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 ran an editorial and blog post on Tuesday praising the Texas Democratic Party’s platform position on the death penalty and the need for a moratorium on executions and the creation of a “Capital Punishment Commission” to study the death penalty system, saying “a moratorium and other reforms adopted in the Democrats’ state platform may help prevent a fatal error.”

Usually, the Dallas Morning News endorses the Republican in elections for Texas governor. This year may be different. I would think that if the Dallas Morning News decides to endorse Bill White this Fall, one of the reasons will be that they will expect him and the Democrats in the Legislature to enact the death penalty reforms listed in the TDP platform.

The blog post entitled “Texas Democrats strike right tone on death penalty” written by Assistant Editorial Page Editor Michael Landauer says:

“In its platform adopted last week, the Texas Democratic Party seems to have it right on capital punishment. The party does not go as far as we do. We want to abolish the death penalty in Texas. Democrats want to win elections. I get that. But the plank in the platform on Capital Punishment is a good place to start for lawmakers considering common-sense reforms that people on both sides could agree on”.

The editorial that appeared in the print edition says:

Consider that the courts have gotten it wrong – awfully wrong – in several cases. Men have walked off death row because they were able to show bogus charges, thin evidence, junk forensic work or shaky witnesses. It’s still an open question whether an innocent person has died on the executioner’s gurney.

A list of reforms to help safeguard against that possibility was included in the platform adopted last week by the Texas Democratic Party. Most should make sense even to Texans who support capital punishment but who are troubled by the ghastly thought of taking a life in error.

Thank you to all the Democrats who worked on the 2010 platform as members of the Platform Committee at the State Convention or in an advisory capacity. Special thanks to Tom Blackwell, who was on the chair’s advisory committee on the platform as well as elected to represent SD 16 on the Platform Committee at the convention. He was responsible for adding two new reforms to the capital punishment section this year, the one having to do with the Law of Parties and the line saying “when the imposition of the death penalty is before the Parole Board or the Governor we urge consideration of all reasonably certain scientific or factual evidence that has become known since the trial”.

The Texas Democratic Party first endorsed a moratorium on executions in 2004 after Texas Moratorium Network’s Scott Cobb was elected to the Platform Committee and wrote the language adding a section on death penalty reforms to the platform. At the convention last week, TMN organized a meeting of an anti-death penalty caucus with a special guest speaker who spent 17 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. Juan Melendez, the guest speaker, also was allowed to address the meeting of the TDP Resolutions Committee when they were considering the moratorium issue.

To watch a video of Juan Melendez addressing the Resolutions Committee, click here.

Today, July 1, 2010 Texas executed Michael Perry. He was the 461st person executed in Texas since 1982 and the 222nd person since Rick Perry became governor. He was the 14th person executed in Texas in 2010. 
Convicted killer Michael James Perry was executed Thursday evening for gunning down a nurse at her home north of Houston nine years ago and stealing her car.
Perry, 28, mouthed to relatives and friends watching through a window that he loved them.
“I want to start off to everyone involved in this atrocity, they’re all forgiven by me,” he said in a brief statement from the death chamber gurney.
He lifted his head from the pillow and his voice cracking, cried out: “Mom, I love you.”
“I’m coming home Dad. I’m coming home,” he added. His father died last month.
He never acknowledged relatives of his victim who looked through an adjacent window.
As the drugs took effect, his eyes fluttered and he hiccupped four times. A single tear ran down his right cheek, prompting quiet sobs from his mother and an aunt and friends. The victim’s relatives gasped and motioned to each other.
Nine minutes later, at 6:17 p.m., he was pronounced dead, making him the 14th prisoner executed this year in Texas, the nation’s most active death penalty state.

The Texas Democratic Party held its 2010 State Convention June 25-26 in Corpus Christi and adopted a party platform that endorses a moratorium on executions. The convention was attended by more than 7,000 delegates. The party platform has supported a moratorium in every platform since 2004.

In addition to adopting a moratorium in the platform, the Resolutions Committee of the TDP State Convention also passed a resolution in support of a moratorium. Juan Melendez, an innocent person who was wrongfully convicted and spent 17 years on death row before being exonerated and released, was allowed to address the Resolutions Committee when it was considering the moratorium resolution. The photo at left in this post is of Juan addressing the Resolutions Committee.

Click here to view the entire 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

Below is the language in the platform from the section on capital punishment.

Capital Punishment

When capital punishment is imposed, Texans must be assured that it is fairly administered. Texas Democrats extend our deepest sympathies to all victims of crime and especially to the families of murder victims, and we strongly support their rights. The Texas death penalty system has been severely criticized by religious leaders, appellate courts and major newspapers that have observed that the current system cannot ensure that innocent or undeserving defendants are not sentenced to death. The Dallas Morning News has called for abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

In the modern era, Texas has executed over 400 people, far more than any other state in the nation. The frequency of executions and inadequacies in our criminal justice system increase the likelihood that an innocent person will be executed. The State of Texas may have already executed at least two innocent people, according to major newspaper investigations into the cases of Carlos DeLuna and Cameron Todd Willingham. Another inmate, Ernest Willis, was exonerated and released from Texas Death Row in 2004 after 17 years of wrongful imprisonment.

We condemn Governor Perry’s manipulation of the forensic science commission investigation of the science which led to the execution of a possibly innocent person.

In order to promote public confidence in the fairness of the Texas criminal justice system, Texas Democrats support the establishment of a Texas Capital Punishment Commission to study the Texas death penalty system and a moratorium on executions pending action on the Commission’s findings.

Texas Democrats support the following specific reforms:

• establishing a statewide Office of Public Defenders for Capital Cases to ensure that every person accused of a capital crime has equal access to well-trained trial and appellate attorneys, regardless of income, race or the county of jurisdiction;

• allowing testing of any possibly exculpatory DNA evidence to ensure guilt or innocence before executions are carried out, and allowing testing of DNA evidence after an execution to determine if an innocent person has been executed;

• establishing procedures to determine before a trial takes place whether an accused has mental retardation, in order to be sure that Texas complies with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on executions of people with mental retardation;

• banning death sentences and executions for people with mental illness;

• requiring the Board of Pardons and Paroles to meet in person to discuss and vote on every case involving the death sentence;

• restoring the power to the Governor to grant clemency in death penalty cases without a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles. To restore public confidence in the process, the Board should meet in public and decisions should be made by majority vote;

• when the imposition of the death penalty is before the Parole Board or the Governor we urge consideration of all reasonably certain scientific or factual evidence that has become known since the trial; and

• reforming statutes related to the “Law of Parties,” to make sure individuals who actually commit crimes are the primary focus of prosecution.

Here is a video of Juan Melendez speaking to the Resolutions Committee, followed by the Committee discussing the issue, and ending with several members coming up to Juan to offer him handshakes and hugs. Be sure to watch for the standing ovation given to Juan by the committee after his remarks and before they start discussing the issue. It was a very touching moment.

Juan Melendez said, “I was extremely moved by the response of the Resolutions Committee following my testimony and I would like to thank everyone of the Committee members for voting unanimously for a moratorium resolution. I truly believe that the Texas Democratic party is on the right side of history on this and that it is both a morally and politically sound position to take.”

On Friday at the TDP State Convention, Juan Melendez gave a 30 minute talk about his experience as an innocent person being sentenced to death to a meeting of the “Democrats Against the Death Penalty” caucus. Also speaking were Rep Lon Burnam, Judi Caruso, Jamie Bush who introduced Juan Melendez and Keith Hampton who dropped by to introduce himself to the caucus attendees. Keith is a candidate for judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The caucus was founded in 2004 by Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network.

Juan Melendez’s appearance at the TDP State Convention was organized by Texas Moratorium Network and supported by Witness to Innocence, which made it possible for Juan Melendez to fly to Texas for the convention.

Here is a video of Juan talking to a local Corpus Christi news team.

Juan also spent a lot of time at the convention talking to people who came by the booth of Texas Moratorium Network in the exhibition area. In the photo below are Jamie Bush, Scott Cobb, Alison Dieter, Juan Melendez and Judi Caruso – the Texas Moratorium Network/Witness to Innocence team at the convention. Sherri Clausell and Angie Agapetus, two anti-death penalty activists from Houston, also attended the convention.

Link to news coverage of Juan Melendez from KZTV.com in Corpus Christi.

Link to more photos.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat from Houston who filed a bill in the 2009 Texas legislative session to abolish the death penalty in Texas (HB 682), will speak at the caucus meeting of “Democrats Against the Death Penalty” at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in Corpus Christi on Friday, June 25, 2010 in Room 225D-E at the American Bank Center.

Also speaking will be Juan Melendez, who spent 17 years, 8 months and 1 day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit.


The anti-death penalty caucus was first founded at the 2004 TDP State Convention by Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network. The Texas Democratic Party has endorsed a moratorium on executions in its party platform at each state convention since 2004.

Jessica Farrar is currently in her 8th term as State Representative of District 148. She was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1994 at the age of 27, and she is the longest serving Hispanic from Harris County in the Texas House of Representatives.

Juan Melendez was exonerated and released from death row on January 3, 2002 after a transcript of a taped confession by the real killer came to light sixteen years after he had been sentenced to death.  At that time, the Supreme Court of Florida had upheld Melendez’s case three times on appeal even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime and his conviction rested solely on the testimony of two questionable witnesses: a police informant and a co-defendant who was threatened with the electric chair but who ultimately received a sentence of two years probation after testifying against Melendez.  The actual killer who confessed to more than sixteen people was also a police informant.  Melendez’s story is featured in the internationally acclaimed documentary “Juan Melendez 6446.”

Juan Melendez has been described as “a living testament to the injustice of capital punishment” because his case highlights the myriad of problems that plague the death penalty system and in particular, the high risk and inevitability of executing the innocent.  While his story is unique, the circumstance of being innocent and on death row is shamefully anything but unique. Since 1973, 138 people, including 11 in Texas, have been released from death row with evidence of innocence. 

Melendez will speak at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention at a critical time in Texas when serious questions have been raised about the likely innocence of Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna, all of whom were executed by the State of Texas.  Melendez’s evocative testimony will underscore the need for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and a comprehensive examination of the system to determine how, if at all, the system can be reformed to safeguard against executing the innocent and to protect the public from the actual perpetrators who elude punishment each time the system gets it wrong. 

Texas State Democratic Party State Convention event information:

What: “Democrats Against the Death Penalty” Caucus

Date: Friday, June 25

Time: 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.

Where: Room 225D-E, American Bank Center, Corpus Christi.

Juan Melendez, who spent 17 years, 8 months and 1 day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit, will speak at the caucus meeting of “Democrats Against the Death Penalty” at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in Corpus Christi on Friday, June 25, 2010 in Room 225D-E at the American Bank Center. 

Also speaking will be State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat from Houston who filed HB 682 in the 2009 Texas legislative session to repeal the death penalty.


The anti-death penalty caucus was first formed at the 2004 TDP State Convention. The Texas Democratic Party has endorsed a moratorium on executions in its party platform at each state convention since 2004.

Melendez was exonerated and released from death row on January 3, 2002 after a transcript of a taped confession by the real killer came to light sixteen years after he had been sentenced to death.  At that time, the Supreme Court of Florida had upheld Melendez’s case three times on appeal even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime and his conviction rested solely on the testimony of two questionable witnesses: a police informant and a co-defendant who was threatened with the electric chair but who ultimately received a sentence of two years probation after testifying against Melendez.  The actual killer who confessed to more than sixteen people was also a police informant.  Melendez’s story is featured in the internationally acclaimed documentary “Juan Melendez 6446.”

Melendez has been described as “a living testament to the injustice of capital punishment” because his case highlights the myriad of problems that plague the death penalty system and in particular, the high risk and inevitability of executing the innocent.  While his story is unique, the circumstance of being innocent and on death row is shamefully anything but unique. Since 1973, 138 people, including 11 in Texas, have been released from death row with evidence of innocence. 

Melendez will speak at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention at a critical time in Texas when serious questions have been raised about the likely innocence of Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna, all of whom were executed by the State of Texas.  Melendez’s evocative testimony will underscore the need for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and a comprehensive examination of the system to determine how, if at all, the system can be reformed to safeguard against executing the innocent and to protect the public from the actual perpetrators who elude punishment each time the system gets it wrong. 

Texas State Democratic Party State Convention event information:
What: “Democrats Against the Death Penalty” Caucus

Date: Friday, June 25

Time: 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.

Where: Room 225D-E, American Bank Center, Corpus Christi.

Juan Melendez is available for interviews at any time during the convention. He speaks English and Spanish. To schedule an interview, contact Judi Caruso at 505-362-1784.


Juan Melendez is a board member of Witness to Innocencewhich is the nation’s only organization composed of, by and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones.               

Page 90 of 354« First...102030...8889909192...100110120...Last »
%d bloggers like this: