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Todd Willingham
Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed under Governor Rick Perry on February 17, 2004.

On the day before the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty, we held a press conference in the Texas Capitol.

Click here to watch the below video on YouTube.

Death penalty exonerees, their families and fellow advocates are taking a stand for capital punishment reform Saturday at the Capitol during 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. Journey of Hope … from Violence to Healing scheduled to participate, including death row exoneree Curtis McCarty, who spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma.

“The prosecutor who was responsible for sending  Anthony Graves, an innocent man, to death row should be prosecuted for misconduct, including official oppression or other charges. In addition, legislators should enact a moratorium on executions in the next legislative session. A moratorium is the best way to ensure that needed reforms or implemented to prevent innocent people from being sent to death row and possibly executed before they can prove their innocence”, said Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Prosecutors today blasted Charles Sebesta, the former district attorney for Washington and Burleson counties, accusing him of hiding evidence and tampering, then threatening witnesses to convict Anthony Graves of capital murder in 1994.
Graves was released from jail Wednesday after spending 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
Answering questions about the release today, Kelly Siegler, a special prosecutor working for District Attorney Bill Parham, said the case was “horrible.”
“Charles Sebasta handled this case in a way that could best be described as a criminal justice system’s nightmare,” Siegler said. “It’s a travesty, what happened in Anthony Graves’ trial.”

The 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty is this Saturday October 30 at 2 PM at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

Three days before the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty this Saturday October 30 at 2 PM at the Texas Capitol in Austin, an innocent man has been released from Texas Death Row.

From the Houston Chronicle:

           A Texas inmate sentenced to die in 1994 has been released after prosecutors said today the man is innocent.

Anthony Graves was convicted of assisting Robert Earl Carter in the slaying of a grandmother, her daughter and four grandchildren in the Burleson County city of Somerville.
The dismissal comes 10 years after Carter, whose testimony convicted Graves, said in the moments before he was executed: “Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it. … I lied on him in court.”
Washington-Burleson County District Attorney Bill Parham dismissed the case after he and his team investigated the case for five months.
“He’s an innocent man,” Parham said today. “There is nothing that connects Anthony Graves to this crime.”
He said the dismissal was just.
“I did what I did because that’s the right thing to do, and I’m fine with it,” he said.
An attorney for Graves, Jimmy Phillips, Jr. said his client was released about 5:30 p.m.
“The first place he wanted to go is to go hug his mama,” Phillips said. “He is a free man and he’s home.”
Kelly Siegler, a prosecutor hired to re-try Graves, agreed with Parham.
“After months of investigation and talking to every witness who’s ever been involved in this case and people who’ve never been talked to before, after looking under every rock we could find, we found not one piece of credible evidence that links Anthony Graves to the commission of this capital murder,” Siegler said.
“This is not a case where the evidence went south with time or witnesses passed away or we just couldn’t make the case anymore. He is an innocent man.”
In 2006, a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Graves deserved a new trial after ruling that prosecutors elicited false statements from two witnesses and withheld two statements that could have changed the minds of jurors.
The victims, Bobbie Davis, 45; her 16-year-old daughter, Nicole; and Davis’ four grandchildren, ages 4 to 9,were shot and stabbed inside Davis’ house, which was set aflame to cover the crime.
Graves had been moved from death row to the Burleson County Jail to await a new trial.

Media Advisory

For immediate release
October 26, 2010


www.MarchforAbolition.org

Contacts: Scott Cobb, Texas Moratorium Network 512-552-4743 
Laura Brady, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, 512-638-1048 
Six Innocent Death Row Exonerees to Lead the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty Saturday Oct 30 2010 in Austin at the Texas Capitol

Pre-March Press Conference to Be Held on Friday October 29 at 1 PM in Speaker’s Committee Room in Texas Capitol

Six innocent, exonerated former death row prisoners will lead the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty Saturday October 30, 2010 at 2 PM in Austin at the Texas Capitol on the South Steps at 11th and Congress. The exonerees are Curtis McCartyShujaa GrahamRon KeineAlbert BurrellGreg Wilhoit and Gary Drinkard. Together they spent almost 50 years under sentences of death in various states. The exonerees are attending the march with the help of the Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing and Witness to Innocence.

A press conference will be held on the day before the march Friday October 29 at 1 PM in the Speaker’s Committee Room (2W.6) in the Texas Capitol. The exonerees and other march speakers will be available at the press conference for media interviews.

Also speaking at the rally will be the penpal of Todd Willingham who first investigated his innocence: Elizabeth Gilbert, who lives in Houston. The story of Gilbert’s role in the effort to prove that Willingham was innocent was told in the recently aired episode of Frontline “Death by Fire” as well as in the 2009 article “Trial by Fire” in The New Yorker.

Todd Willingham’s mother Eugenia will deliver a pre-recorded video message to the march attendees. The video was taped on October 24 in her home in Ardmore, Oklahoma. It will be shown on a giant 12 feet by 9 feet video screen.  She is not scheduled to appear in person.

Another speaker will be Ron Carlson, whose sister Deborah Ruth Carlson Davis Thornton and Jerry Lynn Dean were murdered in Houston with a pick-ax by Karla Faye Tucker and Daniel Ryan Garrett. Ron opposes the death penalty and witnessed Tucker’s execution in Huntsville at her request. 

Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network said, “Texas authorities from Governor Rick Perry to Chair John Bradley of the Texas Forensic Science Commission have done their best over the past year to delay, impede and prevent an official finding that Todd Willingham was convicted using flawed forensic science. Nevertheless, more and more Texans are now convinced that Willingham was wrongfully convicted. Former Governor Mark White said in Newsweek about Todd Willingham: “If there’s no arson, there’s no crime, and, therefore, he is innocent.” On Saturday Oct 30 in Austin, people from across Texas will gather at the Texas Capitol to say that executions in Texas should be stopped before another innocent person is executed”.

Other speakers or attendees at the march who are available for media interviews include:

Terri Been of San Antonio, whose brother Jeff Wood is on Texas Death Row sentenced to death under the Law of Parties for murder even though he did not kill anyone or intend anyone to be killed. The actual killer has already been executed.

Sandra Reed, mother of Texas Death Row prisoner Rodney Reed, will also speak. Rodney and his family are fighting to prove his innocence in the 1996 strangling of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop County.  

David Kaczynski, whose brother Ted Kaczynski is known as the Unabomber. David contacted the FBI with his suspicion that his brother might be involved in a series of bombings that caused three deaths and numerous injuries over 17 years.  David is now Executive Director of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.


Bud Welch, whose 23-year old daughter, Julie, and 167 others were murdered in the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah building.


Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, whose husband Hank Skinner is on Texas death row. On October 13, 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Skinner’s case to determine if he may seek testing of DNA evidence through a civil rights lawsuit. If he is not allowed to test the DNA evidence, then Texas may execute an innocent person.

Bill Pelke, president of the Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing. Bill’s grandmother Ruth Pelke, a Bible teacher, was murdered in 1985 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. Bill originally support 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 involved in an international crusade on Paula’s behalf and in 1989 after over 2 million people from Italy signed petitions and Pope John Paul II’s request for mercy, Paula was taken off of death row and her sentence commuted to sixty years.

Delia Perez Meyer, whose brother Louis Castro Perez is on Texas death row, will speak and will invite family members of people on death row to come to the front of the rally to be acknowledged. 

Marietta Jaeger-Lane, whose 7 year old daughter, Susie, was kidnapped, raped and murdered. Marietta asked that the mentally ill killer be given the alternative allowed in capital cases: a mandatory life sentence instead of the death penalty. 

The annual march is organized as a joint project by several Texas anti-death penalty organizations: Texas Moratorium Network, the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Death Penalty Free Austin, and Kids Against the Death Penalty.

For more information, visit www.MarchforAbolition.org

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