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.

We are in the midst of a fundraising campaign to help Anthony Graves after his exoneration from Texas death row. We plan to deliver the funds to him before Thanksgiving, which will be his first Thanksgiving celebration as a free man in 18 years. A lot of very generous people have already donated. We thank everyone who has donated so far and we can’t wait to deliver the funds to Anthony. You can still donate.

As of 3 PM today, we had raised $1624 for Anthony Graves.

If you would like to donate to help Anthony Graves, you can make a donation to TMN using a credit card by clicking here.




Or you can send a check to:
Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731
Please note on your check that your donation is for Anthony Graves. If you want to include a short note to Anthony, we will deliver your note along with the check we give him with all the donations. We want to give him the donations before Thanksgiving, but if we receive any donations for him after Thanksgiving, we will send him those donations too.
Donations to Texas Moratorium Network are not tax deductible because our primary mission is to advocate to the Texas Legislature to stop executions.
If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help Anthony, you can make a donation to the 501 (c) (3) organization Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center.

On October 27, Anthony Graves became the 12th person exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sent to Texas death row. Anthony is a completely innocent man who spent a total of 18 years locked up for a crime he had absolutely nothing to do with. Twelve of those years were spent on Texas death row in a tiny cell having his food shoved through a small slit in the door. The other years were spent in jail awaiting retrial and facing the prospect of again being sentenced to death. Anthony is now back in the loving embrace of his family and friends and soon he will enjoy his first Thanksgiving holiday as a free man in 18 years.


Texas Moratorium Network would like to help Anthony transition to his new life. We have spoken to one of his attorneys and she expects a legal fight before Anthony claims any compensation from Texas for his years of wrongful conviction. In fact, it will likely take quite a while before he receives any money from the State. Upon his release on October 27, he was only given a few hundred dollars.
We asked his lawyer how we could help. She told us that he is in need of the basics of life, including new clothes, pocket money, and all the other normal things that a person would need whose nightmarish false conviction at the hands of the state has just ended. He needs to get on with his life and with your help we can give him a little help making the adjustment to freedom.
So, we would like to ask everyone to help us help Anthony Graves. We would like to be able to raise and send him $1,000 before Thanksgiving. If we raise more, then that would be even more helpful for him. If you would like to help, you can send a donation and we will pass it along to Anthony. $1,000 is not much in the great scheme of things, but it will help Anthony at a time when he could really use it.
In 2004, after Ernest Willis was exonerated and released from Texas death row, Texas Moratorium Network asked our supporters to help Ernest. We were able to raise $1,000 in a short time and send it to Ernest in 2004. We received the below message from Ernest Willis after he received our check for $1,000 in 2004.
“Hello, I do appreciate the donations & your time & help in getting the donations. Yes, the state of Texas gave me $100.00 when I was released & that was all. I am doing okay since my release & am very happy to be free. I have not had any problems adjusting to the life out here.
Again -I do appreciate the help, it is greatly appreciated as I do need it”.
Thank You,
Ernest Willis
Now, it is time to help another innocent person just released from Texas Death Row.


If you are unable to afford a donation to Anthony right now, please keep him and his family in your thoughts, especially when you gather your family around the table on Thanksgiving Day.
Thank you,

Your friends at Texas Moratorium Network

Below is a photo of a typical cell on Texas death row. Anthony Graves lived in such a cell even though he was an innocent person.


photoJohnny Hanson Chronicle
Barry Scheck, with former Gov. Mark White at left, calls Friday in Houston for a moratorium on executions in Texas and says Gov. Rick Perry “should admit that there was a mistake” in the 2000 execution of Claude Jones. The inmate’s son, Duane Jones, stands at right.

Texas Moratorium Network has known for a long time that the upcoming legislative session would be a ripe time for death penalty reforms (in part because of the case of Todd Willingham, and now the case of Claude Jones, and don’t forget Kenneth Foster, Jr whose death sentence commutation in 2007 resulted in the Texas House passing a bill to exclude the death penalty as an option in Law of Parties cases in which the accused did not kill anyone). Now it looks like others are catching up with our opinion that the time to push for major death penalty reforms, including a moratorium on executions is now.

In Spring 2011, Texas Moratorium Network will hold a death penalty issues lobby day as we have during every legislative session since 2003. In 2009, it was the largest, most effective anti-death penalty lobby day ever. We look forward to bringing the message to legislators in the coming months that the public is concerned that innocent people are at risk of being executed, there have already been wrongful executions in Texas and action is required now.

From the Houston Chronicle:

It was, at the very least, an odd political sight: former Texas Gov. Mark White, who had sent almost a score of killers to their executions, rubbing shoulders with New York lawyer Barry Scheck at a downtown press conference.
Scheck is co-director of the Innocence Project, an organization whose goal is to free the incarcerated innocent — and to achieve at least a temporary halt to executions in the United States.
Uniting these unlikely allies was this week’s revelation through DNA testing that key evidence that led to the execution of career criminal Claude Jones for a 1989 San Jacinto County robbery-murder was faulty.
White, who insists he never sent an innocent man to his death, termed the events leading to Jones’ 2000 execution “every governor’s worst horror,” and called on the coming Legislature to implement wide-ranging changes in the way courts and governors handle death cases.
Foes of capital punishment believe the cases of Jones, executed after then-Gov. George Bush was given an incomplete report about the career criminal’s request for a stay, and Cameron Willingham, who was executed in 2004 on the basis of flawed investigations of a Corsicana house fire in which his three children died, will galvanize legislators and the public to demand reform.
Adding fuel to incipient anti-death penalty fervor, they believe, is the recent case of Anthony Graves, who was exonerated after spending 18 years on death row for a Brenham-area murder he did not commit.

No parole now an option

“It’s just mind-boggling,” said Houston state Sen. Rodney Ellis, who as acting governor oversaw three executions while Bush was on the presidential campaign trail.
Ellis is optimistic that legislators will enact “common-sense reforms” to improve eyewitness identification procedures, record interrogations and provide more money for indigent defense programs.
Five years ago, Texas offered capital juries the option of assessing convicted killers life without parole.
Major Texas newspapers, including the rock-ribbed conservative Dallas Morning News, have weighed in against capital punishment. Significantly, prosecutors have moved away from seeking death sentences.
This year, Harris County prosecutors sought – and juries awarded – death in just two cases.
Rob Owen, director of the University of Texas’ capital punishment clinic, agreed.
“There’s inevitably more public skepticism about a system that has produced these highly publicized mistakes,” Owen said.

Bush unaware of request

The Jones case was the latest in a series that have raised questions about capital punishment.
One day before his execution, Jones petitioned Bush for a stay so that a hair found at the murder scene – the only physical evidence prosecutors had that linked Jones to the crime – could be subjected to DNA testing.
But Bush’s staff counsel, Claudia Nadig, recommended in a memorandum that the governor reject the stay request, never mentioning the request for DNA testing.
Scheck on Friday contended that Bush, who had earlier endorsed post-conviction DNA testing in questioned cases, likely would have granted the stay for testing. Recently completed DNA testing of the hair showed that it came not from Jones but from the victim, Point Blank liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager.
Richard Dieter, director of the national Death Penalty Information Center, said innocence campaigns beginning in the 1990s contributed to a drop in death sentences nationally. Fewer such sentences meant less enthusiasm by district attorneys for seeking death, Dieter said.

Some still see support

Casey O’Brien, for 26 years a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, believes Texans will still support capital punishment “in the right case.”
But he acknowledged that prosecutors less frequently seek death penalties in murder cases involving robberies. “Aggravated robbery cases are off the board – unless they’re serial killers,” he said. “You’d try a case like that 15 years ago and you’d get the death penalty.”

Process of law respected

Dennis Longmire, a Sam Houston State University criminal justice professor, is optimistic that publicity surrounding claims of wrongful convictions in capital cases will “resonate” with legislators. But the impact on the general public, he believes, may be “disheartening.”
“I think there’s a greater sense among elected public officials, whatever their opinion of the death penalty, to have a fundamental respect for the orderly process of law,” he said. “I think public officials are more responsible than the common person.”
Longmire said surveys he conducted several years ago showed that 90 percent of respondents who favored the death penalty believed that, in the state’s last 100 executions, an innocent person had been put to death.
“In talking to students,” he said, “they say maybe those who were executed were innocent of their crimes but they were probably guilty of something.”

We are in the midst of a fundraising campaign to help Anthony Graves after his exoneration from Texas death row. We plan to deliver the funds to him before Thanksgiving, which will be his first Thanksgiving celebration as a free man in 18 years. A lot of very generous people have already donated. We thank everyone who has donated so far and we can’t wait to deliver the funds to Anthony. You can still donate.

As of 4:41 PM today, we had raised $1562 for Anthony Graves.

If you would like to donate to help Anthony Graves, you can make a donation to TMN using a credit card by clicking here.




Or you can send a check to:
Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731
Please note on your check that your donation is for Anthony Graves. If you want to include a short note to Anthony, we will deliver your note along with the check we give him with all the donations. We want to give him the donations before Thanksgiving, but if we receive any donations for him after Thanksgiving, we will send him those donations too.
Donations to Texas Moratorium Network are not tax deductible because our primary mission is to advocate to the Texas Legislature to stop executions.
If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help Anthony, you can make a donation to the 501 (c) (3) organization Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center.

On October 27, Anthony Graves became the 12th person exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sent to Texas death row. Anthony is a completely innocent man who spent a total of 18 years locked up for a crime he had absolutely nothing to do with. Twelve of those years were spent on Texas death row in a tiny cell having his food shoved through a small slit in the door. The other years were spent in jail awaiting retrial and facing the prospect of again being sentenced to death. Anthony is now back in the loving embrace of his family and friends and soon he will enjoy his first Thanksgiving holiday as a free man in 18 years.


Texas Moratorium Network would like to help Anthony transition to his new life. We have spoken to one of his attorneys and she expects a legal fight before Anthony claims any compensation from Texas for his years of wrongful conviction. In fact, it will likely take quite a while before he receives any money from the State. Upon his release on October 27, he was only given a few hundred dollars.
We asked his lawyer how we could help. She told us that he is in need of the basics of life, including new clothes, pocket money, and all the other normal things that a person would need whose nightmarish false conviction at the hands of the state has just ended. He needs to get on with his life and with your help we can give him a little help making the adjustment to freedom.
So, we would like to ask everyone to help us help Anthony Graves. We would like to be able to raise and send him $1,000 before Thanksgiving. If we raise more, then that would be even more helpful for him. If you would like to help, you can send a donation and we will pass it along to Anthony. $1,000 is not much in the great scheme of things, but it will help Anthony at a time when he could really use it.
In 2004, after Ernest Willis was exonerated and released from Texas death row, Texas Moratorium Network asked our supporters to help Ernest. We were able to raise $1,000 in a short time and send it to Ernest in 2004. We received the below message from Ernest Willis after he received our check for $1,000 in 2004.
“Hello, I do appreciate the donations & your time & help in getting the donations. Yes, the state of Texas gave me $100.00 when I was released & that was all. I am doing okay since my release & am very happy to be free. I have not had any problems adjusting to the life out here.
Again -I do appreciate the help, it is greatly appreciated as I do need it”.
Thank You,
Ernest Willis
Now, it is time to help another innocent person just released from Texas Death Row.


If you are unable to afford a donation to Anthony right now, please keep him and his family in your thoughts, especially when you gather your family around the table on Thanksgiving Day.
Thank you,

Your friends at Texas Moratorium Network

Below is a photo of a typical cell on Texas death row. Anthony Graves lived in such a cell even though he was an innocent person.


Watch at Houston Chronicle.

From Time.com:

For over two decades, the hair was stored in a plastic evidence bag in the courthouse in Coldspring, Texas, cataloged as belonging to Claude Jones, who was convicted of murder in 1990 and executed 10 years later. Now, it can be relabeled: a court-ordered DNA test found Thursday that the hair actually belonged to the murder victim Allen Hilzendager. The result casts significant doubt on the validity of Jones’ conviction and his execution.
That single 1-in. (2.5 cm) strand of hair was the key to Jones’ original conviction. A truck carrying Jones and Danny Dixon did pull up in front of Hilzendager’s liquor store that night. One man got out, went inside and gunned Hilzendager down, according to two eyewitnesses across the highway (neither could see the murderer’s face). Both Jones and Dixon were certainly capable of the crime — both were on parole after serving time for murder. But there was little other firm evidence of which one had done it. Dixon accused Jones, and Jones accused Dixon. The prosecution’s star witness against Jones was a friend of Dixon’s who later said that prosecutors had coerced him into testifying.

And from the beginning, the evidence was handled questionably. The hair expert at the Texas crime lab originally thought the small sample was “unsuitable for comparison” using the microscopy technology available at the time, but eventually changed his mind and decided to test it after all. Using that outdated technology — which essentially has two hairs examined side by side under a microscope — the expert then determined that the hair belonged to Jones and not Dixon.

That dubious determination went on to haunt all of Jones’ failed appeals as well. Time and again, lawyers and judges pointed to the physical evidence against Jones as a damning factor.
Except, in the end, it wasn’t. The fact that the hair was actually Hilzendager’s doesn’t mean that Jones was necessarily innocent, but it does mean that the jury convicted him — and did so quickly — based largely on false evidence. “What’s crucial to understand is that the hair was critical evidence in the case,” says Barry Scheck, whose Innocence Project, along with the Texas Observer, led the lawsuit demanding that the hair be subjected to DNA testing. “I have no doubt the conviction would’ve been reversed with these results.”

Scheck points out the most poignant aspect of the story: Jones came very close to having a chance for that reversal just before he was executed. At the time, then Governor George W. Bush was on record stating that he would delay executions if there were relevant new DNA tests that could be performed. Jones’ case seemed to fit that bill — mitochondrial DNA testing was not available during his trial but was in wide use before his final appeals in 2000. Jones’ attorney at the time warned the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that without Bush’s intervention, “the state of Texas runs the risk of executing a man despite the availability of modern technology that might exonerate him.”

The four-page memo that Bush received from his legal advisers on Dec. 7, 2000, however, made no mention of a possible new DNA test. It ended with the assertion that Jones “has had full and fair access to judicial review of his case.” Bush denied clemency, and Jones was executed that evening.

“What I’m really hoping is that when President Bush gets an opportunity to look at this,” says Scheck, “that he would acknowledge that he was blindsided and that an error was made.”
The new DNA results come during a rough patch for capital punishment in Texas. After 18 years in prison — 12 of those on death row — Anthony Graves was exonerated and walked free in October based on the opinion of a special independent prosecutor who found in favor of a 2006 reversal (stemming from a lack of evidence) of his conviction. That case, in which Graves was convicted of slaughtering a family he didn’t know based on the testimony of informants and co-defendants, had one striking similarity with the Jones case: the original prosecutors fought fiercely against any suggestions that the convictions might be invalid. As doubts over the evidence that had convicted Graves swirled in 2009, prosecutor Charles Sebesta took out full-page ads in local papers calling Graves “cold-blooded.”

In Jones’ case, prosecutor Bill Burnett fought hard to destroy the hair before it could be tested, and he took his fight all the way to his grave. The pastor at his funeral in June assailed TIME’s coverage of the Jones case, in which I had argued in favor of testing, and lauded Burnett for being someone who “took a stand against some powerful people.”
(Read TIME’s coverage of the case.)

After the evidence findings were revealed Thursday, Hilzendager’s brother Joe told the Associated Press that he still thinks Jones was the shooter, staying true to what he had told me in his living room almost a year ago, as he argued against testing the hair: “There’s no doubt they executed the right person.”

But Jones’ son Duane has always believed his father was wrongfully convicted. He says the results aren’t a relief and that it’s just “disappointing” to see the missed opportunities for justice.

“It saddens me because you know they spend all the taxpayers’ money fighting DNA tests,” he says. “If you’re so confident in your convictions, do the testing. You might find out something new.”

The Texas Observer
HOME  |  SUBSCRIBE  |  DONATE

Observer Exclusive:
DNA tests undermine key evidence in 2000 death penalty case.
Claude JonesThe Texas Observer is reporting today the results of DNA tests that raise doubts about the guilt of Claude Jones, the last Texan executed under former Gov. George W. Bush.
The DNA tests were conducted on a single strand of hair–the key evidence that sent Jones to the death chamber on Dec. 7, 2000.
At Jones’ 1990 trial, prosecutors alleged the hair–recovered from the scene of a murder at an East Texas liquor store–“matched” Claude Jones. It was the only evidence that placed Jones in the liquor store.
But the DNA tests–conducted at the request of The Texas Observer and the Innocence Project–show that the hair sample matched the victim of the shooting, and not Jones.
The new evidence in the Jones case is the result of a three-year court battle by The Texas Observer and three innocence groups–the New York-based Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network.
Observer editor Bob Moser will join Innocence Project director Barry Scheck, former Gov. Mark White and Claude Jones’ son Duane Jones to release the test results and discuss the case at a press conference on Friday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m. in the Bank of America lobby at 700 Louisiana St., Houston.
In 2007, the Observer and the three innocence groups sued the San Jacinto County district attorney’s office to obtain the hair, which had never been destroyed.
In June, Judge Paul Murphy ruled in favor of the Observer and the innocence groups, and ordered the San Jacinto County district attorney’s office to hand over the hair. Prosecutors decided not to appeal Murphy’s ruling. After several months of negotiating, lawyers for the Innocence Project and the Observer reached an agreement with the San Jacinto County DA’s office to transfer the hair evidence to private labs for mitochondrial DNA testing. The Observer and the Innocence Project were represented in the suit by the Houston firm Mayer Brown.
Background of the Case
On Nov. 14, 1989, Jones and Kerry Dixon stopped at a liquor store in the East Texas town of Point Blank, about 80 miles northeast of Houston. One of the two men waited in the pickup truck while the other went inside and murdered the store’s owner, 44-year-old Allen Hilzendager, with a .357 magnum revolver. The question is which man committed the murder? Each man blamed the other.
The only physical evidence that linked Jones to the murder was the hair found on the liquor-store counter. At Jones’ 1990 trial, a forensic expert testified that the hair appeared to come from Jones. But the technology didn’t exist at the time to determine if the hair matched Jones’ DNA.
Jones always maintained his innocence. By 2000, mitochondrial DNA testing had been developed. Jones requested a stay of execution to conduct DNA tests on the strand of hair. Two Texas courts rejected his request, as did then-Gov. Bush. Documents obtained from the governor’s office show that attorneys never informed Bush that Jones was requesting DNA testing.
“It is unbelievable that the lawyers in the General Counsel’s office failed to inform the governor that Jones was seeking DNA testing on evidence that was so pivotal to the case,” said former Governor and Attorney General Mark White.  “If the state is going to continue to use the death penalty, it must figure out a way to build safeguards in the system so that lapses like this don’t happen again.”
Had the hair been tested a decade ago, as Jones requested, he might still be alive. “The DNA results prove that testimony about the hair sample on which this entire case rests was just wrong,” said Scheck of the Innocence Project. “This is yet another disturbing example of a miscarriage of justice in Texas capital murder prosecutions. Unreliable forensic science and a completely inadequate post-conviction review process cost Claude Jones his life.”
With questions about the case and the Observer story, please call Dave Mann, Senior Editor, 512-477-0746 (mann@texasobserver.org) or Bob Moser, Editor, 347-891-4885 (moser@texasobserver.org).
Read the full story at texasobserver.org
Read the original Texas Observer story, Truth Hangs by a Hair.
Love our work? Subscribe! You'll not only be getting the best journalism in Texas in your mailbox every two weeks, you'll also be helping to support a unique and essential journal of free voices.
Be an important part of keeping investigative journalism alive at The Texas ObserverBecome an Observer Partner now!
The Observer is also available in Austin at BookPeople and other bookstores throughout the state. And if your bookstore doesn’t carry the Observer, contact us at business@texasobserver.org and mention it to bookstore employees.
Page 69 of 354« First...102030...6768697071...8090100...Last »
%d bloggers like this: