Upcoming Executions
Click for a list of upcoming scheduled executions in Texas.
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.
Cleve Foster just got a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court. No execution in Texas today. The high court granted the stay of execution for Foster about 2-1/2 hours before he was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection around 6 p.m. local time in Texas.He was convicted of the rape and murder of a young woman he met in a bar in Fort Worth. The justices in the brief order gave no reason why they granted the stay and said his execution will be delayed while it considers his appeal.
Stop the Execution of Troy Davis: Solidarity Rally in Austin!
Friday, September 16th at 5:30 PM
Texas State Capitol, 11th and Congress
Organized by Campaign to End the Death Penalty-Austin
Troy Davis was sentenced to death in Georgia for the 1989 killing of police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. His sentencing was in spite of the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, nor was a murder weapon ever found. He was convicted solely on the testimony of 9 witnesses. Seven of these witnesses have now recanted their testimony and several say they were pressured by the police to identify Troy as the shooter. One of the remaining witnesses was Sylvester Coles, who was initially a suspect and in fact admitted he was carrying the same caliber gun used in the murder half an hour before the slaying took place. Troy has spent the last two decades on death row for a crime he did not commit. He has faced three execution dates and is now facing his fourth date on September 21st. Please show your support for this innocent man and put public pressure on the Georgia Parole Board to grant Troy clemency. For more information about the case of Troy Davis, please visit nodeathpenalty.org or visit the CEDP Austin Facebook page at facebook.com/AustinCEDP
The execution of Troy Davis, a Georgia death row inmate scheduled to die in less than a week, should be halted because of "pervasive, persistent doubts" about his guilt, said William S. Sessions, a former federal district judge in Texas and FBI director under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in a sharply-worded editorial on Thursday.
"Serious questions about Mr. Davis' guilt, highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion, and a lack of relevant physical evidence, continue to plague his conviction," Sessions wrote. He urged a state pardons board to commute the sentence to life in prison.
The unusual plea from Sessions, which appears in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is the latest high-profile call for clemency for Davis, whose looming execution has become a lightning rod for national and international criticism. Among those who have called for a halt to the execution, scheduled for Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., are Pope Benedict XVI, former President Jimmy Carter and the leadership of the NAACP and Amnesty International.
We will deliver the signatures and comments on this petition to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is running for president of the United States. A lot of people already signed and we delivered those signatures to Perry in 2009, but we wanted to repost it since Rick Perry is running for president so that more people can sign. It also allows you to leave a comment when you sign. Many people have left great comments, add yours. Click View signatures to read comments. View Signatures. This petition was created and written by Texas Moratorium Network. If you have questions, call TMN at 512-961-6389. If you are shocked to learn that Texas has executed an innocent person, please attend the 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 22, 2011 in Austin, Texas at the Capitol.
The lethal injection of Steven Woods today was the tenth this year in Texas, the 474th since Texas resumed executions in 1982 and the 235th since Governor Rick Perry took office in 2000. More from CNN:
Steven Michael Woods Jr. was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal injection dose began, said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It was the 10th execution carried out in Texas this year.
"You're not about to witness an execution. You are about to witness a murder," Woods said before he was injected, according to Lyons. Woods added that his co-defendant was the one responsible for two 2001 killings, she said.
Earlier Tuesday, the state's high court rejected a stay of execution for Woods.
"We're disappointed in the outcome," attorney Brad Levenson said after the court's decision. His office had filed for a stay of execution on grounds of juror bias.
Woods was sentenced to death for the slayings of 21-year-old Ronald Whitehead and 19-year-old Bethena Brosz in 2002. Co-defendant Marcus Rhodes was sentenced to life in prison.
Duane Edward Buck is one step closer to execution after a ruling late Tuesday by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which recommended against granting him clemency.
The ruling was made after Phyllis Taylor, one of Buck's surviving victim's, spoke with the chairwoman of the board earlier in the day.
Taylor was one of three people shot by Buck in 1995 after an early morning argument. Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler were killed when Buck returned to Gardner's home with two rifles and opened fire on his victims. According to Texas officials, Buck shot Gardner in front of her daughter, who begged for her mother's life.
In a statement released after the board's ruling, Buck's attorney, Katherine C. Black, said the recommendation, "fails to recognize what the highest legal officer in the state of Texas has acknowledged: No one should be executed based on a process tainted by considerations of race."
Black is referring to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who was the state's attorney general in 2000, when he spoke of seven death row inmates, including Buck. Cornyn said he believed the inmates had been unfairly sentenced to death based on testimony that was racially tainted by psychologist Walter Quijano, who repeatedly told juries that black or Hispanic defendants were more likely to commit future crimes.
Because of that testimony, six of those seven inmates were granted re-sentencing trials. Buck was not among them.
"We want to make sure people aren't executed based on the color of their skin," Black said.
On Monday, Linda Geffin, a former Harris County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Buck, joined Taylor in calling on state officials to stop Buck's execution.
"The decision as to whether Mr. Buck's execution will go forward now lies squarely with Gov. Perry, who has the power to issue a 30-day reprieve, and District Attorney (Patricia) Lykos, who has the power to ask for a withdrawal of the execution date," Black said.
"We urge Gov. Perry to grant a temporary reprieve to allow all parties involved to work together to ensure that Mr. Buck receives a new and fair sentencing hearing untainted by race-based testimony."
But Perry is not known for his leniency when it comes to the death penalty.
Woods' execution Tuesday night was the 235th for Perry in his 11 years as the governor.
Spiegel has an article on the Steven Woods execution scheduled for Tuesday, Sept 13. Call Rick Perry's office at 512-463-2000 to urge him to stop the execution by using his power to issue a 30 day stay of execution. Some of us will be at the Texas Capitol at 11th and Congress in Austin tomorrow at 5:30 to protest this execution. Others are going to Huntsville from Houston. There is another execution set for this Thursday in Texas and two more next week. From Spiegel:
In Texas, Steven Michael Woods is slated for execution on Tuesday, despite considerable doubts about his guilt. The inmate is fighting to have his sentence commuted, but his chances are diminishing. State Governor Rick Perry is considered a champion of the death penalty.
It's a gruesome record, but Rick Perry is proud of it. "Your state has executed 234 death-row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times," NBC's Brian Williams told the Texas governor during this week's presidential debate. Did he ever struggle to sleep at night, Williams continued, "with the idea that anyone of those might have been innocent"?
Before Williams had finished, the auditorium erupted in cheers, even whistles, as if the spectators welcomed this killer number. Then Perry answered grimly: "No sir, I never struggled with that at all." Asked what he made of the applause, he said: "I think Americans understand justice."
This bizarre moment was almost lost in the subsequent coverage of the Republican candidates' debate. For one man, however, it was a bad omen: Steven Michael Woods.
Woods, 31, is incarcerated in the Allan B. Polunsky Unit, which houses Texas' death row, a four-hour drive east of the capital Austin. His execution for capital murder is set for Tuesday -- one day after the next Republican debate. It would be the 19th execution this year in Texas alone.
Grave Doubts about Verdict
There's more, though: Woods, his lawyers and his friends insist he is innocent.
There are indeed grave doubts about the verdict. Marcus Rhodes, Wood's co-defendant and a former friend, has admitted to the double murder in question and already been sentenced -- but to life in prison. Rhodes' DNA was found on the weapons, but not that of Woods.
Yet all courts so far have rejected Wood's appeals. Even the US Supreme Court refused to take up the case. Alex Calhoun, Wood's defense lawyer, has now filed a clemency petition with Governor Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, as a last resort.
Woods was deprived of his constitutional rights and convicted based on "false or misleading testimony," Calhoun alleges in the 20-page petition to Perry. Furthermore, the prosecution had "illegally withheld significant evidence."
"I am sure that the Board of Pardons and Paroles will, using their judgment and innate sense of fairness, recognize the injustice and patent unfairness," Calhoun told SPIEGEL ONLINE. However, this sounds like overblown optimism: Since he took office in December 2000, Perry has not once shown clemency in a capital punishment case -- sometimes in spite of doubts. And it is highly unlikely that Woods would be the first person to get it.
Woods' story started as a horrifying criminal case. On May 2, 2001, two people were brutally murdered in a deserted field north of Dallas: Ronald Whitehead, 21, and Bethena Brosz, 19. Whitehead was shot in the head six times, Brosz twice as well as once in the knee. Both also had their throats cut. Whitehead's dead body was found hours later, Brosz was still alive but died 36 hours later in a hospital.
Whitehead was a drug dealer, Brosz a chance acquaintance. The 19-year-old planned to study astronomy. "Beth was just in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people," her mother Janet Shires wrote on a memorial website. The suspects in the murders were tried separately. Woods, then 21, was sentenced to death in August 2002. Witnesses had claimed that he had bragged about the murders. His lawyers didn't dispute his presence at the murder scene but named Rhodes the killer.
Before Rhodes' trial could start in January of 2003, he confessed to killing Whitehead and Brosz alone -- without implicating Woods. In a plea deal, he was sentenced to life, not death.
For years Woods has tried to overturn his sentence -- unsuccessfully. Texas law is against him: Even if he had never pulled the trigger or swung the knives, he'd still be as guilty as the killer by his mere presence. In Texas that's called the Law of Parties.
The Polunsky Unit where Woods has been kept since is infamous for its terrible conditions. In 2004, dozens of death-row inmates went on hunger strike to protest their treatment, Woods among them.
'They're Killing the Wrong Person'
The courts weren't impressed. Even a broad coalition of activists for the abolition of the death penalty fighting for Woods hasn't been able to achieve anything. One of them is the Los Angeles student Tali Kaluski, 25. She learned about the case when she was asked to design and print t-shirts for Woods supporters. Woods thanked her in a letter. She visited him in jail in January.
"They're killing the wrong person," says Kaluski. "He's such a shy, quiet person." She says that Woods told her that he was in the car with Rhodes but had no idea then what he had planned. "How can a killer get life and Steven death?" she asks.
By now, the Office of Capital Writs (OCW), a state agency that represents death-row inmates in post-conviction habeas corpus and related proceedings, is working on the Woods case, too. OCW lead attorney Brad Levenson has filed another petition with the Supreme Court to review the verdict. On 44 pages he lists what went wrong during the trial and after. Woods' original lawyers had been "ineffective," the jury "prejudiced," the petition claims.
Insiders have little hope, as time is running out. "The concept of clemency in this red neck, peckerwood state is a hollow illusion, existing only for the sake of providing the appearance of due process," says one lawyer involved, who refuses to disclose his name for fear of angering the courts. "If history is any guide, I fear that Mr. Woods' case will be denied without a second thought."
Even the US media have shown little interest. Capital punishment is no longer a hot-button issue here. "The public is a lot more ambivalent than they had been, say 15 years ago," Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, told the Website Politico. "They see it as a grayer issue now."
Woods' execution is set for Tuesday, 6 p.m. local time. Tali Kaluski, who now calls herself Woods' "fiancee," is already in Livingston, at least to be closer to him in the final days.
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