Friday, February 29, 2008
for Travis County DA
For Immediate Release
February 29, 2008
Austin—Today, Kinky Friedman, renowned Texas author, musician, humorist, and former independent candidate for Texas Governor, announced his endorsement of Rick Reed for Travis County District Attorney.
“Rick Reed has impressed me with the candor and courage that he has exhibited, both while serving as an assistant district attorney and while campaigning for Travis County District Attorney.”
“Rick Reed was heavily involved in the investigation of the Tom DeLay case, and over the vehement objections of several other prosecutors involved in the investigation he was the only one with the courage to push the Travis County DA to present the case to the grand jury.”
“Rick Reed is the only candidate for Travis County District Attorney who has had the courage to stand up and candidly tell the voters of Travis County that, if elected, he will uniformly seek imprisonment for life without parole, rather than the death penalty, in all capital murder cases.”
“I am honored to have the endorsement of Kinky Friedman,” remarked Reed. “Kinky and I have both given considerable thought to this issue, he as a potential 2010 gubernatorial candidate, and I as a candidate for Travis County District Attorney.”
“We agree that now that Texas law provides the option of imprisonment for life without parole in capital murder cases, it no longer makes sense for the Travis County District Attorney to seek the death penalty in any case where that punishment is an option.”
“I don’t care about polls when it comes to the death penalty,” Kinky said. “It’s really holding Texas back from what it could become. Absolutely, it’s got to go, and the time has come for Travis County voters to elect a district attorney with the courage to stand up and say so.”
For more information: Rick Reed, 512.351.1897
In addition to being incredibly inhumane, the execution procedure is incredibly expensive
Just because we have the right to pursue a lethal injection, does not mean it is the right thing to do.
Early voting ends TODAY!
Penalty From Trenton New Jersey to Texas Andre Latallade, also known
as Capital-"X" will walk from Trenton New Jersey, approximately 1,700
miles to the Governors mansion in Texas in an attempt to bring awareness
to the death penalty. The death penalty has recently been abolished in New
Jersey, and Texas is known as "the busiest killing state." He is trying to
"build a bridge between the two groups of victims, the executed, and their
families and the victims and families of violent crimes."
Andre says "separated we call for life or death, I say we unite and call
for solutions." He asks that life without parole be called for as opposed
to the death sentence. Currently all executions are "on hold" while the
Supreme Court rules whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual.
The walk will begin on March 31, 2008 approximately 5PM. Latallade
estimates it will take around 54 days walking 8 hours a day minimum, about
3.5 mph. He will take one break for 3 days about one-third of the way to
participate in the Hip Hop Association's HHEAL Festival in the Bronx, New
York. Latallade is a hip hop artist himself and is known by the name of
Capital-"X" on stage. Andre has created a video about his "Walk 4 Life."
Andre will walk through 10 of the 12 highest executing states.
Latallade said "I think it can bring unity. Unite everybody that is
fighting injustice, and keep that unity till the end. Can we make this big
enough to apply international pressure on the USA?" He says "I have Italy
behind me as well as London organizations, France, Denmark and Croatia. I
am reaching out to Puerto Rico." Various non profit organizations, human
rights groups, and other abolitionists support Andre on his "Walk 4 Life."
Capital-"X" will try to raise funds to educate people on the death
penalty, and monies raised from this event will be donated to murder
victim's families and abolitionist groups. Anyone interested in supporting
"X" and uniting in this cause to Stop Capital Punishment, can email Andre
at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations much appreciated.
Source: Personal email to me from Capital-"X"
Monday, February 25, 2008
By Hooman Hedayati
On March 4, Travis County residents will vote for a new district attorney. Ronnie Earle, the current district attorney, announced last year that he is planning to retire after more than 30 years in office. Four of Earle's assistant district attorneys, Rosemary Lehmberg, Rick Reed, Gary Cobb and Mindy Montford, are running to replace him. This race is probably the most important local race and is being watched nationally. The Travis County DA is a unique position because it has the special privilege of investigating and prosecuting public officials through the Public Integrity Unit, and for the first time, there is a chance that Travis County might take the death penalty off the table. Last year, when Texas Monthly's Paul Burka announced Earl's plan to retire, he said that "a DA is supposed to be the conscience of the community." This brings up the issue of how the next district attorney should handle death penalty cases in a county where a big majority believes that the death penalty system in Texas is broken. Each candidate is running in the upcoming Democratic primary without a Republican challenger, so whichever one wins the Democratic primary will be the next DA.
