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Todd Willingham
Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed under Governor Rick Perry on February 17, 2004.

This month’s newsletter contains

  • information about the activist efforts of Jeannette Popp
  • an outline of the challenges ahead for 2002
    • an increase in executions,
    • the effects of redistricting,
    • and the statewide elections.

January 30, 2002

Dear Moratorium Supporter,

The new year is off to a good start for moratorium campaigning in Texas! Sister Helen has just finished a tour of the Lone Star State (including stops in Houston, and Austin, McAllen) and more people are signing the moratorium petition everyday.

There has also been recent, inspiring victory for our cause in Austin. Last month our dear friend Jeanette Popp, mother of Nancy De Priest, for whose murder Chris Ochoa and Richard Danziger were wrongly convicted, intervened with the Travis County DA’s office to save the actual killer, Achim Marino, from a likely execution. In an act of incredible courage, Jeanette visited Marino in jail to persuade him to accept a plea bargain that would have prevented prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. While Marino still contemplated asking to be executed, the DA gave in to Jeanette’s pressure and took the death penalty off the table. We cannot say enough how we
admire Jeanette’s compassion, mercy, and courage.

Moratorium activists will be needing some of Jeanette’s inspiration this year, because there is a lot of hard work ahead. We see three challenges awaiting us in 2002: (1) a likely increase in the number of executions in Texas; (2) the effects of redistricting; (3) state elections.

(1) Increase in executions
In 2000, Texas executed 40 people in 2000 (more than any state in all of U.S. history). In 2001, the number of executions was down to 17. It is likely to increase this year, because (as one report describes it) a glut of cases is working its way through the last stages of appeal. Two men have already been killed since the beginning of the year. This is a terrible development, and another reason to increase our efforts.

(2) Effects of redistricting
As dust settles from redistricting, it is becoming clear that we are going to lose at least six State Representatives who supported moratorium bills in the last session. In general, last session more Democrats than Republicans supported moratorium legislation. In 2003, both the House and Senate will be more Republican. We will need to re-emphasize to our lawmakers that a moratorium is not a partisan issue. Do take the opportunity to send a free fax to your legislator from Sister Helen’s website (http://www.MoratoriumCampaign.org). The service will be available starting January 31st.

(3) State elections:
2002 is an election year, and the primaries are coming up soon (March 12). This gives us an opportunity to raise the moratorium issue all across the state of Texas. Simply vote in one of the primaries, then go to the Precinct meeting of the Party for which you voted (the meeting should be in the same place where you voted, but ask …) At this meeting you can introduce a Moratorium Resolution, which will call on the Party to endorse a moratorium on all executions in Texas. And at this meeting you can volunteer to be a delegate for the County or District Convention. After your resolution passes, it moves to the County, or District Party conventions (April 6), where, if you are a delegate, you can vote on it again. Here you can get yourself elected as a delegate to the State Convention, held in June (June 7-8 Republicans, Dallas; June 13-15 Democrats, El Paso), where you can vote on your resolution yet again. Once your resolution passes this stage, it is part of the official Party Platform! Sample resolutions are available at:


Please contact Brian Evans with any questions, comment, or suggestions about this effort; and let us know how it goes!

A final note on 2002 election:
While none of the gubernatorial candidates supports a moratorium, we were especially disappointed to hear Democratic hopeful Dan Morales voice his approval of Governor Perry’s decision to veto a bill that would have banned execution of persons with mental retardation. He said the bill was an effort to water down the death penalty. Morales’ Democratic opponent, Tony Sanchez, has said he would have signed the ban (although he has not said whether he would support a moratorium).

The candidates are lagging behind the times: they still think indiscriminate killing is an easy way to win votes. If they meet you on the campaign trail, tell them they are out of touch; Texas is changing on this issue.

In closing, best wishes for 2002. Don’t forget to vote!

The December newsletter has been released and includes information about:

  • March for a Moratorium
  • Adopt-A-Legislator Program
  • Execution of Gerald Mitchell for a crime committed when he was only 17

December e-letter:

Greeting moratorium supporters!

The October 27 Second Annual March for a Moratorium was a success. Over 400
moratorium supporters from around Texas and beyond marched up Congress Ave
in downtown Austin and rallied at the Capitol. Speakers at the rally
included former death row inmate Kerry Cook, Rena and Ireland Beazley
(parents of Napoleon, a juvenile offender on Texas death row), Bishop
Gregory Aymand, Jeanette Popp (mother of murder victim Nancy DePriest), as
well as Renny Cushing and Linda White of Murder Victims Families for
Reconciliation (MVFR). The crowd was especially moved to hear murder
victims’ family members speak out against executions. The presence of these
voices of mercy and compassion are sure sign that the movement for a
moratorium is growing.

We expect the march to be an even bigger success next year. Texas
Moratorium Network, along with other march planners, is grateful to
everyone who made contributions, who travelled to attend the march, and who
helped get the word out. The energy bodes well for the 2003 legislative

At the moment, one of our chief projects is building the 2002 Adopt a
Legislator Program.
Last session several legislators became strong
moratorium supporters because their constituents contacted them before the
session and gradually won them over to the cause. What we need now are a
few dedicated individuals around the state to *adopt a legislator* and to
make him or her a moratorium supporter. To sign up, or to learn more,
contact Brian Evans (bcevans@mail.utexas.edu).

In other news:

On October 22, Texas went forward with an especially tragic execution.
Gerald Mitchell was killed for the 1985 murder of Charles Marino. Mitchell
was only 17 at the time of the murder. Most of the world has condemned
execution of juvenile offenders as a barbaric practice. This year, Texas’
House of Representatives passed a bill that would have banned such
executions, but it died in the Senate.
We are still hopeful that the execution of Napoleon Beazley, another
juvenile offender, can be stopped. If you have not read Amnesty
International’s report on Napoleon and juvenile’s, please do so at:


In better news, Jeanette Popp has succeeded in convincing the Austin
District Attorney’s office *not* to seek the death penalty in the trial of
Joe Achim Marino, her daughter’s accused killer. Marino also initially
wanted to be eligible for execution, but a visit from Popp convinced
everyone that another killing was not the answer. This is a major victory
for opponents of the current death penalty system, and for victims’ rights.

In January, Sister Helen will be making a tour through Texas. She will be
appearing at a religious retreat in San Antonio on Jan. 19, at a
Defendant’s Service at the University of Houston on Jan. 23, at the LBJ
Auditorium on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin on Jan. 24,
at St. Thomas Church in Amarillo on Jan. 25, and at Holy Spirit Parish in
McAllen on Jan. 26. If you live near any of these locations, please try to
make it to her appearance. You won’t be disappointed.

Happy Holidays one and all, and we look forward to building support for a
moratorium on executions in 2002!

The Texas Moratorium Network

Vincent Cooks is scheduled to become the 256th person executed since 1976 in Texas on Dec. 12. Convicted of the robbery/murder of Dallas Police Officer Gary McCarthy in 1988, Cooks’ appeals have focused on scanty eyewitness testimony.

Cooks has argued on appeal that only one out of ten eyewitnesses to the murder were able to identify him from a lineup, with a number of other witnesses identifying people other than Cooks. Eyewitness accounts have also given inconsistent judgements of the height and weight of the murderer. Some claimed he weighed approximately 220 pounds and was around 5′ 10. Cooks weighed 318 pounds at the time of his arrest and is 6′ 0. These facts were presented at trial and federal courts have sided with the jury. It is worth remembering that the eyewitness testimony of one person was enough to put Anthony Porter within days of an Illinois execution chamber- testimony that was later shown to be false. Porter has since been fully exonerated of the crime.

Cooks has also suggested that the jury was unfairly motivated to see him as a violent and dangerous man. As evidence, he has questioned why his legs were shackled during trial. Previous courts have ruled that shackling a defendant in the court seriously damages the presumption of innocence all defendants are entitled to. Far from embracing this claim, federal courts have accepted the prosecutor’s rationale that it was not intended that the jury actually see the shackles. Moreover, at trial prosecutors misconstrued Cooks’ school record, claiming that he had to be removed from class so the rest of the school could function. In fact, Cooks was merely placed in a disciplinary setting for his truancy problem.

