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 moratorium movement continues to win successes. The governor of Oregon has declared a moratorium on executions. If more people would push for a moratorium here in Texas, we could stop executions much faster than by just pushing for abolition, which is an inept strategy when pursued as the only option for stopping executions.

We could have a moratorium on executions in Texas if more people would support the bill filed each legislative session by Rep Harold Dutton of Houston that would enact a moratorium. Instead there are people and groups in Texas who oppose the death penalty, but do not support a moratorium. The misguided abolition-only strategy is allowing for executions to continue in Texas longer than they otherwise would and it allowed at least one innocent person to be executed who would be alive if more people supported a moratorium in Texas. We went to the Texas Legislature in 2001 asking for a moratorium. Todd Willingham was executed in 2004.

More about the moratorium in Oregon:

Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon on Tuesday said he would halt the execution of a death row inmate scheduled for next month and that he would allow no more executions in the state during his time in office.

“It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach,” Governor Kitzhaber, a Democrat elected last fall, said in a news conference in Salem on Tuesday afternoon. “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.”

The Texas Legislature convenes again in January 2013 and we will again be pushing for a moratorium on executions in Texas. We hope more people will join us and help us achieve a stop to executions in Texas.

Texas executed 13 people this year, which is the lowest number in 15 years since 1996. The highest number of executions was 40 in 2000.

8 people were sentenced to death in 2011 in Texas. Only 6 of the 254 counties in Texas sent anyone to death row in 2011. Harris County sent three people. Travis County, often considered the most progressive county in Texas, once again sent another person to death row this year, just like last year and the year before. All 3 of Travis County’s recent death sentences have come while Rosemary Lehmberg has been District Attorney.

The number of new death sentences has declined over the last several years in large part because people who serve on juries are increasingly choosing life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty, because members of juries have read about so many mistakes in the system when innocent people have been convicted only to be exonerated years later.


Hank Skinner’s wife Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner will be one of the speakers this weekend at the national conference of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, which is being held for the first time in Austin, Texas. 

Attend the conference and come hear Sandrine talk about Hank’s case. Also speaking will be Liz Gilbert, the friend of Todd Willingham who was instrumental in finding a fire expert to reexamine the evidence in his case.

The Prison System is the New Jim Crow

The CEDP”s 11th Annual Convention

November 11-13

  

At Ventana Del Soul

1834 East Oltorf, Austin, Texas

Register at: http://nodeathpenalty.org/2011-national-convention-registration


This November, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty is headed straight to the belly of the beast—Texas—for a weekend of struggle and organizing!


The murder of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia on September 21 horrified millions of people the world over—and has sparked a renewed national discussion of the death penalty in the United States. We will spend the weekend sharing our stories and experiences, working to build our forces and strategizing the next steps forward for our movement and our organization.

The renewed national discussion about the death penalty, in the media and among activists, is about innocence and the death penalty – but it is also about the racism in the criminal justice system.  It shows the urgent need to strike a final blow to capital punishment and to challenge the whole INjustice system – the system that Michelle Alexander calls the New Jim Crow. As Troy Davis said before his execution: 
“There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.”
The CEDP annual national convention will take up questions on how to build a movement that combats racism in the criminal justice system, supports resistance behind bars, aims to end mass incarceration and harsh punishment and makes the death penalty history.  
And with Governor Rick Perry running for president, the eyes of the nation are on the Texas death machine and what activists are doing to fight it – we have a chance to shine a spotlight on the death penalty in Texas with this year’s convention. Click here to download the full program for the convention.

Featured speakers include former prisoners, family members, activists, lawyers, scholars and others:
Former prisoners: Lawrence Hayes, Jazz Hayden, Mark Clements and Darby Tillis.
Family members: Sandra Reed, Delia Perez Myers, Jeannine Scott, Terri Been, Barbara Lewis, Lawrence Foster Sr, Kenneth Foster Sr., and Sandrine Ageorges Skinner, Troy Davis’ sister Martina Correia will address the convention via telecom along with her son DeJaun Correia.
Activists:  Scott Cobb, Jesse Muhammad, Jack Bryson, Jessica Escobar and Elizabeth Gilbert and many others. 
The convention kicks off with a Friday evening event at the University of Texas, “Southern Injustice:  Fighting racism and the death penalty”. 

Friday, November 11th at 7 PM
Burdine Hall, Room 136, University of Texas at Austin
The panel features 

Sandrine Ageorges Skinner (wife of Texas death row prisoner Hank Skinner, scheduled to be killed on November 9th), Jesse Muhammad (Activist and journalist with the Nation of Islam out of Houston) and Sandra Reed (mother of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed.)

Other sessions over the weekend include:

We ARE all Troy Davis: The struggle continues * The Prison System is the New Jim Crow * Prisoner Resistance: From Attica to DRIVE to Pelican Bay * Rick Perry, Cameron Todd Willingham and the scandal of the Texas death penalty * The Texas Law of Parties: What it is and why we need to fight it. * Not in our name: How executions create victims on both sides.

Here’s the  language from the court order:
This is a direct appeal of the trial court’s ruling on a motion for DNA testing filed in the 31st Judicial District Court of Gray County, Cause No. 5216, styled The State of Texas v. Henry Watkins Skinner. See TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. art. 64.05. Appellant’s execution is stayed pending the resolution of this appeal.
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 64, which provides for DNA testing, has undergone several changes since its creation, but those changes have never been reviewed in the particular context of this case. Because the DNA statute has changed, and because some of those changes were because of this case, we find that it would be prudent for this Court to take time to fully review the changes in the statute as they pertain to this case.
Furthermore, in denying the motion for DNA testing, the convicting court has failed to enter determinations under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 64.03. The convicting court shall enter an order containing the relevant Article 64.03 determinations within 15 days of the date of this order. That order shall then be included within a supplemental clerk’s record, which record shall be forwarded to this Court within 30 days of the date of this order.
IT IS SO ORDERED THIS THE 7th DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2011.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 6, 2011

CONTACT: Justice4Hank, Gilles Denizot justice4hank@gmail.com
OVER 130,000 ASK GOVERNOR PERRY TO STOP HANK SKINNER’S EXECUTION
AND DEMAND DNA TESTING.
Hank Skinner, a man on death row in Texas since 1995 who has consistently maintained his innocence, is set to be executed on November 9 despite untested key evidence in his case.
HOUSTON, TEXAS – In less than two days, more than 130,000 people called on Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry to stay the execution and test the evidence in the murder case of Hank Skinner, who is set to be executed on November 9.
On November 4, Justice4Hank, a coalition of family and supporters of Skinner, delivered 16,000 signatures (more than half of which stemming from Texans voters) to Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer, urging her to reconsider her position in this case and to grant Mr. Skinner the DNA testing he has been seeking for a decade. There has been no reaction from Ms. Switzer’s office.
In a declaration under oath, filed on July 21, 2011, Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer stated:
“…At least some of the evidence that Skinner seeks for testing still exists and is in my custody, such as Twila Busby’s vaginal swabs and fingernail clippings. That evidence is either at GeneScreen or in the evidence locker at the Gray County Sheriff’s Department. I have not sought expert opinion on that question…” 
Ms. Switzer clearly confirms that the chain of custody she is responsible for has not been maintained and she also admits to be in possession of only two pieces of evidence. As for the rest of the evidence, she does not know where it is located or whether it still exists.
Less than 7 days later, on July 27, 2011, the sentencing judge, Judge Emmert, signed a new death warrant for November 9, 2011, although the courts had to be fully aware that Mr. Skinner’s attorneys would file a new DNA motion as soon SB 122 became applicable.
On November 2, without any explanation, Judge Emmert denied the new motion for DNA testing. This decision is currently on appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin.
Immediately after, more than 85,000 added their names on a new petition asking Governor Perry to withdraw the execution warrant and to grant DNA testing to Mr. Skinner.
In May 2011, the Texas legislators approved new standards for crime labs, compensation for the exonerated and revised statutes for post-conviction DNA. Gov. Perry signed those bills into law to improve and scrutinize a criminal justice system in need of reform. Considering that DNA testing has exonerated 275 prisoners in the United-States since 1989, including 43 in Texas, the overwhelming vote, both in the House and the Senate, in favor of the revised post-conviction DNA statute certainly was a welcome addition to the ongoing reforms Gov. Perry is promoting.

Governor Perry signed SB 122 into law on June 17, 2011. This bill is intended to ensure that if DNA evidence is available to prove someone’s innocence, it can and will be tested. This revised post-conviction DNA law was authored and sponsored by legislators who strongly supported the bill for cases like Hank Skinner’s who is set for execution on November 9, 2011. Senator Ellis, who authored the bill, stated in an interview this week that he does not understand how the court could continue to deny Mr. Skinner’s request, which he said his recent legislation would allow.

Gov. Perry, who has presided over 237 executions since taking office in 2001, must ensure that the criminal justice reforms he supports be implemented. In this respect, 17 former and current Texas elected officials as well as 27 exonerees have sent letters to Governor Perry to express their serious concerns about the lack of justice in Mr. Skinner’s case. While Rick Perry campaigns for the GOP presidential nomination, Justice4Hank urges him to do the right thing for justice and for the truth in Texas, before it is too late.

Live signature totals from Justice4Hank’s campaign: http://chn.ge/HankSkinner
Timeline:
All legal documents quoted below are available in the “Legal Documents” section of the website at http://www.hankskinner.org
  • March 7, 2011 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Mr. Skinner’s favor by 6 votes to 3.
  • April 4, 2011 – The U.S. Supreme Court lifts the stay and remands the case to the lower court.
  • May 20, 2011 – The Texas House approves SB 122, legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to strengthen Texas’ post-conviction DNA testing law.
  • June 2, 2011 – Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer, the defendant in the civil lawsuit, files a motion for summary judgment as well as a brief in support of her motion.
  • June 17, 2011 – Governor Perry signs SB 122 into law.
  • July 21, 2011 – Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer files a declaration under oath.
  • July 27, 2011 – Sentencing Judge Emmert issues a new death warrant for a November 9 execution.
  • September 1, 2011 – SB 122 becomes effective.
  • September 2, 2011 – Hank Skinner’s attorneys file a motion for DNA testing under the revised  statutes as well as a motion to withdraw the death warrant.
  • November 2, 2011 – Judge Emmert, without any explanation, denies the new motion for DNA testing.

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