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.

This Friday and Saturday March 23-24 in Austin there will be a symposium examining lynching and the death penalty.

The Lynching and the Death Penalty symposium begins with a keynote address by Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, titled “Lynching, Racial History and Death Penalty Disqualification.” This two-day symposium explores the historical link between lynching and the death penalty and the enduring role of lynching and race discrimination in contemporary capital litigation.

Location: Connally Center for Justice (CCJ), Eidman Courtroom 2.306
Admission: Free and open to the public; advance registration recommended
URL: http://www.utexas.edu/law/centers/capitalpunishment/lynching.html

Symposium Information:

Symposium registration and general contact:

The conference is free, but space is limited. To register for the conference and for additional information, contact Rachel Sidopulos, Center Administrator, William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, at rsidopulos@law.utexas.edu, (512) 232-6277 (phone).

 

Sponsored by:

CPC Logo

Presented by:

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Student Organization Sponsors:
The American Journal of Criminal Law
Chicano/Hispanic Law Students’ Association
Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
The Thurgood Marshall Legal Society

Charlie Baird, the former judge who held a hearing in the Todd Willingham case in an attempt to determine if he was wrongfully executed, today criticized Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg regarding a fatal police shooting of a citizen in Austin. Baird is running against Lehmberg for Travis County DA.

Baird sent out the following email with the subject line “Where is Justice?”:

“All we know is that young man is dead and no one, presumably, is to blame.

Earlier today, a Travis County Grand Jury returned a no-bill in the case of Austin Police Officer Nathan Wagoner. Wagoner shot an unarmed, 20-year-old young man four times, including once in the back of the head, and killed him on the night of May 30, 2011.

That young man was Byron Carter, Jr. His death left his young son—Byron Carter, III.—without a father.

Byron is the latest victim in an officer-involved shooting in Travis County for whom there is no justice. As of today, with the conclusion of all grand jury presentments in this case, the only thing we know is that a young man is dead, and no one is to blame.

Time and again, law enforcement in this city has shot and killed people–mainly African Americans, like Byron–and time and again the grand juries to whom District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and her office present these cases return no indictment.

How, when a police officer fires five shots in to two unarmed individuals in 1.5 seconds—which is what occurred in the case of Byron’s death, according to Police Chief Acavedo’s own account this afternoon—can a District Attorney not even secure an indictment for reckless discharge of a firearm against the officer?

News outlets such as the Austin Chronicle have raised significant questions about the shooting that killed Byron Carter. Today, we are left with more questions than answers.

Incidents like this, and the failure of our District Attorney to hold anyone accountable for such tragic deaths, shakes our confidence in the criminal justice system in Travis County to the very core.

No matter your race, economic background, or political bent, incidents like this should cause you to question the effectiveness and quality of our District Attorney’s Office.

Today, a son is without his father, a grandmother is without her grandson, and a community has lost its faith in its criminal justice system.

As someone who has given my life to improving our criminal justice system as a lawyer, judge, and law professor, rarely have I seen a result which has caused so many people to question the integrity of a District Attorney’s Office or the leadership of a District Attorney.

I will not, however, lose faith in our system. I know that we can do better, and I know that we can bring about justice that works for everyone in Travis County through new, bold, progressive leadership in our DA’s office.

I challenge you to also not lose faith in our system. Know that, through hard work, together you and I can work to make possible the only kind of change that counts in a situation like this: the kind of change that comes only from the ballot box.

Sincerely,

Charlie Baird

Wednesday’s execution will be the 480th in Texas since 1982 and the 241st since Rick Perry became Governor. More than 50 percent of all executions in Texas in the modern era have been conducted under Rick Perry. Call the Office of Governor Rick Perry at 512 463 2000 to give him your opinion on the death penalty.

From KPRC:

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -A man who killed his estranged wife and her new boyfriend more than 10 years ago in Montgomery County is scheduled to be executed Wednesday in Huntsville.

Keith Thurmond shot and killed his 8-year-old son’s mother in front of the boy in 2001. Thurmond also shot and killed Guy Fernandez, the man that Sharon Thurmond was dating.

At the 2002 capital murder trial, Keith and Sharon Thurmond’s son testified he saw his father shoot his mother repeatedly in the backyard of the mobile home near Magnolia, where she was living with Fernandez.

Thurmond’s lawyer has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the lethal injection.

If the execution is carried out Wednesday, it would be the third this year in Texas.

Wednesday’s execution will be the 479th in Texas since 1982 and the 240th since Rick Perry became Governor. As of Wednesday, more than 50 percent of all executions in Texas in the modern era will have been conducted under Rick Perry.

Office of Governor Rick Perry 512 463 2000.

From the AP:

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — An inmate already saddled with 17 life prison terms told a jury he deserved death for organizing the largest-ever jailbreak from a Texas prison and then killing a suburban Dallas police officer while a fugitive with six others who escaped with him.

Prosecutors insisted George Rivas actually was trying to manipulate jurors and use reverse psychology on them to avoid the death chamber. But if that was the prisoner’s plan, it didn’t work. Jurors decided he should die, and now the 41-year-old Rivas is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville.

Rivas was the first of his prison-break gang, which became known as the “Texas 7,” to be tried for the fatal shooting of Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins on Christmas Eve of 2000. All of the inmates received death sentences for the killing.

With his appeals exhausted, Rivas has seen his request for clemency rejected by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. He’s acknowledged he’s ready to die for the killing.

“It’s bittersweet,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from death row. “Bitter because I hurt for my family … Sweet because it’s almost over.” He declined an interview with The Associated Press.

Co-Director Joe Bailey Jr

We attended the DVD release party of “Incendiary: The Willingham Case” tonight at the Violet Crown in Austin.

The award-winning documentary INCENDIARY:  THE WILLINGHAM CASE is now available on Apple’s iTunes Movie Store and DVD

INCENDIARY follows a tragic tale that started with a 1991 house fire that resulted in the deaths of Cameron Todd Willingham’s three daughters in a Corsicana, Texas.  Convicted largely on faulty arson evidence, Willingham was sentenced to death for the murder of his children.  Despite overwhelming expert criticism of the prosecution’s “junk science,” he was executed in 2004.  Subsequent investigations of the case landed the Willingham case into the national spotlight, made brighter and more intense by the presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama, INCENDIARY explores both the intricate arson forensics surrounding the case and the polarized public responses to Willingham’s execution.  Co-directors Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr. bring a unique combination of filmmaking and legal backgrounds to the film.
“It’s a riddle and a brainteaser of a film that asks you to figure out who is telling the truth and why,” said Mims.  While Willingham’s death has become a call for reform in forensics and a rallying cry for the anti-death penalty movement, he remains an indisputable “monster” in the eyes of Governor Perry, who ignored the science that could have saved Willingham’s life.  
“We set out to make a film that sticks to the facts of the original event and the scientific evidence surrounding the case,” said Bailey.  “We had no other cause.  But with the inevitable injection of politics into the story, the film needed to pull back the curtain on some rough and ready political hardball.”  
Winner of the 2011 Louis Black South by Southwest Award, INCENDIARY garnered critical acclaim in limited theatrical release.  Anne Hornaday of the Washington Post wrote: “Nonfiction filmmaking at its most classic.  Crime, punishment, morality and hardball politics make for an explosive narrative mix all their own.” “Alarming viewing for anyone who cares about the American justice system,” wrote Sheri Linden for the Los Angeles Times.  Art Levine of the Huffington Post called INCENDIARY:  “A gripping, visually stunning indictment of a miscarriage of justice as great as that chronicled in Errol Morris’s groundbreaking THE THIN BLUE LINE.” 
INCENDIARY:  THE WILLINGHAM CASE is available for rental or purchase on Apple’s iTunes store and on DVD via incendiarymovie.com.
For more information on INCENDIARY and the Willingham case, visit INCENDIARYMOVIE.COM.
Co-Director Steve Mims (middle)

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