Thursday, July 09, 2015

Rally for Bernardo Tercero Today at 11 am

July 9, 2015
Contact: Gloria Rubac  713-503-2633

Friends and Supporters of Death Row Prisoner Bernardo Tercero to Rally Outside of Nicaraguan Consulate; Will Urge the Consul General to Increase Efforts to Stop Tercero’s August 26 Execution

Friends and supporters of Nicaraguan citizen Bernardo Tercero will rally outside of the Nicaraguan consulate today at 11:00 am, 8989 Westheimer Rd., 77063, to encourage the consul general to intensify efforts to stop Tercero’s August 26th execution in Huntsville.

There are many troubling issues in Tercero’s case that must be settled before Texas carries out this execution. Among them are:
1.       Tercero was actually 17 years old when arrested for capital murder which would make him ineligible for the death penalty according to the Supreme Court’s Roper v Simmons ruling in 2005 that declared juveniles ineligible for the death penalty.
2.       Despite the fact that he specifically requested to speak with the Nicaraguan Consulate and the authorities had full knowledge of Tercero's status as a foreign national, they denied him his right under the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations (VCCR, article 36).
3.       Tercero had totally incompetent trial attorneys. Rather than use the funding provided by the court to have a knowledgeable professional assist in obtaining records and conducting a background and mitigation investigation in Nicaragua, attorneys instead refunded $8,449.42 of the $21,000 in funds to Harris County.
4.       Although the trial court approved Tercero’s counsel’s request for a forensic psychologist in February of 2000, counsel did not attempt to contact a psychologist until September 29, 2000, less than two weeks before Tercero’s trial was set to begin. No psychological testing was ever done, nor was any psychological or other expert evidence, records, or testimony offered at trial.

British attorney Peter Bellamy and Tercero petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene in this case.  Bellamy was notified on July 6 that the IACHR accepted the petition on its merits and will investigate the case. The IACHR has renewed the "protective measures" status of Bernardo which imposes responsibilities on US authorities not to carry out the execution pending the outcome of the Commission’s investigation of Bernardo's petition.

There have been multiple systemic failures in Tercero’s case, beginning with his arrest and continuing today—a lack of due process at every stage of prosecution, defense, and post trial appeal. Until there is a remedy to these, Bernardo's sentence must not be carried out.

We urge the Honorable Samuel Trejos, Consul General of Nicaragua, to step up and defend his fellow countryman, Bernardo Tercero, before anymore injustices take place.


Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Judicial vacancies slow judicial system

Perhaps no one can appreciate the importance of quick access to our federal courts more than death-row inmate Max Soffar. By the time the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on his habeas petition in support of his claim of innocence, he might have already died of liver cancer. The fact that the Fifth Circuit, which has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the federal district courts in Texas, has had two vacancies for the past 18 months will not help him either. The first vacancy opened three years ago, in August 2012, and the second in December 2013. No other circuit court in the country has more vacancies than the Fifth.

Unfortunately, Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have consistently opposed potential nominations of qualified district judges. And though it was Republicans who originally recommended these judges for the vacant positions, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz have shown little interest in recommending nominees to the White House to fill an additional seven district court vacancies. The Judicial Conference of the United States, headed by Chief Justice John Roberts, has marked the two circuit vacancies, and five of the seven district court vacancies, as a Judicial Emergency. This designation implies that the courts’ current caseload is both excessive and unmanageable. Even if these seats are filled tomorrow, the Conference has asked Congress to add eight new judgeships for the Texas district courts.

What’s the hold up, you ask? Political partisanship and a reluctance to promote Obama appointees to federal courts is responsible. Historically, due to the time required to identify, nominate, and confirm judicial replacements, many federal judges announce their plan to step down up to a year in advance, giving Senators plenty of time to recommend their replacements. Unfortunately, in almost all cases, our Senators have wasted many months after the vacancy to even begin the replacement process. For instance, more than a year in advance of his January 2014 vacancy, Judge Robert Junell of the Western District of Texas announced on the US Courts website that he would be taking a senior status .. Yet, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz waited more than a year, until April 2015, to begin their search process. This was not the approach taken under previous administrations. While George W. Bush was president, and after Cornyn was elected, five district court judges gave notices to vacate their seats well in advance of the official vacancy. Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Texas’ sitting senators at the time, made recommendations to Bush well before the vacancy became current. So are we to assume that, yet again, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz are dithering at the expense of Texans?

Having fully staffed courts are imperative for the innocent inmates challenging their wrongful conviction, the victims and their families who have waited years for closure, and the injured plaintiffs and consumers seeking a redress. In contrast, a deliberately sluggish federal court system with a crushing backlog of cases provides golden opportunities for large corporations to manipulate the system, using the painfully slow litigation process to force parties into hasty settlements. .
Texans deserve their day in court, but as long as Sens. Cornyn and Cruz continue to dilly-dally, ignoring their constitutional duty of sending nominations to the President, Texans will suffer at the expense of a bureaucratic logjam.

A version of this commentary was published in the San Antonio-Express News on July 6, 2015. The published version can be accessed here and here.

For more information on judicial vacancies visit and People for the American Way.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Help Texas Death Row Survivor Alfred Dewayne Brown

After more than ten years on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit, Alfred Dewayne Brown walked free and into the loving arms of his family and friends on June 8, 2015. "I went in an innocent man and I came out an innocent man," said Brown. Now, he needs your help so that he can rebuild his life. Every donation makes a difference. Will you please help him?


Dewayne's life changed forever on April 3, 2003. It was on that day that Dewayne was falsely accused of a horrible crime which resulted in two deaths. Despite the fact that Dewayne tried to tell the Houston, Texas police that he was at home during the incident, they chose to believe two men who did not want to turn in their buddy, so they "fingered" Dewayne. A series of events took place that Dewayne could not control. He told anyone and everyone that he was home and the landline phone records would prove it because he had called his then girlfriend at work when the news came on. It was these phone records that would be the pivotal point in the release of Dewayne. The Grand Jury argued with Dewayne and threatened his girlfriend with jail time and with taking her children away from her if she did not change her story. She buckled, the DA hid the phone records and Dewayne was sent to Death Row.

Despite the fact he kept telling his trial attorney he was innocent and the phone records would prove it, nothing was presented at trial. It was only after the conviction of the two actual defendants and Dewayne ending up on the infamous Texas Death Row, that several people came forward, admitting to lying and telling the DA that Dewayne was not even aware of the crime.

Nothing impressed the Harris County DA and Dewayne was left with the thought of lethal injection for a crime he had nothing to do with. Appeals were filed and in 2007, the law firm of K&L Gates took the case, honing in on the lost phone records. It took the attorneys six years to find them - IN THE GARAGE OF AN INVESTIGATOR. The DA in 2007 stated that failure to disclose the records "was inadvertent and not in bad faith. It was one piece of paper". The trial judge signed orders for a new trial, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the conviction and ordered a new trial in November 2014.

Lisa Falkenberg, a columnist for the Houston Chronicle, took notice of Dewayne and wrote a series of articles concerning his case and the Grand Jury. Making waves around the world and winning the coveted Pulitzer Prize for her series, Ms. Falkenberg has shed light on the barbaric Grand Jury system in Harris County, from threatening witnesses to using ex-cops to serve as foreman (on nine juries). It took the new DA, Devon Anderson, seven months and two days, to announce that Harris County has no evidence to bring charges against Dewayne and he should be set free.

Dewayne spent 12 years, 2 months and 5 days behind bars for something he had no part in. That is 4,449 days or 106,776 hours of his life that was stolen from him. Nearly every one of those days were spent in solitary in a cell no larger that a small bathroom. Living with the fact that he could be executed any day. Torn away from his family, not being able to be a father to his daughter. For this, the State of Texas needs to compensate Dewayne. But, because of the "clever" wording in the paperwork when Devon Anderson declared that Harris County has no evidence against Dewayne, it will be an uphill battle to win compensation. A battle that will not be won any time soon.

This is where the people of the world come in. Dewayne needs your help now to get on his feet. He needs to rebuild his life that Harris County and the State of Texas stripped from him. Going straight from solitary to the "free world" is no easy task. He needs time to adjust being able to make decisions on his own, at a pace that is comfortable to him. We can never give these years back to Dewayne. But, we can help him manage more comfortably. Please give what you can. Everything makes a difference.

Read more about the day Dewayne was released here.

This fundraiser is being conducted with the consent of Dewayne Brown, who will receive all funds raised, minus the 3 percent charged by the credit card processing company. We have also obtained consent from Dewayne's legal team. While Indiegogo Life doesn’t charge a fee, payments are handled by third-party processors who charge a 3% transaction fee.

At the end of the 30 day campaign, the donations will be transferred directly from the system to a bank account set up by Dewayne's legal team for his exclusive benefit.

The fundraiser organizers are a group of Texas death penalty abolitionists who want to help Dewayne. Organizers include Pat Hartwell, Scott Cobb, Hooman Hedayati, Gloria Rubac, and Delia Perez Meyer, as well as the organizations Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, and others to be listed as they endorse the fundraiser.