All four candidates have years of experience working as prosecutors. Lehmberg, Ronnie Earle's choice to replace him, has headed many divisions in the DA's office, from chief of the Trial Division to director of the Public Integrity Unit. Montford is the only candidate who has legislative experience. She worked as general counsel to Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio and helped write the life-without-parole legislation. Cobb is the only black prosecutor in the race and has the endorsement of the Austin Police Officers Association. Reed has prosecuted the most cases out of any of the candidates, and has taken the most progressive stances on the issues.
But three of the candidates remain pro-death penalty. Lehmberg is the status-quo candidate who promises to continue with the current system, and Montford has also said that she would continue to use the death penalty. Cobb has made the strongest pro-death penalty statements, having said that "some people didn't deserve to keep living."
Cobb also came under fire when he used a coerced confession to convict Lacresha Murray, an 11-year-old girl charged with capital murder in 1996. Cobb was the lead prosecutor in her case, which was later thrown out by a Republican appeals court after receiving national coverage on "60 Minutes" questioning the reasoning for charging someone so young with a capital crime.
The only candidate who has come out against the death penalty is Reed, and his adamant anti-death penalty platform would bring fundamental change from the status quo, pro-death penalty campaigns of the other three candidates. Reed is by far the most progressive candidate in this race.
Reed's view on the death penalty is not the only thing that sets him apart. He supports expanding the use of drug courts to divert more people charged with drug possession into treatment, freeing up more prosecutors for other crimes. He has promised to work closely with the Innocence Project to investigate cases of possible wrongful convictions, as has been done recently by the Dallas County DA. Reed wants to decentralize decision-making in the office, giving front-line prosecutors more discretion over their cases. Most importantly, he spearheaded the money-laundering case against former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and he told the Texas Observer that he was the only person within the DA's office pushing for an indictment against Delay, while Lehmberg opposed prosecuting the powerful politician.
A large number of voters believe that the death penalty system in Texas is broken and should not be used until steps are taken to address the problems, and many oppose the death penalty altogether based on principle. Either way, there is likely to be a large amount of support in Austin for candidates who take stands against the death penalty, especially in a race in which the winner has the power to unilaterally end the use of the death penalty within Travis County. It is not too late for the other candidates to take a position on the death penalty that reflects the values and priorities of the progressive community from which they seek votes. All the candidates for Travis County DA should follow Reed's example and say that they will not support the death penalty.
Hedayati is a government junior, Students Against the Death Penalty President and a Campus Progress at the Center for American Progress advisory board member.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
The death penalty's favourite district attorney resigns
HARRIS COUNTY, which encompasses Houston, is the most populous in Texas. Its district attorney is among the most powerful prosecutors in America. During seven years on the job, Chuck Rosenthal earned a ferocious reputation. His office prosecuted hundreds of thousands of cases and asked for the death penalty more often than did any other county in America.
But for such a moralist, Mr Rosenthal had big personal lapses. On February 15th he resigned after weeks of controversy concerning e-mails that included love notes to his secretary and racist jokes. Mr Rosenthal stepped down hours after a rival filed a lawsuit that would have forced him out. “The particular combination of drugs prescribed for me in the past has caused some impairment in my judgment,” he wrote.
Many Houstonians agreed with Mr Rosenthal's assessment of his judgment. Over more than 30 years at the DA's office, he often ran into trouble. He set off firecrackers in a stairwell and endorsed one judge because “she looks great in jeans.” In 2002 he went before the Supreme Court to argue in favour of upholding Texas's ban on gay sex. The eventual ruling, Lawrence v Texas, is considered a landmark for gay rights.
Most troubling was Mr Rosenthal's enthusiasm for the death penalty. He considered it “God's law”, and asked for it whenever possible. His most controversial case came in 2001, when Andrea Yates drowned her five children in her bathtub. She claimed that her children “were doomed to perish in the fires of hell” and was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Though thwarted in that case, Mr Rosenthal got 36 people sent to death row. Since America resumed the death penalty in 1976, Harris County alone has accounted for a quarter of Texas's executions. Rick Perry, the Republican governor, will probably replace Mr Rosenthal with another judge who supports the death penalty. Almost anyone, however, will be more moderate.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Hillary Clinton has staked her campaign on winning the Democratic primaries in Texas on March 4. But there's even more at stake in the Lonestar State than the fate of her historic candidacy. In Travis County, a heavily Democratic patch of blue in a state that has most liberals seeing red, voters will choose a new district attorney for the first time in more than three decades.
Current DA Ronnie Earle is leaving office after thirty-one years. In an unusual race four Democratic members of his staff are vying to replace him. Because no Republican has filed for the election, the Democratic primary will determine the next Travis County DA.
Among the field of former colleagues, one candidate, Rick Reed, stands out as "the most progressive candidate in a race with three other candidates who all support the death penalty" according to the Texas Moratorium Network in its endorsement of Reed, who has come out against capital punishment. He also calls for a moratorium on current death sentences.
Beyond Reed's brave disavowal of capital punishment in Texas, which leads the nation in state executions, the longtime criminal prosecutor supports the increased use of drug courts and an increased diversion of drug possession cases into treatment programs rather than incarceration; he has vowed to continue with the prosecution of former House Majority Leader TomDeLay, whom Reed had a major role in building a case against, and he has committed to working with the Innocence Project to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners.
Reed first worked at the Dallas County District Attorney's office. For twelve years, he assisted legendary District Attorneys Henry Wade and John Vance. In 1999, his career brought him to Travis County, where Ronnie Earle quickly assigned him to the office's Public Integrity Unit, in which capacity Reed had the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting public officials statewide. This is where Tom DeLay met the man determined to hold him accountable.
Co-written by Dinelle Lucchesi.
Since Ronnie Earle has decided not to seek re-election after holding the seat for 31 years, a new district attorney is something many Travis County voters will see for the first time this year. Four qualified Democratic candidates, all assistant district attorneys, are vying for the seat, and because no Republican bothered to file, the primary election is the real deal - that is, unless there's a runoff.
Rick Reed, a UT alum, has made himself a standout in this race by being the only candidate to publicly oppose the death penalty (something a district attorney in Texas has never done before). Travis County residents would see at least a temporary abolishment of the death penalty if they elect him to office. While his opponent Rosemary Lehnmerg - who seems to have garnered the most endorsements, including that of Earle - has said "we should not perform any executions," she hasn't taken the initiative to officially oppose the death penalty, which we see as a weakness in authority.
Reed has also brought attention to himself by revealing to the Texas Observer last month that there was "bitter dissention" in the district attorney's office leading up to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's indictment for campaign finance violations, claiming that Lehmberg and other prosecuters were intimidated by DeLay's political stature. Reed, who is credited with building a large part of the case against DeLay, said he was the only person pushing to present the case to a grand jury.
Meanwhile, UT alum Mindy Montford, who has earned the endorsement of the University Democrats, seems to think becoming friends with the political sector is a good way of fighting corruption of state officials; she told the Observer, "We've got to educate the Legislature and the lobby that, 'Look, you've got nothing to be afraid of if you're following the law.'" And no wonder she's been the most popular in gaining cash and endorsements from politicians, such as former Texas Governors Dolph Briscoe and Mark W. White. The financial assistance she's gotten from her father, John Montford, who is a head lobbyist for AT&T Inc. and a former state senator, has put her in the lead of the money race.
On the topic of the death penalty, Montford said at a recent candidate forum that the district attorney must set aside personal feelings because "you can't necessarily dictate how you feel the law should be; it's what's on the books." We'd rather have a district attorney whose heart and mind are behind his or her actions, no matter how intimidating or difficult the circumstances may be.
Given the difficulty in choosing from four candidates of such high qualifications, we must rule out an endorsement of 46-year-old Gary Cobb, who has worked under Earle for 17 years, solely on the fact that he's the only one who hasn't worked in the state-watchdog Public Integrity Unit. We'd also be quite happy to see Lehmberg win the seat. But the district attorney is the sole prosecutor with the power to investigate state officials, and Reed has proven to be the toughest candidate to handle just that. We're a bit set back his finger-pointing in his interview with the Observer, but that only shows his aptitude and fearlessness in pointing the finger at public officials if need be.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Kenneth Foster asked me to update everyone on the situation at the McConnell
Unit. The last few months Kenneth and the rest of the guys in level G5 - the
most restrictive level at the McConnell Unit - have been denied recreation
time. The excuse is that they are short staffed but it is only this section of
the prison that is getting penalized. For a couple of weeks it looked like the
situation was improving but it has turned around once again and these guys are
being forced to stay in their cells for 24 hours a day for days at a time. This
is inhumane! The situation for February is as follows:
2/3: Allowed time in Day room
2/4 - 2/8: No rec (in cell for 5 straight days)
2/9: Allowed to go outside
2/10 - 2/12: No rec (in cell for 3 days)
I do not know what the situation was from February 13th up until today but will
update you when I have more information. Kenneth is up for review in the
beginning of March and there is a good chance that he will be moved out of this
level BUT even if this is the case he can not accept what they are doing to the
guys there and plans on fighting this.
We just wanted everyone to be kept up to date on what's going on.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
You are invited to:
Perspectives at the Death House Door: A Special Hearing on Capital Punishment
Legal experts, elected officials and religious leaders will convene at the State Capitol to discuss the issues surrounding the death penalty including wrongful convictions, lethal injection, the role of religion in the death penalty, and the impact of executions on those closest to the process.
Exclusive clips from the Independent Film Channel’s new documentary At the Death House Door will frame each discussion. Slated to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, At the Death House Door tells the story of Carroll Pickett who served as chaplain for the Texas Department of Corrections from 1982-1995 and counseled 95 inmates on their way to execution by lethal injection. The film’s Directors, Steve James and Peter Gilbert, also directed the highly acclaimed films Hoop Dreams and Stevie.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
1:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
Senate Hearing Room E2.016
Texas State Capitol, Austin
Panelists will include:
Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis
Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney
Carroll Pickett¸ Texas Death Row chaplain, featured in “At the Death House Door”
Award Winning Filmmakers Steve James and Peter Gilbert, Kartemquin Films
Award Winning Chicago Tribune Journalists Maurice Possley and Steve Mills
Ginger Anders, Co-Counsel in the Supreme Court case addressing the legality of lethal injection
David Oshinsky, Pulitzer-Prize winning author and UT Professor
Rob Owen, Clinical Professor, UT School of Law; Counsel in Supreme Court cases Tennard, Cole, & Brewer
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
DA Race: Contenders weigh in on death penalty
By: Paul Brown
Q: In the past, Travis County has been reluctant to pursue the death penalty
in capital cases. Under your leadership, how will the DA's office approach the
Rosemary Lehmberg: We seldom seek the death penalty in Travis County and I
will continue that practice. We now have life without parole. It's still the
law and if there is a situation in which I believe that a Travis County jury
should have the option of seeking the death penalty, I will do it. I have been
reluctant to call for an all out moratorium. Right now, I believe we need to
oppose any executions until the United States Supreme Court has had time to
determine whether our Texas procedure is Constitutionally sound.
Mindy Montford: Well, you've got to look a number of factors. You know, you
have to look at what the community wants and values. You've got to consult
with the victims, their families. You've got to consult with other prosecutors
within your office and community leaders to really find out what the pulse is
and if seeking the death penalty would be prudent in that particular case. It
is a very serious matter. You've got to take into account all factors. At the
end of the day, though, it is the District Attorney's decision.
Rick Reed: Under my leadership as District Attorney, the Travis County
District Attorney's office will not seek the death penalty in any case. The
Legislature has changed the law. We now have what's called life without parole
as an option in capital murder cases and it's my belief that seeking the death
penalty and expending the resources that are necessary to seek the death
penalty is essentially a waste of resources that could otherwise be better
used to prosecute other murder cases, other capital murder cases and other
cases involving violent offenders. There is, in my judgment, simply no
justification now that that exists to spend those resources seeking the death
penalty. And so we will not seek the death penalty.
Gary Cobb: I don't know that we've been necessarily reluctant, but I think
that we recognize that the death penalty should be reserved only for the most
egregious cases for the defendants who represent a great threat to society and
that they represent a continuing threat where they might harm another person
in society, even if it's in prison society.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals certainly gets a lot of press – very little of it good. Texas Monthly calls it "Texas' Worst Court." The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned many of its rulings in death penalty cases.
And last fall, the nine-member panel became a national scandal when inmate Michael Richard went to his execution because Presiding Judge Sharon Keller refused his rushed request for a stay, telling his lawyers the court's office closes at 5.
Judge Robert Francis, a Coppell resident who has served on criminal district court in Dallas since 1997, says somebody on that panel ought to have been outraged enough to speak out and vow to reform the process. "All the court has is the public trust," he told us, with palpable passion. Hear, hear.
We are pleased to recommend Judge Francis in the March 4 GOP primary for the Place 4 appeals court seat currently held by Judge Paul Womack.
Judge Womack, a Georgetown two-termer who reversed an earlier pledge not to seek re-election, doesn't seem to be terribly exercised about the appeals court's credibility crisis. The sleepy 60-year-old jurist sees no problem with taking the time to teach a class at the University of Texas law school, even though he misses some oral arguments and has a relatively small number of signed opinions to his name.
By contrast, the energetic Judge Francis, 48, says the public deserves an appeals court member who will focus entirely on the job. Again: hear, hear.
We're also troubled by the stiff sanctions and fines levied against Judge Womack several years back for failing to file seven campaign finance reports. At the time, Judge Womack claimed that attention deficit disorder might be at fault – an affliction he since has conceded he doesn't have.
Whatever. Judge Robert Francis, a fully engaged reformer who built a strong reputation on the North Texas bench, is the clear choice for Texas Republicans.
Friday, February 08, 2008
LINCOLN - In a 6-1 ruling Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the state's electric chair to be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.
In a decision upholding the first-degree murder conviction of Raymond Mata Jr., 35, in the 1999 kidnapping and murder of 3-year-old Adam Gomez of Scottsbluff, the high court said it would not schedule Mata for execution until the state adopts a constitutionally acceptable method for carrying out a death sentence.
"The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts intesnese pain and agonizing suffering," said the 69-page majority opinion written by Judge William Connolly. "We recognize the temptation to make the prisoner, suffer, just as the prisoner made an innocent victim suffer. But it is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it."
Chief Justice Michael Heavican dissented from the majority opinion, disagreeing that the evolving standards of decency mean that the electric chair should now be regarded as unnecessarily cruel.
The high court decision came one day after a legislative committee voted to put proposed repeal of Nebraska's death penalty before the full Legislature to be debated this year. Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Ashford said Friday's ruling intensifies the doubts about retaining the death penalty.
"...we conclude that electrocution will unquestionably inflict intolerable pain unnecessary to cause death in enough executions so as to present a substantial risk that any prisoner will suffer unnecessary and wanton pain in a judicial execution by electrocution."
"Besides presenting a substantial risk of unnecessary pain, we conclude that electrocution is unnecessarily cruel in its purposeless infliction of physical violence and mutilation of the prisoner's body..."
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Candidate Rick Reed, who resigned from Earle's office last week, said he would not seek the death penalty under any circumstances. Reed also said he wouldn't seek death warrants for the five condemned killers already on death row from Travis County. Death warrants, issued by a trial court at a prosecutor's request when the killer's appeals have run out, set dates of execution.
"I believe it is a mistake ... to seek the death penalty," said Reed, citing his moral opposition and the cost of prosecuting such cases.
The candidates spoke at a forum that drew about 50 people to Gene's New Orleans Style Poboys & Deli, a restaurant on East 11th Street. The gathering was sponsored by the Texas Moratorium Network, which advocates a death penalty moratorium in the state, and the Austin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The candidates are running in the March 4 Democratic primary. Because there is no Republican candidate, the winner of the primary is expected to become the next top prosecutor in Travis and have the sole discretion on whether or not to seek the death penalty.
Cobb, 46, has worked in Earle's office since 1990; Montford, 37, has worked there since 1999; and Earle's first assistant, Lehmberg, 58, has been in the office since 1976. Reed, 52, had worked there since 1999.
In questioning the candidates, Scott Cobb, president of the moratorium group and no relation to the candidate, noted that Texas accounted for 62 percent of all executions in the United States in 2007 but that Travis County rarely seeks the death sentence.
Montford, who in the 1990s served two years as general counsel to state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., said she drafted legislation, finally passed in 2005, to institute life without parole.
"I am entitled to have my personal opinion on a bunch of laws," she said, "but as the DA, I take an oath, and I am charged with following the law."
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Rodney Reed is a friend. Rodney Reed is a friend of mine. He is a solid brother who has weathered a decade of racially profiled prosecution. Living in the crushing hands of Texas death row he has not only persevered, he fought tooth and nail the whole way. It is a crime that this man has spent the prime of his life confined to one cage or another fighting a crime he did not commit. His children have become adults without their father and Rodney has become more determined to return to them with each passing day.The Rodney Reed case is a glaring reminder that the ghost of Jim Crow law and mob justice still exist in the state of Texas.Despite overwhelming evidence of Rodney's innocence, the fact remains that he is a Black man accused of killing a white woman.In Texas, that constitutes capital murder. One won't find that article of law under the capital murder statute of the state's penal code but countless incarcerated Black men can attest to its existence.I’d like to thank all of you who are here today and all of the people who have carried on the struggle to save my brother's life for so many years.Stand up against this modern day attempt to lynch another Black man. Stand up against the racist police officer who set up Rodney Reed. Stand against the judicial system that allowed this frame-up to happen. Stand up and fight with the same determination and fortitude that Rodney Reed has displayed for the last 10 years End the racist death penalty!
Free Rodney Reed!
Howard Guidry,Another innocent man on Texas’ death row.