Thursday, March 14, 2013

Star-Telegram: "I'm a 21st century abolitionist and I'm proud of it," Burnam declares

Nice news article about our Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty today from Dave Montgomery of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
AUSTIN -- With Texas moving closer to its 500th execution, Rep. Lon Burnam on Wednesday described himself as a "21st century abolitionist" and denounced the death penalty as "a gross example of institutionalized racism."

The Fort Worth Democrat joined other death penalty opponents in a "Day of Innocence" to promote legislation to repeal capital punishment. They acknowledged that they are overwhelmingly outnumbered in a state that leads the nation in executions but nevertheless vowed to keep on fighting.

"We are right and the people who are on the other side are wrong," Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, told about a dozen death penalty opponents in a legislative committee room. "Don't be discouraged...Today we have a new beginning."

Dutton filed his first anti-death penalty bill 10 years ago to stop what he called the "madness" of executions. "Every time I read in the paper that they executed somebody, I as a legislator take full responsibility," he said. "Everybody in the Legislature had a part in it because we didn't stop it."

Burnam, the senior member of Tarrant County's 11-member House delegation, drew applause as he told fellow death penalty opponents: "I'm a 21st Century abolitionist and I'm proud of it."

"There is no more gross example of institutionalized racism in this state today than in the death penalty," Burnam asserted, saying that prisoners put to death in Texas are overwhelmingly poor and "people of color."

Of the 287 inmates now on Death Row, according to the Texas Department of Corrections, 40 percent are black and 30 percent are Hispanic.

Texas has executed more than 490 inmates since 1976 and is nearing its 500th execution of a prisoner. Depending on appeals, that could come May 7 with the scheduled execution of Carroll Parr, convicted of killing a man in robbery outside a convenience store in McLennan County in 2003.

"We have executed in Texas almost 500 people," said Burnam, describing the upcoming threshold as "one of shame."

Clarence Brandley, a former Death Row inmate who was wrongly convicted in the rape and murder of a 16-year-old student in Conroe, also participated in the event, vowing to "do everything in my power" to overturn the death penalty.

In addition to seeking a ban on capital punishment, Texas death penalty opponents are seek to change Texas' "law of parties" doctrine under which people can be sentenced to death for assisting in a capital crime even though they didn't commit the murder.

Read more here:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

2013 Statewide Texas Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty – March 13 in Austin at the Capitol

The 2013 Statewide Texas Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty is Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Special guests include death row exoneree Clarence Brandley. All Texas death row exonerees will be honored with a resolution by the Texas House of Representatives.

People from across Texas will come to the Capitol in Austin to advocate for a bill to abolish the death penalty in Texas and other reforms that would impact the Texas death penalty, including bills to protect innocent people from wrongful convictions, a moratorium on executions, a commission to study the death penalty system, a bill to require separate trials in death penalty cases and a bill that would prohibit death sentences for people convicted under the Law of Parties who do not kill anyone.
This will be a day we will always remember, a day when we stood side by side fighting against the death penalty with people who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. Don’t be one of those people who one day “shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here” and fought with us on the Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty. Register now!

Below is the schedule for Lobby Day. Please register for Lobby Day, so that we know how many people are coming and so that we can schedule legislative appointments. In 2009 and 2011, our Lobby Day resulted in several legislators signing on to support the bills we lobbied for. We expect the same success in 2013. We have held a Lobby Day every session since 2003.

Register for the Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty. You can also just show up without registering, but if you register, then we know how many people are coming and we can plan appointments with legislators.

If you can not attend the Lobby Day, you can still help by making a donation (not tax-deductible). Also on March 13, even if you are not in Austin at the Lobby Day, you can participate in our Statewide Call-in Day to Abolish the Death Penalty. Find out who represents you, then call your Texas legislators and let them know your position on the death penalty and urge them to support the bills to repeal the death penalty, HB 164 by Harold Dutton and HB 1703 by Jessica Farrar. The bills are identical and we support both. Call the members of the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and urge them to schedule a hearing on the bills to abolish the death penalty. One of our goals of Lobby Day is to convince the committee to hold a hearing.

If you have questions, call or text Hooman Hedayati.

Schedule of the 2013 Statewide Texas Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty
9-11 AM: Meet and Greet with death row exoneree Clarence Brandley, followed by lobby training as people arrive for lobby day and beginning of office visits as people complete training. Room E2.018 in the Capitol.

11 – Noon: Visiting Legislative Offices to Lobby

Noon: Press Conference in the Speaker’s Committee Room (2W.6). Special guests include State Rep. Harold Dutton, author of a bill to abolish the death penalty in Texas and State Rep. Lon Burnam, co-author of the bill to abolish the death penalty, as well as Clarence Brandley, an innocent person who spent ten years on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit.

1 PM: Lunch at your own expense in the Capitol cafeteria.

2-4:30 More lobbying visits to legislative offices.

4:30 PM Meet in the Capitol cafeteria to share stories about what everyone learned during the legislative lobbying visits.

6:30 PM SXSW Film Festival screening of new documentary “An Unreal Dream” about the case of Michael Morton, an innocent person who spent 25 years in prison wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife. You will need to buy your own tickets, which will go on sale at the theater before the showing. Tickets are limited, so you may not get in if it sells out.

Lobby Day has been organized since 2003 by several organizations working together, the same ones who also organize the annual “March to Abolish the Death Penalty” each October: Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Austin chapter, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty.
Organizations that would like to participate or co-sponsor the Lobby Day can email or call 512-961-6389.
Call the members of the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and urge them to schedule a hearing on the bills to abolish the death penalty.
Position Member
Chair: Rep. Abel Herrero  email (512) 463-0462
Vice Chair: Rep. Stefani Carter email  (512) 463-0454
Members: Rep. Lon Burnam   email   (512) 463-0740

Rep. Terry Canales   email    (512) 463-0426

Rep. Bryan Hughes    email    (512) 463-0271

Rep. Jeff Leach      email    (512) 463-0544

Rep. Joe Moody     email     (512) 463-0728

Rep. Matt Schaefer   email   (512) 463-0584

Rep. Steve Toth     email     (512) 463-0797