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.

Texas Moratorium Network has drafted a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles seeking clemency for Johnny Martinez. Nothing so unusual about that, except in this case the mother of the murdered Clay Peterson has also requested a life sentence instead of death. Supprt victim’s rights and contact them too.

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Gerald Garrett, Chairman

Executive Clemency Section
P.O. Box 13401, Capitol Station
Austin,Texas 78711

RE: Clemency for Johnny Martinez

May 16, 2002

Dear Mr Garrett:,

I am writing to appeal for clemency for Johnny Martinez, who was convicted 
of murdering Clay Peterson. The mother of Mr. Peterson has already written 
you asking you to spare the life of her son’s killer. The father of the 
victim has also said that he would like to see Mr Martinez spared execution 
because he does “not believe that (his son) would have demanded the Old 
Testament punishment of an eye for an eye, but instead would have followed 
the teachings of Christ to forgive not seven times, but seventy times 
seven.”

Texas should respect the viewpoints of the parents of the murder victim in 
this case. The parents know best what Mr Peterson would have wanted. Please 
vote to commute Mr Martinez’s sentence to life in prison.

Please hold a public hearing, so that the parents of the murder victim can 
appeal to the entire board on behalf of their murdered son. Texas should 
respect the viewpoints of parents of murder victims when they ask for 
clemency for the murderers of their children.

Sincerely,

Scott Cobb

Here’s a second letter from another of our members.

May 17, 2002

Chairman Gerald Garrett
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
P.O. Box 13401, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711

RE: Clemency for Johnny Martinez

Dear Chairman Garrett:

Lana Norris recently wrote you asking that her son’s killer be sentenced to 
life, rather than executed. Clay Peterson’s father also said that he 
doesn’t believe his son, a devout Christian, would have wanted his killer to 
be executed. Both said they were never consulted when the DA decided to 
seek the death penalty against Johnny Martinez.

The victim’s family must be heard. It is not fair nor moral for the state 
to support victims’ families who wish to execute while ignoring the wishes 
of a family that does not want their son’s killer executed.

Texas Moratorium Network appeals for clemency for Johnny Martinez. Mr. 
Martinez had never before been convicted of a violent crime and has never 
been violent in prison. At the very least, please hold a public hearing so 
that the victim’s family may speak to the entire board about its wishes.

Texas Moratorium Network, an organization with a growing support base of 
more than 6,000 people across the state of Texas, is working to establish a 
moratorium on executions, so that a Texas Capital Punishment Commission can 
conduct a comprehensive study of the death penalty system in our state.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sincerely,

Margaret Fehrenbach
Texas Moratorium Network

Editorial Board

Austin American-Statesman

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Napoleon Beazley’s adulthood will be a short one — it began on death row and is scheduled to end there today.

Beazley was 17 when a Smith County jury sentenced him to die for killing John Luttig, 63, in a botched 1994 carjacking. When he arrived on death row, Beazley was the youngest inmate there. Now 25, Beazley is scheduled to be executed by chemical injection.


There is no question about Beazley’s guilt. He killed Luttig, a prominent Tyler businessman and father of a federal judge, because Beazley and his gang wanted to steal Luttig’s Mercedes-Benz.

It was a senseless, brutal murder that stunned two quiet East Texas towns. The casual violence in Luttig’s upscale neighborhood sent shock waves through Tyler. And it rocked the sleepy Grapeland community where Beazley was the toast of the town. There, Beazley was known for his promise: president of his senior class; honor student and star high school athlete.

Though there is no question about Beazley’s guilt, his case still raises questions about the death penalty in Texas. Should minors (younger than 18) be sentenced to death? Is Texas’ criminal justice system racially biased? Are death row inmates entitled to effective counsel throughout the legal appeals process? Can murderers be rehabilitated?

Those questions are being raised by some unlikely people. State District Judge Cynthia Kent, who presided over Beazley’s trial, sent a letter to Gov. Rick Perry last year asking him to commute Beazley’s sentence to life. She cited Beazley’s age at the time of the murder. Cindy Garner, the district attorney in Beazley’s home county, also wrote Perry asking for leniency, noting that Beazley had no prior criminal record. A Grapeland City Council member and former warden of death row, George Pierson, also wrote state officials to oppose Beazley’s execution.

Beazley’s case is troubling for other reasons. It shakes our beliefs about family and community. Beazley was from a Christian, two-parent home. A search for answers about how and why a young man in command of his future — voted runner-up for Mr. Grapeland High School — would kill, took us to death row in Livingston. American-Statesman editorial writer Alberta Phillips interviewed Beazley last week, and excerpts follow.


American-Statesman: What was the hardest adjustment about prison?

Napoleon Beazley: It’s different being on death row than being in prison, because you have the other element to think about. That kind of outweighs what’s going on in prison — knowing you are on death row and that you are here to die. When you know you are here to die, you start focusing on ways to live or how you live. That becomes important to you.


You were tried by an all-white jury after blacks were struck from the jury pool. You were 17 at the time of the murder. Do you think you got justice from the legal system?

Justice. That is a big word, a big word. You understand I’m biased, right?

Personally, as far as my growth goes, I can’t sit up and think about those things in those terms, because I have to look at myself and say, “If it weren’t for you, none of those things would have happened.”


What does your case teach us about capital punishment?

You do look at my case and say, “OK, look, these are the problems in the system we need to correct.” But personally, I can’t make that argument for myself. I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that.


Many people have asked you this question, but how did you find yourself at a place where you took a man’s life? You were an honor student with dreams of going to Stanford Law. What happened?

Oh, man. As far as giving details, that is something I really can’t do for you because I don’t want anything I say to come off as trying to justify what happened. There is no justification for what happened. . . . I made a bad choice . . . a very bad choice. A shameful, heinous, senseless — whatever synonym you can think to describe it, it’s all that. I made a lot of bad choices before I got here. That one was the poorest one I made.


If you can’t say why it happened, then when did you cross the line? What went through your mind when you went out carjacking and you shoot and kill a man?

I believe every good act, every heinous thing, is first conceived in thought. Once you plant that seed in your head of what you are going to do, the rest is going through the mechanics. When Cedric Coleman (an accomplice who planned the carjacking) brought this crime to my attention, the details, and he asked , “You down with that?” I told him, “Yeah. I’m down.” That’s when it happened. Not that night (of the murder). But when I said yes to it, because that was my time to say no. The seed was planted.


You’ve talked about how badly you were ridiculed by blacks for “acting white,” for speaking proper English, making good grades and carrying yourself a certain way. Black kids called you “white boy” for hanging with white kids. That affected you?

Yeah, sure. But since coming here, I’ve come to understand that racism only affects us as much as we allow it to. I allowed those things to affect me. But call it isolation. You isolate a group of people to the point where they have no identity. That peer pressure, where you’re not black enough for the blacks, not white enough for the whites and you are left alone. I think that is what causes that feeling of isolation. I didn’t belong.

Before I got here, I spent so much time, so much energy and effort, in doing things so people would like me. Being this and being that, just to fit in. When I got here I learned that I’m going to be myself. For me to come here and do that and have people still like me, it’s a very important lesson to learn.


Are you afraid to die?

I’m not afraid to die. Do I want to die — hell no.

When you die, on your tombstone you have two things; the day you were born and the day you die. There’s that dash in the middle that tells people how you lived. How I live is important to me. Dying is easy. It’s the living that most people find really hard.

I want something positive to come out of this no matter what happens to me. If any blessing doesn’t come to me directly, as long as somebody is blessed by the experience. To me that is important, and that is what I’m focused on.


How have you filled in that dash in the middle?

I used to want to be black . . . I moved away from being what’s black to being what’s human . . . I understand . . . that certain things transcend race and gender, and those things are what I look at now in people.

May 22, 2002

TEXAS—execution

Convenience store killer executed today 

Convicted killer Johnny Joe Martinez was executed this evening for 
fatally stabbing a Corpus Christi convenience store clerk 9 years ago.

In a lengthy final statement, Martinez was apologetic and bitter, blaming his state appointed appeals lawyers for his death. 

“I know I’m fixing to die, but not for my mistakes,” Martinez said. “My trial lawyers, they are the ones who are killing me.” 

Martinez had insisted that his initial appeals lawyers were incompetent and inexperienced and failed to take the proper steps to get him off death row. Late appeals, including some to the Supreme Court this week, were rejected. 

He apologized to the parents of his victim, Clay Peterson. Peterson’s
mother, Lana Norris, lobbied for his sentence to be reduced to a life term. 

“I want to thank you,” he said, referring to Norris. “It meant a lot to me.”

His voice shaking, Martinez said he failed to call his own mother Wednesday. “Tell my mother I love her too. I didn’t call her because I just couldn’t,” Martinez said. 

“I’m fine. I’m happy. I love you all. See you on the other side,” he said before taking a deep breath and slipping into unconsciousness. He was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m., 12 minutes after the lethal dose began. 

Martinez’s case gained notoriety when Norris joined the prisoner in asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare the 29-year-old Kingsville man by commuting his sentence to life in prison. 

The board, in an unusually close 9-8 vote Monday, refused the clemency
request. 

Attempts in the courts earlier this week to stop the execution were
unsuccessful and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a pair of appeals about an hour before his scheduled lethal injection. 

While not violent, prison officials described him as “passively resisting” as he was taken from the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, home of death row, for the 45-mile drive to the Huntsville Unit, where executions are carried out. 

“I’m not going to walk,” Martinez told prison guards. “You’re going to have to carry me.” 

They did, then repeated the procedure when he refused to walk himself into a cell just outside the death chamber. 

Martinez, who worked as a medical care technician at a home for the mentally retarded, said he was drunk and had smoked marijuana at a party when he walked into the store where Peterson was working alone about 3 a.m. July 15, 1993. 

The robbery of $25.65 from the cash register and the gruesome killing of the 20-year-old Peterson was caught on videotape by the store’s security camera.

“When you see that, you think: God, what a monster!” Martinez said recently from death row. “I couldn’t watch it. I couldn’t believe it was me… 

“There’s not one day I don’t think about what I did. I wish I could bring him back. To this day, I still can’t believe I did something like that.” 

As shown on the video, Martinez put a knife to Peterson’s throat, got money from the cash register, then attacked him. 

“To this day, I can’t tell you how many times he was stabbed,” Martinez said. 

“He plunges the knife into the guy’s neck 4 times,” Mark Skurka, the
Nueces County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Martinez, said,recalling the images from the tape. “It’s horrible. (Peterson) goes down face first. Johnny Joe Martinez tries to get around him and the guy tries to get back up. And he stabs him 4 more times in the back.” 

The video then shows Martinez running out of the store and a companion in the parking lot driving off without him. 

On the tape, the wounded Peterson climbs to the counter. 

“You see a hand come up and grab the phone,” Skurka said. “He’s talking like he’s drowning. You see his bloody hand… You basically see the guy die on camera. He slips down… You see the blood spurting all over the place. Then it’s deadly quiet until the cops get there. 

“It’s very moving, very riveting. It was very upsetting to the jury.” 

When Martinez gave a confession to police, he said the stabbing came after Peterson struggled. The video disputed the claim. 

“The kid never made a move to resist,” Skurka said. “Johnny Joe Martinez didn’t know there was a security video.” 

In her letter to the parole board, Peterson’s mother urged Martinez, who she met earlier this month in prison, be saved so another mother could avoid losing a son to murder. The rejection left her sad, she said. 

“We will be praying for Johnny and his family,” she said. 

Skurka said it was important to note a jury decided Martinez’s fate. 

“Not the mother, not me,” he said. “12 people apparently looked at the
video and decided this guy was a future danger.” 

Martinez becomes the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 269th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

Martinez becomes the 29th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 778th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Activists ask Governor Perry to grant 30-day reprieve for Johnny Martinez

May 22, 2002
Contact: Scott Cobb xxx-xxx-xxxx

Messages from around the country are pouring into Texas Governor Rick 
Perry’s office asking that he grant a 30-day reprieve for Johnny Martinez 
after an appeal for mercy form the mother of Mr. Martinez’s victim. A vigil 
will be held for Johnny Martinez this afternoon May 22 beginning at 5:30 PM 
at the Governor’s Mansion (11th & Lavaca).


At 6.00 PM tonight, Johnny Martinez is scheduled to be executed by the state 
of Texas for the murder of Clay Peterson. Lana Norris, the mother of the 
victim has asked that Johnny Martinez be granted clemency. The Texas Board 
of Pardons and Paroles denied this request by a vote of 9 to 8 this week.

Mrs. Norris (the victims mother) appeared on the Today Show today to share 
her message that “to execute him would be a ‘double crime against society’ 
because it would create another family who has lost a son.”

Texas Moratorium Network would like Governor Perry to ask the Texas Board of 
Pardons and Paroles to reconvene and reconsider a commutation in this case. 
We ask Gov. Perry to stop tonight’s execution by granting a 30-day reprieve 
so that the board can meet again and take into consideration the wishes of 
the victim’s mother to stop the execution.

Marisa Fehrenbach of Texas Moratorium Network wrote in a letter to Governor 
Perry, “The victim’s family must be heard. It is not fair nor moral for the 
state to support victims’ families who wish to execute while ignoring the 
wishes of a family that does not want their son’s killer executed.”

Fehrenbach continued, “Texas Moratorium Network asks that you grant Mr. 
Martinez a 30-day reprieve so that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles 
can reconvene and reconsider a commutation in this case. We ask you to stop 
tonight’s execution so that the board can meet again and take into 
consideration the wishes of the victim’s mother to commute the sentence to 
life in prison. Please ask the BPP to hold a public hearing so that the 
victim’s family may speak to the entire board about its wishes.”

Condemned convict met with woman in mediation program

A confessed killer, Johnny Joe Martinez, is scheduled to die by injection next week. The mother of his victim is trying to stop it. 


In a rare move, she has sent a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, asking that Mr. Martinez’s death sentence be commuted to life.

“To execute Mr. Martinez would be a double crime against society,” wrote Lana Norris, whose plea came after an unusual face-to-face meeting with her son’s killer. 

Ms. Norris, who also asked to talk personally with each member of the 
board, says she believes in the death penalty. She and her 2nd husband, 
Thomas Dillon, now deceased, backed a law to allow victims’ families to 
witness executions in Texas’ death chamber. 

Her letter makes it clear how devastated she was by the vicious stabbing 
death of her son, Clay Peterson, “my precious baby boy,” as he worked an 
overnight convenience-store shift 9 years ago. 

“I have hurt more than I knew possible,” she wrote. “I no longer wanted 
to live and even counted the pills, considering suicide in those early 
days. While I never took the pills, I just wanted out of the pain.”

But, she added, she doesn’t want another mother the killer’s to go 
through the same agony. “Please, do not cause another mother to lose her 
son to murder, needlessly!” she wrote. 

Any impact of Ms. Norris’ letter won’t be known for several days. Gerald 
Garrett, chairman of the board of Pardons and Paroles, said he doesn’t 
know whether he will schedule a public hearing to consider the case; if 
not, members will vote by fax machine, as usual, on whether the sentence 
should be carried out. 

Ms. Norris declined to talk with The Dallas Morning News about the letter 
except to say that, “I’ve been blessed by an extraordinary God and as a 
result of that have probably been healed more than most victims.”

She said she prayed long and hard about the decision before writing the 
letter May 7. She wrote it 4 days after meeting with Mr. Martinez, 29, in 
a mediation program offered by the prison system. 

Mediation involving victims and offenders in Texas has been available 
since 1994 at the request of victims. Only a handful out of the roughly 
100 sessions held to date have involved death row inmates, said Edwardo 
Mendoza, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s mediation 
coordinator. 

Few victims’ families in death row cases have sought mediation, and some 
convicts have refused them, perhaps because their cases are still on 
appeal. 

Information stemming from mediation is confidential and not given to the 
parole board for consideration of cases. 

