Thursday, November 25, 2010

Be Thankful You're Not On Death-Row

From Texas Moratorium Network

Be thankful you are not here today, a typical cell on Texas death row.

“I experienced the dark side of our criminal justice system, and I just think because of my experience I can bring some light to it,” Graves said. “Whatever you think hell is to you, that was my experience – just hell.”

Graves said he is an example of how the Texas criminal justice system is broken, and he plans on devoting his time as an advocate of change.

“I thought I would be free again because I was innocent,” Graves said. “I was just stubborn in that way, that they’re not going to execute an innocent man – even though I know that’s not true.”

He said there are more innocent people on death row and other innocent people who have already been wrongfully executed.

Nanon Williams Ordered Released !!!

NEED SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR?

Abolition Movement member Lucha Rodriguez just received a phone call from Morris Moon, one of several attorneys for former death row prisoner Nanon Williams and he told her that Federal Judge Nancy Atlas has today ordered Nanon released from prison.

On August 17 Judge Atlas held a de novo on Nanon's case on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Now, the state of Texas has 30 days to appeal this ruling by Judge Atlas.  To appeal, they would have to go to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.  But it was the 5th Circuit that ordered Nanon's case sent back to the Federal District Court for a
de novo hearing.  So, to us who are not lawyers, it seems unlikely the 5th Circuit would deny Atlas' ruling.

Nanon was only 17 years old when he was arrested for capital murder in 1992.  He was on Texas death row until the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the execution of juveniles in 2005.  Nanon is now 36 years old and at the Ramsey Unit south of Houston serving a life sentence.

More details to come after the shock wears off and we speak more with attorneys and Nanon. 

In the last month---Anthony Graves, Claude Jones, and now Nanon Williams.

This is another nail in the coffin of capital punishment.


(Don't forget we will celebrate the season by signing holiday cards for all those on death row in Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 7, from 6:00--10:00 pm at S.H.A.P.E. Community Center.  Bring some postage stamps, a colorful pen, and some holiday goodies to share!  If there was justice in Texas, Nanon would be with us to sign the cards!!!)

http://abolitionmovement.org/

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Video of Interview with Anthony Graves After He Received $3,000 in Donations from Texas Moratorium Network



From Texas Moratorium Network:

Click here to watch video of Anthony Graves accepting $3,000 in donations from TMN's president Scott Cobb and then speaking with reporters and supporters on the TMN Facebook Page.

Texas Moratorium Network and friends delivered $3,000 in donations to Anthony Graves that were collected from TMN's supporters and friends from across Texas, other U.S. states and other countries. Scott Cobb, president of TMN, and friends from Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Students Against the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence delivered the donations to Anthony on Saturday, November 20.

According to KVUE:
Anthony Graves was grateful for his freedom and a $3,000 donation from anti-death penalty group the Texas Moratorium Network. The donation is to help him start a new life. The donations were collected from generous people throughout Texas, other U.S. states and other countries who had heard of Anthony's story and wanted to help him after he was exonerated off Texas death row after 18 years of incarceration for a crime he did not commit.

"This is about humanity coming forward so I am very grateful for that," Graves said. "It's a bigger picture than the check that has been written, so I am very grateful for the show of humanity."

The donation is a token, compared what Graves could receive from the State.
He was wrongfully convicted of the 1992 murders of a family of six in the Central Texas town of Sommerville.

Graves' conviction was based solely on testimony from the real killer, Robert Earl Carter, who recanted before he was executed in 2000. Journalism students from The University of St. Thomas in Houston later conducted research that would lead to Graves' freedom. The State could now give Graves 1.5M dollars for his ordeal.

"I was basically kidnapped by the criminal justice system and put on Texas Death Row," Graves says.

Some 2010 Death Penalty Stats for Texas: 17 executions; 8 New Death Sentences (so far); Five People Received Stays of Execution

From Texas Moratorium Network:

The number of new death sentences is continuing the decline that it has been following in the past several years. So far in 2010, eight people have been sentenced to death in Texas, which is one fewer than in 2009, but the year is not over yet, so the number could rise. 50 percent of the people sentenced to death in Texas in 2010 are African-Americans and a total of 62.5 percent are people of color, 37.5 percent are white.

One reason for fewer death sentences in recent years is that juries are more reluctant to sentence people to death because they have heard of so many cases of innocent people being exonerated (most recently Anthony Graves) and other problems in the system, so they prefer the alternative of life without parole. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, the author of Texas' life-without-parole law, has said prosecutors are trying to blame LWOP for their troubles getting Texans to trust a scandal-ridden system, but Lucio has said "it isn't life without parole that has weakened the death penalty. It is a growing lack of belief that our system is fair."

Texas Still Leads in Number of Executions in 2010

Texas still leads the nation in number of executions, with about 38 percent of all executions carried out in the U.S. in 2010. There are still two executions scheduled for 2010 in other states, but Texas has no more executions scheduled in 2010.

In 2010, five people in Texas received stays of execution. Among the five was Hank Skinner, who received two stays of execution.

17 people people were executed in Texas in 2010. 24 people were executed in Texas in 2009.



Inmates added to Texas death row, by year: 

  • 1974---8
  • 1975---17
  • 1976---23
  • 1977---23
  • 1978---39
  • 1979---21
  • 1980---23
  • 1981---22
  • 1982---28
  • 1983---21
  • 1984---21
  • 1985---33
  • 1986---40
  • 1987---35
  • 1988---32
  • 1989---31
  • 1990---28
  • 1991---29
  • 1992---31
  • 1993---34
  • 1994---42
  • 1995---43
  • 1996---37
  • 1997---35
  • 1998---43
  • 1999---47
  • 2000---28
  • 2001---30
  • 2002---35
  • 2003---28
  • 2004---25
  • 2005---15
  • 2006---11
  • 2007---15
  • 2008---9
  • 2009---9
  • 2010 --8 (As of November 13, 2010)

Pflugerville Pflag Front Page Story on Anthony Graves Receiving Donations From TMN

From Texas Moratorium Network:

The Pflugerville Pflag published an excellent story today on Anthony Graves receiving $3,000 in donations from Texas Moratorium Network and friends, which we delivered Saturday. They are a weekly newspaper and this edition came out today.

Pflugerville Pflag Story on Death Row Exoneree Anthony Graves Receiving $3,000 in Donations from Texas Mora...


Page 2/2 Pflugerville Pflag Story on Death Row Exoneree Anthony Graves Receiving $3,000 in Donations from T...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Death Row Exoneree Anthony Graves Receives $3,000 Donation From Texas Moratorium Network

KVUE's Jennie Huerta reported on our delivery of $3,000 in donations we collected from Texas Moratorium Network's supporters and friends from across Texas, other U.S. states and other countries. Scott Cobb, president of TMN, and friends from Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence delivered the donations to Anthony on Saturday, November 20. Watch the video on YouTube.



From KVUE:
Anthony Graves is grateful for his freedom and a donation from anti-death penalty group the Texas Moratorium Network.  The donation is to help him start a new life.   
“This is about humanity coming forward so I am very grateful for that,” Graves said.  “It's a bigger picture than the check that has been written, so I am very grateful for the show of humanity.”
The donation is a token, compared what Graves could receive from the State.
He was wrongfully convicted of the 1992 murders of a family of six in the Central Texas town of Sommerville. 
Graves' conviction was based solely on testimony from the real killer, Robert Earl Carter, who recanted before he was executed in 2000.  Journalism students from The University of St. Thomas in Houston later conducted research that would lead to Graves' freedom.  The State could now give Graves 1.5M dollars for his ordeal.
“I was basically kidnapped by the criminal justice system and put on Texas Death Row,” Graves says.
Texas executes more inmates than any other state in the nation.  It is also the most generous state when it comes to compensating the wrongly convicted.  Last year the Texas Legislature increased the amount to 80,000 dollars for each year of wrongful imprisonment.  And just this month, the IRS ruled that it will no longer collect income tax on such compensation.
“I had an intense 18 years of living because of an injustice, so this one-point-four million is a small number, compared to what I've had to give up.” 
Graves says he won't give up on getting justice for himself.  He is going back to court next week.  This time, it is to ask the judge to begin the legal process of getting what the State says he's due.
As part of his compensation, the State could also give Graves a free, four-year college education.  He says he wants to study communication, and become an advocate for others like himself.


Watch video on YouTube.

From KXAN:
 Dressed in a white sweater vest and black slacks, Anthony Graves , 45, received a $3,000 check from the president of the Texas Moratorium Network at a family member's home in Pflugerville this afternoon to help him get assimilated back into society.
Graves spent the last 18 years, almost half of his life, sitting on death row for six murders he did not commit.
"Whatever you think hell is to you, that's what it is," said Graves of his time on death row.  "That was my experience. It's just hell."
In 1992, a grandmother, her daughter and four grandchildren were killed.  Their Somerville, Texas, home was set on fire to cover up the crime.
Robert Earl Carter, the father of one of the children killed, was convicted of capital murder and given the death penalty.
Carter told authorities he did not act alone and implicated Graves as his accomplice.   He later testified against Graves at trial.
Graves went to prison - he was 26 years old.  All the while, he maintained his innocence.
Prior to his execution in 2000, Carter recanted and said Graves had nothing to do with the murders.
An appeals court overturned Graves' conviction in 2006, when they found prosecutors obtained false information from witnesses at trial.
"I experienced the dark side of our criminal justice system," Graves explained.
Citing a lack of evidence, it took until last month for prosecutors to decide not to retry Graves.

He was freed from prison.
Now, Graves told KXAN he is not bitter and wants to use his experience to fix what he calls a 'broken' criminal justice system.
"I just want to go out and make a difference. I want to be a part of a solution," Graves explained.
Anthony is looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with his family - then tackling a world that he says has changed so much since he has been gone.
"I am having a hard time with technology just a cell phone. A cell phone just does so much now," Graves said.
Graves also hope to return to school and obtain a degree in communications. 
He will put the $3,000 he received today towards clothing, medical care and other basic necessities.  Graves, however, is now be eligible to get more than a million dollars from the state because of his wrongful imprisonment. 

Texas' Entire Supply of Execution Drug Sodium Thiopental to Expire in March 2011

The Texas Attorney General has ordered Texas prison authorities to release information on the amount of drugs on hand to carry out executions. We now know that Texas' total supply of one of the three drugs used to perform executions is set to expire in March 2011, so Texas will have to try to obtain more of that drug, unless it decides to use the expired batch, which would probably be challenged in court. 
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice just made public these new details about the three drugs used in executions:
Sodium Thiopental 118 1 gram vials 118 vials will expire March 2011
Purchase date July 2009
Pancuronium Bromide 185 10 milligram vials 60 vials will expire March 2012 / Purchase date March 2010 125 vials will expire December 2011 / Purchase date December 2010
Potassium Chloride 578 20 milliequivalent vials 125 vials will expire September 2011 / Purchase date March 2010 453 vials will expire July 2011 / Purchase date March 2010
At present, Texas has only one execution scheduled after March. Current executions are set in January, February and July.
Sodium Thiopental has been in short supply nationally since earlier this year when the sole U.S. manufacturer stopped making the drug, blaming a lack of ingredients. At least two states have since delayed or halted executions because they are out of Sodium Thiopental or because their supply has expired and cannot be used.
Until this afternoon, Texas prison officials had refused to disclose how much of the various drugs they had on hand and when their supplies expired.
More:
In a new decision, Attorney General Greg Abbott has ordered Texas prison officials to make public previously secret details about the drugs they use in lethal executions.
The five-page ruling dismisses the arguments by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that the quantities, expiration dates and purchase information should be kept a state secret because it could disrupt the execution process in the state with the busiest death chamber.
The decision represented a victory for disclosure advocates, who had argued that prison officials were incorrect in insisting that making the details public might trigger violent protests outside the execution chamber in Huntsville or even embolden death penalty opponents, if they knew the state was about to run short of the drugs.
TDCJ could release the information, or file suit against the attorney general. If it releases the information, the documents could provide the first details in years about the three drugs Texas uses in executing criminals, information that used to be public but in recent years has been restricted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Texas Moratorium Network to Deliver $3,000 in Donations to Death Row Exoneree Anthony Graves Saturday November 20

Texas Moratorium Network will deliver $3,000 in donations to Anthony Graves on Saturday, November 20. The donations were collected from TMN's supporters and friends who wanted to help Anthony after his recent exoneration from Texas Death Row. The donors include many people from across Texas, as well as people in other U.S. states and other countries.

It will probably be quite a while before Anthony Graves may receive compensation from the State of Texas for the 18 years he spent incarcerated in Texas for a crime he did not commit. Upon his release Anthony was given only a few hundred dollars. In a phone conversation when TMN informed him of the donations, Anthony said that these donations mean a lot to him because they come from the hearts of the people giving. He said the funds are greatly needed right now.

Next week will be Anthony's first Thanksgiving celebration as a free man after being locked up for 18 years for a crime he did not commit. Many very generous people have already donated to help Anthony. We thank everyone who has donated so far and we can't wait to deliver the funds to Anthony. You can also still donate. We will continue to send him donations that arrive after November 20.

If you would like to donate to help Anthony Graves, you can make a donation to TMN using a credit card by clicking here.








Or you can send a check to:

Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731

Please note on your check that your donation is for Anthony Graves. If you want to include a short note to Anthony, we will deliver your note along with the check we give him with all the donations. We want to give him the donations before Thanksgiving, but if we receive any donations for him after Thanksgiving, we will send him those donations too.

Donations to Texas Moratorium Network are not tax deductible because our primary mission is to advocate to the Texas Legislature to stop executions.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help Anthony, you can make a donation to the 501 (c) (3) organization Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center.


On October 27, Anthony Graves became the 12th person exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sent to Texas death row. Anthony is a completely innocent man who spent a total of 18 years locked up for a crime he had absolutely nothing to do with. Twelve of those years were spent on Texas death row in a tiny cell having his food shoved through a small slit in the door. The other years were spent in jail awaiting retrial and facing the prospect of again being sentenced to death. Anthony is now back in the loving embrace of his family and friends and soon he will enjoy his first Thanksgiving holiday as a free man in 18 years.



Texas Moratorium Network would like to help Anthony transition to his new life. We have spoken to one of his attorneys and she expects a legal fight before Anthony claims any compensation from Texas for his years of wrongful conviction. In fact, it will likely take quite a while before he receives any money from the State. Upon his release on October 27, he was only given a few hundred dollars.

We asked his lawyer how we could help. She told us that he is in need of the basics of life, including new clothes, pocket money, and all the other normal things that a person would need whose nightmarish false conviction at the hands of the state has just ended. He needs to get on with his life and with your help we can give him a little help making the adjustment to freedom.

In 2004, after Ernest Willis was exonerated and released from Texas death row, Texas Moratorium Network asked our supporters to help Ernest. We were able to raise $1,000 in a short time and send it to Ernest in 2004. We received the below message from Ernest Willis after he received our check for $1,000 in 2004.

"Hello, I do appreciate the donations & your time & help in getting the donations. Yes, the state of Texas gave me $100.00 when I was released & that was all. I am doing okay since my release & am very happy to be free. I have not had any problems adjusting to the life out here.
Again -I do appreciate the help, it is greatly appreciated as I do need it".

Thank You,
Ernest Willis

Now, it is time to help another innocent person just released from Texas Death Row.



If you are unable to afford a donation to Anthony right now, please keep him and his family in your thoughts, especially when you gather your family around the table on Thanksgiving Day.
Thank you,

Your friends at Texas Moratorium Network

Below is a photo of a typical cell on Texas death row. Anthony Graves lived in such a cell even though he was an innocent person.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

$2527 Raised so Far Through Day 7 of TMN's Fundraising Campaign to Help Anthony Graves - Innocent Person Released from Texas Death Row

As of 4 PM today, Texas Moratorium Network had raised $2527 for Anthony Graves in our fundraising campaign to help Anthony after his exoneration from Texas death row.

Yesterday we got an unexpected phone call from Anthony Graves.  He said thank you to everyone who has donated and he says that these donations mean a lot to him because they come from the hearts of the people giving.  He says the funds are greatly needed right now.

We plan to deliver the funds to him in person this Saturday November 20. Next week will be Anthony's first Thanksgiving celebration as a free man after being locked up for 18 years for a crime he did not commit. Many very generous people have already donated to help Anthony. We thank everyone who has donated so far and we can't wait to deliver the funds to Anthony. You can also still donate and we will give him your donation on Saturday.

If you would like to donate to help Anthony Graves, you can make a donation to TMN using a credit card by clicking here.








Or you can send a check to:

Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731

Please note on your check that your donation is for Anthony Graves. If you want to include a short note to Anthony, we will deliver your note along with the check we give him with all the donations. We want to give him the donations before Thanksgiving, but if we receive any donations for him after Thanksgiving, we will send him those donations too.

Donations to Texas Moratorium Network are not tax deductible because our primary mission is to advocate to the Texas Legislature to stop executions.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help Anthony, you can make a donation to the 501 (c) (3) organization Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center.


On October 27, Anthony Graves became the 12th person exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sent to Texas death row. Anthony is a completely innocent man who spent a total of 18 years locked up for a crime he had absolutely nothing to do with. Twelve of those years were spent on Texas death row in a tiny cell having his food shoved through a small slit in the door. The other years were spent in jail awaiting retrial and facing the prospect of again being sentenced to death. Anthony is now back in the loving embrace of his family and friends and soon he will enjoy his first Thanksgiving holiday as a free man in 18 years.



Texas Moratorium Network would like to help Anthony transition to his new life. We have spoken to one of his attorneys and she expects a legal fight before Anthony claims any compensation from Texas for his years of wrongful conviction. In fact, it will likely take quite a while before he receives any money from the State. Upon his release on October 27, he was only given a few hundred dollars.

We asked his lawyer how we could help. She told us that he is in need of the basics of life, including new clothes, pocket money, and all the other normal things that a person would need whose nightmarish false conviction at the hands of the state has just ended. He needs to get on with his life and with your help we can give him a little help making the adjustment to freedom.

[UPDATE: the paragraph below talks about our original goal of raising $1,000. We have since far surpassed our original goal thanks to the generosity of so many people.]


So, we would like to ask everyone to help us help Anthony Graves. We would like to be able to raise and send him $1,000 before Thanksgiving. If we raise more, then that would be even more helpful for him. If you would like to help, you can send a donation and we will pass it along to Anthony. $1,000 is not much in the great scheme of things, but it will help Anthony at a time when he could really use it.  

In 2004, after Ernest Willis was exonerated and released from Texas death row, Texas Moratorium Network asked our supporters to help Ernest. We were able to raise $1,000 in a short time and send it to Ernest in 2004. We received the below message from Ernest Willis after he received our check for $1,000 in 2004.

"Hello, I do appreciate the donations & your time & help in getting the donations. Yes, the state of Texas gave me $100.00 when I was released & that was all. I am doing okay since my release & am very happy to be free. I have not had any problems adjusting to the life out here.
Again -I do appreciate the help, it is greatly appreciated as I do need it".

Thank You,
Ernest Willis

Now, it is time to help another innocent person just released from Texas Death Row.



If you are unable to afford a donation to Anthony right now, please keep him and his family in your thoughts, especially when you gather your family around the table on Thanksgiving Day.
Thank you,

Your friends at Texas Moratorium Network

Below is a photo of a typical cell on Texas death row. Anthony Graves lived in such a cell even though he was an innocent person.


Call for Submissions for Poems and Artwork for a Chapbook

Call for Submissions
poems and artwork for a chapbook[1] of poetry that will be published
March 2011.

We are looking for Poems and artwork in any style by:

Ø  murder victims' family members
Ø  death row exonerees
Ø  current death row inmates
Ø  works written by a murder victim or victim of the death penalty prior to their death

This book will have an ANTI DEATH PENALTY THEME
deadline for submissions is December 31, 2010.

Send Submissions
by mail
Aja Beech
2446 Coral Street
Philadelphia, PA 19125

by email
poetryproject.ajabeech@gmail.com

feel free to call with any questions
267-639-6169


[1]  chapbook is a generic term to cover a particular genre of pocket-sized booklet
this project is funded by an Art and Change Grant from The Leeway Foundation

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 3 Update on Fundraising Campaign to Help Anthony Graves - Innocent Person Released from Texas Death Row

We are in the midst of a fundraising campaign to help Anthony Graves after his exoneration from Texas death row. We plan to deliver the funds to him before Thanksgiving, which will be his first Thanksgiving celebration as a free man in 18 years. A lot of very generous people have already donated. We thank everyone who has donated so far and we can't wait to deliver the funds to Anthony. You can still donate.

As of 4:41 PM today, we had raised $1562 for Anthony Graves.

If you would like to donate to help Anthony Graves, you can make a donation to TMN using a credit card by clicking here.








Or you can send a check to:

Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731

Please note on your check that your donation is for Anthony Graves. If you want to include a short note to Anthony, we will deliver your note along with the check we give him with all the donations. We want to give him the donations before Thanksgiving, but if we receive any donations for him after Thanksgiving, we will send him those donations too.

Donations to Texas Moratorium Network are not tax deductible because our primary mission is to advocate to the Texas Legislature to stop executions.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help Anthony, you can make a donation to the 501 (c) (3) organization Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center.


On October 27, Anthony Graves became the 12th person exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sent to Texas death row. Anthony is a completely innocent man who spent a total of 18 years locked up for a crime he had absolutely nothing to do with. Twelve of those years were spent on Texas death row in a tiny cell having his food shoved through a small slit in the door. The other years were spent in jail awaiting retrial and facing the prospect of again being sentenced to death. Anthony is now back in the loving embrace of his family and friends and soon he will enjoy his first Thanksgiving holiday as a free man in 18 years.



Texas Moratorium Network would like to help Anthony transition to his new life. We have spoken to one of his attorneys and she expects a legal fight before Anthony claims any compensation from Texas for his years of wrongful conviction. In fact, it will likely take quite a while before he receives any money from the State. Upon his release on October 27, he was only given a few hundred dollars.

We asked his lawyer how we could help. She told us that he is in need of the basics of life, including new clothes, pocket money, and all the other normal things that a person would need whose nightmarish false conviction at the hands of the state has just ended. He needs to get on with his life and with your help we can give him a little help making the adjustment to freedom.

So, we would like to ask everyone to help us help Anthony Graves. We would like to be able to raise and send him $1,000 before Thanksgiving. If we raise more, then that would be even more helpful for him. If you would like to help, you can send a donation and we will pass it along to Anthony. $1,000 is not much in the great scheme of things, but it will help Anthony at a time when he could really use it.

In 2004, after Ernest Willis was exonerated and released from Texas death row, Texas Moratorium Network asked our supporters to help Ernest. We were able to raise $1,000 in a short time and send it to Ernest in 2004. We received the below message from Ernest Willis after he received our check for $1,000 in 2004.

"Hello, I do appreciate the donations & your time & help in getting the donations. Yes, the state of Texas gave me $100.00 when I was released & that was all. I am doing okay since my release & am very happy to be free. I have not had any problems adjusting to the life out here.
Again -I do appreciate the help, it is greatly appreciated as I do need it".

Thank You,
Ernest Willis

Now, it is time to help another innocent person just released from Texas Death Row.



If you are unable to afford a donation to Anthony right now, please keep him and his family in your thoughts, especially when you gather your family around the table on Thanksgiving Day.
Thank you,

Your friends at Texas Moratorium Network

Below is a photo of a typical cell on Texas death row. Anthony Graves lived in such a cell even though he was an innocent person.


Claude Jones Case: Video of Executed Man's Son and Former Texas Governor Mark White speaking about DNA tests that show Jones may have not been guilty



Watch at Houston Chronicle.

From Time.com:
For over two decades, the hair was stored in a plastic evidence bag in the courthouse in Coldspring, Texas, cataloged as belonging to Claude Jones, who was convicted of murder in 1990 and executed 10 years later. Now, it can be relabeled: a court-ordered DNA test found Thursday that the hair actually belonged to the murder victim Allen Hilzendager. The result casts significant doubt on the validity of Jones' conviction and his execution.
That single 1-in. (2.5 cm) strand of hair was the key to Jones' original conviction. A truck carrying Jones and Danny Dixon did pull up in front of Hilzendager's liquor store that night. One man got out, went inside and gunned Hilzendager down, according to two eyewitnesses across the highway (neither could see the murderer's face). Both Jones and Dixon were certainly capable of the crime — both were on parole after serving time for murder. But there was little other firm evidence of which one had done it. Dixon accused Jones, and Jones accused Dixon. The prosecution's star witness against Jones was a friend of Dixon's who later said that prosecutors had coerced him into testifying.

And from the beginning, the evidence was handled questionably. The hair expert at the Texas crime lab originally thought the small sample was "unsuitable for comparison" using the microscopy technology available at the time, but eventually changed his mind and decided to test it after all. Using that outdated technology — which essentially has two hairs examined side by side under a microscope — the expert then determined that the hair belonged to Jones and not Dixon.

That dubious determination went on to haunt all of Jones' failed appeals as well. Time and again, lawyers and judges pointed to the physical evidence against Jones as a damning factor.
Except, in the end, it wasn't. The fact that the hair was actually Hilzendager's doesn't mean that Jones was necessarily innocent, but it does mean that the jury convicted him — and did so quickly — based largely on false evidence. "What's crucial to understand is that the hair was critical evidence in the case," says Barry Scheck, whose Innocence Project, along with the Texas Observer, led the lawsuit demanding that the hair be subjected to DNA testing. "I have no doubt the conviction would've been reversed with these results."

Scheck points out the most poignant aspect of the story: Jones came very close to having a chance for that reversal just before he was executed. At the time, then Governor George W. Bush was on record stating that he would delay executions if there were relevant new DNA tests that could be performed. Jones' case seemed to fit that bill — mitochondrial DNA testing was not available during his trial but was in wide use before his final appeals in 2000. Jones' attorney at the time warned the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that without Bush's intervention, "the state of Texas runs the risk of executing a man despite the availability of modern technology that might exonerate him."

The four-page memo that Bush received from his legal advisers on Dec. 7, 2000, however, made no mention of a possible new DNA test. It ended with the assertion that Jones "has had full and fair access to judicial review of his case." Bush denied clemency, and Jones was executed that evening.

"What I'm really hoping is that when President Bush gets an opportunity to look at this," says Scheck, "that he would acknowledge that he was blindsided and that an error was made."
The new DNA results come during a rough patch for capital punishment in Texas. After 18 years in prison — 12 of those on death row — Anthony Graves was exonerated and walked free in October based on the opinion of a special independent prosecutor who found in favor of a 2006 reversal (stemming from a lack of evidence) of his conviction. That case, in which Graves was convicted of slaughtering a family he didn't know based on the testimony of informants and co-defendants, had one striking similarity with the Jones case: the original prosecutors fought fiercely against any suggestions that the convictions might be invalid. As doubts over the evidence that had convicted Graves swirled in 2009, prosecutor Charles Sebesta took out full-page ads in local papers calling Graves "cold-blooded."

In Jones' case, prosecutor Bill Burnett fought hard to destroy the hair before it could be tested, and he took his fight all the way to his grave. The pastor at his funeral in June assailed TIME's coverage of the Jones case, in which I had argued in favor of testing, and lauded Burnett for being someone who "took a stand against some powerful people."
(Read TIME's coverage of the case.)

After the evidence findings were revealed Thursday, Hilzendager's brother Joe told the Associated Press that he still thinks Jones was the shooter, staying true to what he had told me in his living room almost a year ago, as he argued against testing the hair: "There's no doubt they executed the right person."

But Jones' son Duane has always believed his father was wrongfully convicted. He says the results aren't a relief and that it's just "disappointing" to see the missed opportunities for justice.

"It saddens me because you know they spend all the taxpayers' money fighting DNA tests," he says. "If you're so confident in your convictions, do the testing. You might find out something new."

Texas Observer: DNA tests undermine key evidence in 2000 Texas execution of Claude Jones

The Texas Observer



Observer Exclusive:

DNA tests undermine key evidence in 2000 death penalty case.

Claude JonesThe Texas Observer is reporting today the results of DNA tests that raise doubts about the guilt of Claude Jones, the last Texan executed under former Gov. George W. Bush.

The DNA tests were conducted on a single strand of hair--the key evidence that sent Jones to the death chamber on Dec. 7, 2000.

At Jones' 1990 trial, prosecutors alleged the hair--recovered from the scene of a murder at an East Texas liquor store--"matched" Claude Jones. It was the only evidence that placed Jones in the liquor store.

But the DNA tests--conducted at the request of The Texas Observer and the Innocence Project--show that the hair sample matched the victim of the shooting, and not Jones.

The new evidence in the Jones case is the result of a three-year court battle by The Texas Observer and three innocence groups--the New York-based Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network.

Observer editor Bob Moser will join Innocence Project director Barry Scheck, former Gov. Mark White and Claude Jones' son Duane Jones to release the test results and discuss the case at a press conference on Friday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m. in the Bank of America lobby at 700 Louisiana St., Houston.

In 2007, the Observer and the three innocence groups sued the San Jacinto County district attorney's office to obtain the hair, which had never been destroyed.

In June, Judge Paul Murphy ruled in favor of the Observer and the innocence groups, and ordered the San Jacinto County district attorney's office to hand over the hair. Prosecutors decided not to appeal Murphy's ruling. After several months of negotiating, lawyers for the Innocence Project and the Observer reached an agreement with the San Jacinto County DA's office to transfer the hair evidence to private labs for mitochondrial DNA testing. The Observer and the Innocence Project were represented in the suit by the Houston firm Mayer Brown.
Background of the Case

On Nov. 14, 1989, Jones and Kerry Dixon stopped at a liquor store in the East Texas town of Point Blank, about 80 miles northeast of Houston. One of the two men waited in the pickup truck while the other went inside and murdered the store's owner, 44-year-old Allen Hilzendager, with a .357 magnum revolver. The question is which man committed the murder? Each man blamed the other.

The only physical evidence that linked Jones to the murder was the hair found on the liquor-store counter. At Jones' 1990 trial, a forensic expert testified that the hair appeared to come from Jones. But the technology didn't exist at the time to determine if the hair matched Jones' DNA.
Jones always maintained his innocence. By 2000, mitochondrial DNA testing had been developed. Jones requested a stay of execution to conduct DNA tests on the strand of hair. Two Texas courts rejected his request, as did then-Gov. Bush. Documents obtained from the governor's office show that attorneys never informed Bush that Jones was requesting DNA testing.
"It is unbelievable that the lawyers in the General Counsel's office failed to inform the governor that Jones was seeking DNA testing on evidence that was so pivotal to the case," said former Governor and Attorney General Mark White.  "If the state is going to continue to use the death penalty, it must figure out a way to build safeguards in the system so that lapses like this don't happen again."
Had the hair been tested a decade ago, as Jones requested, he might still be alive. "The DNA results prove that testimony about the hair sample on which this entire case rests was just wrong," said Scheck of the Innocence Project. "This is yet another disturbing example of a miscarriage of justice in Texas capital murder prosecutions. Unreliable forensic science and a completely inadequate post-conviction review process cost Claude Jones his life."
With questions about the case and the Observer story, please call Dave Mann, Senior Editor, 512-477-0746 (mann@texasobserver.org) or Bob Moser, Editor, 347-891-4885 (moser@texasobserver.org).
Read the full story at texasobserver.org
Read the original Texas Observer story, Truth Hangs by a Hair.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Update on Fundraising Campaign to Help Anthony Graves - an Innocent Man Exonerated from Texas Death Row

Less than 24 hours after launching our fundraising campaign to help Anthony Graves after his exoneration from Texas death row we have reached 75 percent of our goal of raising $1,000 for Anthony.

As of 7 PM today, we had raised $980 for Anthony.

If you would like to donate to help Anthony Graves, you can make a donation to TMN using a credit card by clicking here.








Or you can send a check to:

Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731

Please note on your check that your donation is for Anthony Graves. If you want to include a short note to Anthony, we will deliver your note along with the check we give him with all the donations. We want to give him the donations before Thanksgiving, but if we receive any donations for him after Thanksgiving, we will send him those donations too.

Donations to Texas Moratorium Network are not tax deductible because our primary mission is to advocate to the Texas Legislature to stop executions.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help Anthony, you can make a donation to the 501 (c) (3) organization Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center.


On October 27, Anthony Graves became the 12th person exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sent to Texas death row. Anthony is a completely innocent man who spent a total of 18 years locked up for a crime he had absolutely nothing to do with. Twelve of those years were spent on Texas death row in a tiny cell having his food shoved through a small slit in the door. The other years were spent in jail awaiting retrial and facing the prospect of again being sentenced to death. Anthony is now back in the loving embrace of his family and friends and soon he will enjoy his first Thanksgiving holiday as a free man in 18 years.



Texas Moratorium Network would like to help Anthony transition to his new life. We have spoken to one of his attorneys and she expects a legal fight before Anthony claims any compensation from Texas for his years of wrongful conviction. In fact, it will likely take quite a while before he receives any money from the State. Upon his release on October 27, he was only given a few hundred dollars.

We asked his lawyer how we could help. She told us that he is in need of the basics of life, including new clothes, pocket money, and all the other normal things that a person would need whose nightmarish false conviction at the hands of the state has just ended. He needs to get on with his life and with your help we can give him a little help making the adjustment to freedom.

So, we would like to ask everyone to help us help Anthony Graves. We would like to be able to raise and send him $1,000 before Thanksgiving. If we raise more, then that would be even more helpful for him. If you would like to help, you can send a donation and we will pass it along to Anthony. $1,000 is not much in the great scheme of things, but it will help Anthony at a time when he could really use it.

In 2004, after Ernest Willis was exonerated and released from Texas death row, Texas Moratorium Network asked our supporters to help Ernest. We were able to raise $1,000 in a short time and send it to Ernest in 2004. We received the below message from Ernest Willis after he received our check for $1,000 in 2004.

"Hello, I do appreciate the donations & your time & help in getting the donations. Yes, the state of Texas gave me $100.00 when I was released & that was all. I am doing okay since my release & am very happy to be free. I have not had any problems adjusting to the life out here.
Again -I do appreciate the help, it is greatly appreciated as I do need it".

Thank You,
Ernest Willis

Now, it is time to help another innocent person just released from Texas Death Row.



If you are unable to afford a donation to Anthony right now, please keep him and his family in your thoughts, especially when you gather your family around the table on Thanksgiving Day.
Thank you,

Your friends at Texas Moratorium Network

Below is a photo of a typical cell on Texas death row. Anthony Graves lived in such a cell even though he was an innocent person.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Senator Rodney Ellis Introduces "Innocence Protection Package" for 2011 Legislative Session

Senator Rodney Ellis introduced an "Innocence Protection Package" for the upcoming Texas legislative session. One bill that he should add to the package is a bill to enact a moratorium on executions, since that is the best way in the short term to ensure that an innocent person is not executed. Texas Moratorium Network lobbied for a moratorium as early as the 2001 session. If the Legislature had enacted a moratorium in 2001 or 2003, then Todd Willingham would likely not have been executed before it was established that he had been wrongfully convicted using junk forensic science.




For Immediate Release
November 8, 2010
Contact: Tina Tran, 512-463-0113

Ellis Introduces "Innocence Protection Package" for 2011 Legislative Session

(Austin, TX)—Today Sen. Rodney Ellis introduced an ambitious package of criminal justice reform bills to prevent wrongful convictions. The Houston Senator's "Innocence Protection Package" incorporates many of the recommendations from the Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, a bi-partisan group with major criminal justice stakeholders that was established last session to investigate the causes of, and ways to prevent, wrongful convictions. The Innocence Protection Package includes legislation to: increase the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness identification procedures (SB 121); require electronic recording of custodial interrogations for serious felonies (SB 123); improve the state's post-conviction DNA testing statute (SB 122); and update the Fair Defense Act to improve criminal defense representation for indigent defendants (SB 170).

"I have high hopes that 2011 will finally be the year that the Texas Legislature says 'enough is enough' when it comes to putting innocent people in prison," said Sen. Ellis. "Ensuring that evidence is reliable, the innocent are freed and the truly guilty are punished are things that Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and progressives can agree on. Let's prove to the people of Texas and the world that restoring trust in the criminal justice system is one of the Lone Star State's top priorities."

In recent months, numerous Texans have been released from prison or jail after it was determined they were wrongfully convicted. On October 27, Anthony Graves was released from jail after being incarcerated for 18 years, twelve of them on death row. In July, two men from Harris County were freed after it was determined they were wrongly incarcerated. Michael Anthony Green was released after being locked up 27 years for a rape he didn't commit. New DNA tests proved his innocence. Allen Wayne Porter was set free after spending 19 years in prison for a rape and robbery in which he was not involved.

The Innocence Protection Package seeks to address the most common cause of wrongful convictions — mistaken eyewitness identification — by requiring all law enforcement agencies to have written eyewitness identification procedures designed to increase accuracy and reduce wrongful convictions. Over 85 percent of Texas' 43 DNA exonerations were due to a mistaken eyewitness, yet only 12 percent of law enforcement agencies in Texas have written eyewitness identification procedures.

Another cause of wrongful convictions is false confessions. The Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions recommended that suspects in serious felonies like murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault should have their full interrogation recorded.

"My hope is that the recommendations of the Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, combined with these recent exonerations, will result in a renewed focus by the legislature and governor on ensuring accuracy, fairness, and due process in our criminal justice system," said Ellis.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Road to Livingston by Austin Documentary Collaborative

Help the Austin Documentary Collaborative (Chelsea Hernandez, Erik Mauck, Sally Bergom and Emily Visher) finish their first feature-length documentary!

"The Road to Livingston" follows one sister's fight to free her brother from death row. Her weekly 4 hour trips to Livingston, Texas during the past 12 years has led her to new relationships of others affected by death row, too.



After ten years, Delia Perez-Meyer still makes the four-hour drive to Livingston, Texas to visit her innocent brother on death row every week. At first saddened and frustrated by this journey, Delia discovers others unwillingly involved in the prison system who bring her to a place of redemption and hope. Though under the shadow of death, bonds are forged and families made on The Road to Livingston.

Over years of numerous trips, Delia has formed lasting relationships with people she has met on the lonely, 224-mile trek to Livingston, whether it’s at gas stations, or the Mexican restaurant where she stops for lunch. Being the only family member able to regularly visit her brother, she’s created a new family from this unfortunate situation.

On this journey with Delia, we encounter worlds we never knew existed. One of the most surprising is a group of European women who fall in love with death row inmates. Through Delia's interactions we learn more about why these women enter into such hopeless marriages. Preconceptions of love and intimacy are questioned when we witness a wedding of a Dutch woman to an inmate, performed at a local radio station. At first, this ceremony seems surreal and farcical, but as the vows are read, sincere emotion is conveyed both to us and over the airwaves to the unseen groom.

These women, including Delia, serve as voices for these inmates. They express the harsh conditions their loved ones experience. Prisoners are denied fruit and vegetables. Delia goes so far as to say they subsist on pig leftovers, donated by a local hog farmer. She tells of prison guards spraying misbehaving prisoners with chemicals, while their neighbors in adjacent cells inhale another's noxious punishment. Art supplies are banned, yet prisoners find a way to produce meticulous works without conventional tools. Louis and other inmates not only manage to make art, but Delia and other inmate families she has become close to, hold art shows to honor their work.

This film offers a glimpse into the world of those touched by death row. As an unaffected member of society our feelings of empathy for victims and their families are often limited. Our thoughts of the convicted go little further than the individual sentenced. This film shows the life-long ramifications dealt to families, friends, and lovers of inmates, as well as the communities that surround the prison system who depend on death row for their own means of living. Seen by society as already as good as dead, these people are suspended in time, trying to beat the clock and free their loved ones from the land of the walking dead. With most prisoners living on death row for ten years, Delia, with as many years of trips behind her, races to save her brother on The Road to Livingston.

Our goal is to open up the audience to the vast web of folks who have been affected by the prison system - as a victim or family members of a victim, friends and family of an inmate, or those who work in and around the prisons. Delia Perez Meyer is our personal connection to this world. She has been visiting her brother Louis on death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston for almost 12 years. Through her story we hope the audience will gain a better perspective of just how big this community really is - and a better understanding of the struggles of the families of inmates, who become victims as well.

We are a collaborative of a few filmmakers who have been donating their time and energy in to shooting and editing this project. As the finish line has come in to view, we realize that there are going to be many expenses involved during the final stage of editing and post-production. We need some help in raising these funds and have come up with several donation levels that have various offerings of gratitude.

The Austin Documentary Collaborative is a group of filmmakers, each with years of directing and producing experience in documentary and narrative filmmaking. Every member's voice is heard throughout every stage of the process in order to be true to its collaborative name. ADC's Road to Livingston marks their first collaborative full-length documentary. The ADC is made up of Sally Bergom, Chelsea Hernandez, Erik Mauck and Emily Visher.