Compensation for unjust convictions in Texas
Timothy Cole Act would honor signature victim of wrongful conviction who died
It's rightly being named the Timothy Cole Act. And if it's passed by the
Legislature, which it should be, it will be the influence of Cole — who died a
decade ago while in prison — that gave it the momentum to become law.
Under the measure, compensation for people who were wrongfully imprisoned
would increase to a lump sum payment of $80,000 per year of incarceration, up
from the current $50,000. It would direct payments to the next of kin in cases
in which those who were wrongfully jailed die before they were exonerated.
This is a good bill that the House passed last week. Now it's up to the Texas
Senate to follow suit, and the chances look good, according to Senate
sponsors, Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, and Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. The bill
could come up for a vote this week.
The legislation is likely to require a constitutional amendment to pardon the
deceased Cole, who spent about 14 years in prison for a crime he did not
commit. The Cole case drew national attention earlier this year, being called
Texas' first posthumous DNA exoneration.
While a student at Texas Tech University in 1985, Cole was convicted of raping
fellow student Michele Mallin. Police zeroed in on Cole, though he did not fit
the profile of the person who had raped several women in the Lubbock area.
Mallin had identified him as her attacker in a rigged lineup, underscoring
problems with eyewitness identification procedures. But this year she joined
Cole's family in seeking post-mortem exoneration for him after DNA evidence
cleared Cole and fingered another person, who ultimately confessed to the
crime. Tragically, it was too late for Cole, who died of asthma behind bars
while serving a 25-year sentence.
The legislation in his name would provide financial compensation to Cole's
mother, Ruby Session, who never gave up pursuing her son's innocence. In
addition to lump sum payments, the bill offers monthly annuity payments for
life, health insurance and 120 hours of tuition courses at a community college
or state university.
If that sounds expensive, consider that it could actually save the state money
by preventing lawsuits and avoiding large settlements and legal fees. Those
who are awarded benefits would forfeit their rights to sue the state. And the
legislation would not reward people who were exonerated but went on to commit
other crimes. They would not qualify for benefits.
The best reason to pass the legislation is because it is the right thing to
do. No one can give back the time or erase the miseries endured in prison. And
Texas leads the nation in the number of people, 38, who have been exonerated
by DNA testing. Perhaps attaching a cost to wrongful convictions will help
improve the legal system.
In any case, Texas owes compensation in the way of money and benefits to those
whose lives were unjustly disrupted and destroyed by guilty verdicts and
prison. That is the least we can do.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Sharon Keller denied Michael Richard’s constitutional rights when she closed her courtroom at 5 p.m. and refused to accept his last-minute appeal (“Representative initiates efforts for impeachment of Sharon Keller,” April 28). Justice is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. issue, and everyone deserves a fair hearing in the court of law, even those who we deem to be the worst of our society. HR 480 is the only way to get Keller off the bench promptly, rather than the long process through the Commission on Judicial Ethics.
I invite everyone to visit www.sharonkiller.com and contact members of the House Committee on Judicial and Civil Jurisprudence in support of Rep. Lon Burnam’s impeachment resolution. By removing Sharon “Killer” Keller from the bench, we can set the example for others that no one is above the law, even the presiding judge of Texas’ highest criminal court.
Government and Middle Eastern studies senior
Campaign to End the Death Penalty
We spoke with members of the Calendars Committee about the Law of Parties and were encouraged by what we heard from a couple of offices. We also ran into Terri Hodge in the hall and exchanged a few hugs and thank yous.
While we were there, we updated our friends and supporters online around the world by posting to our blog, using Twitter and uploading videos while we were still at the capitol to Facebook and YouTube, all good examples of using social media tools to affect change and build a movement, and a good reason we should win the Social Media Leadership Award. Vote for us at the link below.
Several Texas anti-death penalty groups are jointly entered in the Jenzabar Social Media Leadership Award contest for $3,000. The winner is the entry that gets the most people to comment on their entry by April 30. To "vote", you leave a comment on the blog post at the link below.
Our entry is called "Texas Friends and Allies Against the Death Penalty"
To vote for us to receive this award and the $3,000 prize, you just have to leave a comment on our nomination entry here:
On that page scroll to the bottom, where you see "Leave a Comment", then enter your name, your email address, a website (you can skip that one if you don't have a website or you can enter any website you like), then enter your comment in the large box. Hit submit and that's all. The entry with the most comments wins.
Our group at the capitol yesterday included Scott Cobb (whose birthday was yesterday), Gloria Rubac, Crystal Wilson, Terri Been (sister of Jeff Wood), Lawrence Foster (grandfather of Kenneth Foster,jr) and Kenneth Foster Sr (father of Kenneth). We were joined later at the hearing by Hooman Hedayati, who gave some great testimony to the committee on Sharon Keller.
Here is a video of a news report on Austin TV that includes a statement by Terri Been and shots of us in the press conference by Lon Burnam.
Other videos we took during the day are on YouTube, including this video of the press conference.
We took this video of Lon Burnam around 12:30 AM last night. His message to our friends and supporters is "Call your state representative" and urge them to support the impeachment proceedings against Keller. We got the impeachment ball rolling last Fall when we approached Lon with the idea of impeaching Keller.
The Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence took testimony on April 27, 2009 on Lon Burnam's resolution to impeach Sharon Keller.
Watch video of Hooman Hedayati testifying.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Legislative testimony by TCRP board member and TCRP director regarding the proposed impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller:
Re: HR 480 (impeaching Judge Sharon Keller)
Honorable Chair and Committee Members:
As Director of a statewide civil rights nonprofit organization, I respectfully
urge passage of HR-480 so that the House of Representatives may begin the
process of considering the impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller for abuse of her
office, one of the most important judicial positions in the state.
IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY NECESSARY AND PROPER
Attached to this testimony are the Notice of Formal Proceedings (No. 96),
Inquiry Concerning a Judge, before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct
and the Ethics Experts' Declaration, filed in that same matter. I need not
repeat the allegations and statements in those documents, but I do accept,
ratify, and incorporate them as part of my testimony.
I agree in all respects with the twenty-four ethics experts, who recently
advised the Commission of Judicial Conduct that Judge Keller is "guilty of
'incompetence in performing the duties of office, willful violation of the
Code of Judicial Conduct, [and] willful [and] persisted conduct that is
clearly inconsistent with the performance of [her] duties.' In addition, her
egregious misconduct 'casts public discredit upon the judiciary [and upon the]
administration of justice.' [footnote omitted]" The same in my view supports
impeachment of Judge Keller or, more to the point, are more than sufficient
for this committee to recommend to the House that it appoint an impeachment
committee on this matter.
These charges, if true and I believe them to be so, are more than enough to
support impeachment, but there is another reason, even stronger than the
others -- Judge Keller essentially deprived Michael Richard of his life for at
least eight months, that is, she caused his life to be ended early without due
process. The victim of Judge Keller's action was Doreen Anderson, Mr.
Richard's daughter, who had a close relationship with her father.
How does one quantify the eight months or more that Ms. Anderson lost with her
father? He may have been convicted of a crime, but she was not.
APPROPRIATE FOR HOUSE INVESTIGATION -- VOTERS' SOLE REMEDY
"The power of impeachment shall be vested in the House of Representatives."
Tex. Const. art. XV, § 1. At the time Texas adopted its constitution in 1876,
impeachment was well-established in English and American parliamentary law.
Ferguson v. Maddox, 263 S.W. 888, 892 (Tex. 1924).
Impeachment is designed to reach officials in high places who are guilty of
"official delinquencies or maladministration." The offense does not need to be
a statutory or common law offense. Impeachment offenses are generally
considered high crimes and misdemeanors, which at the time the constitution
was adopted meant grave official wrongs. Id..
Because of the nature of impeachment, the offenses cannot be defined, but it
is a general principle upon which the offenses rest can be stated. Id. The
U.S. Constitution defines impeachment offenses as "treason, bribery, or other
high crimes and misdemeanors" U.S. Const. art. 2, § 4.
Many states mirror this language in their own constitutions, while others add
"misdemeanors in office," "maladministration," "oppression in office" and
other similar offenses. Ferguson, 263 S.W. at 892. The Texas Constitution
adopted the existing and well-known principle of impeachment, as understood at
the time. Id.
Impeachment is the only remedy and accountability mechanism under the Texas
Constitution. Judicial immunity shields judges against state and federal
litigation. We tried in the case of Judge Keller, and our federal suit was
dismissed for that reason.
Even though the Commission on Judicial Conduct is considering an action
against Judge Keller, it may or may not take appropriate action. However, the
only constitutional remedy is impeachment by the representatives of the people.
The framers of the 1876 Texas Constitution and the voters who ratified it
created a strong judiciary. The 1876 Constitution deliberately fashioned a
weak legislature and a weak governor because of past abuses of power. The
judiciary was the one branch of government that kept power, and very extensive
power. The drafters of the constitution felt that only judges could protect
the people against the government and monied interests taking away their
rights. For that reason, the populist tradition of electing judges was framed
into our current constitution. The authors of the constitution and voters
wanted to elect their judges to keep direct control over them so they would
not become beholden again to the big financial interests of the state and
political caprice -- as they had been in prior times when appointed by the
Impeachment thus is the people's way of undoing the election of a judge who
has betrayed their trust and acted with "official delinquency," that is,
abused their office to the extent of violating the mandate to administer
fairly and impartially the constitutions of the nation and of the state.
The charges against Judge Keller are sufficiently grave that the House of
Representatives has to duty to formally consider them, and then act on them.
We believe the ultimate conclusion of this process would be impeachment by the
House, trial by the Senate, and removal from office.
Whether Judge Keller is ultimately convicted or vindicated is for a later
date, but the House must at least be faithful to its obligation to formally
consider and act on the substantial charges brought against her.
Thank you kindly for your attention.
James C. Harrington
Texas Civil Rights Project
- - - - -
WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF CHARLES HERRING, JR.
CONCERNING H.R. NO. 480
IMPEACHMENT OF JUDGE SHARON KELLER
I am an attorney in private practice in Austin in the law firm of Herring &
Irwin, L.L.P. My principal practice area is the law of lawyering--which
focuses on issues of legal ethics, legal malpractice, and professional
responsibility for Texas lawyers. In 1990, I wrote my first book, Texas Legal
Malpractice & Lawyer Discipline, which I now update annually. Thus, I've been
writing about and teaching legal ethics for some 20 years. I also served two
terms on the Texas Supreme Court's Advisory Committee and served as Chair of
the Texas Supreme Court's Statewide Task Force on Sanctions and also the State
Bar's Committee for the Prevention of Legal Malpractice and Grievances. I have
served as an expert witness on legal ethics issues for the State Bar of Texas,
for the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, for the Office of the Texas Attorney
General, and for various private lawyers and litigants. I've attached a copy
of my resume to this testimony. I offer this testimony on my own behalf and
not on behalf of any other person or organization.
I appreciate this Committee's consideration of H.R. No. 480, concerning the
possible impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller, and I respectfully offer my
testimony in support of the Resolution. In my opinion, the conduct of Judge
Keller, as reported in the media and as charged in the "Notice of Formal
Proceedings" (hereinafter "Notice") in Inquiry No. 96 before the State
Commission on Judicial Conduct, clearly meets the constitutional standards for
impeachment under Article XV of the Texas Constitution, as well as the
standards for removal of a judge or justice from office, as provided in
Section 1-a(6)A of Article V of the Texas Constitution.
Before I outline the specific allegations that in my view meet those
constitutional standards for impeachment and removal, I want to emphasize
three general points that I believe make this Resolution a particularly
important matter for legislative action.
First, if the published allegations are correct, Judge Keller was personally
responsible for killing a man on a day when he should not have died. That is
the most severe possible consequence imaginable for judicial misconduct.1 I
submit that if that type of egregious judicial misconduct, with the most
serious possible consequences imaginable, does not require removal from
office, nothing does. By comparison, the charges against the last judge
impeached by this Texas House, Judge O.P. Carrillo, alleged misconduct that
included stealing groceries; using public funds to pay ranch hands and other
private employees; using public equipment on his ranch; filing a false
financial statement; having conflicts of interest; and conspiring to
improperly influence a grand jury.2 The Texas Senate acquitted Judge Carrillo
on the impeachment article alleging stealing groceries, but convicted him on
an article alleging conspiracy to collect government rental monies on
non-existent equipment--and dismissed the other articles without a decision.3
In short, the Texas Legislature convicted Judge Carrillo and removed him from
office for false rentals. He did not wrongfully cause anyone's death, which is
exactly what Judge Keller allegedly did.
Second, based on Judge Keller's Answer filed in the Commission on Judicial
Conduct proceedings, and based upon the published remarks of her lawyer, it
appears that she is claiming that the lawyers for Mr. Richard wanted some
extraordinary relief in the form of keeping the court clerk's office after
5:00 p.m., and then those lawyers capriciously or negligently chose not to
follow other available remedies that permitted an after-hours filing. If that
is her position, I submit that her position is simply not credible. The
lawyers who handled Michael Richard's case were with the Texas Defender
Service (TDS), which was founded in 1995 and is the most skilled, respected,
and experienced organization in Texas providing representation to persons on
death row. Their Board includes law school professors from Texas and across
the country who are expert in death penalty law and representation, including
for example the Co-Director of the Capital Punishment Center at the University
of Texas School of Law, and the Co-Director of the Death Penalty Clinic at
Boalt School of Law. Professor Dow, who worked on the Richard case, heads the
Innocence Project at the University of Houston. He is a superb advocate, and
he knows how these cases work as well as anyone in Texas. In short, in this
field of law practice, they are the best and most knowledgeable lawyers
available. Their commitment to justice is awe-inspiring and legendary.
Third, I think it is very important that Judge Keller's alleged misconduct
took place in the context of a death penalty case. The death penalty is the
ultimate criminal punishment. From 2002 to 2006, 40 percent of the executions
in the United States took place in Texas; in 2007, over 60 percent were in
Texas; in 2008, over 50 percent. Whether you are for or against the death
penalty in Texas is irrelevant to the merits of the present matter. But those
who support the death penalty want that penalty administered fairly and
legally. More than any other single act in the history of Texas, Judge
Keller's conduct in this case has held the death penalty and the Texas
criminal justice system up to international scorn and ridicule. If you google
"Sharon Keller," you get over 42,000 hits--and you find an almost unlimited
number of denunciations of Judge Keller and our system of justice in Texas. We
need to restore respect for Texas justice. The Legislature can do that now,
promptly, and as the elected representatives of the people of Texas, you can
speak with the authoritative voice that this case requires.4
Turning to the grounds for impeachment, I note that Section 2 of H.R. No. 480
identifies as possible grounds for impeachment the following:
. . . gross neglect of duty and conducting her official duties with willful
disregard for human life in connection with her actions on the evening of
September 25, 2007, including her apparent irresponsible refusal to abide by
the prior practice of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in order to receive
the appeal of Michael Richard, which conduct may have resulted in Mr.
Richard's deprivation of life without due process of law as guaranteed by the
Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Section 19,
Article I, Texas Constitution, by means of a potentially unlawful execution by
lethal injection, and in the embarrassment of the State of Texas in a manner
that casts severe doubt on the impartiality of the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals and the entire criminal justice system of this state.
In one sense, the charge is broad: "gross neglect of duty . . . including . .
. ." However, in fact the charge appears to be quite narrow, focusing on her
actions during, at most, a few hours on a single day--"in connection with her
actions occurring on the evening of September 25, 2007." The charge fits well
within the broad constitutionally permissible framework for impeachment in
Texas, as enunciated at length by the Texas Supreme Court in Ferguson v.
Maddox, 263 S.W. 888 (Tex. 1924):
While impeachable offenses are not defined in the Constitution, they are very
clearly designated or pointed out by the term 'impeachment,' which at once
connotes the offenses to be considered and the procedure for the trial
thereof. . . . 'Impeachment,' at the time of the adoption of the Constitution,
was an established and well-understood procedure in English and American
parliamentary law, and it had been resorted to from time to time in the former
country for perhaps 500 years. It was designed, primarily, to reach those in
high places guilty to official delinquencies or maladministration. It was
settled that the wrongs justifying impeachment need not be statutory offenses
or common-law offenses, or even offenses against any positive law. Generally
speaking, they were designated as high crimes and misdemeanors, which, in
effect meant nothing more than grave official wrongs.
In the nature of things, these offenses cannot be defined, except in the most
general way. A definition can, at best, do little more than state the
principle upon which the offense rests. Consequently, no attempt was usually
made to define impeachable offenses, and the futility as well as the unwisdom
of attempting to do so has been commented upon. . . .
When the Constitution of Texas was adopted, it was done in the light of, and
with a full knowledge and understanding of, the principles of impeachment as
theretofore established in English and American parliamentary procedure. The
Constitution in this matter of impeachment created nothing new. By it,
something existing and well understood was simply adopted. The power granted
to the House to 'impeach,' and the Senate to try 'impeachment,' carries with
it, by inevitable implication, the power to the one to prefer and to the other
to try charges for such official delinquencies, wrongs, or malfeasances as
justified impeachment according to the principles established by the common
law and the practice of the English Parliament and the parliamentary bodies in
America. The grant of the general power of 'impeachment' properly and
sufficiently indicates the causes for its exercise.
It is said this construction of the Constitution confers arbitrary and
unrestrained power on the Senate. Not so at all. There is no such thing under
our government as arbitrary power. As has often been said, it is a government
of laws, and not a government of men. We most emphatically repudiate the idea
that any officer may be arbitrarily impeached. In the exercise of its exalted
jurisdiction, the Senate must proceed according to law. It must ascertain the
law by an examination of the Constitution, legal treatises, the common law and
parliamentary precedents, and therefrom determine the nature, elements, and
characteristics of impeachable offenses, and, in the light of reason, apply
the principles so worked out to the facts of the case before it. This is not
arbitrary power. It is the exercise of judicial authority under the
Constitution. . . .
Id. at 892. As the Texas Supreme Court emphasized, the impeachment remedy
provided by the Texas Constitution is necessary for "the protection of the
people from official delinquencies or malfeasances." Id. Clearly, all citizens
should be entitled to protection from wrongful execution without due process
of law, and all citizens should be entitled to a fair chance to present their
cases in court. If Judge Keller did what she is accused of having done, it is
difficult to imagine a greater judicial threat to the integrity of the
criminal justice system and to the rights and the very lives of Texans whose
fates are entrusted to that system.
In addition to the broad parameters for impeachment explained in Ferguson and
the specific categories of charges outlined in the Resolution, the standards
for removal of judges and justices set forth in Section 1-a(6) of the Texas
Constitution also are relevant. In pertinent part, that provision states:
Any Justice or Judge of the courts established by this Constitution or created
by the Legislature as provided in Section 1, Article V, of this Constitution,
may, subject to the other provisions hereof, be removed from office for
willful or persistent violation of rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of
Texas, incompetence in performing the duties of the office, willful violation
of the Code of Judicial Conduct, or willful or persistent conduct that is
clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties or casts public
discredit upon the judiciary or administration of justice.
Certainly the Resolution's references to Judge Keller's alleged "gross neglect
of duty" and conducting her official duties "with willful disregard for human
life" are consistent with the standards in Section 1-a(6).
As stated in the Preamble to the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct (hereinafter
"the Code"), the Code is intended to "state basic standards which should
govern the conduct of all judges and to provide guidance to assist judges in
establishing and maintaining high standards of judicial and personal conduct."
One of the most fundamental and important precepts in the Code is Canon 2A,
which provides as follows:
A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that
promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
If, as the Commission's Notice has alleged, and as published reports indicate,
Judge Keller willfully and persistently failed to follow the Court's
Execution-day Procedures, she has violated this core principle of judicial
conduct. The national and international condemnation heaped upon the Texas
criminal justice system as a result of Judge Keller's actions indicates that
she has not acted in a manner "that promotes public confidence in the
integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." That conduct also fits well
within the language of the Resolution, "gross neglect of duty and conducting
her official duties with willful disregard for human life in connection with
her actions on the evening of September 25, 2007." If Judge Keller effectively
foreclosed access to court, she also apparently violated Canon 2A, and engaged
in "gross neglect of duty," in violating Section 13 of Article 1 of the Texas
Constitution, which provides that "[a]ll courts shall be open, and every
person . . . shall have remedy by due course of law." Furthermore, the same
conduct would have violated Canon 3B(8) of the Code, which provides that "[a]
judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding,
or that person's lawyer, the right to be heard according to law."
For these reasons, I respectfully request that this Committee vote in favor of
H.R. No. 480. I appreciate your patience in considering my views.
- - - - -
Note: Chuck Herring is a member of the TCRP Board of Directors.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Click on Live Stream 4 to watch in the afternoon
Texas Legislature Website
April 27, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Your comment won't show up immediately, because it seems like the comments are moderated by the Foundation, so they should update the comments from the weekend on Monday.
To help us win, you can just leave a short comment or a longer one on our entry. Go to the page and scroll down to the comment form. There are four fields, name, email, website (you can leave that blank or put in your own personal website or a website you like, such as the one of the sites of our anti-death penalty groups), and a field for your comment. Short comments could be like "nice work" "good job", "they are doing a great job", "impressive work, "I hope they win", etc etc. Several Texas anti-death penalty groups are entered jointly, so in your comment you can be specific to one group or say something general about all the groups.
Our entry is called "Texas Friends and Allies Against the Death Penalty"
From the entry:
I would like to nominate for The Jenzabar Foundation Social Media Leadership Award: a group of allied organizations in Texas that have been using social media to effectively work together against the Texas death penalty: Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, the Austin chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Kids Against the Death Penalty, Students Against the Death Penalty and the Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center. These groups have a cause on Facebook called Abolish the Death Penalty in Texas. Each organization brings unique skills and experiences to the cause. Decisions on how to use any award money will be made jointly by these organizations.
This alliance is a great example of how small organizations can have a remarkable impact way out of proportion to their funding by using social media tools to work together.
Texas is a challenging environment in which to work against the death penalty, but these groups have found a way to make significant progress against the death penalty by working together both offline and online using social media tools for education, outreach and grassroots organizing.
Texas is a large state, so it is vitally important for groups here to use social media tools effectively. In the future, we want to increase our capacity to work for human rights in Texas by finding new ways to expand our use of online social media tools in order to identify new activists and grow our movement to achieve legislative victories on policy and to organize campaigns to stop specific executions.
Most recently, these groups all worked together to get the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence to approve the bill to end the death penalty under the Law of Parties. We continue to push for a vote on that bill in the full House. On Monday, April 27, we are holding our second Lobby Day of the year in order to meet with more legislators about the bill and on May 2 we are holding a march and rally for the Law of Parties bill in Austin. We also have worked together on the campaign to remove Sharon Keller and of course on the annual March to Stop Executions.
If you think these groups have been doing a good job using online social activism tools, especially considering that we are all-volunteer organizations, please vote for us in The Jenzabar Foundation Social Media Leadership Award by leaving a comment on our entry.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Reed was convicted in the 1996 Bastrop County murder of Stacey Stites, who was Fennell's fiancée at the time. Reed has maintained his innocence, and his lawyers have suggested that Fennell committed the crime.
The appeal continues the bid by Reed's lawyers to reveal Fennell, who is serving 10 years in prison for kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody, as a sexual predator with a history of abusing women.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has twice in recent months turned back bids by Reed for a new trial.
Filed Tuesday, the latest appeal includes fresh allegations from police reports, including that Fennell forced a woman he met during a traffic stop in July 2007 to have sex with him, that Fennell abused his wife and that he stalked a woman in Giddings in 1997.
"Jimmy Fennell has been a sexual predator for years," said Bryce Benjet, one of Reed's lawyers. "What we have been asking for is a chance for a jury to hear all of the facts in this case."
Fennell's criminal defense lawyer, Bob Phillips, called the additional accusations "questionable in their reliability."
The appeal also includes a vague account of a woman who said she may have seen Reed and Stites together before the killing, potentially significant evidence given Reed's assertion that his DNA was found on Stites' body because the two had a secret relationship.
Benjet said he has not had time to investigate the woman's account.
Stites, 19, was raped and strangled on April 23, 1996, before her 3:30 a.m. shift at a Bastrop H E B. Her body was found on the side of rural Bluebonnet Drive, off FM 1441 near Lake Bastrop.
Reed initially denied knowing Stites but then at trial said the two had been in a relationship. Fennell was a Giddings police officer at the time.
Reed's lawyers have included in previous appeals accusations that Fennell asked a female driver to provide him a lap dance after a 2004 traffic stop and of keeping a MySpace page with sexually explicit and violent images. A former girlfriend accused Fennell in a court affidavit of verbal abuse, racial bigotry and stalking.
The allegations included in Tuesday's appeal surfaced after police arrested Fennell in 2007 and accused him of forcing sex on a woman he met during a domestic disturbance call. When that arrest made the news, calls came in to Williamson County sheriff's investigators and Texas Rangers on the case, said Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley.
Bradley said that the accusations were considered at sentencing but that he did not seek an indictment because they were not the strongest and most serious cases against Fennell.
Because Fennell has been sentenced and his victim last month settled her lawsuit against the City of Georgetown for $100,000, Reed's lawyers recently obtained the entire police investigation of that case, Benjet said.
Among the allegations laid out in the report:
Wendy Smith Wallace told police that in 1996 or 1997, Fennell followed her in a police car while she was riding her bike in Giddings. He stopped when she got to her house, the report said.
• Keith Tubbs, who worked with Fennell's wife, Aida Fennell, sometime before 2004, told police that she once showed up with bruises on her face that she said came after Fennell threw a phone at her.
In March 2007, Fennell brought a woman he detained during a traffic stop to the Georgetown police station and made her strip, the woman told police. He later drove her to a secluded place and forced her to have sex with him in exchange for avoiding arrest, she told police.
In August 2007, Fennell told a woman parked outside a drug house that he found drugs in her car, she told authorities. He did not arrest her but told the woman that he would be at her house at 3 a.m. for what she interpreted as a sexual rendezvous, she said, but he never showed up, the report said.
"We had investigated them thoroughly, and I was prepared to aggressively refute them in trial, and the state knew that," Phillips said. "I think they had very little confidence in the reliability of these outcries."
Nearly two dozen legal ethicists have signed on to a declaration filed Tuesday with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct calling for the ouster of Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon "Killer" Keller. Keller will face a hearing this summer on charges of official misconduct in connection with her actions on Sept. 25, 2007, when she effectively blocked death row inmate Michael Richard from filing a final appeal. When Richard's lawyers asked if the court would remain open to accept a late filing, Keller infamously announced that the court closes at 5pm. Richard was subsequently executed.
In their declaration, the ethicists – most of them law professors from universities across the country – cite statements Keller made on the campaign trail in 1994 about being "pro-prosecution" as evidence of her "manifest lack of impartiality." Moreover, they argue that Keller's failure to include on financial disclosure statements her interest in real estate worth roughly $2 million was part of a lie – an attempt to obtain state money to cover legal fees associated with the commission's charges against her. The Dallas Morning News first reported last month that Keller had apparently failed to make the financial disclosures, after she told the commission that requiring her to pay for her own defense would be "financially ruinous."
"Keller has committed serious violations of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct," the ethicists wrote. "These violations are sufficiently serious to require that Judge Keller be removed from office."
I join you in thanking and congratulating state Sen. Royce West and Sen. Rodney Ellis for their leadership in helping innocent people who may have spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit, and for establishing an innocence commission to lessen the chances of an innocent person being sent to prison -- or worse, to death row.
If our district attorney, Craig Watkins, has already brought about the exoneration of 19 innocent men from just the Dallas area, how many more innocent are among the hundreds on death row? How do we expect previously incarcerated people to succeed without help?
We get 500 of them monthly returning to Dallas to look for jobs and housing. If we refuse to help them, crime due to recidivism puts all citizens at risk.
I reluctantly still believe we must resort to the death penalty in certain horrible criminal cases, but we must use every possible methodology to avoid putting innocent people to death.
We have killed innocent people and will do more if we don't follow the lead of West, Ellis and Watkins. I know this because I was there. All of us want a safer Texas, but not at the expense of innocent people.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
All of you that know me, know that I am committed to the fight to abolish the death penalty. Even more than that though, I am committed to fighting for those that have endured grave injustices.
Troy Anthony Davis is my friend and I believe without a shadow of a doubt in my heart and soul that he is innocent. I have read the ins and outs of his case and all the legal documents regarding his case. In the last year and a half he has faced three execution dates only to have them stayed 24 hours prior, 1 1/2 hours prior, and 3 days prior to his execution respectively. He and his family have been put through hell each time. I was lucky, if you can say that, to be among those that protested his execution when he came within an hour and a half of death. I got to celebrate his stay with his family and pray with them.
Below is a letter he has written to me, which should explain why I feel so compelled to do any and everything within my power to help him from Indianapolis. Without some sort of intervention, Troy's life will end within the next two months.
Click on this link to send a letter to Governor Perdue.
If you wish to write a letter on your own, letters should be addressed to:
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
203 State Capitol SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Here is the Amnesty link to find out more information regarding Troy's case and to take online action for Troy.
Remember an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. One person really can make a difference. It is because of people that have acted out against this injustice that Troy is alive today.
For those of you in Indianapolis, Amnesty International plans on holding a nationwide day for Troy in the near future. For those interested in participating or helping to organize a rally in Indy please let me know.
Thank you all for taking the time to consider helping Troy.
Troy's letter to me dated March 10, 2009:
Thank you so much for your lovely letter. It was nice to hear from you. I pray that you, family and friends are all doing well despite the stress from the Economy.
Personally, I'm holding up okay. They have another execution tonight for Bob Newland. The Parole Board refused to hear his case.
How did your finals turn out? I'm sure you did well. Are you still having bad dreams about being in my situation?
Maybe you're worried too much about my situation. Read Mark 11:22-24. Positive thinking can increase your faith. Don't dwell on the things you pray for, just give them to God and believe He'll take care of them.
Congratulations of getting a perfect grade doing your paper about my case. Say hi to your classmates and Professors for me.
The biggest problem with my case is the Anti-Terrorism/Death Penalty law prevents my new evidence from being heard. I think the Judges know I'm innocent but decided to hide behind the law instead of helping correct this injustice.
As long as people are willing to stand up and fight, changes will be made to right every wrong. You'll be one of those people who force a change and soon. Keep learning, keep praying, keep believing and never stop fighting for True Justice.
I'm proud of you being a Straight A student. Your parents have done a great job and I know they are proud as well.
Don't let the road blocks of this System slow you down. Just push them out of the way. Fighting for what you believe in isn't easy and some of those close to you may disagree. Stand firm Ashley.
HB 2267 in the Texas Legislature would prohibit the state from seeking the death penalty for people in Law of Parties cases, which is a law that allows non-killers to be sentenced to death for the actions of another person. Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties before his death sentence was commuted to life in 2007 by Governor Perry.
Rep Hodge's bill was approved in the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence on April 21. It now goes to the Calendars Committee.
Scott Cobb recorded this video of Rep Hodge talking about HB 2267 about an hour after the bill was approved in committee.
We have a lot of work to do to get the bill passed by Calendars and through the entire House, but today's approval was a major victory. The victory was made possible by the efforts of many people, including Rep Hodge, Rep Dutton, their staffs, and the many people who attended the Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty on March 24 to visit legislators in person or called or emailed legislators urging them to pass the bill.
Special thanks go to all the family members of people on death row under the Law of Parties who came to Lobby Day or who testified in committee for the bill. This victory belongs to you!
Rep Terri Hodge on Committee Approval of Law of Parties Bill from Scott Cobb on Vimeo.
Contact members of the Texas House Committee on Calendars
Urge Them to Send HB 2267 to the Floor of the House for a Vote.
HB 2267 Would Prohibit Death Sentences Under the Law of Parties.
Sample Message (change it to your own words) “Hello, I am calling to urge Representative X to vote in the Calendars Committee to send HB 2267, the Law of Parties bill, to the floor of the House for a vote. HB 2267 would require separate trials for co-defendants in capital trials and would prohibit the state from seeking the death penalty for people who do not kill anyone but are convicted under the Law of Parties. I do not believe it is fair to sentence someone to death, like Kenneth Foster was, if they did not kill anyone. Thank you”.
The Law of Parties allows people who "should have anticipated" a murder to receive the death penalty for the actions of another person who killed someone. A person sentenced to death under the Law of Parties has not killed anyone. They are accomplices or co-conspirators of one felony, such as robbery, during which another person killed someone.
Please contact your own state representative and at least some of the committee members on the list below. You can find out who your own representative is at: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us
Members of the House Committee on Calendars
Rep. Brian McCall (Chair) Plano Republican
Email form for McCall: http://tinyurl.com/BrianMcCall
Room 1W.11, Capitol Bld.
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0594 Phone
(512) 474-7512 Fax
Rep. Eddie Lucio III Democrat Cameron County
Email form for Lucio http://tinyurl.com/EddieLucioIII
Room EXT E1.318
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0606 Phone
(512) 463-0660 Fax
Rep. Norma Chavez El Paso Democrat
Email form for Chavez http://tinyurl.com/NormaChavez
Room CAP GN.8
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0622 Phone
(512) 478-6755 (Fax)
Rep. Garnet Coleman Houston Democrat
Email form for Coleman http://tinyurl.com/GarnetColeman
Room GW.17, Capitol Building
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0524 Phone
(512) 463-1260 Fax
Rep. Byron Cook Navarro County Republican
Email form for Cook http://tinyurl.com/ByronCook
Room EXT E2.410
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0730 Phone
(512) 463-2506 Fax
Rep. Brandon Creighton Conroe Republican
Email form for Creighton http://tinyurl.com/BrandonCreighton
Room EXT E1.412
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0726 Phone
(512) 463-8428 Fax
Rep. Charlie Geren Tarrant County Republican
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Room E2.308, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0610 Phone
(512) 463-8310 Fax
Rep. Jim Keffer (Eastland) Republican
Email form for Keffer http://tinyurl.com/JimKeffer
Room E2.418, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0656 Phone
(512) 478-8805 Fax
Rep. Lois W. Kohlkorst (Brenham) Republican
Email form for Kohlkorst http://tinyurl.com/LoisKohlkorst
Room E2.318, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0600 Phone
(512) 463-5240 Fax
Rep. Edmund Kuempel Seguin Republican
Email form for Kuempel http://tinyurl.com/EdmundKuempel
Room CAP 3N.06
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0602 Phone
(512) 480-0391 Fax
Rep. Jim McReynolds Lufkin Democrat
Email form for McReynolds http://tinyurl.com/JimMcReynolds
Room CAP 1W.3
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0490 Phone
(512) 463-9059 Fax
Rep. Allen Ritter Jefferson County Democrat
Email form for Ritter http://preview.tinyurl.com/AllenRitter
Room E2.406, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0706 Phone
(512) 463-1861 Fax
Rep. Burt R. Solomons Denton County Republican
Email form for Solomons http://tinyurl.com/BurtSolomons
Room E1.420, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0478 Phone
(512) 463-2089 Fax
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
The following is Houston Chronicle's expose of Texas attorneys who continue to miss appeal dates, but still get rewarded with more cases. One wonders if judges select these attorneys from their list of the worst lawyers in town. This is probably the easiest way to get rid of the backlog of cases they have.
Texas lawyers have repeatedly missed deadlines for appeals on behalf of more than a dozen death row inmates in the last two years — yet judges continue to assign life-or-death capital cases and pay hundreds of thousands in fees to those attorneys, a Chronicle records review shows.
Missing deadlines means their clients can be automatically denied constitutionally mandated reviews before their execution. Houston lawyer Jerome Godinich missed three recent federal deadlines, the Chronicle reported in March. One client was executed in February after the federal appeal was filed too late. In March, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals chastened Godinich for using the same excuse — a malfunctioning after-hours filing machine — for missing another deadline for a man still on death row.
A recent review of the Harris County Auditor’s billing records and district court records shows Godinich remains one of the county’s busiest appointed criminal attorneys, billing for $713,248, including fees for 21 capital cases. He was appointed to handle 1,638 Harris County cases involving 1,400 different defendants from 2006-March 2009, court records show.
He refused comment.
Godinich is not the only attorney to miss death row deadlines. A San Antonio lawyer failed to file four state appeals on time, according to opinions last year by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A Fort Worth lawyer has missed both state and federal deadlines in at least five recent cases, though he sought and was granted more time to prepare on four of them, according to court records reviewed by the Chronicle.
The failure to file such appeals, called writs of habeas corpus, means death row inmates risk missing their last chance to submit new claims of innocence or evidence that could alter their conviction — or death sentence. State judges can be flexible, but federal judges follow tight and sometimes confusing deadlines.
Only one of three Texas lawyers who repeatedly missed such death row deadlines has faced fines or been forced to forgo fees by judges.
Suzanne Kramer, of San Antonio, was removed in October 2008 from three state appeals she failed to file on time and was fined $750 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She is handling a fourth case over protests.
“I know if this lawyer stays on my case I’ll definitely get executed,” death row inmate Juan Castillo wrote the Chronicle. “She’s refused to respond to any of my letters … she’s never come to see me to discuss my case (and) my writ was due Dec. 11, 2006 and she never filed it. ”
Appeal filed incorrectly
The CCA allowed Kramer to continue representing Castillo after criticizing her claim that she mailed in his appeal on a Saturday to the office of a Bexar County judge. The appeal was never filed with the county clerk, as required. “Judges don’t file lawsuits. I guess that would go on her credibility as a lawyer,” said Gerry Rickhoff, district court clerk in Bexar County.
Kramer, who did not return phone calls to her office, has been paid $86,577 in fees by Bexar County since 2007, but went unpaid for the three late appeals by CCA order.
Jack V. Strickland Jr., a Fort Worth lawyer who specializes in capital case law, also has repeatedly missed death row deadlines. However, judges accepted his explanations and allowed late filings for four of five appeals.
Being overwhelmed on capital cases was the excuse for two late 2008 filings.
Strickland told the court that he’d been hospitalized several months before the appeals were due, then “began a new death penalty trial right after his recuperation period, was in the process of preparing another death penalty writ application which was due mid-September, was preparing for trial in another case, and had presented five lectures and papers in the previous sixty days,” according to a CCA opinion.
In another case, Strickland missed both state and then federal deadlines for the death row inmate, Quintin Jones. Before losing his federal appeal due to lateness, Jones repeatedly tried to get another attorney.
Strickland said he “almost begged the magistrate judge to appoint someone else. Jones and I had a very unpleasant relationship.” He was left on the case anyway.
Strickland blamed the deadline error on miscalculating the due date .
He earned $428,850.62 in court-appointed fees in Tarrant County from 2006-2009 . More than a quarter were bills for late appeals , auditor’s records show.
On June 2, 2009, the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry is scheduled to take place. Since he became governor of Texas in December 2000, Perry has signed more execution orders than any other governor in U.S. history.
Terry Hankins is scheduled to be the 200th person executed under Rick Perry. If he or anyone scheduled before him receives a stay of execution, then the 200th person will be the next person on the list. We hope everyone receives a stay!
The Texas anti-death penalty community asks people around the world to focus your attention on Texas and join us in protesting the 200th execution carried out under Rick Perry. Altogether, Texas has executed 436 people since 1982, including 152 under former Texas Governor George W. Bush.
How you can protest the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry
Visit www.protest200executions.com for updates.
1) On the day of the 200th execution, call Governor Perry at 512-462-1782 and tell him your opinion on the death penalty. If you live in the U.S., you can use his the form on his website to email him. We suggest you both call him and email him. If you live outside the U.S., you can fax him at (512) 463-1849 or send him a letter in the postal mail. We would like to hand deliver letters to him, so please send your letter to the address below and we will deliver it to Rick Perry: You can send us your letter to Perry for us to deliver whether you live in the U.S. or another country.
Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 7831
2) Attend a protest in your city either on the day of the 200th execution or sometime before. There are protests already planned. If a protest is not scheduled yet in your city, you can organize a protest. If you live outside the U.S., organize a protest at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Send us a photo or video of your protest by email and we will post it on this website and on YouTube. Or you can upload your photos and videos yourself to our social networking site or directly to our group on YouTube. If your organization is planning a protest, please let us knowso that we can list your protest on this site.
3) Sign the petition and add your name to the list of people who are raising their voices to protest the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry.
4) Donate a symbolic 200 cents towards helping us organize against the Texas death penalty. That is one penny for every execution under Rick Perry. We are asking everyone to donate $2, which is the equivalent of 200 pennies. You are welcome to donate more if you can afford it, but everyone can afford to donate $2.
The artwork at the top of www.protest200executions.com is by German artist Jasmin Hilmer and represents the isolation of Texas in the world community. While most of the rest of the world, including all of Europe, have turned their backs on the use of capital punishment, Texas continues to execute people at a shocking rate.
This campaign is sponsored by Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin, Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Abolish the Death Penalty Project on Amazee. If your organization would also like to be a sponsor, email us at email@example.com or call 512-961-6389.
Mexico became the second state in the country to repeal the death penalty last month. After years of struggle by campaigners, the repeal was approved by the New Mexico Senate in February and the House in March. Governor Richardson and the state’s leading campaigners were honored at a ceremony at the Colosseum in Rome last week and met with the Pope. We speak with two anti-death penalty campaigners just back from Italy.
We turn now to a major victory in New Mexico, which, last month, become the second state in the country to repeal the death penalty. After years of struggle by campaigners, the repeal was approved by the New Mexico Senate in February and the House in March. Governor Bill Richardson, who had previously supported capital punishment, signed the bill into law on March 18th, calling it the “most difficult decision” in his political life.
New Jersey was the first state to repeal the death penalty in 2007 after the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.
Governor Richardson and the state’s leading campaigners were honored at a ceremony at the Colosseum in Rome last week and met with the Pope. The Colosseum is lit up every time a death sentence is commuted or a government bans capital punishment.
I’m joined now here in Albuquerque by two women, just returned from Italy, who have been at the forefront of the fight to end the death penalty in New Mexico.
Representative Gail Chasey is a New Mexico Democratic State Representative from Albuquerque. She has been the leading sponsor of legislation to abolish the death penalty for over 10 years.
Viki Elkey is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
We have heard that the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence will hold a public hearing on the proposal to impeach Judge Sharon Keller on Monday, April 27.
This resolution, HR 480 by Lon Burnam, would create a select committee in the House to investigate further whether Sharon Keller should be impeached for her refusal to accept an appeal 20 minutes after 5 PM for a person on the day of his execution.
If you believe that Keller should be impeached, please plan to attend and fill out a Witness Affirmation form in support of HR 480. We will announce the time and room number of the hearing as soon as we confirm those details, but put April 27 on your calendar as a day to go to the capitol and sign a witness affirmation form in support of HR 480. It only takes five minutes to fill out the form, but you have to be there in person to fill it out and turn it in.
H.R. No. 480
R E S O L U T I O N
WHEREAS, The House of Representatives of the Texas
Legislature has exclusive power to present articles of impeachment
against a state officer under Section 1, Article XV, Texas
Constitution, and Chapter 665, Government Code; now, therefore, be
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 81st Texas
Legislature adopt the following procedures to consider the
impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of the Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals, for gross neglect of duty and conducting
her official duties with willful disregard for human life:
SECTION 1. SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON IMPEACHMENT. The House
Special Committee on Impeachment composed of seven members of the
House of Representatives shall be appointed by the Speaker of the
House. The Speaker shall designate a committee member to serve as
chair of the committee and a committee member to serve as vice-chair
of the committee.
SECTION 2. INVESTIGATION; ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT. (a)
The committee shall conduct an investigation to consider whether to
recommend that under Section 1, Article XV, Texas Constitution, and
Chapter 665, Government Code, the House of Representatives adopt
and present to the Texas Senate articles of impeachment against
Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals, for gross neglect of duty and conducting her official
duties with willful disregard for human life in connection with her
actions on the evening of September 25, 2007, including her
apparent irresponsible refusal to abide by the prior practice of
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in order to receive the appeal
of Michael Richard, which conduct may have resulted in Mr.
Richard's deprivation of life without due process of law as
guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United
States and Section 19, Article I, Texas Constitution, by means of a
potentially unlawful execution by lethal injection, and in the
embarrassment of the State of Texas in a manner that casts severe
doubt on the impartiality of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and
the entire criminal justice system of this state.
(b) The committee shall submit a report of its findings to
the Speaker of the House and the full House of Representatives as
soon as reasonably practicable, but not later than the 90th day
after the date the committee is appointed. If the committee
recommends impeachment of the judge, the report shall contain a
draft of articles of impeachment.
SECTION 3. POWERS; ADMINISTRATION. (a) The committee
shall meet at the call of the chair and may meet in executive
session if approved by a majority of the members of the committee.
(b) The committee has all the powers granted to a standing
committee under the Rules of the House of Representatives and under
Subchapter B, Chapter 301, Government Code, including the power to
issue process to procure testimony or other evidence.
(c) On the request of the committee, the House of
Representatives or the Texas Legislative Council shall provide the
staff necessary to assist the committee in carrying out its duties.
(d) The operating expenses of the committee shall be paid as
determined by the Committee on House Administration.
SECTION 4. EXPIRATION. This resolution expires and the
House Special Committee on Impeachment ceases to exist on January
Thursday, April 16, 2009
A federal appeals court late Thursday afternoon ruled against Troy Anthony Davis, whose claims of innocence have delayed his execution for killing a Savannah police officer in 1989. Judges Joel F. Dubina and Stanley Marcus
wrote that Davis failed to meet the proceduralrequirements for filing a second habeas petition in federal court. Davis has 30 days to appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Rosemary Barkett dissented, saying to execute Davis in the face of evidence that may prove his innocence is unconstitutional.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
AND FROM TIMOTHY MCKINNEY - TENNESSEE DEATH ROW PRISONER.
UT Austin in UTC Room 3.122 at 7 pm.
(On 21st just west of Speedway.)
Sandra Reed – Mother of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed
Kenneth Foster, Sr. – Father of Kenneth Foster, Jr., commuted of Texas death row.
Terri Been – Sister of Texas death row prisoner Jeff Wood, convicted under Law of Parties.
The CEDP is hosting a national tour, "Live From Death Row," featuring the voices of death row prisoners, live from their prison cell. Death sentences de-humanize the condemned, justifying the state-sponsored murder of the poor, the innocent and people of color. Death rows isolate those sentenced to die, denying them human contact and hope for justice. In our "Live From Death Row" tour, the voices of death row prisoners will reach from behind the walls to share their stories of loss, injustice, struggle, and hope for an end to the death penalty. At a time when the national chorus against the death penalty continues to grow, these voices are critical for the movement on the outside. Live From Death Row Tour stops all over the country have drawn hundreds of people and featured live calls from death row prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal in Pennsylvania and Troy Davis in Georgia. Don't miss your chance to be a part of a such emotionally powerful and socially important event!
"These are America's condemned, who bear a stigma far worse than 'prisoner.' These are America's death row residents: men and women who walk the razor's edge between half-life and certain death." —Mumia Abu-Jamal, Live From Death Row
CO-SPONSORED BY CEDP-AUSTIN AND AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL-UT AUSTIN.
Endorsers: Amnesty International USA <http://www.amnestyusa.org/> , Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights <http://www.murdervictimsfa
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
In march 2006, Kinky testified in favor of death-row inmate Max Soffar, who he believes to be innocent. In 2008, Kinky endorsed Travis County District Attorney candidate Rick Reed, 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.
Dear Fellow Texans:
Here’s the way I see it: Democrats + Independents = Victory.
I was serious when I ran for governor in 2006 and I’m serious now. I am a humorist, but I know these are not humorous times for a lot of us. Part of the reason is the pathetic lack of leadership at the state level. The last governor, I believe, who was truly on the side of the people of Texas, was Ann Richards. She was a very funny lady - she was also a great governor. I’ll take my cues from Ann Richards.
I also draw inspiration from Ann Richards’ mentor, Barbara Jordan. Barbara believed that if one is attacked personally, one should never counterattack personally. During the 2006 campaign I was attacked personally. However, like Barbara Jordan, I have no desire to attack anyone personally. Instead, like Barbara, I will merely relegate them to my “forgive and remember list”.
It’s time to end corporate handouts, get rid of the death penalty, get rid of the TAKS Test, and get rid of the Republican stranglehold on this state. Jim Hightower told me he believes the main reason we’ve lost every statewide race since Ann Richards is the inability of our candidates to excite the grassroots. Jim is talking about rural folks, working people, independents, libertarians and even disgruntled Republicans (many of whom used to be Democrats and should be on our side).
I intend to run a serious campaign, one that grows the party. I intend to visit and listen to the voices of neglected communities, small towns, suburbs, and rural areas, often where Democrats have lately feared to tread. This, I feel, is the very definition of being a Democrat. I intend to play by the rules. I will endorse and campaign for whomever wins the Democratic Primary.
Will the independents support me and vote as Democrats? I think they will. I think many Texans appreciate and respect anyone who gets knocked down and gets back up to fight again. Will Democrats take me seriously? I think they will. When Barbara Jordan, who may well be Texas’ only modern-day statesman, was a young girl she was never very serious in school. The teachers reported to her father (Ben Jordan, a very strict part-time preacher), that though she was the smartest kid in the class, she was a perpetual cut-up, a troublemaker and a class clown. When Ben had finally had enough of Barbara’s antics, instead of reprimanding her with his customary fire and brimstone iron-hand style, he tried a different approach. “Barbara,” he said, “I’ll stick with you just as far as you want to go.” That turned her around, and the rest is truly history.
So I say to Democrats who may not yet take me seriously, I’ll stick with you just as far as you want to go. If we stick together we’ll go very far indeed. All the way to the Governor’s Mansion!
God Bless Texas,
PS: Please show me you’re serious about Texas’ future too by making a campaign contribution now to Texans for Kinky.
Below is an undated video of Kinky talking about the death penalty.