Ms. Norris asked for a mediation session even though Mr. Martinez had not 
responded to a previous letter. After both parties underwent extensive 
counseling to prepare for the session, they met in the chapel of the 
prison unit in Livingston that houses death row. 

****

Here are the contents of a letter Lana Norris wrote to state pardons 
officials, seeking clemency for her son’s killer:

Dear Sir:

It is my understanding that there is a petition on the commutation of the 
death sentence to a life sentence in this case. I would like to have this 
letter considered as part of your decision in this issue. If possible, I 
would also like the opportunity to talk with each of you personally, 
either by phone or in person. As Clay Peterson’s mother, I feel that I 
have been affected by this crime more than any other person, with the 
exception of my precious baby boy, Clay.

Clay was 20 years old at the time of this crime. Even in the turmoil that 
existed in the beginning, I knew that Clay was okay and had forgiven 
Johnny Joe Martinez (hereafter referred to as Mr. Martinez). Yet, I did 
not know if the death sentence was appropriate. I was not and never have 
been asked if the death sentence was what I wanted. While I know that 
this case is the State of Texas vs. Mr. Martinez, my desires should be 
considered. I realize that I was too close to the case and too 
emotionally distraught to be able to look at things objectively at the 
time of the trial.

For over 8 1/2 years, I have struggled with the knowledge that I was in 
some way connected to an inmate on death row. Many times, each day, I 
think of Clay, and always my thoughts turn to Mr. Martinez. I am not 
trying to minimize the hurt and struggle I have been through. I have hurt 
more than I knew possible. I have felt anger, regret and every possible 
emotion. For a time, I lost hope and was clinically depressed. I no 
longer wanted to live and even counted the pills, considering suicide in 
those early days. While I never took the pills, I just wanted out of the 
pain.

For 8 1/2 years, I have revisited the pain of that night many times. I 
have struggled with the pain of knowing that Clay would not want this 
execution. To some extent, having an inmate on death row has complicated 
my recovery process. For the last couple of months, I have struggled with 
this issue even more. While I do believe in the death penalty, with the 
date of execution drawing near, I have done much soul searching. When 
Clay was killed, his crime was more than a crime against me and his 
family. It was a crime against society.

Clay was a loving, caring, young man. He was active in Christian youth 
ministry and would have had a positive impact on many throughout his 
life. While Mr. Martinez had a different start in life, there was nothing 
before this incident that would have led anyone to believe this crime 
would happen. Last Friday, May 3, I had the opportunity to do mediation 
with Mr. Martinez. There is no doubt in my mind, that to execute Mr. 
Martinez would be a double crime against society. Here is a young man 
that has truly repented and regrets his actions of July 15, 1993. If his 
sentence is commuted to a life sentence, he will be 54 before his 1st 
possible chance of parole. During that time, he could be a positive 
influence on other inmates that he comes in contact with. He may be able 
to help them understand how to change their life and direction for the 
better.

Please, do not cause another mother to lose her son to murder, needlessly!

In His Love,

Lana K. Norris 



The murder victim’s father issued this statement to the public:


My son, Clay Peterson, was a Christian who witnessed to many people in 
the South Texas area in his short life. I do not believe that he would 
have demanded the Old Testament punishment of an eye for an eye, but 
instead would have followed the teachings of Christ to forgive not 7 
times, but 70 times seven. I can do no less.

Society must protect itself from those who do not value the lives and 
property of others. However, I doubt that Johnny Martinez would be a 
threat to society by the time he would be eligible for parole if his 
sentence were commuted to life.

Paul B. Peterson 

*****

The session lasted about 4 hours, said Mr. Martinez’s defense attorney, 
David Dow, who witnessed the meeting. He described it as an extraordinary 
event that began with Ms. Norris holding Mr. Martinez’s shackled hands in 
prayer. 

‘I killed her only son’ 

Mr. Dow said his client was nervous before the session. 

“I killed her only son,” he told Mr. Dow as he waited for the session to 
begin. 

