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

Death Row Exoneree Takes Action Against Prosecutor

HOUSTON — Former death row inmate Anthony Graves, who who spent 18 years behind bars before being exonerated, announced Monday that he is taking action against the man who prosecuted him, alleging prosecutorial misconduct.

“We’re here today, Martin Luther King Day, seeking justice for me and my family and the citizens of this state,” Graves told a crowd at Texas Southern University while announcing that he would file a grievance against former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta

Graves spent 12 of his 18 years in prison on death row — where he twice neared execution. Graves had been convicted of killing a Somerville family of six, even though another man, Robert Carter, confessed that he was the sole killer. Both men were sentenced to death. Then, in 2006, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ conviction, ruling that Sebesta had used false testimony and withheld Carter’s confession from the defense.

“I’m asking prosecutors to cooperate with the highest of integrity,” Graves said. “It took me 18 and a half years to get back home. Two execution dates. All because a man abused his position.”

Robert Bennett, Graves’ attorney, said Graves could elect to pursue criminal charges against Sebesta in addition to filing a grievance with the State Bar of Texas. Sebesta could not immediately be reached for comment, but he has denied that he withheld evidence in the case. On his website, Sebesta defends his actions and points to the State Bar’s dismissal of a previous grievance over the case.

State Sens. John Whitmire and Rodney Ellis and Rep. Senfronia Thompson, all Houston Democrats, joined Graves at Monday’s news conference. Supporting Graves’ pursuit of a grievance, they called on the State Bar to provide justice for Graves.

“It doesn’t hurt to have some transparency,” Thompson said. “No one is above the law.”

In 2013, Whitmire authored Senate Bill 825, which changed the statute of limitations for a wrongfully imprisoned person to file a grievance in cases of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The new law allows Graves to take action against Sebesta up to four years after the date of Graves’ release from prison. Previously, the four-year statute began on the date the misconduct was discovered.

Whitmire said that while district attorneys will always be needed, “the message today is, we’re watching them.”

Graves was released Oct. 27, 2010, which meant that under SB 825 he is eligible to file a grievance through Oct. 27 of this year. At the conclusion of Monday’s news conference, using an aide’s iPad, he submitted his grievance electronically.

“It’s a great day to be alive,” he said.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/01/20/death-row-exoneree-seeks-punishment-prosecutor/.

Texas executed 16 people in 2013, one more person than in 2012. 69 percent of the people Texas executed in 2013 were people of color, eight African-Americans and three Hispanics. There were five white people executed by Texas in 2013.

Two people were executed from Dallas County, two from Harris County, two from Hidalgo County, two from Lubbock County, one from Leon County, one from Brazos County, one from Victoria County, one from McLennan County, one from Jefferson County, one from Cherokee County, one from Navarro County and one from Smith County.

Since December 7, 1982, the state of Texas has executed 508 people. There have been 269 executions in Texas since Rick Perry took office in December 2000.

The highest number of executions in one year in Texas was 40 in 2000.

So far, 9 people have been sentenced to death in 2013 in Texas. New death sentences have declined from their high in the late 90s. In 1999, there were 48 people sentenced to death.

88.8 percent of the nine new death sentences handed out in 2013 in Texas have been given to people of color. Of the nine people sentenced to death so far in Texas in 2013, seven are African-American, one is Hispanic and one white.

New death sentences came from Dallas County with three, Harris, Hays, Hunt, Jefferson, Brazoria, and McLennan Counties all had one new death sentence.

The number of new death sentences has declined over the last several years in large part because people who serve on juries are increasingly choosing life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty because members of juries have read about so many mistakes in the system when innocent people have been convicted only to be exonerated years later.

DeliaThe Road to Livingston directed by Erick Mauck and Chelsea Hernandez will have its world premiere at the 2013 Austin Film Festival.  It tells the story of Texas Moratorium Network board member Delia Perez Meyer, who is fighting to prove the innocence of her brother Louis Castro Perez who is on Texas death row.

