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 September newsletter contains information about cases to watch (Napoleon Beazley, Calvin Burdine, Max Soffar, and Andrea Pia Yates) as well as a speaking schedule for Sister Helen Prejean in Texas. www.texasmoratorium.org September 23, 2001 Dear Moratorium Supporters, We apologize that our newsletter is behind schedule this month. Like all Americans, we have recently been given to shock and mourning. But the need to stop executions in Texas is too important to for us to stop working. We also believe that now it is more important than ever to celebrate our democracy by pursuing reforms that will make it better, more humane, and more just. Since our last letter, in August, there have been several positive steps toward stopping executions in Texas. First, the plans for the Second Annual March for a Moratorium are rapidly progressing; people from all over Texas and beyond have said they plan to come (more on that at the bottom). Second, recent studies show that in Texas, and nationwide, the pace of executions is slowing. Texas had 40 executions in 2000. This year, it has had 13. Only three more are scheduled. This promising development comes just as two controversial Texas executions were stopped by the courts and civil rights groups are rallying to keep Andrea Yates off death row. CASES TO WATCH: -On August 15, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution to Napoleon Beazley in order to consider whether his previous legal counsel had been effective. Napoleon, who is on death row for the Tyler murder of John Luttig, has been the subject of an international letter writing campaign because he was a juvenile at the time of his crime and his trial appears to have been marred by racism and bias. Thorough information on his case is available from the American Bar Association (http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/beazley.html). Please follow their instructions on writing letters to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. If Napoleon's stay is lifted, the Board will be the last hope for stopping his execution. -Calvin Burdine, a death row inmate convicted in one Texas' infamous sleeping lawyer cases, will get a new trial. The Fifth Circuit Court blocked his execution in late August. They concluded that unconscious counsel equates to no counsel at all. We await word of a trial date. -September 20 the Fifth Circuit Court hears oral arguments concerning the conviction of Max Soffar, who has been on Texas death row since 1981. Max's was initially represented by the same attorney as Burdine (Joe Cannon). What is worse, there are serious doubts about his guilt. Last December the Fifth Circuit threw out Max's 1981 conviction and death sentence but the state has since managed to convince the court to hear arguments en banc. Max's case, involving a poor legal representation and a dubious confession, is another perfect example of what with wrong with application of the death penalty in Texas. It is one we need to continue watching. -Looking ahead to another highly controversial case, Texas Moratorium Network has joined with the ACLU, the National Organization for Women, and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in support of the Andrea Pia Yates Support Coalition. Harris County Prosecutors have announced they will seek the death penalty against Andrea Yates for the murders of her five children. The Coalition believes that the death penalty is wholly inappropriate for her because she committed her crime while suffering from postpartum psychosis. UPCOMING EVENTS: September 26-28: Sister Helen will be speaking in Texas at the following times and locations: Dioceses of Galveston - Houston Date: 9/26/2001 Houston, Texas Location: Dioceses of Galveston - Houston 1700 San Jacinto Houston, TX 77001 Contact: Robert Scamardo (Tel: 713-659-5461; Fax: 713-759-9151) St. Mary's Catholic Center Date: 9/27/2001 College Station, Texas Location: St. Mary's Catholic Center 603 Church Ave. College Station , TX 77840 Contact: 979-846-5717 ext. 102 Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, Inc. (Red Mass) Date: 9/28/2001 Beaumont, Texas Location: Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, Inc. (Red Mass) 801 Laurel St. Beaumont, TX 77840 Contact: Richard Clarkson (409-838-1000) MARCH FOR A MORATORIUM UPDATE: The Second Annual March for a Moratorium is shaping up to be a huge success. On Saturday, October 27, moratorium supporters from all over Texas and beyond will gather in Austin at Republic Park (5th and Guadalupe) at 1 PM. We will march to the Capitol at 2PM. At 3PM will hear speakers on the steps of the Capitol. Committed speakers include State Representative Harold Dutton, Jr., author of House Bill 720 (to enact a moratorium), Deborah Bell, president of Texas National Organization for Women, Will Harell, executive directive of Texas ACLU, and exonerated former Texas death row inmate Kerry Cook. Word about the march is traveling fast. We have heard from marchers coming from such diverse places as El Paso, Boston, and Washington, D.C. By the end of October, e-mail and print announcements should have reached nearly twenty thousand Texans. More information, including contact information for travel coordinators, will posted to www.texasmoratorium.org. For the moment, Annette Spanhel (Aspanhel@yahoo.com) is offering camping space on her ranch in Dripping Springs (45 minutes from Austin) for students or anyone who needs to travel to the march on a tight budget. Please join us in making this the biggest moratorium march Texas has ever seen. Best wishes, Texas Moratorium Network
Some of our best allies in the legislature were on our side because constituents pressured them from even before the session and refused to let up. We believe that if constituents keep reminding their legislators of the facts--with letters, phone calls, visits, photo-copies of newspaper articles--that legislators will become moratorium supporters. What we need now is dedicated volunteers all around the state to "adopt a legislator" and to focus on turning that legislations into a moratorium supporter.
This first issue contains information about our new monthly e-mail newsletter, the Adopt A Legislator program, the upcoming execution of Napoleon Beazley, and the second Annual March for a Moratorium (Oct 27, 2001, Austin, Texas) August 12, 2001 Dear Moratorium Supporter, At time of writing, we have 1 year, 150 days, 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 37 seconds left until the beginning of the next legislative session. The Texas Moratorium Network considers this no time to rest! In the last session your letters and phone calls to legislators helped create a climate that made important reforms possible, reforms like post-conviction DNA testing and improvements in indigent defense. And moratorium bills took the lead in this progress. As The New York Times put it, A new found willingness of legislators to consider (death penalty reform) became apparent when bills to impose a moratorium passed out of committee, before eventually dying. Such bills had never even been given a hearing in the past. In other words, you made a difference. We know it was heartbreaking when Governor Perry vetoed the ban on execution of the mentally retarded, but we think that's a decision he may live to regret. Grass-roots efforts are already slowing the pace of executions in Texas, but terrible injustices continue. Please stay involved as we get ready to win the moratorium in 2003. At the moment, we hope you will help us and other activists with four projects: 1. TMN's monthly e-mail newsletter 2. TMN's Adopt a Legislator program 3. Protest the execution of Napoleon Beazley 4. Second Annual March for a Moratorium (Oct 27, 2001, Austin, Tx.) Please read on for details. 1. Monthly newsletter - ask family and friends to join! During the session, this e-mail list was used for legislative action alerts. For the interim, we would like to continue to use it as a monthly newsletter. We believe that the better informed Texas moratorium supporters are, the more effective they can be in putting pressure on legislators and media. We promise that we will issue a newsletter no more than monthly (within the first week of the month). It will contain only information relevant to the death penalty - and efforts to stop executions - in Texas. By limiting the letter's scope in this way, we hope to be brief but useful. If you ever wish to remove yourself from this list, explanation of how to do so is included at the bottom of every message. On the other hand, if you know others who would like to be added to the list, please refer them to our Web site, texasmoratorium.org. They should click on Join E-mail List. 2. Adopt a Legislator Some of our best allies in the legislature were on our side because constituents pressured them from even before the session and refused to let up. We believe that if constituents keep reminding their legislators of the facts --with letters, phone calls, visits, photo-copies of newspaper articles --that legislators will become moratorium supporters. What we need now is dedicated volunteers all around the state to adopt a legislator and to focus on turning that legislator into a moratorium supporter. Would you be interested in adopting your Senator or Representative? Would you like more information about how to contact your legislators and to encourage them to take a stand in support of a moratorium? Please contact Legislative Coordinator Brian Evans (bcevans@mail.utexas.edu; 512-302-6715). 3. Texas to execute juvenile offender -- please contact the Governor August 15 Texas is set to execute Napoleon Beazley for the 1993 murder of John Luttig in Tyler, Texas. His case is a potent reminder of why Texas needs a moratorium. Napoleon was seventeen at the time of his crime. The United States is among a small minority of countries that still has not banned execution of juvenile offenders as a human rights abuse. Napoleon's death stands to be especially tragic because the Texas legislature nearly established such a ban. House Bill 2048 passed the House and then stalled in the Senate. In addition, Napoleon, who is African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury, one of whom was later quoted making an openly racist remark. Many who know Napoleon insist that he has great potential for rehabilitation, but his trial judge severely limited testimony about his character in his sentencing hearing. The injustice of this execution has been discussed by an in-depth report by Amnesty International (Too young to vote, old enough to be executed, http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/print/AMR511052001?OpenDocument). We urge you to read more about this execution and to take action against it. E-mail appeals to governor Governor Perry can be made online. -- Go to http://www.governor.state.tx.us -- click on contact information -- click on email the governor The office also maintains the Governor's Opinion Hotline for Texas residents. The telephone number is 800-252-9600. 4. Save the date! Second Annual March for a Moratorium Austin, TX. Saturday, October 27, 2001 2 PM, Republic Park (5th and Guadelupe) (details to follow) Last year's moratorium march brought over 700 marchers from Texas and beyond to protest then-Governor George Bush's horrendous record of executions. It may well have been the largest public protest of executions in the history of Texas. This year's march promises to be bigger. During the legislative session, Governor Rick Perry showed his uncritical support for the death penalty by vetoing even a modest reform to ban execution of persons with mental retardation. Come tell him he is wrong. It's time not only to ban killing the mentally retarded, but to halt Texas executions altogether. The march is being planned by an Austin-based steering committee with members representing a wide array of activist groups. To contact organizers, please call Texas Moratorium Network at 512-302-6715. More information and up-dates will posted to texasmoratorium.org. The campaign for a moratorium in Texas is strong and getting stronger. Don't miss the chance to be part of history. Moratorium now! With best wishes, Texas Moratorium Network
Second Annual March for a Moratorium Austin, TX. Saturday, October 27, 2001 (details to follow) Last year's moratorium march brought over 700 marchers from Texas and beyond to protest then-Governor George Bush's horrendous record of executions. It may well have been the largest public protest of executions in the history of Texas.  