The strategy of the prosecution to paint Vincent Cooks as an aggressive and violent person has worked to Cooks’ disadvantage. Federal courts repeatedly have denied Cooks’ contention that the jury was improperly prejudiced. Please write and call to let Gov. Perry know that convictions require evidence, not innuendo.

Please Contact

Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
PO Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2418
phone: (512) 463 1782
fax: (512) 463 1849
e-mail: www.governor.state.tx.us/e-mail.html

Board of Pardons and Paroles
Attn: Gerald Garret
Executive Clemency Section
PO Box 13401, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
phone: (512) 406 5852
fax: (512) 467 0945
e-mail: www.governor.state.tx.us/e-mail.html

Write Op-Ed

The Austin American-Statesman
P.O. Box 670
Austin, TX 78767
phone: (512) 445-3667
fax: (512) 445-3679
e-mail: news@statesman.com
web: www.austin360.com/statesman/editions/today

Dallas Morning News
2726 S. Beckley
Dallas, TX 75224
phone: (214) 977-8462
fax: (214) 977-8019
e-mail: discoveries@dallasnews.com
web: www.dallasnews.com

Houston Chronicle
P.O. Box 4260
Houston, TX 77210
phone: (713) 220-7491
fax: (713) 220-6806
e-mail: hci@chron.com
web: www.houstonchronicle.com

The October 2001 newsletter contains information about:

  • 2nd Annual March for a Moratorium
  • Juvenile offender execution
  • Meet your legislators program


Texas Moratorium Network


Dear Moratorium Supporter,

As we continue to organize for a moratorium on executions in Texas, we are pleased to report that Sister Helen Prejean has agreed to serve on the Texas Moratorium Network Board of Advisors. Sister Prejean is the author of Dead Man Walking and Chair of the Moratorium Campaign based in New Orleans. She is a tireless activist on this issue both nationally and internationally, and we are excited to have her with us.

There is much more to report for October 2001, so let’s get right to it:


The 2nd Annual March for a Moratorium is on schedule for Saturday, October 27, 2001, in Austin, Texas. This promises to be the largest public event ever to challenge the death penalty in the State of Texas. Over 1000 Texans are expected to converge of the Capitol to raise their voices for a halt to executions. Come to Austin and be a part of history!

Here are the specifics (for more information, including directions, call us at 512-302-6715, or go to ):

1 pm – Gather at Republic Park (4th and Guadalupe)
2 pm – March to the Capitol
3 pm – Rally at the Capitol
5 pm – Post-event party (Center for Mexican-American Cultural Arts — 600 River Street)

Speakers will include:

Kerry Cook (an innocent man who spent over 20 years on death row)
Rep. Harold Dutton (sponsor of moratorium bills in the 77th Texas Legislature)
Ireland and Rena Beazley (parents of Napoleon, an African-American juvenile offender sent to Death Row by an all-white jury)
Deborah Bell (President of Texas NOW and founder of the Andrea Pia Yates Support Coalition)
Jeanette Popp (mother of Nancy DePriest, for whose murder Christopher Ochoa and Richard Danziger were wrongly convicted by a Travis County jury)
Jeannine Scott (wife of Yogurt Shop Defendant Michael Scott)
Njeri Shakur (Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement)
Will Harrell (ACLU of Texas)


In Other News …


In violation of international law, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Gerald Mitchell who was sentenced to death for a crime he committed when he was 17. Executing juvenile offenders is almost universally recognized as a fundamental violation of international law and is forbidden by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which every nation on Earth has ratified except Somalia and the United States. Texas accounts for more than half of all the world’s executions of juvenile offenders in the last ten years. Under Texas law, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has the exclusive power to commute a sentence of death to life in prison.

Please fax or call individual Board members as well. For the appropriate contact information, go to:

For background and talking points on this case, go to:


Passage of a moratorium in Texas depends on our legislators, and getting the support of our legislators depends on YOU. Please try to meet or talk with your elected State Representatives whenever you can. For more information, or to join the adopt-a-legislator program, visit the website ), or contact Brian Evans at 512-479-8094 (email: )

Thank you for your continued support, and we hope to see many of you on October 27.


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.


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.


-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.


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)


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

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