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 march is still on as planned. If it is raining very hard Saturday in Austin, then we will move inside the capitol to a room we have reserved courtesy of State Rep Harold Dutton. Right now, meet on the South Steps at 2 PM as planned. If it is stormy, we will all go inside to the backup room, which is on the first floor of the capitol. It is called the Agricultural Museum, and the room number is 1W.14. Everyone please come!

We have six death row exonerees coming, including Dewayne Brown, so come out to meet them all! This will be a great event, outside or inside!

Six exonerated death row survivors will lead the 16th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24, 2015 at the Texas Capitol at 2 PM: Alfred Dewayne Brown, Ron Keine, Shujaa Graham, Sabrina Butler, Gary Drinkard, and Edward Mpagi. Come to the march and hear how the death penalty puts innocent people at risk of execution.

In addition to these six living, breathing survivors of death row, some people at the march will carry photos of Cameron Todd Willingham, an innocent person executed by the State of Texas in 2004.

Alfred Dewayne Brown

Alfred Dewayne BrownAlfred Dewayne Brown was released on June 8, 2015 after more than 10 years on Texas Death Row for a crime he did not commit. This will be Dewayne’s first time to participate in a march to abolish the death penalty. Come to the march and welcome him back to freedom with a warm collective embrace.

 

 

 

Ron Keine

Ron KeineRon Keine is an Assistant Director of Membership and Training for Witness to Innocence. Ron was one of four men convicted of the murder, kidnapping, sodomy, and rape of a University of New Mexico student in 1974. He and his co-defendants were sentenced to death, before an investigation by The Detroit News uncovered a bizarre campaign by prosecutors to coerce testimony from a motel maid named Judy Weyer, whom they wanted to be their star witness.

After prosecutors reneged on all their promises to Weyer, she fully retracted her story in a set of taped newspaper interviews. The story broke in January 1975, and a hearing for a new trial was held. Unbelievably, the judge refused to grant a new trial, and then the taped interviews with Judy Weyer mysteriously disappeared. Ron and his co-defendants remained on death row.

Ron was finally released in 1976, after the murder weapon was traced to a law enforcement officer who admitted to the killing.

Shujaa Graham

Shujaa GrahamShujaa Graham was born in Lake Providence, Louisiana, and grew up on a plantation in the segregated South of the 1950s. After moving to Southern California, Shujaa experienced the Watts Riots and police occupation of his community. In and out of trouble, he spent much of his adolescence in juvenile institutions, and when he turned 18 he was sent to Soledad Prison.

Within prison walls, Shujaa came of age, taught himself to read and write, and studied history and world affairs, mentored by the leadership of the Black Prison movement. He became a leader of the growing movement within the California prison system, as the Black Panther Party expanded in the community.

But then Shujaa was framed for the 1973 murder of a prison guard at the Deuel Vocational Institute in Stockton, California, and was sent to San Quentin’s death row. Because the district attorney had systematically excluded all African-American jurors, the California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence in 1979. Yet it wasn’t until 1981 that he was found innocent and released from prison. Rather than being protected by the United States’ criminal justice system, Shujaa often points out that he won his freedom and affirmed his innocence “in spite of the system.”

Shujaa lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his partner, Phyllis Prentice, and both are active members of Witness to Innocence’s Board of Directors. Shujaa gives lectures on the death penalty, the criminal justice system, racism, and gang violence to people around the world. Not surprisingly, one of Shujaa’s favorite audiences is American youth. “I’m filled with ideals for a better future,” he says. “I may never enjoy the fruits of this labor, but our children will.”

Sabrina Butler

Sabrina ButlerSabrina Butler was a Mississippi teenager who was convicted of murder and child abuse in the death of her nine-month-old son, Walter. She was later exonerated of all wrongdoing. She is the only woman in the United States exonerated from death row.

On April 12, 1989, teenage mother Sabrina rushed Walter to the hospital after he suddenly stopped breathing. Doctors had attempted to resuscitate the child for thirty minutes, but failed, and Sabrina’s baby died the next day. The very day of her son’s death, Sabrina was arrested for child abuse due to the bruises left by her resuscitation attempts.

Sabrina’s murder trial commenced in March 1990. At the trial, prosecutors sought to prove that Sabrina’s account of the events leading to her son’s death were false, and that she had inflicted the fatal wounds intentionally. Sabrina did not testify at her trial, and was convicted of both murder and child abuse, becoming the only woman on Mississippi’s Death Row at the time.

Following her conviction, Sabrina filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Mississippi. The courts reversed and remanded her convictions in August 1992, declaring that the prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything more than an accident.

In 1995, Sabrina’s case went to retrial. At the trial, one of Sabrina’s neighbors had come forward with evidence that corroborated her account that the injuries to her son occurred during the course of an unsuccessful attempt to administer CPR. In addition, the medical examiner changed his opinion about Walter’s cause of death, which he now believed occurred due to a kidney malady. On December 17, 1995, Sabrina was exonerated after spending more than five years in prison and 33 months on death row.

Today, Sabrina still lives in the same town where she was convicted, with her husband Joe Porter and three children. She speaks as often as she can to the public and media about her heartbreaking and moving story, and has recently published a memoir, The Sabrina Butler Story. You can order a copy of Sabrina’s book here: sabrinabutler.webs.com

Gary Drinkard

Gary DrinkardGary Drinkard spent close to six years on Alabama’s death row before being exonerated in 2001. He was sentenced to death in 1995 for the robbery and murder of a 65-year-old automotive junk dealer in Decatur, Alabama. Unable to afford an attorney, he was assigned two lawyers with no experience trying criminal cases. Despite being at home at the time of the murders and suffering from a debilitating back injury, Gary was convicted and sentenced to death.

Yet Gary maintained his innocence, barely believing his sentence. Amazingly, the conviction rested primarily on testimony by Gary’s half-sister and her common-law husband, both facing charges for unrelated crimes. In exchange for testifying, all the charges against Gary’s half-sister were dismissed.

In 2000, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct, and with the help of the Southern Center for Human Rights, Gary won an acquittal in 2001. The Center later represented Gary before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee to illustrate the urgent need for competent lawyers for those facing the death penalty.

“The system is broken,” he says. “I don’t think the death penalty is appropriate for anyone. God is the only one who has the right to take a life.”

Today, Gary lives and works in Alabama, and is active in the movement to abolish the death penalty. He enjoys speaking to audiences of all kinds, from colleges to churches.

Edward spent over 18 years on death row, accused of killing a man who was later found to be alive. His family successfully campaigned for his release, providing evidence that the alleged victim was still alive. Sentenced to death for murder in 1982, the Attorney General proved that the man Edward was accused of murdering was still alive in 1989. However it was not until 2000 when a nine member presidential committee released Mr Mpagi, deciding he was innocent. Held for many years in the Luzira Upper Prison Edwad taught his fellow inmates to read and write. He became one of the longest serving inmates and a prison elder. Mr. Mpagi is now an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty and is a committed religious leader. A graduate from a Catholic Diocese he regularly tours prisons providing inspiration and hope toprisoners.

He connected with Kathy Ozzard Chism at the all-volunteer nonprofit Dream One World, and together they are building a school compound for 150 of these orphans in Uganda, with the help of volunteer workers and donors from around the world.

Witness to Innocence is the nation’s only organization dedicated to empowering exonerated death row survivors to be the most powerful and effective voice in the struggle to end the death penalty in the United States. Through public speaking, testifying in state legislatures, media work, and active participation in our nation’s cultural life, our members are helping to end the death penalty by educating the public about innocence and wrongful convictions. WTI also provides an essential network of peer support for the exonerated, most of whom received no compensation or access to reentry services when released from death row.

Todd Willingham

toddwillingham

Todd Willingham was an innocent person executed by Texas in 2004.

Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing is an organization led by murder victim family members that conducts public education speaking tours and addresses alternatives to the death penalty. At least 8 of them will attend the 16th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24, 2015 at the Texas Capitol at 2 PM.

Journey “storytellers” come from all walks of life and represent the full spectrum and diversity of faith, color and economic situation. They are real people who know first-hand the aftermath of the insanity and horror of murder. They recount their tragedies and their struggles to heal as a way of opening dialogue on the death penalty in schools, colleges, churches and other venues.

The Journey spotlights murder victim’s family members who choose not to seek revenge, and instead select the path of love and compassion for all of humanity. Forgiveness is seen as strength and as a way of healing. The greatest resources of the Journey are the people who are a part of it.

billpelke
Bill authored a book entitled Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing, which details the May 14, 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Pelke, a Bible teacher, by four teenage girls. Paula Cooper who was deemed to be the ringleader was sentenced to die in the electric chair by the state of Indiana. She was fifteen-years-old at the time of the murder.
Pelke originally supported the sentence of death for Cooper, but went through a spiritual transformation in 1986 after praying for love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. He became successfully involved in an international crusade on Paula’s behalf and in 1989 her sentenced was commuted to sixty years in prison. Over 2 million people from Europe, mostly Italy, signed petitions that Paula be removed from death row.  Pope John Paul II requested mercy from Indiana authorities for Paula. Paula was taken off of death row in 1989 and her sentence commuted to sixty years.
Bill, a retired steelworker, has dedicated his life to working for abolition of the death penalty. He shares his story of love and compassion and the healing power of forgiveness. Pelke has traveled to over forty states and fifteen countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story thousands of times.

