Upcoming Executions
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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.

According to the 2014 Texas Democratic Party platform:

“In order to promote public confidence and fairness in the Texas Criminal Justice system, Texas Democrats call for the passage of legislation that would abolish the death penalty in Texas and replace it with the punishment of life in prison without parole.”

Democrats Against the Death Penalty held a caucus meeting at the TDP State Convention that was attended by more than 150 people. Scott Cobb moderated the meeting. Speakers included Jeanette Popp, whose daughter was murdered in Austin in 1988. Two innocent people were wrongfully convicted of her daughter’s murder. They were in prison for 12 years before their exoneration. Jeanette met with the real killer in the Travis County Jail before his trial and told him that she did not want him to receive the death penalty.

The UT-Arlington newspaper The Shorthorn reported on the meeting of “Democrats Against the Death Penalty:

Speaker Jeanette Popp said she lost her daughter at the hands of a murderer. However, she said she does not support the death penalty because it is still taking the life of another human being.

She stated she will not stain her or her daughter’s hands with the murderer’s blood.

“Today, I want to ask you in memory of my daughter to stand together, united and strong,” Popp said. “Speak in one loud voice they can’t ignore. We will not tolerate being made accessories to murder.”

 

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Democrats against the death penalty #ShorthornPol #txdems #dallas pic.twitter.com/GOJJhlmLEJ

— Kayla Stigall (@kayllila) June 27, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Also speaking at the meeting was Delia Perez Meyer, whose brother is on Texas death row. Delia visits her brother every weekend. Her story is the subject of a new film, “The Road to Livingston”.

Part of the crowd at the Democrats Against the Death Penalty meeting listening to Jeanette Popp.

Part of the crowd at the Democrats Against the Death Penalty meeting listening to Jeanette Popp.

 

Jeanette Popp with Christopher Ochoa (center) and Scott Cobb (left).

Jeanette Popp with Christopher Ochoa (center) and Scott Cobb (left).

Jeanette Popp will speak at a gathering of “Democrats Against the Death Penalty” at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention at the Dallas Convention Center in room C156 at 10 AM Friday, June 27. Anyone can come hear her speak, you do not need to be a delegate.

Jeanette Popp is a mother whose daughter was murdered and who opposed the death penalty for her daughter’s killer. Two innocent men, Christopher Ochoa and Richard Danziger, served more than a decade in prison for the murder before being exonerated. The real killer finally confessed and was sentenced to life in prison. Jeanette met with the real killer before his trial and told him that she did not want him to receive the death penalty.

If you plan to attend the Democrats Against the Death Penalty caucus meeting, you can let the party know you are attending by filling out this formhttp://act.txdemocrats.org/page/s/convnetion-caucuses

 
Please note that failure to fill out the form doesn’t mean you can’t attend the caucus, we are simply looking for an approximate head count.

Texas Moratorium Network will also have an information booth in the exhibit area: Booth #231.

txdeathchamber.jpgAfter the fiasco in Oklahoma last night, the Supreme Court should step in and halt all executions in the United States. It is now only a matter of time before more states repeal the death penalty. Of course, the Southern states, including Texas, will be the last to stop executions, but as the rest of the nation decides that it is time to end the death penalty, the South will be compelled to stop executions also.

More on the Oklahoma situation and the likely consequences:

Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett died during a botched execution on Tuesday, minutes after a doctor had called a halt to the procedure, raising more questions about new death penalty cocktails used by the state and others.

Thirteen minutes after a doctor administered a lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in McAlester, Lockett lifted his head and started mumbling. The doctor halted the execution, said state corrections department spokesman Jerry Massie.

Lockett died of an apparent massive heart attack about 40 minutes after the procedure started, he said.

“We believe that a vein was blown and the drugs weren’t working as they were designed to. The director ordered a halt to the execution,” Massie said.

The troubled execution was expected to have national implications, with lawyers for death row inmates having argued that new lethal injection cocktails used in Oklahoma and other states could cause undue suffering and violate constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

“This could be a real turning point in the whole debate as people get disgusted by this sort of thing,” said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors capital punishment.

“This might lead to a halt in executions until states can prove they can do it without problems. Someone was killed tonight by incompetence,” Dieter said.

Witness Ziva Branstetter told broadcaster MSNBC Lockett was thrashing about and appeared to be in pain. The state blocked off the scene from witnesses a few minutes after the troubles started by drawing a curtain on the execution chamber.

“His body was sort of bucking. He was clenching his jaw. Several times he mumbled phrases that were largely unintelligible,” she said.

The execution had been put on hold for several weeks due to a legal fight over a new cocktail of chemicals for the lethal injection, with lawyers arguing the state was withholding crucial information about the drugs to be used.

‘TORTURED TO DEATH’

Last week, the state Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted stays of execution for Lockett and another inmate who was also scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, saying the state had provided them with enough information about the lethal injection cocktail to meet constitutional requirements.

The other inmate, Charles Warner, who was scheduled to be put to death two hours after Lockett on Tuesday, has been granted a 14-day stay of execution after the problems.

“I have asked the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of Oklahoma’s execution procedures to determine what happened and why during this evening’s execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett,” Governor Mary Fallin said.

Oklahoma had set up a new lethal injection procedure and cocktail of chemicals earlier this year after it was no longer able to obtain the drugs it had once used for executions.

“After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight’s lethal injection procedures, tonight Clayton Lockett was tortured to death,” said Madeline Cohen, an attorney for Warner.

Oklahoma and other states have been scrambling to find new suppliers and chemical combinations after drug makers, mostly in Europe, imposed sales bans because they objected to having medications made for other purposes being used in lethal injections.

Attorneys for death row inmates have argued that the drugs used in Oklahoma and other states could cause unnecessarily painful deaths, which would amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Oklahoma uses three drugs in its new lethal injection mixture, which consists of midazolam to cause unconsciousness, vecuronium bromide to stop respiration and potassium chloride to stop the heart, the Department of Corrections said.

In order to obtain drugs used for execution, Oklahoma and other states have turned to compounding pharmacies, which are lightly regulated agencies that combine chemicals for medical purposes.

Lawyers for death row inmates have argued there may be problems with purity and potency of the chemicals that come from these compounding pharmacies, raising questions about whether they should be used to prepare lethal injection drugs.

From the AP:

About one in 25 people imprisoned under a death sentence is likely innocent, according to a new statistical study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And that means it is all but certain that at least several of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 were innocent, the study says.

From 1973 to 2004, 1.6 percent of those sentenced to death in the U.S. — 138 prisoners — were exonerated and released because of innocence.

But the great majority of innocent people who are sentenced to death are never identified and freed, says professor Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan Law School, the study’s lead author.

The difficulty in identifying innocent inmates stems from the fact that more than 60 percent of prisoners in death penalty cases ultimately are removed from death row and resentenced to life imprisonment. Once that happens, their cases no longer receive the exhaustive reviews that the legal system provides for those on death row.

Gross and three other researchers, including a biostatistics expert, looked at the issue using a technique often used in medical studies called survival analysis. Yale University biostatistics expert Theodore Holford, who wasn’t part of the study, said the work done by Gross “seems to be a reasonable way to look at these data.”

Because of various assumptions, it might be best to use the margin of error in the study and say the innocence rate is probably between 2.8 percent and 5.2 percent, said University of South Carolina statistics professor John Grego, who wasn’t part of the study.

The study is the first to use solid and appropriate statistical methods to address questions of exoneration or false convictions, an important subject, said Columbia Law School professor Jeffrey Fagan, who also is a professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. The research combines data from three independent sources, a rigorous approach used by few studies on capital punishment, he said.

The research produced an estimate of the percentage of defendants who would be exonerated if they all remained indefinitely on death row, where their cases would be subject to intense scrutiny for innocence.

The study concluded that the number of innocent defendants who have been put to death is “comparatively low. … Our data and the experience of practitioners in the field both indicate that the criminal justice system goes to far greater lengths to avoid executing innocent defendants than to prevent them from remaining in prison indefinitely.”

Death sentences represent less than one-tenth of 1 percent of prison sentences in the U.S., but they account for 12 percent of known exonerations of innocent defendants from 1989 to 2012. One big reason is that far more attention and resources are devoted to reviewing and reconsidering death sentences.

“The high rate of exoneration among death-sentenced defendants appears to be driven by the threat of execution,” says the study. “But most death-sentenced defendants are removed from death row and resentenced to life imprisonment, after which the likelihood of exoneration drops sharply.” The study estimates that if all defendants sentenced to death remained in that status, “at least 4.1 percent would be exonerated. We conclude that this is a conservative estimate of the proportion of false conviction among death sentences in the United States.”

PageLines- PerryWillinghamLogo.pngIn a development that should not surprise anyone, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, of which every single member was appointed by Governor Rick Perry, has voted not to recommend a posthumous full pardon for Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed a decade ago after being convicted of setting a house fire that killed his three young daughters.

Rick Perry in 2009 thwarted the investigation into the Willingham case when he replaced the chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission two days before it was to hear from the author of a scathing report in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Perry replaced the chair with John Bradley, whose mean-spirited, unethical behavior as chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission lost him support in the Texas Senate for his confirmation as chair, although by the time he was replaced Bradley had done his job of delaying the investigation into the Willingham case while Perry was preparing to run for president.

More from the Texas Tribune:

“This whole process is, unfortunately, typical of this board, where they don’t demonstrate that they’ve actually considered the substantial evidence that we’ve put before them,” said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, which has led the charge to clearn Willingham’s name in the case.

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