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 Dallas Morning News says in an editorial today that Texas needs a moratorium on executions. Texas Monthly endorsed a moratorium this month also. The Texas Legislature began its work in Austin on January 11. The highest priority for people interested in stopping executions in Texas should be to convince the Texas Legislature to enact a moratorium on executions.

Seeking a moratorium is the best strategy for stopping executions in Texas. It worked in Illinois, it can work in Texas.

From the Dallas Morning News today:

It’s clear Texas law-enforcement officials and courts have gotten it terribly wrong at times, so much so that a moratorium is just as appropriate in Texas today as it was in Illinois in 2000.

Questions cry out for answers about whether flaws in Texas justice run so deep that the death chamber should be dismantled. This newspaper believes it’s a system that cannot ever be fail-safe. While many Texans vehemently disagree, still others are conflicted over the matter. Experts and state officials must have the chance to address these issues without the death row conveyor belt moving in the background.

Lawmakers in Austin need to support a moratorium.

The full editorial can be read here.

Yesterday, January 11, 2011, Cleve Foster received a last minute stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court. By around 6:15 pm Tuesday, more than 60 people had gathered at the Texas Capitol to protest the scheduled execution when the news of a stay of execution came in a phone call from other protesters gathered outside The Walls Unit in Huntsville (Photos from Capitol).

On the same day, the Illinois Legislature voted to abolish the death penalty and sent the bill to the governor of Illinois.

Yesterday was also the first day of the 2011 Texas legislative session, during which a moratorium on executions will be one of the issues under consideration.

From the AP:

The U.S. Supreme Court gave a last-minute stay of execution Tuesday evening to a Desert Storm veteran and former Army recruiter convicted of raping and killing a Sudanese immigrant in Fort Worth in 2002.

Cleve Foster, 47, known as “Sarge” on Death Row, had eaten his final meal and was waiting to walk a few steps to the death chamber when the court’s brief order was received just before 6 p.m., a prison spokesman said.

The court offered no explanation for its decision or why justices other than Justice Antonin Scalia participated. Scalia can act alone on Texas execution appeals. But he can also ask other justices to vote on whether to hear an appeal.

The order indicated that Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito dissented from the majority vote and would have allowed the execution to proceed.

When prison officials asked Foster whether he was surprised to get a reprieve, he said, “I was and I wasn’t. I gave it to God a long time ago.”

He also said he was gratified by support from friends, calling it “really humbling.”
Foster’s execution would have been the first this year in Texas.

Foster has always maintained that his co-defendant, Sheldon Ward, was responsible for fatally shooting 30-year-old Nyaneur “Mary” Pal on Feb. 13, 2002.

Ward, one of Foster’s Army recruits, was also condemned for the slaying. He died of cancer last year in prison.

In their latest appeal, Foster’s attorneys argued that his conviction was flawed because trial lawyers failed to arrange for a blood-spatter expert to dispute a detective’s testimony that Ward couldn’t have killed Pal and moved her body to where it was found all by himself. If they had presented such testimony, there was “at least a reasonable probability that the result of Mr. Foster’s trial would have been different,” appellate attorney Clint Broden said.

Prosecutors insisted that evidence showed that Foster actively participated in the woman’s killing, offered no credible explanations, and lied and gave contradictory stories about his sexual activities with Pal. His eleventh-hour appeal “recycles the stale arguments that state and federal courts have already considered in rejecting Foster’s protestations of innocence,” Jonathan Mitchell, an assistant Texas solicitor general, wrote in the state’s response.

Foster declined to speak with reporters in recent weeks. In 2005, he told The Associated Press that he viewed the evidence against him as prosecutors “pulling stuff out of their hat.”
“I didn’t do this,” he said of Pal’s killing.

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/01/11/2762454/ex-recruiters-execution-for-2002.html#ixzz1AqS6rxtd

From the Austin American-Statesman:

A Houston defendant cannot challenge the state’s death penalty laws as unconstitutional before his capital murder trial begins, the state’s highest court ruled today.

John Edward Green Jr., charged with robbing and killing a Houston woman in 2008, had challenged the Texas death penalty law because “its application has created a substantial risk that innocent people have been, and will be, convicted and executed.”

District Judge Kevin Fine held a Dec. 6 hearing on Green’s motion, hearing from defense experts who testified about 138 exonerations of U.S. death row inmates since 1978, including 12 in Texas.

At the urging of prosecutors, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the hearing the following day and requested briefings to determine if proceedings should continue.
Today, the court ruled 6-2 that Fine exceeded his authority and ordered him to dismiss Green’s challenge. Texas law does not allow judges to hold pretrial hearings on the constitutionality of a law, said the opinion by Judge Cathy Cochran.

In addition, until the death penalty statute is applied against Green, he does not have legal standing to challenge the law, the court ruled.

“One does not put the cart before the horse: a defendant has no claim of wrongful conviction or wrongful sentencing before he has even gone to trial,” Cochran wrote.

“It bears noting that no provision of the current (death penalty statute) has been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or this Court, although that statute has been attacked many times,” Cochran added.

Judges Tom Price and Paul Womack dissented without submitting an opinion stating their reasons. Recently retired Judge Charlie Holcomb did not participate.

Fine made national news last spring when, in response to a motion from Green’s lawyers, he declared the Texas death penalty law unconstitutional. He later rescinded that ruling and ordered the December hearing, saying he should have heard evidence before reaching such a conclusion.

Cleve Foster received a last minute stay of execution from U.S. Supreme Court today (Read court order here). More than 60 people gathered at the Texas Capitol to protest the execution rejoiced at the news received from a phone call from other protesters gathered in Huntsville.

A former Army recruiter who maintained his innocence in the rape-slaying of a woman in Fort Worth nine years ago has received a reprieve from execution Tuesday evening.

Forty-seven-year-old Cleve Foster’s lethal injection was stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court so it can further review an appeal. In the court’s brief order, Justices Antonin Scalia and Sam Alito indicated they would have allowed the punishment to proceed.

Foster has insisted a friend was responsible for fatally shooting 30-year-old Nyaneur Pal, who had fled Sudan for Texas. The friend, Sheldon Ward, one of Foster’s recruits, also was condemned for the slaying. He died of cancer last year while in prison. Foster’s lawyers said the evidence did not support his conviction.

Breaking News: Ten years after former Gov. George Ryan placed a moratorium on the practice of capital punishment, Illinois lawmakers today voted to abolish the death penalty in the Land of Lincoln.

The Illinois State Senate followed the lead of the House and approved the bill (SB 3539) by a 32-25 margin this afternoon. The legislation, if signed by the governor of Illinois, would end the death penalty and redirect money the state pays in death row prosecution and defense
fees ($100 million in the past seven years alone) to support law enforcement training and programs for the families of murder victims. It now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn, where it faces an uncertain future.

Protest of First Texas Execution of 2011 To be Held at 5:30 PM Tuesday
January 11 at Texas Capitol in Austin

UPDATE: Cleve Foster received a last minute stay of execution from U.S. Supreme Court. More than 60 people gathered at the Texas Capitol to protest the execution rejoiced at the news received from a phone call from other protesters gathered in Huntsville.

People opposed to the death penalty will gather today, Jan 11, at the
Texas Capitol at 5:30 PM on the sidewalk at Congress and 11th for a
protest of the first Texas execution of 2011 on the day the Texas
Legislature convenes for its first day in session. Today at 6:00 PM
Cleve “Sarge” Foster is scheduled to be executed in Huntsville by the
state of Texas for a murder that his already executed co-defendant
said Foster did not commit.

Demonstrators will also be calling on the Texas Legislature to enact a
moratorium on executions and address problems in the system that put
innocent people on death row, such as in the cases of Anthony Graves
and Todd Willingham. “If the Texas legislature had enacted a
moratorium on executions in 2003, then Willingham would not have been
wrongfully executed in 2004 based on faulty forensic evidence”, said
Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network.

Groups participating in the demonstration include Texas Moratorium
Network, Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Austin chapter, Students
Against the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence.

What: Protest of 1st Execution in Texas in 2011

Date: Tuesday, January 11

Time: 5:30 to 6:30 PM

Place: Texas Capitol on sidewalk at 11th and Congress Avenue
Austin, TX

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