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.

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. 

KPRC Channel 2 Houston Endorses Moratorium

Moratorium On Executions Needed (4/18/01)
System Has Flaws

HOUSTON, 4:23 p.m. CDT April 18, 2001 — We would like to believe that the state of Texas has never executed an innocent person. But it could happen. 
Since 1975, 95 inmates in the U.S. — seven in Texas — have been released from death row after being found innocent. 

Governor Perry found the need for post-conviction DNA testing so pressing that he designated legislation granting access to it an emergency. 

Besides questions of accuracy, the justice system is under fire in Austin for unfairness. Lawmakers are working on a bill to raise standards for public defenders. 

Now a senate resolution asks to set a two-year moratorium on executions while a special commission studies possible flaws in our criminal justice system. 

Channel 2 thinks this is a good idea. 
As long as we think the system has faults, we should hold off on dispensing lethal justice — until we are sure it is not a lethal mistake. 

Copyright 2001 by Click2Houston.com. 

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