This month’s newsletter contains
- an apology to the Texas Greens for omitting their position in support of a moratorium,
- updates on the upcoming elections,
- information about the Thomas Miller-El case,
Feb. 19, 2002 Dear Moratorium Supporter, We have a busy month. Primary elections are March 12, and a there are some important opportunities to keep the media spotlight on the Texas death penalty. Primary elections: For starters, a correction: last month we said that no Texas gubernatorial candidate had declared support for a moratorium. We were wrong and we apologize. Rahul Marajan, Green party candidate for Texas Governor, is a proud moratorium supporter. More information on the Texas Green party is available at www.txgreens.org. Secondly, TMN is surveying on issues related to capital punishment all the statewide candidates and the legislative candidates who have primary opposition. We’ll report on the results in time for next month’s primaries. By the general election, we hope to post the positions of all the candidates on our website. Even if the candidates choose not to respond, at least our questionnaire reminds them that there are people who care about their opinions on capital punishment issues. Be sure to get out to candidate forums or just call up the campaign headquarters and ask the candidates to state their positions on a moratorium and on other capital punishment issues. To locate the campaign addresses of Democratic candidates: http://www.txdemocrats.org/campaigns2002-enter2.htm To locate the campaign addresses of Republican candidates: http://www.texasgop.org/filings2002/ To locate the campaign addresses of Green candidates: http://www.txgreens.org/election2002/candidates2002.htm To locate the campaign addresses of Libertarian candidates: http://www.tx.lp.org/database-ro/candidates/index.html Two points of good news; good time for letters to editors: First, the U.S. Supreme Court is granting Thomas Miller-El a reprieve from his Feb. 21 execution date to consider problems concerning the jury selection in his trial. As the Associated Press explained: Prosecutors used their power to challenge specific jurors as a way to eliminate 10 out of 11 potential black jurors before Miller-El’s trial, his lawyers claim. Miller-El is black. The only black juror chosen told prosecutors he regarded execution as ‘too quick’ and painless a method of punishment. ‘Pour some honey on them and stake them out over an ant bed,’ the man said. Miller-El’s case is perfect reason why we need a moratorium. Even if his guilt is not in question, it clear that his defense never had a fair chance to argue for punishment less severe than execution. Secondly, since the United States’ reinstatement of the death penalty in 1973, 99 prisoners have been exonerated and released from death row. The 100th is expected to be exonerated any day now. Both Miller-El’s case and the 100th exoneration (when it happens) are perfect occasions to write a letter to the editor of your local daily. We have included letters to the editors addresses below, as well as some talking points on Miller-El’s case. Remember to keep letters concise. Addresses: Austin American Statesman: firstname.lastname@example.org Austin Chronicle email@example.com Houston Chronicle firstname.lastname@example.org San Antonio Express News email@example.com Dallas Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org Waco email@example.com El Paso firstname.lastname@example.org Amarillo email@example.com Fort Wort Star Telegram firstname.lastname@example.org Talking Points for Letters to the Editor on Thomas Miller-El: 1. The clemency process in Texas does not work. a. Governors George Bush and Rick Perry have given the final okay on over 100 executions b. During their time as Governors, only 1 person has been granted clemency. That’s compared with two people this year alone in North Carolina. c. The Pardon and Parole Board which oversees all petitions for clemency in death penalty cases is made up of 18 people, in six different offices. They are not required to meet or talk about a case, and only have to fax in their decision. This is not justice. 2. The Dallas County District Attorney’s office in Mr. Miller-El’s case was racist when choosing his jury. a. The D.A.’s office routinely excluded jurors based on race during the 1980s (time period of Miller-El’s trial) b. The D.A.’s office circulated instructions to its attorneys to exclude the following people from a jury: Jews, Negroes, Italians, and Mexicans. c. Miller-El’s jury consisted of 11 white and one black juror d. The one black juror made clear his support for the death penalty and his desire to have criminals tortured if found guilty 3. Mr. Miller-El was not physically competent to stand trial. a. He was suffering from a gunshot wound and had difficulty communicating with his attorneys during the trial b.Miller-El was hospitalized three times during the course of his trial 4.Mr. Miller-El’s case is just one example of how the death penalty system in Texas and America is not working. A moratorium on executions is needed to ensure that no innocent people are executed and to figure out why the system is broken. We’ll be writing again soon with results of our candidates poll. Best wishes, Texas Moratorium Network P.S. You can subscribe to receive this newsletter via email directly.
This month’s newsletter contains
- information about the activist efforts of Jeannette Popp
- an outline of the challenges ahead for 2002
- an increase in executions,
- the effects of redistricting,
- and the statewide elections.
January 30, 2002
Dear Moratorium Supporter,
The new year is off to a good start for moratorium campaigning in Texas! Sister Helen has just finished a tour of the Lone Star State (including stops in Houston, and Austin, McAllen) and more people are signing the moratorium petition everyday.
There has also been recent, inspiring victory for our cause in Austin. Last month our dear friend Jeanette Popp, mother of Nancy De Priest, for whose murder Chris Ochoa and Richard Danziger were wrongly convicted, intervened with the Travis County DA’s office to save the actual killer, Achim Marino, from a likely execution. In an act of incredible courage, Jeanette visited Marino in jail to persuade him to accept a plea bargain that would have prevented prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. While Marino still contemplated asking to be executed, the DA gave in to Jeanette’s pressure and took the death penalty off the table. We cannot say enough how we
admire Jeanette’s compassion, mercy, and courage.
Moratorium activists will be needing some of Jeanette’s inspiration this year, because there is a lot of hard work ahead. We see three challenges awaiting us in 2002: (1) a likely increase in the number of executions in Texas; (2) the effects of redistricting; (3) state elections.
(1) Increase in executions
In 2000, Texas executed 40 people in 2000 (more than any state in all of U.S. history). In 2001, the number of executions was down to 17. It is likely to increase this year, because (as one report describes it) a glut of cases is working its way through the last stages of appeal. Two men have already been killed since the beginning of the year. This is a terrible development, and another reason to increase our efforts.
(2) Effects of redistricting
As dust settles from redistricting, it is becoming clear that we are going to lose at least six State Representatives who supported moratorium bills in the last session. In general, last session more Democrats than Republicans supported moratorium legislation. In 2003, both the House and Senate will be more Republican. We will need to re-emphasize to our lawmakers that a moratorium is not a partisan issue. Do take the opportunity to send a free fax to your legislator from Sister Helen’s website (http://www.MoratoriumCampaign.org). The service will be available starting January 31st.
(3) State elections:
2002 is an election year, and the primaries are coming up soon (March 12). This gives us an opportunity to raise the moratorium issue all across the state of Texas. Simply vote in one of the primaries, then go to the Precinct meeting of the Party for which you voted (the meeting should be in the same place where you voted, but ask …) At this meeting you can introduce a Moratorium Resolution, which will call on the Party to endorse a moratorium on all executions in Texas. And at this meeting you can volunteer to be a delegate for the County or District Convention. After your resolution passes, it moves to the County, or District Party conventions (April 6), where, if you are a delegate, you can vote on it again. Here you can get yourself elected as a delegate to the State Convention, held in June (June 7-8 Republicans, Dallas; June 13-15 Democrats, El Paso), where you can vote on your resolution yet again. Once your resolution passes this stage, it is part of the official Party Platform! Sample resolutions are available at:
Please contact Brian Evans with any questions, comment, or suggestions about this effort; and let us know how it goes!
A final note on 2002 election:
While none of the gubernatorial candidates supports a moratorium, we were especially disappointed to hear Democratic hopeful Dan Morales voice his approval of Governor Perry’s decision to veto a bill that would have banned execution of persons with mental retardation. He said the bill was an effort to water down the death penalty. Morales’ Democratic opponent, Tony Sanchez, has said he would have signed the ban (although he has not said whether he would support a moratorium).
The candidates are lagging behind the times: they still think indiscriminate killing is an easy way to win votes. If they meet you on the campaign trail, tell them they are out of touch; Texas is changing on this issue.
In closing, best wishes for 2002. Don’t forget to vote!
The December newsletter has been released and includes information about:
- March for a Moratorium
- Adopt-A-Legislator Program
- Execution of Gerald Mitchell for a crime committed when he was only 17
Greeting moratorium supporters!
The October 27 Second Annual March for a Moratorium was a success. Over 400
moratorium supporters from around Texas and beyond marched up Congress Ave
in downtown Austin and rallied at the Capitol. Speakers at the rally
included former death row inmate Kerry Cook, Rena and Ireland Beazley
(parents of Napoleon, a juvenile offender on Texas death row), Bishop
Gregory Aymand, Jeanette Popp (mother of murder victim Nancy DePriest), as
well as Renny Cushing and Linda White of Murder Victims Families for
Reconciliation (MVFR). The crowd was especially moved to hear murder
victims’ family members speak out against executions. The presence of these
voices of mercy and compassion are sure sign that the movement for a
moratorium is growing.
We expect the march to be an even bigger success next year. Texas
Moratorium Network, along with other march planners, is grateful to
everyone who made contributions, who travelled to attend the march, and who
helped get the word out. The energy bodes well for the 2003 legislative
At the moment, one of our chief projects is building the 2002 Adopt a
Legislator Program. Last session several legislators became strong
moratorium supporters because their constituents contacted them before the
session and gradually won them over to the cause. What we need now are a
few dedicated individuals around the state to *adopt a legislator* and to
make him or her a moratorium supporter. To sign up, or to learn more,
contact Brian Evans (email@example.com).
In other news:
On October 22, Texas went forward with an especially tragic execution.
Gerald Mitchell was killed for the 1985 murder of Charles Marino. Mitchell
was only 17 at the time of the murder. Most of the world has condemned
execution of juvenile offenders as a barbaric practice. This year, Texas’
House of Representatives passed a bill that would have banned such
executions, but it died in the Senate.
We are still hopeful that the execution of Napoleon Beazley, another
juvenile offender, can be stopped. If you have not read Amnesty
International’s report on Napoleon and juvenile’s, please do so at:
In better news, Jeanette Popp has succeeded in convincing the Austin
District Attorney’s office *not* to seek the death penalty in the trial of
Joe Achim Marino, her daughter’s accused killer. Marino also initially
wanted to be eligible for execution, but a visit from Popp convinced
everyone that another killing was not the answer. This is a major victory
for opponents of the current death penalty system, and for victims’ rights.
In January, Sister Helen will be making a tour through Texas. She will be
appearing at a religious retreat in San Antonio on Jan. 19, at a
Defendant’s Service at the University of Houston on Jan. 23, at the LBJ
Auditorium on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin on Jan. 24,
at St. Thomas Church in Amarillo on Jan. 25, and at Holy Spirit Parish in
McAllen on Jan. 26. If you live near any of these locations, please try to
make it to her appearance. You won’t be disappointed.
Happy Holidays one and all, and we look forward to building support for a
moratorium on executions in 2002!
The Texas Moratorium Network
Vincent Cooks is scheduled to become the 256th person executed since 1976 in Texas on Dec. 12. Convicted of the robbery/murder of Dallas Police Officer Gary McCarthy in 1988, Cooks’ appeals have focused on scanty eyewitness testimony.
Cooks has argued on appeal that only one out of ten eyewitnesses to the murder were able to identify him from a lineup, with a number of other witnesses identifying people other than Cooks. Eyewitness accounts have also given inconsistent judgements of the height and weight of the murderer. Some claimed he weighed approximately 220 pounds and was around 5′ 10. Cooks weighed 318 pounds at the time of his arrest and is 6′ 0. These facts were presented at trial and federal courts have sided with the jury. It is worth remembering that the eyewitness testimony of one person was enough to put Anthony Porter within days of an Illinois execution chamber- testimony that was later shown to be false. Porter has since been fully exonerated of the crime.
Cooks has also suggested that the jury was unfairly motivated to see him as a violent and dangerous man. As evidence, he has questioned why his legs were shackled during trial. Previous courts have ruled that shackling a defendant in the court seriously damages the presumption of innocence all defendants are entitled to. Far from embracing this claim, federal courts have accepted the prosecutor’s rationale that it was not intended that the jury actually see the shackles. Moreover, at trial prosecutors misconstrued Cooks’ school record, claiming that he had to be removed from class so the rest of the school could function. In fact, Cooks was merely placed in a disciplinary setting for his truancy problem.
The strategy of the prosecution to paint Vincent Cooks as an aggressive and violent person has worked to Cooks’ disadvantage. Federal courts repeatedly have denied Cooks’ contention that the jury was improperly prejudiced. Please write and call to let Gov. Perry know that convictions require evidence, not innuendo.
Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
PO Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2418
phone: (512) 463 1782
fax: (512) 463 1849
Board of Pardons and Paroles
Attn: Gerald Garret
Executive Clemency Section
PO Box 13401, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
phone: (512) 406 5852
fax: (512) 467 0945
The Austin American-Statesman
P.O. Box 670
Austin, TX 78767
phone: (512) 445-3667
fax: (512) 445-3679
Dallas Morning News
2726 S. Beckley
Dallas, TX 75224
phone: (214) 977-8462
fax: (214) 977-8019
P.O. Box 4260
Houston, TX 77210
phone: (713) 220-7491
fax: (713) 220-6806
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
We hope that you will join us in this fight for fairness and social justice.Please join our email list and become one of the more than 20,000 people receiving information through our network.