The killing occurred July 15, 1993. After a night of drinking, Mr. 
Martinez, then 20, robbed a Corpus Christi convenience store. Mr. 
Peterson, a college student who had celebrated his 20th birthday the day 
before, was stabbed 8 times in the neck, back and shoulders. The brutal 
killing was caught on videotape by a store surveillance camera. 

About 15 minutes after the stabbing, Mr. Martinez called 911 from a 
nearby motel, told the police dispatcher what he had done and said he 
would wait for authorities to arrive. He surrendered without resistance, 
expressed remorse and later confessed. 

During mediation, Ms. Norris told Mr. Martinez she wanted answers about 
what happened that day. The answer was similar to what he said at trial 
nine years ago: “I don’t know why. That’s a question I will never be able 
to answer.” 

Mr. Dow said there was no anger in the mediation session. “I don’t think 
there were any raised voices.” 

There were tears and occasional smiles. 

About halfway through the session, Mr. Dow said, Ms. Norris told Mr. 
Martinez that she believed in the death penalty but added, “I don’t think 
it’s right for you.” 

At that point, Mr. Martinez asked whether she would write a letter on his 
behalf. Ms. Norris said she would think about it; she called Clay’s 
father, Paul Peterson, who lives in the Dallas area, before sending the 
letter a few days later. 

Mr. Peterson, who is divorced from Ms. Norris, said he understood why she 
wrote the letter. Though he, too, supports the death penalty, he said he 
doesn’t object to a commutation for Mr. Martinez. 

’70 times 7′ 

His son discussed his Christian beliefs with many people and “would have 
followed the teachings of Christ to forgive not seven times but seventy 
times seven,” Mr. Peterson said. “I can do no less.” 

He said he had no desire to go through mediation with Mr. Martinez, but 
after talking with Ms. Norris, “I doubt that Johnny Martinez would be a 
threat to society by the time he would be eligible for parole if his 
sentence were commuted to life.” 

Mr. Dow said he is considering some last-minute legal maneuvers in the 
case, but Mr. Martinez’s fate now rests largely with the Texas Board of 
Pardons and Paroles. The 18-member board is expected to vote this week on 
Mr. Martinez’s case. 

Chairman Gerald Garrett said a letter asking for clemency from a relative 
of the victim is “out of the norm.” Because Ms. Norris was among those 
most directly affected by the crime, it would have more impact than most 
letters received by the board. 

“Here is a young man that has truly repented and regrets his actions of 
July 15, 1993,” she wrote. “If his sentence is commuted to a life 
sentence, he will be 54 before his 1st possible chance of parole. During 
that time, he could be a positive influence on other inmates that he 
comes in contact with.” 

No hint of violence 

Mr. Martinez is different from most death row inmates, said Mr. Dow, 
because he “had absolutely no markers in his own personal history that 
would have suggested that he was going to stab somebody to death one day. He had no prior convictions; in fact he had no prior history of violence.” 

Mr. Dow says his client, a high school dropout, was abused as a youngster and left home at age 14. 

To receive the death penalty in Texas, an offender must be shown to pose a future danger to society. Nueces County District Attorney Carlos Valdez said he knew Mr. Martinez had no history of criminal behavior but the brutality of the crime was enough to seek the death penalty. 

“We thought the offense itself, which was captured on videotape, showed the viciousness of the case and the case called for the death penalty,” Mr. Valdez said. 

Mr. Valdez said he consulted with family members before seeking the death penalty; Ms. Norris and Mr. Peterson say they were not asked. 

Clemency from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which must be approved by the governor, is rare. 

“I was appointed in 1995,” Mr. Garrett said, “And during my tenure, Mr. [Henry Lee] Lucas is the only person that has received a commutation recommendation.” 

Mr. Lucas, who confessed to being a serial killer, had his death sentence commuted to life in 1998, because of doubts about his truthfulness. 

District Attorney Valdez said he didn’t know if Ms. Norris’ plea would sway the parole board to commute Mr. Martinez’s sentence, but he didn’t think it should. “If anybody’s thinking about changing their mind, I suggest they watch the video of the killing,” he said. 

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