Death Penalty  It's time for Texas to pause  Dallas Morning News Editorial Board 04/22/2001  The process takes no more than seven minutes.  The death-bound prisoner, strapped on a gurney, is already hooked to an intravenous feed of saline solution. Upon the warden's signal, the executioner plunges into the tube a lethal dose of sodium thiopental to sedate the prisoner. This is followed by a muscle relaxant so that involuntary body functions cease, collapsing the diaphragm and lungs. The only sound is the prisoner's one or two snorts as air rushes to equalize pressure in the chest cavity. Potassium chloride is then added to stop the prisoner's heart. Then everyone waits, and a doctor is admitted to pronounce the prisoner dead.  State executions are less grotesque than in the days when electricity was used to shock the life out of convicts, but they still are a gruesome business. Nonetheless, last year Texas found it necessary to take the lives of 39 men and one woman because they took many more than 40 lives in more brutal ways.  But what if the state was wrong? Texas has executed 245 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976; 449 await execution. What if one, two, three, pick a number, did not commit the crimes alleged?  Some argue the fact that dozens of people have been moved off Texas death row over the years proves the system of safeguards works.  However, The Dallas Morning News believes the contrary – the close calls make one wonder how many got called right. Texas leaders are beginning to admit the system's faults. The governor this month signed a bill expediting DNA testing to clarify culpability. The Legislature looks likely to pass a proposal to improve the quality of indigent defense. The attorney general this year confessed state error in allowing a psychologist to use race as a factor in death sentencing hearings.  Correcting these admitted wrongs may improve the judicial system in the future. But these actions won't redress all avenues of possible error. And they will only reduce the chance of future error; they will not remedy all past wrongs.  That's why Texas needs to pause in its administration of the death penalty and take a larger look at its justice system. Measures making their way through the Legislature would allow Texans to vote for a moratorium on the death penalty while a commission on capital punishment investigates and evaluates the fairness of the death penalty's implementation.  The system needs evaluation. Consider the recent testimony of Houston lawyer Scott Atlas before the committee.  Mr. Atlas and nearly a dozen other lawyers at the Vinson & Elkins firm spent $2.5 million of their time to investigate the case of death row inmate Ricardo Aldape Guerra. The illegal alien, who had no previous arrests, claimed innocence in the 1982 killing of a Houston police officer. The team was able to find alleged eyewitnesses and to obtain evidence about bullet trajectories that proved not only Mr. Aldape Guerra's innocence but also strong police and prosecutor misconduct in coercing false witness testimony.  Defendants without the pro bono services of a major law firm or the money to spend on quality defense have little hope of being saved from false charges. As a result, the poor – typically minorities – populate death row.  That's one of the issues being considered by a commission studying the death penalty in Illinois, where last year GOP Gov. George Ryan ordered a moratorium on executions. The commission appointed by the governor includes defense and prosecuting lawyers, judges, death penalty opponents and some nonlawyers.  Illinois Deputy Gov. Matt Bettenhausen says that public hearings have highlighted the whole issue of fairness, including disparities in charges and sentencing based on wealth as well as race.  "You can have like cases with similar facts and one will get 40 years and another will get death," Mr. Bettenhausen states. He notes that two-thirds of the 160 Illinois death row inmates are African-American.  The commission also has met frequently as a working group to consider errors in cases and ways to correct them. No date is set for a final report.  The legislation being considered in Texas would require a completed review of the state judicial system by the next legislative session. This would allow some assessment of any reforms enacted this year and consideration of other reforms, such as barring the appointment of defense lawyers with state bar disciplinary problems and creating stricter procedures for use of jailhouse informant testimony. It also would allow a determination of whether the death penalty has been applied discriminatorily and whether the process for reviewing claims is fair. In Texas, 42 percent of the death row inmates are black and 22 percent are Hispanic.  The moratorium on executions would start only if voters approved it in a referendum this November. It would expire by September 2003.  What redress could a moratorium achieve?  The state would not be forced to retry the outstanding death penalty cases. However, the commission might recommend that the Legislature determine the need for an independent review of cases where new evidence warrants consideration, especially given that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rarely grants claims of new evidence.  Our state leaders and citizens should support a study commission and moratorium on executions. The cost of postponing those very final seven minutes for some prisoners would not be great, but the potential savings to the Texas conscience could be. 
%d bloggers like this: