Sunday, October 29, 2006

Death Penalty Protestors March to City Hall

Here is Fox 7 Austin's coverage of the annual march.

Also Austin American Statesman has published the first part of a two-day, multi-article series by Chuck Lindell on the failures in the Texas habeas corpus appeals process.
How ever they have not published anything about the annual march!

Friday, October 27, 2006

David Van Os on Abbott's Proposed Death Penalty for Child Sex Predators

Here is a great statement by David Van Os, the democratic candidate for the Texas Attorney general about the death penalty for child sex predators. Recently the republican attorney general, Greg Abbott has been promoting the death penalty for child sex offenders in TV ads. David Mass of the San Antonio Current has an interesting article about this issue.

In his 30 years as a labor lawyer, Van Os has fought for the rights of thousands of working people in every walk of life. Throughout his legal career he has taken on numerous federal and state court battles in the cause of Constitutional and civil rights, including hard-fought cases vindicating Freedom of Speech and other precious liberties of the Bill of Rights, voting rights cases on behalf of principled organizations such as LULAC and the NAACP, and countless civil rights cases for individuals who would have been powerless were it not for his efforts. He fights for the Constitution.

Here is David Van Os' statement:

While I support stiff penalties for sex predators, I am opposed to punishing a crime that did not result in a death with the death penalty. This makes me the exact opposite of Greg Abbott, who favors the death penalty for 'sex predators' even where the offense did not result in a death.

Applying the death penalty to a crime that did not result in death is disproportionate to the crime and thus unconstitutional in my opinion. Also, reserving the death penalty for homicides saves some crime victims' lives. Making non-homicide crimes subject to the death penalty will result in some criminals killing their victims where they might not have done so, since they have nothing further to lose by committing murder.

Abbott's position on this issue is typical of his grandstanding. It is also typical of the way he deals with families. In his administration of child support, for example, he does not care about the families who are involved in anguishing situations. He only cares about getting his statistics to use as political bragging points. In many sex crime cases the offender is a family member who needs treatment and cure. To apply the death penalty in such cases would only bring more anguish to already distressed families.

Families need help, Greg, not lethal injections.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

7th Annual March to Stop Executions

7th Annual March to Stop Executions

"Innocent People Have Been Executed"

Saturday, October 28th, 2006
Austin, Texas

10 AM - 3 PM Brunch by Inside Books Project (300 Allen Street) $5 All you can eat, kids free (more info on brunch below)

Noon - Press conference with speakers from march, including family members of Cameron Todd Willingham (602 West 7th Street) call 512-689-1544 for more info

1:00 - 1:30 PM Prayer Service at University Catholic Center (2010 University Ave at 21st Street)

3 PM Meet at Texas Governor's Mansion (between 10th & 11th Streets on Lavaca)

3:30 March down Congress Ave to Austin City Hall Plaza for a Rally Against the Death Penalty

We encourage everyone to make signs and banners and bring them to the march.

Speakers and special guests include: Five members of the family of Cameron Todd Willingham, an innocent person executed by Texas. A family member of Ruben Cantu, another innocent person executed by Texas. Darby Tillis, who was exonerated from death row in Illinois. Sandra Reed, mother of an innocent man still on death row in Texas. Sandrine Ageorges from France. Jeanette Popp, mother of a murder victim. Howard Guidry. Other speakers to be announced soon.

Each October since 2000, people from all walks of life and all parts of Texas, the U.S. and other countries have taken a day out of their year and gathered in Austin to raise our voices together and loudly express our opposition to the death penalty.

Get on the Bus From Houston: Bus tickets are $20.00. The bus leaves the SHAPE Harambee Building Sat morning at 10 AM and will pick up at Macy's at Memorial City Mall on the way out of town at 10:30 AM. The bus will return to Houston by 9 PM. Call or email TDPAM in Houston to reserve a seat or buy a ticket for a student, a senior or a person on fixed income who wants to go. or call 713-503-2633.

Flyers for download: Main Flyer and a Houston Flyer (with bus info)

Join us in Austin on Oct. 28th to demand a Stop to All Executions!

Please Support the March by Donating Online to the Special March Account.

You can also donate offline by sending a check to:

Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731

Donations to the march through TDPERC, a 501 (c) (3), are tax-deductible

All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Brunch and Book Sale Blow-Out

Attend the Brunch, then head to the Governor's Mansion for the March to Stop Executions

Saturday, October 28
10:00 am - 3:00 pm
at the Rhizome Collective, 300 Allen Street
3 blocks South of Seventh & 4 blocks east of Pleasant Valley
$5 for adults, kids eat free
Or, skip the brunch and hit the booksale for free.

Ample Parking, with convenient buslines to downtown:

#4 - Bus Link
stops 3 blocks from the Rhizome Collective & 2 blocks from the Governor's Mansion
busses every 40 minutes until 6:00, then once every hour until nearly mindnigh

#17 - Bus Link
stops 4 blocks from the Rhizome Collective & at the Capitol
busses every 25 minutes until 7, then once every hour until nearly 11

#100 - Bus Link
Stops 7 blocks from the Rhizome Collective & 3 blocks from the Governor's Mansion
busses once every 40 minutes until 10

Silver Dillo - Bus Link
tops 4 blocks from the Rhizome Collective& 5 blocks from the Governor's Mansion
busses every 30 minutes until nearly 6

The march is organized by people from many different groups working together as the March to Stop Executions Coalition. If your organization wants to be listed as a sponsor of the march, please let us know. The 7th Annual March to Stop Executions Coalition includes:

Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Committee to Free Frances Newton, Inside Books Project, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Journey of Hope, International Socialist Organization, Capital of Texas Democrats For Life (CTDFL), Democrats For Life of Texas (DFLT), Death Penalty Reform Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party, Victims of Texas, Amnesty International, Texans for Peace, Austin Mennonite Church, CodePink Austin, El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty, Students Against the Death Penalty (the national group), Libertarian Longhorns, Catholic Longhorns for Life, the Social Justice Committee of the University Catholic Center, Howard Guidry Justice Committee, The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Friends Meeting of Austin, The Texas Civil Rights Project, National Black Law Students Association, American Civil Liberties Union - Central Texas Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Gray Panthers, peaceCenter, San Antonio, Dominican Sisters of Houston, Friends of Justice, TX CURE, S.H.A.P.E. Center (Houston), National Black Police Association, Catholics Against Capital Punishment, Austin Center for Peace and Justice, Equal Justice USA, Houston Peace Forum, PFLAG Houston (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Community Involvement Committee of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, University of Texas at Austin Chapter of Amnesty International, Civilians Down, Social Action Committee of Congregation Beth Israel, Houston Peace and Justice Center, The Austin Chronicle, Resistencia Bookstore

To become a sponsor or get involved, email us at: Or call us at: 512-302-6715.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Vote Smart: Texas Gubernatorial Election

James Werner (Libertarian Party)

Supports abolition of the Death Penalty

Chris Bell (Democrat)

Supports an innocence commission and also moratorium on executions

Richard "Kinky" Friedman (Independent)

Supports a moratorium on executions

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
(aka Grandma)

Supports the Death Penalty

Governor Rick Perry (Republican incumbent)

Supports the Death Penalty
Gov. Rick Perry wants the death penalty for repeated sexual offenders

After the George Walker Bush era, Rick Perry has signed execution orders frequently, which upholds Texas' status as the state carrying out most executions a year. Perry has been criticized by the international society and human rights organizations worldwide; arguing both against the death penalty in general and arguing that races are unequally treated by Texas courts in death penalty cases. However, Perry doesn't seem to take notice of the criticism and he rarely uses his authority to stay scheduled executions.
Rick Perry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Michael Johnson kills himself before execution

At 3:30 AM today Michael Johnson (# 999198) took his life in his "death watch" cell by slitting his throat. In his own blood, he wrote on the wall of the cell "I didn't do it."

Michael Johnson
, now 26 years old has been sitting on Texas’s death row since 1996 for a crime, which he did not commit! Not only did Michael claim his innocence but also more importantly he could prove it. His provable factual innocence came in the form of a signed confession from the real murder.

According to CEDP,
the confession was signed on 2/29/96, two months and eight days before Michael was sentenced to death on a capital murder charge. David Vest, the state’s star witness in Michael’s case, signed the confession. The confession was also signed by the Deputy District Clerk for McLennan County, the attorney for Mr. Vest, the Assistant Criminal District Attorney and the Presiding Judge in Michael’s case. A constitutional violation exists because the State withheld the confession by not including it in the “open file” discovery that it claimed was complete, and by sponsoring misleading and false testimony when it presented Mr. Vest as the star witness.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A titty bar, a lap dance and a Texas conservative judge

Cross-posted on TMN blog and Burnt Orange Report

We have written before about the poor judgement that Sharon Keller has shown as presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Check out the article below from The Dallas Observer in 1999. Seems poor judgement was part of her business life too.

After the article below appeared in 1999, Keller changed the name of her company that leased the property to the strip club from Sharon Batjer, Inc to Northwest JJJ and her elderly mother was made president of the re-named company. Did she retain an interest in the ownership of the renamed company, which continued to lease property to the strip club? We don't know, someone should ask her. While they are at it, they should ask her how many lap dances does she think had to be done in the club for the owner to pay her the monthy rent all those years the strip club was in operation.

Democrat attorney J.R. Molina is running against Judge Sharon Keller for the Court of Criminial Appeals.

Conservative Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller is landlord to a North Dallas topless bar

By Thomas Korosec
The Dallas Observer
Article Published Nov 18, 1999

A titty bar, $200 worth of beer and tequila shots, and a conservative Republican judge: a combo more volatile than atomic fission. The question is, Will the Texas GOP go thermonuclear when it learns one of its highest-ranking jurists, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller, owns the building and property housing the Doll's House, a Dallas topless joint?

Keller's connection to the low-end strip bar emerged earlier this month when Flower Mound attorney S. Rafe Foreman asked that she be barred from hearing the appeal of one of his criminal clients because Foreman had sued the judge's property company in an unrelated case. Last year, Foreman filed suit against Keller's company, Sharon Batjer Inc., on behalf of a 16-year-old whose car was hit by a drunken driver who allegedly had consumed $200 worth of tequila shots and beer at the Doll's House one night in November 1997. Batjer is Keller's former husband's name, and corporate and court records say she is president and majority shareholder in the company.

Foreman dropped Keller's company from the suit and reached an out-of-court settlement with the bar's owners, Dimitri Papathanasiou and Solinka Inc., earlier this year, court records show. Keller, reached Friday in her court office in Austin, said Foreman's motion in the criminal case linking her to the bar was filed solely "to discredit me...I don't think it does."

The judge says she was "not particularly familiar" with the leasing of the property to the Doll's House. "Let me say it this way," Keller says. "I own a considerable amount of property. For the most part I am unfamiliar with the details of ownership and leasing and tenants and all that stuff. I did not know I owned that particular property. I don't know what my lease and tenant contracts are."

Sharon Batjer Inc., which was incorporated in 1985, owns only one piece of real estate in Dallas County, appraisal district records show. It's the Doll's House property at 6509 E. Northwest Highway, near its intersection with Abrams Road. It's valued on tax rolls at $1.3 million.

When asked how that constitutes widespread holdings with which she was unfamiliar, Keller replied: "That company is not my only asset." Keller says she is familiar with the fact that the bar is at that location, two doors down from her family's long-established business, Keller's drive-in hamburger stand. The subject of complaints from neighborhood groups over the years, the bar was the source of 17 police calls in the 12 months ending October 31, police records show. Police say one rape, two assaults, and four thefts were included in those statistics.

"Wow," Keller replied when told of those numbers. "I didn't know that." She says she doesn't plan to do anything in response to her ownership of the bar property becoming public. She says it is a legal business.

The outing of Keller's strip-bar interest was done through an anonymous mailing that reached the Dallas Observer last week. Keller called the distribution of the court papers a clear case of politics and accused Foreman of filing them for political purposes -- a charge Foreman denies. "I don't anticipate this will be a problem," Keller says. "I think people will see it as just an example of dirty politics."

Keller has laid the groundwork for a run at the position of presiding judge on the appeals court, which rules on all Texas death-penalty cases and sits as the state's highest court on criminal matters. (See "Dissed robes," page 15.) Keller, a former prosecutor who won a first term in 1994, must run next year to retain a seat on the court.

"I'm disappointed this is being distributed," Foreman says. "My client [in the initial civil suit] is a kid, and I haven't wanted his identity revealed. My sole motivation is the protection of my client in the criminal case before the appeals court. You don't want to have your client judged by someone you've sued."

Last year, Foreman brought a $4.5 million suit on behalf of Blair Marcus McAnally, a 16-year-old who sustained two broken legs and a broken arm in a collision the suit claimed was caused by James Key. The suit alleged that Key drank a large amount of tequila and beer at the Doll's House the night he ran his car into McAnally's and that the bar continued to serve him after he was obviously intoxicated. Foreman said that after he learned Keller's company had no control over operations of the bar, he dropped it from the lawsuit. He said the bar's lease with Keller's company, which was redone earlier this year, helped demonstrate that there was no control. "The lease isn't based on a percentage of table dances or drinks sold. It's for a flat amount of money," Foreman says.

Key's insurance company paid $20,000 in damages early this year, and Foreman reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with the bar's owners. Subsequently, Foreman began representing Timothy Paul Duke in a drunken driving case that landed in the appeals court in Austin. Keller removed herself from hearing Duke's appeal on October 28, but said it was unlikely she would have heard that case anyway. When he learned Keller owned the bar property, Foreman says, "I couldn't believe it. This is one of the most right-wing, conservative judges...Yes, it shocked me." Foreman says he found the Doll's House to be so forbidding, his private detective refused to go in.

Keller has a reputation as a pro-prosecution judge who has broken with the appeals court majority in several cases in which she refused to overturn death sentences. In 1996, for instance, the court majority cited prosecutorial misconduct dating back 20 years and ordered a new trial for Kerry Max Cook, who was accused of a 1977 murder of a Tyler secretary. (See "Innocence lost," The Dallas Oberver, July 15 and July 22.) Keller was one of three judges on the nine-member panel who voted to uphold Cook's conviction.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Jump to Stop Executions

After a few requests for the skydiving video, I decided to post it online. I hope you enjoy the video.

News Alert

Forum to focus on reinstating death penalty
Chetek Alert - WI, United States
... an upcoming advisory referendum that will appear on the November ballot concerning the State of Wisconsin and the possibility of reinstating the death penalty. ...

Death penalty being invoked against child molesters
Frost Illustrated - Fort Wayne,IN,USA
NEW YORK (NNPA)- Politicians in primarily southern US states have passed laws that expand the use of the death penalty to include repeat child sex offenders- a ...

Same-sex marriage ban, death penalty await voters
Spooner Advocate - Spooner,WI,USA
... November’s ballot includes two referenda: one imposing a death penalty and one prohibiting any recognition of the validity of a marriage between persons ...

Appeal heard in federal death penalty case
Boston Globe - United States
Lawyers for convicted killer Gary Lee Sampson urged an appeals court today to toss out his federal death penalty sentence, arguing that jurors rendered "an ...

Public defenders look for death penalty help
KATC - Lafayette,LA,USA
... Public defenders must have a special certification to handle death penalty cases. The New Orleans office, severely depleted of attorneys ...

Death-penalty reform falls short in Va., study finds
Richmond Times Dispatch - Richmond,VA,USA
... Washington Jr.," who was pardoned as a result of DNA testing in 2000, said Jack Payden-Travers, director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. ...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Quote of the Week

«You will never hear another sound like a mother wailing whenever she is watching her son be executed. There's no other sound like it. It is just this horrendous wail and you can't get away from it ... That wail surrounds the room. It's definitely something you won't ever forget.»

-- Leighanne Gideon, former reporter for the Huntsville Item, who
has witnessed 52 executions, New York Times, 10/12/2000.

News Alerts

Spitzer, Faso spar over death penalty
Newsday - Long Island,NY,USA
... the New York political scene in 1994 as a "pragmatic liberal," the only Democrat among four running for attorney general who supported the death penalty in a ...

Fighting the death penalty Author carries on mission
The Journal - Westchester,NY,USA
... Social Action. Schwarzschild was a longtime advocate for civil rights, racial justice and the elimination of the death penalty. ...

The Death Penalty's Invisible Victims
CounterPunch - Petrolia,CA,USA
... The debate surrounding the death penalty always fires up heated arguments between passionate advocates on both sides of the fence; crime prevention, lethal ...

National Death Penalty Archive Gains Significant New Documents
UAlbany Campus News - Albany,NY,USA
The National Death Penalty Archive at the University at Albany has gained significant additions to its collection of materials related to capital punishment. ...

Fix Florida's death penalty to assure justice done
Orlando Sentinel - Orlando,FL,USA
... The death penalty is an emotional and difficult issue. As a society, we sympathize with victims of capital crimes and their loved ...

India observes 'World Day Against the Death Penalty'
IRNA - Iran
Banners saying 'Abolish Death Penalty' were hung across rivers and candle light vigils were held in cities as human rights activists observed the 'World Day ...

Group rips death penalty
Daily Press - Newport News,VA,USA
... Virginia's death penalty system is flawed and not being administered fairly, according to a new study released Thursday by the ACLU of Virginia. ...

Rwanda moves to ban death penalty
BBC News - UK
The leaders of Rwanda's ruling party have endorsed a proposal to abolish the death penalty, which may encourage the transfer of genocide suspects in exile. ...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Executions avenge, but don't deter

Does the death penalty deter murders?

Some studies say it does. Some have even quantified the effect, projecting that for each murderer executed anywhere from three to 32 would-be victims are saved.

Other studies disagree. The most recent, published in the current issue of the Texas Law Journal, features Texas and, in particular, Harris County in starring roles.

Read the article at

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Annother innocent man on Texas death row?

New evidence surfaces in bombing case

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Six years ago, Texas Death Row inmate Michael Toney made headlines when he tried to sell seats to his execution over the Internet.

But now Toney, convicted of blowing up three people in Lake Worth on Thanksgiving Day in 1985, may create another stir as he tries to avoid the death chamber for one of North Texas’ most notorious crimes.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently ruled that new evidence — including reports from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives discrediting the prosecution’s key witnesses — is sufficient to support Toney’s innocence claim and warrants another review by state District Judge Everett Young.

The Tarrant County district attorney’s office says that some of the claims have been made in previous appeals. But a defense attorney representing Toney says he is convinced that Toney is innocent.

“It’s one of the most egregious cases I’ve seen,” said Jared Tyler, an attorney with the Texas Innocence Network. “For me, there is not a shred of evidence that he did it.”

Toney, 40, was sentenced to death in 1999 for the briefcase bombing that killed Angela Blount, 15; her father, Joe Blount, 44; and her cousin Michael Columbus, 18.

The case had gone unsolved for a decade until Toney, who was in jail for another offense, told another inmate that he was hired to put the briefcase bomb at the mobile home. Investigators later presented evidence showing that Toney — who they said was to be paid $5,000 for the bombing — put it at the wrong trailer.

Toney always proclaimed his innocence and his efforts in 2000 to sell seats to his future execution to the highest bidder was part of a publicity stunt to attract attention to his case. The state forbade him to sell the seats.

Nicknamed “Cowboy,” Toney is a prolific e-mail correspondent, writing regularly not only to reporters but also to members of the jury that convicted him. He also has a Web site on which he proclaims his innocence.

“Lies got me sentenced to death for a crime I did not commit,” Toney writes on his Web site. “Since the charade of a Texas trial people have came forward and told me who killed the Blounts and why they did it.”

Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Debra Windsor, who will defend her office in court, says the way the case is being presented by the defense attorneys involves more than questions about Toney’s innocence.

“It is actually an attack on this office,” she said.

Read the article online at Star-Telegram's website.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quote of the week

«If we are not our brother's keeper, let us at least not be his executioner.»

Marlon Brando (1924-2004), American actor.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

AbolitionWear 12,000 feet above the ground

Last weekend I jumped off an airplane 12,000 feet above the ground wearing my Stop Executions Now shirt.

"Only skydivers know why the birds sing!"

Let AbolitionWear do the talking! Wear a T-shirt, sweatshirt, or a button and give the cashier, bank teller, or whomever else you encounter the chance to get the facts.

NCADP 2006: Abolition Rising

ncadp 2006 national conference
Abolition Rising
NCADP has extended the scholarship deadline for NCADP 2006: Abolition Rising conference. The deadline has been extended from Sept. 30 to Thursday, Oct. 5. Please note that scholarships may pay for conference registration OR for hotel accommodations.

To download a copy of the scholarship application, go here: