Friday, March 18, 2011

Text of Resolution Passed by Texas House on "Day of Innocence" to Honor Death Row Exonerees

82R12583 MMS-D
By: DuttonH.R. No. 829
       WHEREAS, Six former death row inmates who have been
exonerated of the crime for which they were convicted are visiting
the State Capitol on March 16, 2011, the Day of Innocence, in
support of a moratorium on executions and other related measures;
       WHEREAS, These men are among the 138 individuals who have
been released from death row since 1973, either because their
convictions were overturned and they then won acquittal at retrial
or had the charges against them dropped, or because they were given
an absolute pardon by the governor based on new evidence of their
innocence; their lives forever changed by their wrongful
conviction, these six individuals are now working to reform the
criminal justice system; and
       WHEREAS, Convicted of murder in Texas in 1981, Clarence
Brandley was just weeks away from his scheduled execution when
evidence of coerced testimony and blatant racism in his first two
trials prompted the FBI to intervene; three years later, the
charges against him were dismissed; Mr. Brandley subsequently
married, apprenticed as an electrician, and became a Baptist
minister; his life became the subject of a book, White Lies, and a
cable TV movie, Whitewash: The Clarence Brandley Story; and
       WHEREAS, Sentenced to death in Louisiana in 1987, Albert
Burrell was 17 days away from execution in 1996 when his attorneys
won a stay; the attorney general's office dismissed the charges
against him in 2000, citing "a total lack of credible evidence," and
later DNA analysis reinforced that assessment; Albert Burrell
currently lives and works in Center; and
       WHEREAS, Gary Drinkard was convicted in Alabama in 1995; in
2000, the state supreme court ordered a retrial on the basis of
prosecutorial misconduct, and the following year a second jury
found him innocent; Mr. Drinkard's case was subsequently presented
to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to illustrate the critical
need that those facing the death penalty have for competent legal
representation; and
       WHEREAS, Framed for murder, Shujaa Graham was sentenced in
California in 1976; the state supreme court overturned his
conviction because the district attorney had systematically
excluded African American jurors in his first trial; Mr. Graham was
ultimately acquitted in 1981, and since then he has played a leading
role in the anti-death penalty and human rights movements; and
       WHEREAS, Ron Keine was sentenced to death in New Mexico in
1974 after a witness, under intense pressure from prosecutors,
fabricated a story about his guilt; the following year, the real
killer turned himself in, and a new trial for Mr. Keine and his
codefendants was eventually ordered; before the trial could be
held, though, a judge threw out the murder indictment on the grounds
that ballistic tests conclusively linked the confessed killer to
the murder weapon; freed in 1976, Mr. Keine now owns a business in
Michigan and is a leader in the campaign to abolish the death
penalty; and
       WHEREAS, Anthony Graves of Brenham was arrested in 1992 and
convicted in Texas in 1994, primarily on the testimony of one
witness who later recanted his story; the Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals ultimately overturned Mr. Graves's conviction in 2006, and
he was then sent to the Burleson County jail to await his new trial,
which would be four years in coming; during that time, he was kept
in solitary confinement; finally, in 2010, 18 years after Mr.
Graves was first imprisoned, a special prosecutor determined that
no case against him had ever existed, and the charges against him
were dropped; and
       WHEREAS, There is no way to restore to these men the years
they have lost, or to compensate them for the mental and emotional
anguish they have suffered; notwithstanding the immeasurable pain
they have endured, however, they have found the resilience to take a
terrible ordeal and channel their response into constructive
endeavor; their strength and purposefulness are a testament to
their remarkable spirit and a continuing inspiration to countless
fellow citizens; now, therefore, be it
       RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 82nd Texas
Legislature hereby honor Clarence Brandley, Albert Burrell, Gary
Drinkard, Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, and Anthony Graves for their
tenacity in the pursuit of justice and for their significant
contributions to the debate over an issue of paramount public
concern; and, be it further
       RESOLVED, That official copies of this resolution be prepared
for these gentlemen as an expression of high regard by the Texas
House of Representatives.

No comments: