Sunday, September 30, 2007


Gather with Rodney's family and friends for and evening of solidarity and struggle.


Starting with a march through Bastrop, followed by music & spoken word, and ending with a screening of the documentary State vs Reed. With food and drink.



From Austin take I-35 South and take Hwy 71 East toward Bastrop. About 25 miles. Take the Hasler/Childers and Loop 150 exit. Take a left at the second light (Loop 150). Go through downtown Bastrop and after you cross the railroad tracks, take a right on Martin Luther King. Go one block and take a right on Walnut to park.

Major cases before the Supreme Court in the fall

-- Guantanamo: Do the foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a
right to plead their innocence before a judge? (Boumediene v. Bush)

-- Voter ID: Can states require all voters to show photo identification at
their polling places ? (Crawford v. Marion County)

-- Lethal injection : Does an inmate facing execution have a right to be
protected against the "unnecessary risk of pain?" (Baze v. Rees)

-- Mexican prisoners: Can the president require states to reopen
death-penalty cases in order enforce an international treaty? (Medellin v.

-- Drug sentences: Can judges set lower prison terms for those convicted
of selling drugs, including crack cocaine? (Kimbrough v. U.S. and Gall v.

-- 401(k) plans : Can an employee sue to recover his money if his
retirement fund lost $150,000 after the plan administrator ignored his
request to move his money to a safer investment? (LaRue v. DeWolff)

-- Age bias: Does a fired manager who sues alleging age bias have a right
to tell the jury about others in the company who say they, too,
experienced age discrimination? (Sprint v. Mendelsohn)

-- Investor lawsuits: Can investors who lost money because of stock fraud
sue other companies that participated in a scheme to inflate earnings?
(Stoneridge v. Scientific-Atlanta)

-- Gun rights: Does the Second Amendment give individuals a right to own a
gun, despite a city's ban on handguns? (pending appeal in District of
Columbia v. Heller)

(source: Los Angeles Times)
h/t Rick Halperin

Amnesty International's creative ad campaign

The Swiss department of Amnesty International has started a creative ad campaign, by using transparent billboards. References are made to Sudan, Iraq, China, Liberia and other countries.

h/t and more pics at Houtlust

non accade qui ma adesso
it's not happening here but it is happening now
it's not happening here but it is happening now

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Texas Planning New Execution Despite Ruling

Thats the title of Ralph Blumenthal's article at The New York Times about the lethal injection developments.
HOUSTON, Sept. 28 — A day after the United States Supreme Court halted an execution in Texas at the last minute, Texas officials made clear on Friday that they would nonetheless proceed with more executions in coming months, including one next week.

Though several other states are halting lethal injections until it is clear whether they are constitutional, Texas is taking a different course, risking a confrontation with the court.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to stay convicted murderer Carlton Turner’s execution will not necessarily result in an abrupt halt to Texas executions,” said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas. “State and federal courts will continue to address each scheduled execution on a case-by-case basis.”

Full video of Jena 6 Rally in Austin

The Concerned Black Student Coalition protested charges brought by LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters against six black high school students at a campus rally last Thursday. Here is the full video which includes the speakers and the rally.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Statesman Poll: 79 percent of Texan's are concerned about the possibility of innocent people being executed

Taken from TMN blog.

Gardner Selby, a political columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, wrote an article last week that contained new polling data on the views of Texas Democrats and independent voters on the death penalty. The August poll of 350 Democratic-leaning and 150 independent voters was taken by Wilson Research Strategies. The poll shows that the risk of executing innocent people is a major concern. 79 percent said they're concerned about the possibility of innocent people being executed; 45 percent are very concerned.

The polling data does not come as a surprise to any of us who have been working on the death penalty issue. We have known for a long time that we were making progress in educating the public on the problems in the Texas death penalty system. Our experience has shown us that support for a moratorium is overwhelming among grassroots Democrats in Texas. In 2004, a group of us convinced the Texas Democratic Party to support a moratorium on executions in the party platform.

TMN's Scott Cobb was a member of the platform writing committee that year and wrote the section on capital punishment in the platform. Last summer, he and Hooman Hedayati met with the Democratic nominee for governor of Texas, Chris Bell, and convinced him to support a moratorium. Unfortunately, Bell never went public with his support for a moratorium. If he had, then he might have won more votes in the general election that year, which had four major candidates. Bell needed to identify himself strongly with the core values of the Democratic Party in order to bring out the base and win the election. By publicly endorsing a moratorium, as well as other issues that Democrats care about, such as universal health care, Bell might have had a chance to defeat Perry, given four major candidates. But Bell limited his public comments to support for an Innocence Commission. His comments on health care were also not strong enough to increase turnout for him in November. Had he come out strongly for both a moratorium and universal health coverage, then he might have made enough of an impression among Democratic voters that they would have turned out in large numbers for him. That could have made a difference in last year's four candidate race, five counting the Libertarian candidate.

Candidates who articulate support for a moratorium are likely to find support from a large number of potential voters, at least from voters who identify themselves as Democratic or independent.

From the Statesman article:
The poll tested seven questions related to the death penalty in Texas, showing that Democrats and independents have misgivings about how Texas applies the punishment.

Less than half the polled voters favor abolishing the death penalty. But 79 percent said they're concerned about the possibility of innocent people being executed; 45 percent are very concerned.

Granted, the poll didn't include Republicans, effectively overlooking the party whose candidates have won every statewide office since 1998.

Is it still meaningful that four in five Democrats and independents have misgivings?

My sense: It'll take Friedman stumping before anyone knows. It's that hard in tough-on-crime Texas to envision another candidate questioning the death penalty, though Bell would support a moratorium while cases are reviewed.

The polled voters appear uncertain what to do about the death sentence, which has been carried out more than 400 times in Texas since 1982.

Very few of the voters rate abolishing the penalty as a vital issue. Forty-four percent of voters prefer life without parole as the punishment for people convicted of capital murder, with 30 percent sticking with the death penalty and 14 percent preferring life in prison with a chance of parole.

Cruel punishment? Texas and other states should halt lethal injections while the Supreme Court weighs constitutionality

Thats the title of Houston Chronicle's editorial calling on Texas to stop all executions while the Supreme Court considers constitutionality of lethal Injections.

There are several good reasons to give every death row inmate an indefinite reprieve. This week the U.S. Supreme Court found another.

Particularly in Texas, the nation's execution leader, the criminal justice system is prone to mistakes and abuse. The system is too unreliable in its assessment of guilt to justify exacting the ultimate, irrevocable penalty.

As recorded by the Innocence Project, advances in DNA analysis have exonerated more than 200 convicted prisoners nationwide since 1989. The wrongful convictions often involved cases of mistaken identity. Police and prosecutorial misconduct were common. The odds are that many more innocent people are in prison for crimes they did not commit and for whom there is no DNA to analyze.

In Houston, the Police Department crime lab's incompetent testing of all kinds of evidence — combined with false testimony — tainted hundreds of cases, placing their convictions in doubt.

Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether lethal injections are cruel and unusual and therefore unconstitutional. Critics allege the injections can cause great agony, but the drugs paralyze the prisoner before he can protest.

In an earlier case, Justice John Paul Stevens informed a deputy attorney general from Florida that the drug cocktail used by her state and all the others — sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride in various dosages — would not be allowed to be used to euthanize cats and dogs. In a California case, a member of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists testified that those drugs were soundly rejected by his peers and would be very likely to cause pain in animals.

With lethal injections suspected of being cruel and unusual and therefore unconstitutional and unjust, it is inappropriate for Texas to proceed with executions until the court has ruled. A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, however, said executions in Texas would continue, as the cases under review affect only Kentucky.

That is a narrow and mean view of justice. Do the governor and the members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles wish to look back on a series of cruel and possibly illegal executions carried out under a legal cloud?

Death row inmates about to be executed committed their crimes 15-20 years ago. Where is the harm in postponing executions for a few months until the court makes its ruling? After executing more than 400 people since 1977, Texas can afford to wait.

Mychal Bell freed on bail

By Monica Moorehead
Published Sep 27, 2007 11:44 PM

Mychal Bell, one of the Jena 6, was freed on $45,000 bail Sept. 27, a week after the massive demonstration of tens of thousands in Jena, La., and across the U.S. This was a victory won only by the mass protest, but it is not complete. The district attorney says he will retry Bell as a juvenile.

Sept. 21—The day after tens of thousands of people, mostly African Americans, marched and rallied Sept. 20 in Jena, La., to demand justice for six Black teenagers known as the Jena 6, Mychal Bell, the only one of the six who is incarcerated, was refused bail. That bail had originally been set for $90,000.

Along with Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw and Jesse Ray Beard were originally charged with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy in the beating of a white student, Justin Barker, last Dec. 4. Barker was able to attend a school function the same day after being released from the hospital.

Three months before the arrests, racist students had hung three nooses from a “white students only” tree that Black students defiantly sat under at Jena High School. The Black students had asked permission from the school administration to sit under the tree.

Charges for four of the Jena Six have since been reduced to battery as they await trial. If convicted, these youths could receive up to 22 years in prison. One of them has been allowed to attend school while the other four remain expelled.

Three white teens who hung the nooses were suspended from school but were not prosecuted. According to the law, the nooses were a “prank.”

When one of the Jena Six attended a mostly white party soon after the Dec. 4 incident, he was physically attacked. As of now, no one has been arrested for this racist assault.

On the other hand, Bell has been incarcerated for the past nine months. He was convicted of attempted murder charges and remained so until the week before the Sept. 20 protest, when a state appeals court overturned the conviction. The ruling stated that Bell could not be tried as an adult. Bell has turned 17 since his arrest.

On Sept. 21, Bell’s parents, Melissa Bell and Marcus Jones, other family members and supporters attended his bail hearing in a Baton Rouge court. His parents brought fresh clothes for him to change into in anticipation of his release. It was not to be.

The same judge who presided over Bell’s trial as an adult stated that Bell was not to be released until prosecutors decide to appeal the state ruling. Bell’s parents left the courtroom stunned and in tears.

Prosecutors could possibly institute new charges against Bell.

Bell’s parents along with the Rev. Al Sharpton will be meeting with U.S. Rep. John Conyers in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 25 to seek Senate Judicial Committee hearings on the Jena Six case.
After the massive Jena Six rally in Jena, a Ku Klux Klan youth was spotted by Black protesters driving a pick-up truck with two nooses hanging from it in the nearby town of Alexandria. Also, a neo-Nazi group has made death threats against the Six on its Web site and have actually published the addresses of some of the youths.

Larry Holmes, a leader of the Troops Out Now Coalition, which is organizing a week-long encampment Sept. 22-28 at the U.S. Capitol to demand an end to war funding told WW: “The case of the Jena Six is much more than the racist persecution of six Black youth in the Deep South. This case and countless similar but lesser known cases personify the widespread epidemic of criminalization and scapegoating of Black people, especially young men, by the government from the East Coast to the West Coast and in between.”

Holmes went on to say: “The demonstrations in Jena and throughout the country on Sept. 20 were very significant, especially for the truly massive outpouring by the Black community. What was disappointing was the small turnout by whites who should have been in Jena also in huge numbers alongside their African-American sisters and brothers. This type of multinational unity would have shaken the foundation of the racist status quo. There has be a concrete commitment especially on the part of whites to show anti-racist solidarity with Black people, immigrants and other people of color who are on front lines when it comes to resisting repression. This is a clarion call to the entire movement to make this a top priority no matter what kinds of struggles you may be involved in.”

Sources for this article include National Action Network Web site.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Texas executed Michael Richards

Shortly after 8 PM tonight Texas executed Michael Richards, despite his mental retardation and despite the fact that the US Supreme Court has said it will hear a Kentucky case challenging the 3 drugs used in the lethal injection procedure.
This is the 405th execution in Texas in 2007. There are three more scheduled for 2007 and two set for 2008.

More on this coming soon..

Saturday, September 22, 2007

For Victims, Against the Death Penalty

Also posted on MVFHR's blog

At a ceremony on the campus of Virginia Tech today, a group called the National Coalition of Victims in Action is presenting “A Resolution in Support of the Victims and Families at Virginia Tech” to members of the college community, including the college president and the families of those who were killed on the campus last April. You can read the text of the resolution here.

MVFHR members Gordon and Elaine Rondeau, who are dedicated activists within the victims’ community, came up with the idea for the resolution several months ago and have reached out to a long list of national and local organizations (including MVFHR) who have pledged their support by signing on to the resolution. The intent is for the support to go beyond today’s ceremony; the organizations who signed on to the resolution are working to offer various kinds of concrete and ongoing help to the families of the Virginia Tech shooting victims.

Anti-death penalty activists often make the point that the time, money, and effort spent carrying out the death penalty could be better spent meeting the real needs of victims in the aftermath of violence. Many MVFHR members, in addition to working against the death penalty, devote themselves to providing support, information, and practical assistance to victims and their families.

One crucial way to help victims, and to honor those who have been murdered, is to work to prevent future violence. Marie Deans, whose mother-in-law Penny was murdered in 1972, said years ago, “If we truly cared about victims, we would put all our knowledge and resources into saving them. Crime prevention, not retaliation, should be our number one goal.” Gordon and Elaine Rondeau reminded us of this when they wrote, in a recent email, “We need to emphasize that crime prevention and violence prevention would also be a critical component to elimination of the death penalty.”

Inspired by this comment and by the work that the Rondeaus and their many allies have done to create the resolution they are presenting today, we are going to devote a series of blog posts to the topic of violence prevention and the many innovative ways in which MVFHR members are engaging in that work. The series will start on Monday, September 24th and continue throughout the week, so come back and visit us often to read about these inspiring and valuable efforts.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

UT Austin's Jena 6 Rally on ABC News

ABC News has picked up a video clip of today's rally I submitted through I-Caught:

Justice for Jena 6

Six young black men from a Jena, Louisiana high school can spend up to 22 years in prison for a racially motivated school fight. The story is very similar to the Jim Crow era where the police, judges and the courts where used to keep the black folks “in their place.” Unfortunately it is sad to see that Jim Crow racism still exists in the 21st century.

In September 2006, a black high school student in the small Louisiana town of Jena, asked the principal for permission to sit under a "whites only" tree. The principal said he "didn't care where students sat." The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses in school colors hanging from the tree. The superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," and gave the students who hung the nooses only a light punishment of three-day suspension, which resulted in more Black students to sit under the tree in protest. Then District Attorney Reed Walters came to the high school and told the students he could "take [their] lives away with a stroke of [his] pen."

As racial tensions in Jena increased, Reed Walters did not take any action in response to several cases of violence and threats against black students. However after another white student called several black students "nigger", and was beaten up as the result, six black students were charged with second-degree attempted murder. The first person to face trial was Mychal Bell who was convicted this July, thanks to an all white jury. Fortunately last Friday a Louisiana appeals court overturned the aggravated-battery conviction of Mychal Bell. The District Attorney now has the option of trying Bell and his friends for attempted murder as an adult or aggravated battery as a juvenile. Each student if convicted could face up to 22 years in prison for just a school fight.

Unfortunately Jena 6 is not the only example of today’s Jim Crow justice. The town of Paris, which calls itself “The best small town in Texas,” convicted Shaquanda Cotton, a 14-year-old black freshman to seven years for shoving a white teacher's aide in 2005, till a special conservator ordered her release this March. In another example, the Douglas County of Georgia convicted Genarlow Wilson of molestation and sentenced him to 10 years for engaging in consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. Genarlow, now 21 still remains in prison while the state appeals his case.

The actions of District Attorney Reed Walters are a disgrace to justice. Mr. Walters should drop all charges against the young men awaiting trial. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco should act immediately and prevent the sentencing of Mychal Bell, even through a pardon if necessary. The District Attorney has refused to protect the rights of Jena's Black population and has turned the police and courts into instrument of oppression. The state of Louisiana must investigate the conduct of District Attorney Reed Walters, whose actions are a blatant and unacceptable abuse of power, to begin the process of healing in Jena and to make sure this injustice never happens again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

From Austin Texas: Happy Birthday Troy Davis!

More videos are posted at Troy Davis TV


And How We CAN End the Death Penalty!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
7:00pm - 8:30pm
UT Campus, NOA 1.126
Wichita and one block north of Dean Keaton
Austin, TX

This is an open house designed for interested people to meet the folks involved in the successful struggle to save Kenneth Foster, Jr. from execution. Bring questions and ideas about how you can join with the CEDP in our ongoing fight to
stop all executions!

Speakers include Beverly Fisher (cousin of Kenneth), Kenneth Foster Sr. (Kenneth's father) and Bryan McCann (CEDP member and penpal of Kenneth)

Happy Birthday Troy Davis!!!

A few weeks ago we started the first ever youtube campaign to save life of a death-row inmate. We asked everyone who has a webcam to record a statement and upload it to YouTube saying why Texas Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles should stop the execution of Kenneth Foster on August 30, 2007. Later that week Gov. Rick Perry commuted Kenneth Foster's sentence.

There is a new youtube campaign, this time for Troy Davis. October 9th is Troy’s birthday and in celebration of this occasion NCADP is asking all of his supporters worldwide to send him a video birthday message and to post that message on YouTube.

The Troy video project is simple. Using a webcam, camera phone, camcorder or any other recording device, simply record a positive video of 60-seconds or less wishing Troy a ‘Happy Birthday’ while reaffirming to the state of Georgia that innocence matters.

With so many Troy supporters around the world, we want these messages to be lively and creative. Feel free to sing it, rap it, play it, draw it, dance it, paint it, shout it from the roof-tops. What you say or how you say it isn’t important. What’s important is that you just say it!

Please keep these messages positive and refrain from bad language and controversial statements that could be viewed as inflammatory. We don’t want to upset people - we just want to show the world that Troy has global support in his fight for justice.

After you’ve recorded this message, please post it on YouTube using this link:

(If you go there right now, you will see that a half dozen videos already are up, including several from NCADP staffers and one especially creative video by Amnesty International.)

Let’s not only give Troy a “Happy Birthday,” let us also speak loud and clear in one voice that Innocence Matters!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Texas Journey Founders Tour October 18-28, 2007

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Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing Founder’s SueZann Bosler, Sam Reese Sheppard, Marietta Jaeger Lane, George White and Bill Pelke are celebrating the Journey’s 10th anniversary with Texas Journey Founder’s Tour

The Founder’s Tour follows the October 12-18 Texas Journey of Hope in Houston. The Tour will travel from Houston, to San Antonio, to Austin to Waco, to Dallas/Ft. Worth and back to Houston.

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Joining the Journey Founders Tour will be singer songwriter Charlie King and from

Uganda, Edward Mpagi Edmary, exonerated death row inmate.

The Journey Founders will speak at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, St. Edwards University in Austin, Baylor University in Waco, and Southern Methodist University in Dallas and will participate in the “8th Annual March to Stop Executions” in Houston on October 27th. The Journey of Hope website will be posting more information on these and other events.

If you would like for the Journey Founders Tour to come to your church, school or group please call or email me. There are still some open dates

Toll free 877-9-24GIVE (4483) or email

Bill Pelke, President Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sept 19 Panel Discussion at UT-Austin on "The Death Penalty in America: A Fading Practice?"

Wednesday, September 19 - 'The Death Penalty in America: A Fading Practice?'David Oshinsky

Historian David Oshinsky won the Pulitzer Prize for his book on the campaign to wipe out the most feared childhood disease of the 1950s—polio. He will speak on his current project, the history of capital punishment in the U.S.

John Butler
Sheldon Ekland-Olson
George Forgie
Camille Parmesan
Michael Starbird

Discussion guide (PDF, 54KB)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Personal words by Tony Medina


In a matter of a few weeks, I will have been trapped on death row for 12 years. TWELVE YEARS! I never even imagined I would be alive this long. Ofcourse, I never thought I would live past the age of 21… and in a way I didn`t.

Maybe I better start over. My name is Tony Medina. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, the SOUTH SIDE, where I made the mistake at the age of 12 of getting involved in the gang life. Where I lived at, this wasn`t a big deal, since so many others were also living this life. I guess that the gang gave a me a feeling of acceptance that I was craving without even knowing it. In later years I tried a couple times to leave this lifestyle, which I recognized was hurting me, but the street`s call always drew me back into the gang/criminal life.

By the time I turned 21 in November 1995 I knew for sure that I had to make a change, and make it permanently. While I was incarcerated for 11 months, I`d had 2 beautiful children. I now had a son and a daughter that needed me, that needed a father. So I followed my heart, and made good on the decision I had made earlier to leave the gang life behind me. I got a job in the Orthopedic field and was doing good. But some of the young gang members I left behind did not like my new life.

December 31, 1995 was suppose to be a good night for me, NEW YEAR`S EVE. I was set to close out a old year, sealing away my old life, and celebrate a new year and a new future as a different person. I had hopes and dreams for myself … something that for years I did not allow myself.

My car was being repaired and my sisters` car quit on us earlier that evening, so i made the choice to celebrate the New Year`s holiday with my cousin and some old friends from the gang. I felt that I had succeeded in finally breaking away, so did not feel one night would do any harm. It was a decision I have regretted for the last 12 years and which has put my very life in danger.

I still remember like it was yesterday, the sound of the Judge`s voice, as I stood in the courtroom on August 1, 1996 and heard him tell me I was sentenced to death. THAT I WAS SENTENCED TO DIE BY LETHAL INJECTION. It didn`t seem real. How was it possible I`d been found quilty and sentenced to die for a crime I did not commit? The truth is very simply. My trial lawyers, who were being paid for by the state, by the same people who wanted me on death row, did NOTHING to prove I was innocent. This IS NOT just my opinion. EVERY attorney or law student who I have talked to and who has read the facts in my case, says the same thing. The lawyers who prepared my state appeal found witnesses and evidence that prove I am not quilty… Evidence and witnesses that could easily have been presented at trial if my lawyers there were working for me and not the state.

But, even though my attorneys have found the evidence to prove I do not belong on death row, I am still here. Last month I saw 4 men get carried off to their own deaths, this month there are 2 more execution dates, and next month 4. Including a man I consider a brother. If I am going to avoid becoming a victim of Texas` murder machine, I NEED HELP.

The Texas “justice” system hates to admit they made a mistake. Once we are on death row, it is very hard for us to prove our innocence. This is how they designed their system. It is stacked from day one against those of us who do not have the money to fight them. Texas would prefer to execute a innocent man and sweep the facts under the rug then admit they allowed the wrong person to be sent to death row. This is a FACT. Look at Ruben Cantu, Carlos DeLuna, or Todd Willingham… All of them innocent men who have been executed by Texas.

In 2001 as my appeal lawyers investigated my case for the writ they were to file, they discovered several key pieces of evidence that was not presented during my trial. They proved not only that someone else committed this crime, but that the police and D.A. knew it and suppressed evidence that pointed to this person.

In my almost 12 years on death row I have personally witnessed hundereds of men fighting their appeal while struggling everyday to find someone to help them. A few of them, after years, did succeed in finding some solid help, unfortunately it was too late to do them any good.

For me the opposite is true. I am at a pont in my fight right now that if I can find the help I need I have a VERY GOOD chance of saving my life. My state appeal was filed on November 21, 2001, but has not yet been ruled on.
So I still have time, BUT I NEED HELP NOW! I need people who will step forward and help me keep from being murdered by Texas for someone elses crime.

All I want is a second chance. Another chance to be a father to my (now) 3 children. Another chance to share my story with young kids and help them hopefully avoid the same mistakes I made with my life and assure them they can have a life outside of gangs and crime. All I want is a chance to have a life, to be treated as a human being again and not like a animal as I am treated everyday in this concrete tomb.

You can give me that chance. The chance at a new trial. I hope and pray you will consider giving me your support. I have been trying to find some magic words that would convince you to help me, but all I can come up with is the simple truth. I DID NOT COMMITT the crime that put me on death row, and I need YOUR help to have a chance of one day returning to my family.

Thank you for letting me speak to you, I hope my words will convince atleast one of you to help me…
Tony Medina

Anthony Medina
# 999204
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled in favor of two death-row inmates. The court overturned a conviction and threw out a death sentence. Judge Sharon Keller wrote the dissent in these two cases again. According to Houston Chronicle,

The court said John Allen Rubio's conviction and death sentence four years ago
were improper because statements from his common-law wife, Angela Camacho,
whose three daughters he was convicted of beheading, erroneously were allowed
into evidence.

A new sentencing hearing was ordered for Raymond Deleon Martinez, convicted of
fatally shooting Houston bar owner Herman Chavis.

The court also upheld the conviction and death sentence of Travis Trevino
Runnels for the 2003 fatal stabbing of a supervisor at a state prison in
Amarillo. Runnels, from Dallas, was serving a 70-year term for aggravated
robbery when he attacked 38-year-old Stanley Wiley.

And the court dismissed an appeal from another death row inmate, Steven
Staley, who challenged an order last April from his trial judge that he must
take anti-psychotic medication. Staley, convicted in the 1989 slaying of Fort
Worth restaurant manager Robert Dorsey Reed during a robbery, argued it was
unconstitutional for him to be ordered to take drugs that would restore his
competency and make him eligible to be put to death.

In the Rubio case, three statements Camacho made about the slayings -- two in
writing and one on a videotape -- were offered into testimony by a police
officer at Rubio's trial. The trial judge, over objections from Rubio's
lawyers, allowed the testimony.

"Given Camacho's unique position as both accomplice to the crime and direct
witness to (Rubio's) motivations, her specific, detailed testimony obviously
had great significance," the court said.

The judges in the majority also noted Camacho herself was facing indictment
for capital murder when she talked with police.

"Obviously, then, she could have been under some pressure to modify her story,
given her own participation in the murders," the court said. "That is
precisely the type of issue (Rubio) was not able to address on

In a dissent written by Sharon Keller, the appeals court's presiding judge,
and joined by two other judges, Keller said while admitting Camacho's
statements into evidence was an error, it was harmless because the jury
rejected Rubio's defense that he was legally insane.

"It is difficult to see how cross-examining the interrogating officers, who
can only speculate as to Camacho's motives and influences to testify, would
have anywhere near the same effect as cross-examining Camacho herself."

A day after Rubio was convicted for the March 2003 slayings, the same Cameron
County jury decided he should be put to death.

Camacho avoided a possible death sentence by taking a plea agreement two years
ago that sent her to prison with three life terms.

Rubio, 27, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He admitted to
suffocating, stabbing and decapitating Julissa Quezada, 3; John Esthefan
Rubio, 1; and Mary Jane Rubio, 2 months. The children were found dead at the
family's squalid apartment after Rubio's brother called police. The two girls
had been stuffed into a plastic garbage bag. The boy was on a bed.

Rubio had told a judge he wanted to be executed but since then has pursued
appeals. Lawyers raised 12 points of error from his trial. By overturning the
conviction on the first point, judges did not rule on the other 11 and sent
the case back to the trial court.

Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, who was not in office at
the time of the trial, said he plans to retry Rubio and again seek a death

"There is sufficient evidence to uphold a conviction on a new trial," the
prosecutor said.

The appeals court in Austin said while the admission of Camacho's statements
did not automatically merit reversal, "the only real issue in contention at
the guilt-innocence phase was (Rubio's) state of mind." The court said the
primary relevant evidence came in statements from Rubio and Camacho.

"The crucial evidence to rebut (Rubio's) contention that he was not guilty by
reason of insanity came almost exclusively from one source: Camacho's
statements," the court noted. "We can say that her statements likely
contributed to the jury's verdict of guilt, such that the error in admitting
her statements at trial clearly prejudiced (Rubio's) case."

Rubio's trial lawyers said the violence and senselessness of the murders meant
he had to be insane at the time. Rubio blamed a witchcraft-practicing mother
and grandmother casting a spell for causing the children to become possessed,
and his attorneys argued the story was almost too far-fetched for someone with
an IQ of 76 to concoct. As a child, his IQ was measured at 92, which is in the
normal range.

Psychiatrists testifying in the trial said Rubio's chronic drug use,
especially his inhaling of spray paint, contributed to the murders.

Prosecutors suggested it was an overall life of depravity, including
prostitution, drugs and a filthy apartment, that led to a decision to kill the

In a dissent written by Sharon Keller, the appeals court's presiding judge,
and joined by two other judges, Keller said while admitting Camacho's
statements into evidence was an error, it was harmless because the jury
decided Rubio was not legally insane.

"Mental illness can indeed excuse criminal conduct, but only for a narrow
range of offenders," she wrote. "Given the evidence in this case, it seems
clear to me that John Rubio is not within that range."

A fourth judge, Lawrence Meyers, dissented from the majority ruling but did
not join in Keller's opinion.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Polunsky Unit Correspondence

Official Bulletin:

The Texas Board of Criminal Justice approved the revisions to Board
Policy 03.91, Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules on July 13, 2007.
The revised definition of stationery is white, undecorated paper, not
to exceed the size of 8 1/2" X 11", or unstamped white envelopes,
including carbon paper and white envelopes with the offender's
commitment name and TDCJ number preprinted in the return address
portion of the envelope, but excluding any paper with names,
addresses or letterhead, and excluding tablets or writing pads with
stapled binding. (NOTE: Ruled white paper is not considered decorated
and is permitted.)

Effective October 1, 2007, offenders will not be allowed to receive
colored paper from an approved vendor.

Offenders will still be allowed to receive note cards with matching
envelopes and journals with white paper. However, offenders will not
be allowed to receive the yellow legal pads.

Should you have any further questions or concerns, do not hesitate to
contact this office.

Jennifer Smith
Program Specialist
Mail System Coordinators Panel
P.O. Box 99
Huntsville, TX 77342

This is a current update on mail for all TDCJ units;

Legal Pads are allowed as long as they are white in color and are the
glued tops. 8 1/2 X 14 are allowed.

All other paper MUST be white in color and no larger than 8 1/2 x 11.

Note Cards are still available MUST be purchased by the inmate. This
will be the next item to go if they begin to have problems with it.

Journals are allowed as long as the paper inside is white.

Quadrille and Carbon paper is still allowed.

All inmates will have to get rid of their colored paper at the end of
the month according to MSCP. I spoke to Jennifer this morning. I
asked what the problem was with the colored paper and was told that
they were having a problem with the women dying their under garments
and other white clothes with the ink from the colored paper.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Polunsky mail room will no longer accept correspondence on colored paper

DRIVE received this message regarding the news that the Polunsky mail room will no longer accept correspondence on colored paper. I'd love to know the rationale behind this brilliant rule.


We, on the outside, who use colored paper to write our letters risk having the letters rejected. They will not be delivered after October 1st.

Also - any letters being held by the guys for sentimental sake will be confiscated as contraband.

To be on the safe side it is recommended that you no longer send colored paper and if your guys are saving your letters it is recommended that they send them to you for safe keeping. Otherwise the letters they are holding will be confiscated and they will get a case written.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Update on Mumia's Pending Appeal

Dear Friends:

We continue to await a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, concerning my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal. This complex case was orally argued before a three-judge panel on May 17, 2007, following extensive litigation which included voluminous briefing and motions. In my experience of successfully defending a large number of murder cases involving the death penalty, it was a great day.
It is impossible to know what the federal court ruling will be. If the judges follow the law and fairly apply the U.S. Constitution, we will win. As to when, long ago I projected a decision would be forthcoming this fall; it could come any day. One thing is certain: whomever loses will seek a rehearing and petition the U.S. Supreme Court.
I have previously described the different rulings that the federal court could make. Nevertheless some people have recently sent out e-mail containing false information. Contrary to their claim, the federal court cannot impose a sentence of “life in prison without parole”. Only a jury verdict could result in such an outcome, unless in the event of a penalty reversal the prosecution elected not to seek the death penalty. Likewise the court unfortunately cannot order that Mumia be released, for that would require a new guilt-phase jury trial and a favorable verdict which is certainly our goal. To once more clarify the legal situation, the scenarios of how the U.S. Court of Appeals might rule include:
  • Grant an entirely new jury trial of the guilt phase;
  • Order a new jury trial limited to the issue of life or death;
  • Remand the case back to the U.S. District Court for further proceedings; or
  • Deny all relief.
Racism, fraud, and politics are threads that have run through this case since Mumia’s 1981 arrest. The issues in this matter concern the right to a fair trial, the struggle against the death penalty, and the political repression of an outspoken journalist.
Mumia’s objective is a reversal of the murder conviction and death sentence, and the granting of an entirely new trial. At the end of that jury trial I expect to win and see my client freed so that he can finally go home to his family.
Thank you for your interest in this campaign for human rights.
Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Friday, September 07, 2007

Was an innocent man executed? TRUTH HANGS BY A HAIR!

The Texas Observer and the Innocence Project fight to preserve evidence that could show if an innocent man was executed.

One strand of hair, a piece of evidence crucial to determining whether Texas executed an innocent man almost seven years ago, is apparently at risk of being destroyed by San Jacinto County officials who are resisting a formal request by The Texas Observer, the Innocence Project, and other criminal justice organizations to make it available for independent scientific testing.

Observer lawyers are calling on San Jacinto County District Attorney Bill Burnett to preserve the hair until a lawsuit determines whether it must be released under state open-records laws. DNA testing might provide a strong indication as to whether Claude Howard Jones was, in fact, innocent of the murder for which he was executed.

full story

Editors of DMN answer questions

Dallas reader wondered why our Aug. 20 coverage of convicted killer Kenneth Foster didn't mention that he was a member of a youth gang. Omitting that information, he thought, made Mr. Foster seem more innocent than he really was.

Assistant Managing Editor Mike Drago says the reporter who wrote the story found trial testimony that indicated Mr. Foster's cohorts may have been members of a gang, but there was no trial testimony that indicated Mr. Foster himself had been a member. Mr. Foster has consistently denied being in a gang. So, in a sense, fairness to Mr. Foster argued against including mention of the gang, if we couldn't explore the question fairly fully. And doing that was going to require some serious space.

Where to spend serious space is the most important question we confront on many stories. In this case, we made a lot of room for the story, and the question of Mr. Foster's motivation and intent was central to the question the story posed for our readers: Should Texas execute him because he was driving the car when someone else shot a robbery victim? (Eventually, Gov. Rick Perry decided not.)

For the sake of completeness, we could have reported the evidence on whether Mr. Foster's comrades were gang members, and his denials of gang membership, and the fact that trial testimony was silent on the question. The debate would have been inconclusive. Vagueness is usually a good reason for omitting things from stories. But in this case it might have mattered to some readers. In retrospect, I wish we had made room for it.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

A message from Kenneth Foster's attorney

Keith Hampton, Kenneth Foster's attorney talks during the Aug 30th victory rally at the Governor's mansion in Austin, Texas.

Ruth Massingill at Book People tonight

Date: Sep 6, 2007
Time:7:00 PM
Event: Ruth Massingill - Prison City

Description: Huntsville, TX is the execution capital of the world. In Prison City, Ruth Massingill talks to inmates, guards, local politicians and townsfolk to learn about the effect this dubious distinction has had on Huntsville. Without taking a stance one way or the other on the death penalty, Massingill deftly gives readers an inside look at this city through in-depth interviews and stories of life in Huntsville. Tonight at 7 PM.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dan Rather Reports: Did Texas Execute Innocent Men?

Dan Rather Reports examines the cases of two convicted murderers in Texas who were sentenced to death after they were identified by eyewitnesses at trial. Those identifications are now in doubt years after the men were executed. Also, a look at the latest in aviation--very light jets.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Death Penalty and Deterrence

The recent round of deterrence studies published over the last six years by economists that declared that an execution prevents between 3 and 18 homicides has been shown to be flawed.
The Justice Gambit has all you need to know about these studies.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Houston Chronicle: Timely judgment

Thats the title of Houston Chronicle's editorial regarding Gov. Rick Perry's decision to commute Kenneth Foster's death sentence. The interesting fact is that Houston Chronicle was the only major paper in Texas that did not take a stance on Kenneth Foster, before his scheduled execution date of Aug 30, 2007.

From his cell on death row, Kenneth Foster didn't pretend to be an innocent. In 1996, Foster drove the car in a nighttime crime spree, ferrying friends to two armed robberies before following a pair of cars into a neighborhood. After Foster's companion got out and shot one of the drivers, the 19-year-old Foster whisked the murderer and his other passengers from the scene.

Repugnant though they are, Foster's crimes did not include the murder of Michael LaHood, a 25-year-old law student. Through an unprecedented turn of events, Foster Thursday narrowly escaped dying for that murder. To the surprise of many, Gov. Rick Perry heeded the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Foster's sentence to life.

The governor's decision did not, however, arise from the "law of parties" — the unique Texas law that holds all participants in a capital crime equally culpable, if it can be proved they "should have anticipated" the fatal outcome. The advocates for reducing Foster's sentence included 13 members of the Legislature, most of whom argued that Foster had no idea a shooting would take place. Foster and his co-defendants testified that while Foster knew of the previous crimes that night, he didn't anticipate murder.

He certainly should have. His friend, after all, brandished a loaded gun. But guesswork about the calculations of an impulsive 19-year-old who was high on marijuana and drunk is too flimsy a basis for execution.

Perry, though, questioned something else: the fairness of a trial in which shooter and driver were convicted at the same time. When the Legislature reconvenes in 2009, lawmakers should act on the governor's recommendation to reconsider the flawed Texas law that allows such dual trials.

Perry's commutation came only hours before Foster was to die. That there was not one question, but two about the propriety of his sentence underscores qualms about the unflinching way Texas imposes the death penalty. Foster would have been the 403rd person to die since the death penalty was restored here.

The case is extraordinary, not just because Foster was saved at such a late hour, but because the governor agreed with the parole board that the sentence was unwarranted. Not required to follow its recommendations, Perry once before rejected the board's 5-1 vote for clemency in the case of a schizophrenic inmate. That prisoner was executed in 2004.

Foster's role in Michael LaHood's death deeply harmed his loved ones and society. Putting Foster to death, however, would have been an unfit punishment for the part he played. The pro-death penalty Perry was wise to acknowledge that, in this case, life in prison was just.

At the same time, Foster's close call — and the multiple questions about the fairness of the sentence — only deepens doubts about other Texas convictions that ended in lethal injection. It took a timely mix of evidence, representation and political leadership to forestall Kenneth Foster's execution. Absent any one of these at the right moment, the miscarriage of justice would have been permanent.

Executing the Insane - The Case of Scott Panetti

In 1984 the Supreme Court ruled in Ford vs. Wainwright, that it is unconstitutional to execute an inmate who is mentally insane. Since this decision the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to find a single death-row inmate incompetent to be executed in Texas. Three months ago the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Panetti v. Quarterman. As Capital Defense Weekly mentions,
The opinion is rather straightforward: Texas failed to afford Panetti a meaningful opportunity to test whether he was competent enough to be executed.
Here is a short documentary produced by Texas Defenders Services that covers the case of Scott Panetti. It is Narrated by Phil Donohue.

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