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and death sentence. Judge Metcalfe scheduled the execution for May 8, 1979.
Adams was only three days away from execution when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. ordered a stay. Powell was troubled that prospective jurors with moral qualms about the death penalty had been excluded from service, even though they had clearly stated that they would follow the Texas law.
To most observers — including, initially, Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade (of Roe v. Wade fame) — the Supreme Court’s language meant that Adams was entitled to a new trial. But a few days later Wade announced that a new trial would be a waste of money. Thus, he said, he was asking Governor Bill Clements to commute Adams’s sentence to life in prison. When the governor promptly complied, Wade proclaimed that there now would be no need for a new trial. Adams, of course, thought otherwise, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with Wade. As a result of the governor’s action, said the court, “There is now no error in the case.”
In March 1985, Errol Morris arrived in Dallas to work on a documentary about Grigson — “Dr. Death.” Morris’s intent had not been to question the guilt of defendants in whose cases Grigson had testified but only to question his psychiatric conclusions. When Morris met Adams, the focus of the project changed.
Morris learned from Randy Schaffer, a volunteer Houston lawyer who had been working on the case since 1982, that Harris had not led an exemplary life after helping convict Adams. Harris had joined the Army and been stationed in Germany, where he had been convicted in a military court of a series burglaries and sent to prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. A few months after his release, Harris had been convicted in California of kidnapping, armed robbery, and related crimes.
After his release from prison in California, and five months after Morris arrived in Dallas, Harris tried to kidnap a young woman named Roxanne Lockard in Beaumont, Texas. In an effort to prevent the abduction, Lockard’s boyfriend, Mark Mays, exchanged gunfire with Harris. Mays was shot to death and Harris was wounded. For the Mays murder — a crime that would not have occurred if Dallas authorities convicted the actual killer of Officer Wood eight years earlier — Harris was sentenced to death.
Meanwhile, Morris and Schaffer discovered that Officer Turko had been hypnotized during the investigation and initially had acknowledged that she had not seen the killer — facts that the prosecution had illegally withheld from the defense. Morris and Schaffer also found that robbery charges against the daughter of eyewitness Emily Miller had been dropped after Miller agreed to identify Adams as Wood’s killer. The new information, coupled with the fact that Miller initially had described the killer as Mexican or African American, became the basis for a new trial motion.
In 1988, during a three-day hearing on the motion before Dallas District Court Judge Larry Baraka, Harris recanted. “Twelve years ago, I was a kid, you know, and I’m not a kid anymore, and I realize I’ve been responsible for a great injustice,” Harris told Baraka. “And I felt like it’s my responsibility to step forward, to be a man, to admit my part in it. And that’s why I’m trying to correct an injustice.”
On December 2, 1988, Judge Baraka recommended to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Adams be granted a new trial, and two months later he wrote a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommending that Adams be paroled immediately. The board refused, but on March 1 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously concurred with Baraka that Adams was entitled to a new trial. Three weeks later, Adams was released on his own recognizance, and two days after that, Dallas District Attorney John Vance, who had succeeded Wade, dropped all charges.
Harris was never tried for the murder of Officer Woods. On June 30, 2004, he was executed for the Mayes murder. — Researched by Michael L. Radelet
Bibliography: Adams v. Texas, 448 US 38 (1980); Adams v. Texas, 624 S.W.2d 568 (1981); Ex Parte Adams, 768 S.W.2d 281 (1989); Harris v. Texas, 784 S.W.2d 5 (1989); Adams, et al., Adams v. Texas, St. Martin’s Press, 1991; Radelet, et al., In Spite of Innocence, NE Univ. Press, 1992.
Further Reading: Radelet, Michael L., Hugo Adam Bedau and Constance E. Putnam, In Spite of Innocence/The Ordeal of 400 Americans Wrongly Convicted of Crimes Punishable by Death, Northeastern University Press, 1992.
Adams, Randall Dale, with William Hoffer and Marilyn Mona Hoffer, Adams v. Texas/The True Story Made Famous by the Highly Acclaimed Film The Thin Blue Line, St. Martin’s Press, 1991.
Colloff, Pamela, “Only a man who came within three days of being executed for a crime he didn’t commit could be as passionate an advocate for a death-penalty moratorium as Randall Dale Adams,” Texas Monthly, September 2001.

Texas today executed the 470th person since 1982; sixth in 2011 and 231st under Governor Rick Perry.

From the Houston Chronicle: 

Milton Mathis was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting two people inside a Houston crack house in 1998, becoming the sixth death row inmate executed in Texas this year.
The lethal injection was carried out shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from his defense attorneys, who argued that Mathis was mentally impaired and therefore ineligible for execution.
Mathis, 32, was condemned for a shooting spree that killed Travis Brown III, 24, and Daniel Hibbard, 31, less than two weeks before Christmas in 1998. A 15-year-old girl, Melony Almaguer, also was shot and left paralyzed.
Almaguer, seated in a wheelchair and accompanied by her husband, was among a small group of people who watched Mathis die from behind a window at the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“I never meant to hurt you,” Mathis, strapped to a gurney with tubing taped to his arms, told Almaguer. “You were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Her husband stood with his hand on her shoulder and at one point brushed her face with his hand. They declined to speak with reporters after leaving the prison.
Mathis thanked his friends and relatives, and asked for mercy for himself and “these people carrying out this mass slaughter.”
“The system has failed me,” he said. “This is what you call a miscarriage of justice. Life is not supposed to end this way … I just ask the Lord, when I knock at the gates, you just let me in.”
He yawned and gasped, then began snoring as the lethal drugs began taking effect. Nine minutes later, at 6:53 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.
An unsuccessful late appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals briefly delayed the punishment.
In their appeal filed Monday with the Supreme Court, his attorneys also argued that Mathis’ claims of mental impairment hadn’t been reviewed by any federal court because of a “procedural quagmire” and “freakish coincidence” of state and federal legal issues involving the timing of his appeals. Attorney Lee Kovarsky also argued that if Mathis was executed, he likely would have the lowest IQ of any Texas inmate put to death since the Supreme Court nine years ago barred execution of the mentally impaired.
UPDATE: Execution stayed.

Texas is planning to carry out the second of its four scheduled June executions today, Wednesday June 15, when John Balentine is scheduled for execution. If the execution is not stayed, Balentine will be the fifth person executed in Texas in 2011 and the 469th person executed in Texas since 1982. He will be the 230th person executed in Texas since Rick Perry became governor.

To express your opposition to John Balentine’s execution and to state your opinion on the Texas death penalty, call Governor Rick Perry at 512-463-2000.
Rick Perry is considering running for president of the United States. Perry’s death penalty enthusiasm will probably be a liability for him in many parts of the country where the governor is expected to exercise his executive powers in a more responsible manner than Perry did in the case of Todd Willingham.

Balentine’s execution is the first of two scheduled in Texas this week. On Thursday, the state is set to execute Lee Taylor for fatally stabbing an inmate at a state prison in 1999. At the time of the stabbing, Taylor was serving a life sentence for aggravated robbery in which an elderly man died, according to the attorney general’s office.

Texas has executed more than four times as many people as any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976
2010 March to Abolish the Death Penalty

The “12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty” will be held in Austin on October 22, 2011 at the Texas Capitol. Join the Facebook event page.  To see photos and videos of past marches visit www.marchforabolition.org.


Each October since 2000,people from all walks of life and all parts of Texas,the U.S. and other countries have taken a day out of their year and gathered in Austin to raise their voices together and loudly express their opposition to the death penalty. The march is a coming together of activists, family members of those on death row,community leaders, exonerated former death row prisoners and all those calling for abolition. The march started in Austin in 2000. In 2007 and 2008,the march was held in Houston. It came back to Austin in 2009 and 2010.

The annual march is organized as a joint project by several Texas anti-death penalty organizations:Texas Moratorium Network,the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty,the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement,Texas Students Against the Death Penalty,Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center,and Kids Against the Death Penalty.
The first march was called the “March on the Mansion”and was held on October 15,2000. The second and third marches were called “March for a Moratorium”and were held on October 27,2001 and October 12,2002. In 2003,the march name changed to “March to Stop Executions”. Clarence Brandley,who had been exonerated and released from death row in 1990 after spending nine years there,spoke at the 2003 march,saying “I was always wishing and hoping that someone would just look at the evidence and the facts,because the evidence was clear that I did not commit the crime.” The “5th Annual March to Stop Executions”was on October 30,2004. The “6th Annual March to Stop Executions”was held October 29,2005 in conjunction with the 2005 National Conference of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty,which came to Austin at the suggestion of the march organizers.
Sister of Carlos De Luna Delivers Letter
for Governor Rick Perry at 7th Annual March  in 2006
The “7th Annual March to Stop Executions”,which was sponsored by a record number of 50 organizations,was held October 28,2006 and included family members of Carlos De Luna and Cameron Todd Willingham,who both had been the subject of separate investigations by The Chicago Tribune that concluded they were probably innocent people executed by Texas. Standing outside the gates of the Texas Governor’s Mansion with hundreds of supporters,the families of Willingham and De Luna delivered separate letters to Governor Perry asking him to stop executions and investigate the cases of Willingham and De Luna to determine if they were wrongfully executed. After DPS troopers refused to take the letters,Mary Arredondo, sister of Carlos De Luna,and Eugenia Willingham,stepmother of Todd,dropped them through the gate of the governor’s mansion and left them lying on the walkway leading to the main door.
The “8th Annual March to Stop Executions”was held in Houston on October 27. 2007. The “9th Annual March to Stop Executions” was October 25,2008 in Houston. The “10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty” was October 24,2009 in Austin. The “11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty” was October 30,2010.


Ross Byrd at
March to Abolish the Death Penalty in 2002
Lawrence Russell Brewer, one of the people convicted of dragging James Byrd Jr to his death chained to a pickup truck, has received an execution date of Sept 21, 2011. James Byrd Jr’s son, Ross Byrd, opposes the death penalty even in the case of the people who murdered his father. Ross Byrd was at the 3rd Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in 2002. Scroll down for a news article from 2002 mentioning Ross’s appearance at the march. Ross was stationed in the Army in Fort Benning, Ga., when he heard about his father’s murder in 1998.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2002 that Jasper County had to raise property taxes by 6.7% over two years to pay for the death penalty trials.

From the Houston Chronicle:

One of three men convicted for their involvement in the infamous East Texas dragging death slaying 13 years ago has received an execution date.

A state district judge signed an order Tuesday setting Sept. 21 as the date 44-year-old Lawrence Russell Brewer gets lethal injection in Huntsville for killing James Byrd, said Laroni Gray with the Jasper County district attorney’s office.

Brewer was among three white men convicted of chaining the 49-year-old black man to the back of a pickup truck and dragging him to death on a country road near Jasper, about 115 miles northeast Houston.

Brewer and John William King were convicted and sentenced to die for the June 1998 racial hate crime that shocked the nation for its brutality. King’s case remains in the courts on appeal. The third man, Shawn Berry, received life in prison.

2002 March to Abolish the Death Penalty at Texas Capitol in Austin
Speakers from different backgrounds speak out at third annual rally
By Katherine Sayre (Daily Texan Staff)
October 14, 2002

Jeanette Popp wants the man who raped and killed her daughter to live.
Popp told her story of advocating a life sentence for Achim Josef Marino, the man who murdered her daughter in 1988, to a crowd of about 200 protesters demanding a moratorium on capital punishment at the state Capitol Saturday afternoon.

“I saved [Marino’s] life, and I saved my daughter’s honor,” Popp said Saturday. “They will not kill in her name.”

Popp’s voice rang out over a crowd gathered on the Capitol grounds after protesters marched from Republic Park to the Capital chanting “No Justice, No Peace – Moratorium Now.” The third annual rally against the death penalty included speakers representing a range of issues surrounding capital punishment.

Renny Cushing, executive director of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, said that contrary to popular belief, many murder victims’ families oppose the death penalty.

“We’ve come to oppose the death penalty because of what it does to us and to society as a whole … a ritual killing just expands the scope of pain,” Cushing said.

He said that many families find their love for the victim is questioned after speaking out against capital punishment. He said Texas’ Bill of Rights for Crime Victims should be amended to prevent families from being discriminated against during trials. The bill is a set of legal guidelines that allows a victim and his/her family certain protection rights and involvement in a criminal proceeding.

“It’s about no more victims – anywhere,” he said.

Ross Byrd, the son of James Byrd Jr. who was murdered in Jasper in 1998, said executions by the state are murder.

“The death penalty is all wrong,” Byrd said. “It goes against God, and God said ‘thou shalt not kill’ … Thou shalt not kill and that’s even for the justice system.”

Francisco Javier Alejo, consulate general of Mexico, spoke on the Capitol steps about Mexico’s opposition to capital punishment.

Alejo said that while Mexico respects the United States government’s right to make independent decisions, Mexico also asks for the same respect.

“We fully respect that as well, as we expect to be respected for our full and adamant opposition to the death penalty,” he said, adding that Mexico regards the death penalty as “abominable.”

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