WORLD PREMIERE After ten years, Delia Perez-Meyer still makes the four-hour drive every week to Livingston, Texas to visit her brother on death row. At first saddened and frustrated by this journey, Delia discovers others unwillingly involved in the prison system who help bring her to a place of redemption and hope. Under the shadow of death, bonds are forged and families made along the road to Livingston.

Sunday, October 27 at 9:30 PM at Texas Spirit Theater

1800 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701

Located at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
Tuesday, October 29 at 7:15 PM at Rollins Theatre 
701 W. Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78704
Located at The Long Center for the Performing Arts

 

 

 

woodlandsThe Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy letter to TDCJ demanding Texas return execution drugs for a refund.

Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy Letter to TDCJ by Scott Cobb

Previously the AP reported that The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy was where Texas bought its execution drugs.

The nation’s most active death-penalty state has turned to a compounding pharmacy to replace its expired execution drugs, according to documents released Wednesday, weeks after Texas prison officials declined to say how they obtained the drugs amid a nationwide shortage.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, responding to a Freedom of Information request from The Associated Press, released documents showing the purchase of eight vials of the drug pentobarbital last month from a compounding pharmacy in suburban Houston. Such pharmacies custom-make drugs but aren’t subject to federal scrutiny.

Texas’ previous supply of the sedative expired last month, but prison officials wouldn’t say where they were getting their new supply. Several companies have been refusing to sell the drug for use in executions, leading to a shortage in death penalty states, though at least South Dakota and Georgia have also turned to compounding pharmacies.

Texas — which carries out far more executions than any other state — now has enough pentobarbital to carry out scheduled executions into next year, department spokesman Jason Clark said. Pentobarbital has been used as the lone drug in lethal executions in Texas for more than a year.

“The agency has purchased a new supply of the drug from a Texas pharmacy that has the ability to compound,” Clark said.

A message left by the AP for the pharmacy, The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, wasn’t returned Wednesday.

Texas’ purchase invoice shows that the warden from the Huntsville Unit, which houses the state’s death chamber, bought eight 2.5-gram vials of pentobarbital on Sept. 16. Five grams, or two vials, are used in each execution, with another 5 grams available should they be needed to complete the execution.

Clark said the agency also has purchased from the same pharmacy another eight vials that will expire April 1. The recently purchased supply will expire in March.

The disclosure came a day after a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of three death-row inmates who are challenging the state’s use of the new drugs. Among the plaintiffs is death-row inmate Michael Yowell, who is scheduled for execution on Oct. 9 for killing his parents at their home in Lubbock.

The lawsuit, filed in Houston, contends that Texas’ use of untested drugs during an execution would violate the U.S. Constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

“Use of compounded pentobarbital would constitute a significant change in the lethal injection protocol, a change that adds an unacceptable risk of pain, suffering and harm to the plaintiffs if and when they are executed,” the lawsuit says.

Clark said he had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment on it.

The lawsuit also alleged that prison officials have been trying to obtain execution drugs in the name of the “Huntsville Unit Hospital,” though a hospital at the prison hasn’t operated since 1983. Clark said the state corrections department had a current federal drug agency number registered to the Huntsville Unit.

Texas switched to a lethal, single dose of the sedative pentobarbital last year after one of the drugs used in its previous three-drug execution process became difficult to obtain. Legal challenges were filed to that revision but failed.

Other death-penalty states have encountered similar problems after some drug suppliers barred the drugs’ use for executions or have refused, under pressure from death-penalty opponents, to sell or manufacture drugs for use in executions.

South Dakota has carried out two executions using the sedative from a compounding pharmacy. Georgia has said it’s taking that route, but it’s difficult to tell exactly how many states have used or are planning to use compounding pharmacies for execution drugs because states frequently resist disclosing the source of the drugs.

Georgia’s first use of an execution drug obtained through a compounding pharmacy was put on hold in July after the condemned inmate challenged a new state law that bars the release of information about where Georgia obtains its execution drug.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers products from compounding pharmacy unapproved drugs and does not verify their safety or effectiveness. But such businesses came under intensified scrutiny after a deadly meningitis outbreak was linked to contaminated injections made by a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy.

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