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 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


Join us at the Texas Capitol Tuesday, January 11, at 5:30 pm to protest the first Texas execution of 2011 and to call 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 Texas had enacted a moratorium on executions in 2003, then Willingham would not have been wrongfully executed in 2004 based on faulty forensic evidence.

Let us know you are coming on the Facebook event page.

If you are a Texas resident, but you cannot come to the Capitol in Austin, you can help by calling your Texas state senator and state representative and urging them to support a moratorium on executions. Go here to find out who represents you.

You can also email Governor Rick Perry, although he probably doesn’t care what you say.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Former Army recruiter Cleve Foster was one of two men in Fort Worth tied to the slayings nine years ago of two women, one who had fled Sudan and the other a Texas Tech honors graduate.

Both Foster and his former roommate wound up on death row for the slaying of Nyaneur Pal, 30. He was set for lethal injection Tuesday that would make him the first convicted killer executed this year in Texas.

Foster, 47, always insisted his buddy, Sheldon Ward, acted alone in Pal’s slaying.

“My old roommate — he’s told them,” Foster told The Associated Press. “It wasn’t me.”

Ward died in prison last May of cancer.

“Cleve Foster saying ‘I didn’t do anything,’ that’s bull, … that’s baloney,” said Ben Leonard, a former Tarrant County assistant district attorney who prosecuted him. “The jury had no problem convicting him of murder. That case, I’ve never had any doubts about that case at all.”

A Tarrant County jury in 2004 deliberated less than an hour and a half before convicting him.

Foster’s lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the punishment, arguing his conviction was flawed because trial attorneys failed to get testimony from a blood spatter expert to counter a detective’s testimony that Ward couldn’t have killed and moved Pal’s body by himself.

“The state of Texas is on the verge of executing an innocent man,” attorney Clint Broden told the court.

Similar arguments raised in earlier appeals from Foster failed.

Foster and Ward were convicted separately. The Sudanese woman, known as Mary Pal, worked at a country club and was seen talking with the pair at a Fort Worth bar. Her body was found hours later dumped in a ditch off a Tarrant County road. She’d been shot once in the head.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, Texas Moratorium Network delivered $3,000 to Anthony Graves that we had raised from our supporters and friends. Since then we have received additional donations for Anthony, so the new grand total of donations we have raised for him is $3,573, which includes the latest donation of $150 that we received yesterday.

Anthony has still not received any compensation from the State of Texas, but his lawyers continue to work to get him what he is owed from Texas for the 18 years he spent on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit.

Below is an an article from the Brenham Banner Press from Dec 31 with the latest news about the effort to get him compensated from Texas. At least during his time of need, generous individual people stepped forward and donated to help after his release. Thank you to everyone who has donated.

From the Brenham Banner Press:

The attorney for Anthony Graves says District Attorney Bill Parham has sabotaged attempts by Graves to receive reparations for 18 years of wrongful imprisonment.

Katherine Scardino said she is incensed that Parham refused to sign a request to change the wording on Graves’ dismissal to include the words “actual innocence,” a declaration vital to Graves’ reparation attempts.

“All he (Parham) has got to do to get this man the money he deserves is sign it,” said Scardino.

A state statute enacted last year provides $80,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment. Graves, if his request is approved, would be eligible for more than $1.4 million.

But an obviously angry Scardino said Parham has in essence squashed Graves’ claim by refusing to amend the dismissal order signed in November by District Judge Reva Towslee Corbett.

“The real reason lies at the feet of Bill Parham and nobody else,” she said. “She (Corbett) will sign the order if Bill Parham will. It’s all his fault.”

Scardino said Parham’s refusal greatly hinders Graves’ reparation request.

“Of course it does. It’s a very simple procedure. There’s a form you fill out, a few other things that the statute requires you to submit. And if it complies with the statute, you get compensation,” she said.

Scardino said Graves’ attorneys didn’t press to include “actual innocence” on the original order because “we didn’t want to risk having the dismissal withdrawn.”

“I didn’t want him (Parham) coming back and doing something really stupid,” said Scardino.

Scardino also downplayed Parham’s role in Graves’ release, instead crediting former Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Seigler, who was hired by Parham to investigate the case; and Otto Hanak, a former Texas Ranger who is now an investigator with the district attorney’s office.

Scardino said Seigler at a press conference held the day after Graves’ release used the words “actual innocence” and is willing to sign an affidavit to that effect.

Without a declaration of “innocent” in the order dismissing the case against Graves, the reparation filing “is probably going to be denied,” said Scardino.

The next step would be to ask Gov. Rick Perry to issue a full pardon for Graves, she said.

But Scardino also had harsh words for Perry, who after Graves’ release said it showed that the system “works.”

“Yeah, after 18 years it works just great,” Scardino said sarcastically. “Gov. Perry made that idiotic statement … if we go to him for a pardon, let’s just see how well he believes that.”

Parham said Thursday that he would not sign an agreement to change the wording because there is “no definition” of actual innocence.

He also said his office is not involved in any efforts by Graves to receive reparations.

“I have nothing to do with that,” said Parham.

Several organizations have set up Internet sites in which donations can be to Graves. The Texas Moratorium Network, an organization pushing for a moratorium on capital punishment, last month delivered a $3,000 donation to Graves.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission will devote the entire January 7, 2011 meeting to the case of Todd Willingham. They are scheduled to hear testimony from arson experts, including Craig Beyler. The hearing starts at 9:30 AM, but members of Texas Moratorium Network, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement and others plan to be outside the building at 8:30 AM with signs.

The hearing is in the Central Services Building, 1711 San Jacinto Boulevard Room 402 in Austin. We will go inside before the hearing starts. RSVP on the Facebook event pageThe Innocence Project will show the meeting live on its website.

There will likely be a period devoted to receiving comments from the public. We invite members of the public to show up, bring signs and even make comments during the public comments period to let the Commission know that Texans Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed and that Texas should stop all executions through a moratorium on executions.
Before his execution, Todd Willingham said, “Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.”  
More on the meeting from the Austin American-Statesman:

The Texas Forensic Science Commission will hear from four fire investigation experts Friday as it continues to examine the science used to convict and execute Cameron Todd Willingham.
The special meeting in Austin, postponed from November, was sought by the commission’s scientists to help them answer two key questions:
  1. What was the state of fire science, and what were fire investigators expected to know, in 1991 and 1992? That’s when two investigators used now-discredited techniques to conclude that Willingham intentionally set fire to his Corsicana home, killing his three young children.
  2. What responsibility did the state fire marshal’s office have to reopen its Willingham investigation, and similar arson cases, once the agency realized scientific advancements had vastly improved the practice of arson investigation?
According to the commission, these invited experts have committed to appear Friday:
  • Assistant State Fire Marshal Ed Salazar, second in command at the office that helps investigate suspicious fires statewide. One of the office’s investigators was instrumental in the 1992 conviction of Willingham, and the office recently stood by that investigation despite criticism from every modern, outside fire investigator to re-examine its conclusions.
  • John DeHaan, one of the nation’s leading fire experts who has spent more than 35 years investigating fires. DeHaan wrote five editions of “Kirk’s Fire Investigation,” the most widely used textbook in the field, and co-wrote a companion text, “Forensic Fire Scene Reconstruction.” He is a frequent expert witness at arson trials, often testifying for the prosecution.
  • Craig Beyler, president of the International Association of Fire Safety Science, is also one of the nation’s top fire investigators. Beyler was hired by the commission to analyze the Willingham fire and wrote a 2009 report that disputed every conclusion used to rule the fire an arson.
  • Thomas Wood, a senior investigator with the Houston Fire Department. In a 2010 letter to the science commission, Wood said Willingham investigators could not be considered negligent because their arson conclusions were based on investigative standards common to that era.
The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. in Room 402 of the Central Services Building, 1711 San Jacinto Blvd.
The Innocence Project will show the meeting live on its website.
The New York-based organization today criticized the commission’s decision not to invite two noted experts, Austin chemist Gerald Hurst and fire investigator John Lentini. Both men conducted outside examinations of the Willingham case and concluded that investigators based their arson finding on faulty science.
Hurst and Lentini testified during an October hearing before now-retired Austin District Judge Charlie Baird, who led an inquiry into whether Willingham was wrongfully executed. An appeals court halted the inquiry before Baird could issue a finding.
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