As a survivor of a violent crime, husband of a murder victim, suspect, accused, indigent defendant, convicted murderer, and innocent man exonerated, George understands fully how easy it would be to advocate revenge. However, as a family the Whites reject the death penalty as a solution to heal the wounds of their loss. George says, “I believe that society’s laws must offer relief for a victim’s anger and loss, and we must be afforded protection from those who would harm us; however, one cannot stop the shedding of blood by causing more blood to be shed. No amount of killing would restore Char to my family or take away the pain of losing her. What began with a horrible act of violence should not be memorialized with an act of vengeance.”
marietta
Marietta‘s 7-year-old daughter Susie was kidnapped from the family’s tent during a camping vacation. For a year, the family knew nothing of Susie’s whereabouts. On the first anniversary of Susie’s disappearance, the kidnapper telephoned Marietta and inadvertently revealed sufficient information to enable the FBI to identify and then arrest him.

Marietta asked that the mentally ill man be given the alternative allowed in capital cases: a mandatory life sentence instead of the death penalty. Only then was the kidnapper willing to confess to Susie’s  murder, as well as to the deaths of three other young persons
in the same county. He committed suicide just hours later.

Shujaa Graham was born in Lake Providence, LA, where he grew up on a plantation. His family worked as share-croppers, in the segregated South of the 50s. In 1961, he moved to join his family who had moved to South Central Los Angeles, to try to build a more stable life. As a teenager, Shujaa lived through the Watts riot and experienced the police occupation of his community.
In and out of trouble, he spent much of his adolescent life in juvenile institutions, until at age 18, he was sent to Soledad Prison.

Within the prison walls, Shujaa came of age, mentored by the leadership of the Black Prison movement. Shujaa taught himself to read and write, he studied history and world affairs, and became a leader of the growing movement within the California prison system, as the Black Panther Party expanded in the community.

In 1973, Shujaa was framed in the murder of a prison guard at the Deul Vocational Institute, Stockton, California. As a recognized leader within and without the prison, the community became involved in his defense, and supported him through 4 trials. Shujaa and his co-defendant, Eugene Allen, were sent to San Quentin’s death row in 1976, after a second trial in San Francisco. The DA systematically excluded all African American jurors, and in 1979, the California Supreme Court overturned the death conviction.

After spending three years on death row, Shujaa and Eugene Allen, continued to fight for their innocence. A third trial ended in a hung jury, and after a fourth trial, they were found innocent. As Shujaa often says, he won his freedom and affirmed his innocence in spite of the system.

Shujaa was released in March, 1981, and continued to organize in the Bay area, building community support for the prison movement, as well as protest in the neighborhoods against police brutality.

In the following years, Shujaa moved away from the Bay area. Shujaa learned landscaping, and created his own business. He and his wife raised three children, and became part of a progressive community in Maryland.

Bill Babbitt was present at San Quentin prison when at one minute after midnight on May 4th, 1999 the state of California executed his brother, Manny Babbitt.

Manny, the recipient of a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been tried and convicted for the murder of an elderly woman who had died of a heart attack after a break-in and beating.

When Bill realized that his brother could possibly be involved in the woman’s death, he contacted the police and helped them arrest his brother. In return, the police promised Bill that Manny would receive the psychological help that he needed and that they would help see that Manny would not receive the death penalty. Bill felt certain that when confronted with the reality of Manny’s mental illness, the justice system would hand down a fair sentence but avoid death. He was wrong.

The Babbitt family was too poor to afford good counsel. Manny’s first lawyer took their money and then dropped the case. The second, a court-appointed attorney, refused to allow blacks on the jury, drank heavily during the trial and was later disbarred and sued for racism.

Today Bill speaks out regularly against the death penalty.

Randy Gardner is the brother of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was executed by the state of Utah on June 18, 2010, by firing squad, a first in the USA in 14 years. Randy bought 160 acres of property in northwest Box Elder County in 2002 and started Back to Basics Farm & Ranch. Its mission is to teach youth about farming, ranching and organic gardening — something Ronnie Lee had taken great interest in prison. Randy helps young people to give back to their communities and in turn to gain dignity and self worth.
At the age of 20, Terri‘s son, Justin Wolfe, ex-high school football player and normal, average, all American, suburban kid was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. He has been on Virginia’s death row since 2002, becoming their youngest resident, and has had several stays of execution.

Terri heard about a group protesting the death penalty at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. and decided to meet those fighting to abolish the death penalty. Terri began her own journey to save Justin’s life. She has spoken on many occasions with the Journey of Hope, including during our 2009 Germany tour.

Edward spent over 18 years on death row, accused of killing a man who was later found to be alive. His family successfully campaigned for his release, providing evidence that the alleged victim was still alive. Sentenced to death for murder in 1982, the Attorney General proved that the man Edward was accused of murdering was still alive in 1989. However it was not until 2000 when a nine member presidential committee released Mr Mpagi, deciding he was innocent. Held for many years in the Luzira Upper Prison Edwad taught his fellow inmates to read and write. He became one of the longest serving inmates and a prison elder. Mr. Mpagi is now an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty and is a committed religious leader. A graduate from a Catholic Diocese he regularly tours prisons providing inspiration and hope toprisoners.

He connected with Kathy Ozzard Chism at the all-volunteer nonprofit Dream One World, and together they are building a school compound for 150 of these orphans in Uganda, with the help of volunteer workers and donors from around the world.

delia_perez03Delia Perez Meyer

Delia Perez Meyer is from Austin, Texas and has a background in Education, Cultural Arts, International Business, and Human Rights activism focusing on the death penalty.  Delia earned an MBA in International Business, and a Bachelor’s in Spanish/International Business.

Delia has been employed at Applied Materials, St. Edward’s University, Texas Society of Professional Engineers, and is presently teaching Bilingual children in Elgin, TX.  She is one of 5 children – David, Delia, Irene, Louis, and Ernest, Jr.  One of her brothers, Louis Castro Perez is an innocent man on Texas’ Death Row.  “When Louis was wrongfully convicted 13 years ago, and sent to death row, our family embarked on the most incredible journey of our lives – trying to save an innocent man from death row in Texas.”

TMN_4C_POSTERB2015MarchtoAbolishDeathPenaltyA jury in College Station, Texas has handed down the 1st death sentence issued in Texas in 2015:

“A College Station man, Gabriel Hall, who stood trial for five weeks was sentenced to death by lethal injection Wednesday for killing a man and trying to kill his wife in 2011.”

Texas went all the way into the tenth month of 2015 before anyone was sentenced to death. This is disappointing news, but it remains remarkable that death sentences in Texas have gone from 48 in 1999 to so far only 1 in 2015. It shows that more and more Texans are rejecting the death penalty. If we can cut death sentences down from 48 to only 1, then we can eventually cut them down to zero.

Join us on October 24, 2015 at the Texas Capitol for the 16th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty, as we continue to build support for abolishing the death penalty in Texas.

Guests at the annual march will include Ron Keine and Sabrina Butler, the two death row exonerees who successfully lobbied Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr on March 3, 2015 to file a historic first-ever bill in the Texas Senate to completely abolish the death penalty.

Also attending the march in Austin will be the most recent person exonerated from Texas death row, Alfred Dewayne Brown, who was released on June 8 after more than ten years on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit.

8882a6ae-5571-4464-bb69-29248b80c5d2We just received some pictures of Alfred Dewayne Brown back at home. He is happy to be back together with his family and able to smell the fresh air every day. In addition to learning how touch screen cell phones work, he enjoys feeding the horses everyday, one of the activities he longed to do while locked up in solitary confinement on Texas death row for ten years.

DewayneHorse


DewayneHorse3

We are less than $1200 short of our goal of raising $5000 for Dewayne, who walked free June 8, 2015 for the first time after more than ten years in solitary confinement on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit.

We need to ask you to help us reach the goal by sending the link to the fundraising page to your friends with a personal request for them to help Dewayne.

Ask your friends how they would deal with freedom after ten years on death row. They would certainly worry about having enough for food, clothes and other basic necessities. Please send the link to 3 or 4 friends and mostly likely one of them will pitch in to help.

If you have contacts at any organizations you could also ask them to send out the link in their newsletter or email their members. You could also post the link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts!

Thank you!

http://igg.me/at/l7DwHJgB3ww

You can donate online by credit card at the link above.

If you prefer to donate by check, you can send it to:

Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731

Donations are not tax-deductible.

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