Friday, September 29, 2006

Why is the US turning away from the death penalty?

In yesterday's edition of the Taipei Times, Decca Aitkenhead explored the growing success of the anti-death-penalty lobby. Today, Aitkenhead discovers how the lobby must compromise on its rhetoric to win people over to its cause.

According to NCADP's David Elliot, "you see that the death penalty is literally withering on the vine."

You can read the two part article online:
Part One
Part Two

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 is up!

Howard Guidry is facing execution for a crime he did not commit.

18 year-old Howard Guidry was forced by lying, intimidating police to confess to a crime he did not commit. With this forced confession as well as hearsay testimony from the suspected killer's girlfriend, the state of Texas locked up Howard for a crime he did not commit. Howard spent ten years on Texas death row, during which Howard educated himself, becoming a born again Afrikan, poet, Panther, and activist.

A comedy of errors has now put Howard on the track towards freedom. In 2003, federal judge Vanessa Gilmore threw out the "evidence" used to convict Howard and declared that the state of Texas had to retry or release him within 180 days.

Three years later, a thirty-year-old Howard is finally getting a re-trial for a murder the state still wants to pin on him, even though it has no evidence and no case.

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die. And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal

TSADP dedicates to the HGJC. The Howard Guidry Justice Committee, was formed as a solidarity group to win justice and freedom for Howard Guidry, and assist in the struggles of other inmates who have been victimized by the Texas criminal justice system. On this site you can learn more about Howard, understand the falsity of the state's case against him, read Howard and friends in their own words, and find out how you can help.

Get involved today in the fight to save Howard's life. is a service of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty's Online mobilization project.

Annual March to Stop Executions

Get on the Bus From Houston: Bus tickets are $20.00. Call or email TDPAM in Houston to reserve a seat or buy a ticket for a student, a senior or a person on fixed income who wants to go. or call 713-503-2633.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cory Maye No Longer on Death Row!

CBS News blog, Public Eye has an interesting article about the Cory Maye's case and the power of blogosphere.

Read Radley Balko, who wrote for Reason an amazing and infuriating feature story about Cory Maye's unjust sentencing for shooting a police officer who burst into his home in the dead of night unannounced.

See Radley's blog on what happened at Maye's hearing this week. (Upshot: he will at least get a new sentencing trial.)

See Jim Henley explain, in ways Radley did not, why Radley deserves the credit.

And see Radley's detailed Reason feature from its October issue here.

For more information go to:

Friday, September 22, 2006

Tookie Williams Execution - Rough Cut

I was at San Quentin for the protest of Stanley "Tookie" Williams' execution. This is a rough cut with horrible audio but I wanted to get something up quickly. - J Buckley

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Judge Sharon Killer seeks advice from public

In response to the The Houston Chronicle that Brandy Del Briggs is seeking to regain custody of the child she had lost custody of after she was "wrongfully" convicted of murdering her other child, Judge Sharon Killer is seeking advice from her blog readers.
I have come to expect the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule me and lower federal courts to overrule me, but this is too much. My very own court all turned against me. The vote was 8 to 1 and I lost. Everyone else thought this woman's conviction should be overturned, but not me. No one wanted to support me. I am the presiding judge and I get no respect on my own court.

What is the point of being the presiding judge if no one listens to me. Am I irrelevant on my own court. Should I just resign? I don't know what to do. Please advise in the comments.
Judge Sharon Killer is running an online campaign at MySpace and, hoping to appeal to young voters.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Belly of the Beast: The Struggle for Abolition in Texas

Friends and Fellow Abolitionists,

The Austin chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty invites you to
attend our first large public meeting of the new school year. The
event will take place during our usual weekly meeting time, at 7pm, on
Monday, September 18th, in NOA 1.116 on the UT campus.
The title for the evening is "Belly of the Beast: The Struggle for
Abolition in Texas," and will feature some great speakers.

Speakers include:

1. Rob Owen - law professor and director of the Capitol Punishment
Clinic at the UT Law School
2. Delia Perez Meyer - sister of death row inmate Louis Castro Perez
and longtime advocate for many others on death row
3. Jayson Thomas - member of the Austin chapter of CEDP

You won't want to miss this. We'd also appreciate you passing this
information onto friends and others who might be interested in joining
the fight for abolition. Last week's press conference and march to
the Court of Criminal Appeals on behalf of Rodney Reed was a huge
success, and our goal is to continue building momemtum for the
abolition movement in Texas. But we can't do it alone. WE NEED YOUR

Again, the event starts at 7pm. Coffee and snacks will be provided.
A map to NOA 1.116 is here:

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Olbermann on Neal Boortz: "[H]e's also a racist? OK"

Summary: On MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann named conservative radio host Neal Boortz runner-up for "Worst Person in World" for predicting that riots and looting by "aspiring rappers and NBA superstars" would erupt if Stanley "Tookie" Williams did not receive a last-minute commutation of his death penalty.

Nationally syndicated radio host Neal Boortz earned the runner-up spot in the "Worst Person in the World" segment on the December 14 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann for his weblog post -- noted by Media Matters for America -- that predicted riots and looting by "aspiring rappers and NBA superstars" if Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the Crips gang co-founder who was convicted of murder in 1979, did not receive a last-minute commutation of his death penalty.

Boortz's December 12 blog post, titled "They're Just Looking For A Excuse, Not A Reason," predicted that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) would grant Williams clemency because allowing his execution would spark "wide scale looting" in "South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere." Boortz also wrote, "There are thugs just waiting for an excuse."

Williams was executed early on December 13, and, as Boortz noted on his blog later that day, the event spurred no riots. "Someone correctly opined yesterday that it was too cold in Los Angeles for riots right now," Boortz wrote.

In naming Boortz runner-up for "Worst Person," Olbermann said, "So, the guy's not only got no handle on predicting events, but he's also a racist? OK."

During the segment, Olbermann showed a photo of a man incorrectly identified as Boortz; in fact, the picture is of former Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA).

From the December 14 broadcast of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: The runner-up: Neal Boortz, who was another one of those radio commentators who give free speech a bad name. In a blog posting, Boortz predicted that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would commute the sentence of convicted killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams because if he didn't, quoting Boortz here, "there will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere." Boortz added, "there are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now." So, the guy's not only got no handle on predicting events, but he's also a racist? OK.

Death Penalty news

EU Must Press Pakistan's Musharraf On Death Penalty Issue: Amnesty - Targu Mures,Romania
... International on Monday called on the European Union to urge Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to line up the abolishment of the death penalty in his country ...

Candidates sound off on gay marriage, death penalty
Monroe Times - Monroe,WI,USA
... Should Wisconsin have a death penalty? Why or why not? ... JR: I don't think we need the death penalty. There are so few people who are affected by it. ...

Reasons to drop death penalty
Asbury Park Press - Asbury Park,NJ,USA
State legislators need no further proof about the merits of the death penalty law than to listen to the families of murder victims. ...

The death penalty debate
Minnesota Public Radio - Saint Paul,MN,USA
Recent news in the midwest has pushed the death penalty debate into the spotlight. A jury in Fargo, North Dakota is now deciding ...

Death penalty creates more problems than it’s worth
Salem Statesman Journal - Salem,OR,USA
I was appalled by the callous statements I read online in response to the appeal for a moratorium on the death penalty. Poor people ...

Nussle says he'd push for death penalty as governor
Mason City Globe Gazette - Mason City,IA,USA
DES MOINES — Republican candidate for governor Jim Nussle said Tuesday that reviving the death penalty in Iowa would be one of his legislative priorities ...

Death penalty protocol to change
Kansas City Star - MO,USA
Missouri prison officials have until Oct. 27 to submit a revised protocol for putting condemned inmates to death, a federal judge ordered Tuesday. ...

NJ panel counts cost of death penalty
Newark Star Ledger - NJ, USA
In the 24 years since New Jersey reinstated the death penalty, taxpayers have spent millions of dollars -- $253 million according to one study -- on capital ...

DEATH PENALTY: Uganda Drafts Bill to Execute HIV Infectors
Inter Press Service (subscription) - Rome,Italy
... "When you subscribe to the death penalty, you give an unacceptable ... Rights group believe the death penalty is a violation of human rights and a right to life. ...

Death penalty evokes anguished debate
Newark Star Ledger - NJ, USA
... For almost five hours yesterday, a state commission took testimony on the costs of the death penalty -- both financial and emotional -- and whether life ...

US will not seek death penalty against second Marine in Hamdania ...
[JURIST] The US military will not pursue the death penalty against US Marine Corps [official website] Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. ...

Judge: Death penalty is here to stay
Richmond Times Dispatch - Richmond,VA,USA
CHARLESTON, SC -- The death penalty will continue to be part of American justice, William W. Wilkins, chief judge of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, said ...

Japan court sets cult guru death penalty - UK
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Supreme Court rejected an appeal against the death sentence for the former leader of a doomsday cult on Friday, clearing the way for ...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Former Texas governor Ann Richards dies

Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, the witty and flamboyant Democrat who went from homemaker to national political celebrity, died Wednesday night at her home surrounded by her family after a battle with cancer, a family spokeswoman said. She was 73.

Richards also focused on putting minority Texans on state boards and commissions. According to Austin American Statesman, "Of her nearly 3,000 appointments, some 46 percent were female, 15 percent were black, 20 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were Asian American. Her predecessor, GOP Gov. Bill Clements, gave more than 80 percent of his appointments to Anglos and men."

Unlike Governor Bush and Perry, Ann Richards didn't execute many people as governor. However Ann Richards (D), never issued a death row pardon. Her use of the death penalty drew sharp criticism from various human rights groups including Amnesty International. Johnny Frank Garrett was executed while Richards was Governor. Amnesty International cited him as being "extremely mentally impaired, chronically psychotic and brain-damaged."

Bowing to the reality of the pro-death penalty Texas Legislature, Ann Richards was not a vocal critic of the Texas death penalty law while Governor. While campaigning for Governor, she was asked if she supported or opposed the death penalty. She said, 'I will uphold the laws of the State of Texas.' The reporter then asked, 'But what would you do if the Legislature passed a bill repealing the death penalty?' to which she replied, 'I would faint.'

More sources Ann Richards:

MySpace pulls parody profile

MySpace pulls parody profile
Creators say they used site to criticize pro-death penalty judge's 'extremist' actions

By Lewis Fallis - The Daily Texan is for hipsters, not jokesters.

The popular social networking Web site recently deleted a parody profile of Sharon Keller, a pro-death penalty Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge.

Hooman Hedayati, a government sophomore and president of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, said he created the parody profile about three weeks ago with friend Scott Cobb, a UT alumnus. They said they formed the false profile to criticize what they called Keller's "scary and extremist" judgments.

Keller's office declined to comment Monday.

The profile features parody blogs about Keller getting free football tickets, in line with recent reports of judges receiving free or discounted tickets to UT football games.

MySpace deleted the profile four times before creating a mostly blank profile themselves to prevent the URL from being used again, Hedayati said.

MySpace representatives were unavailable for comment on Monday.

According to the MySpace terms and conditions page, the Web site reserves the right to reject or remove any posting, or terminate any or all parts of an account "at any time, for any or no reason, with or without prior notice and without liability."

Hedayati and Cobb said they were unwilling to give up and made a new address for the profile. They said they could think of no reason for MySpace to delete the profile, unless Keller or someone from her office had complained.

Hedayati and Cobb are involved in anti-death penalty organizations but said they made the profile just for fun as a "personal hobby."

Hedayati said the two sent MySpace at least four e-mails asking about the deletion, but never received a response.

"It's a parody," Hedayati said. "If anybody look at it, they know it. George Bush has 15 profiles. We are not pretending to be Sharon Keller. If you look at the name, it's Sharon Killer, not Keller. It's clearly just a parody to spread the word about her actions."

Though the MySpace URL for the new profile does have her listed as Sharon Killer, the actual profile refers to her as Keller several times.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Death Penalty World Map

Blue: Abolished for all crimes
Green: Abolished for crimes not committed in exceptional circumstances (such as in war time)
Orange: Abolished in Practice
Red: Legal

Monday, September 11, 2006

Houston Press: Killer Page, Your Honor!

The online Anti-Keller campaign goes into full swing in the following weeks as Texas media picks up on Sharon killer story. The profile has been deleted many times now, assumedly at the request of Judge Killer herself. According to a Daily Texan reporter, her office refused to comment on the myspace profile. The Austin Chronicle also had a story about the profile.

In the meanwhile the anti-Keller campaign has lunched a website and a blog on Sharon Keller now has to beg Google's founding CEO Larry Page, who is pro-death penalty, to remove the blog. Google purchased in 2003 from Pyra Labs, the company behind Blogger to increase its online conglomerate.

Here is what Houston Press had to say about Sharon keller profile:

We love a good MySpace parody. Why, just check out ours here, and here. So we think this fake page belonging to Dallas judge Sharon Keller, who’s seeking re-election as presiding judge for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals against J.R. Molina, is pretty damn funny.

But Keller doesn’t, and complained to the now Fox-owned MySpace folks, who promptly removed it. (She’s apparently pissy about being called “Killer.”) It’s up again, for now, but chances are it will be gone by week’s end.

For anyone who has even casually followed Texas death penalty rulings, the site’s a hoot-and-a-half. Keller gained notoriety when she ruled in 1998 that convicted rapist and murderer Roy Criner couldn’t get a new trial, even though new DNA evidence refuted the original blood evidence that essentially built the case against him. (Criner was eventually pardoned by then Governor Dubya, after serving 10 years of a 99-year sentence for the rape of a 16-year-old in Montgomery County.)

And thus, the tune playing on her MySpace page is Vicky Lawrence’s cheesy – but entirely apropos – classic “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” (a song about an innocent man getting nailed by the system). Arguably the best pic in her scrolling image set is of her with a group of women, holding a big check (because nothing says politico like a big check).

Who does Judge “Killer” – who boasts 136 friends – want to meet? “Katherine Harris (some people say we look like each other), Karl Rove (some people say we think like each other). The editors of The Onion.”

Her blogs are priceless, especially the one titled “20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die.” The judge cites a piece in Esquire on the nation’s best hamburgers, one of which can be found at the judge’s dad’s Dallas joint , Keller’s Drive-In. Sez the Judge:

According to the article, “the hamburger is a symbol of everything that makes America great. Straightforward, egalitarian, substantial, and good-natured, it is also a little bloody at times”.

Isn’t that hilarious? It describes me exactly, straightforward and a little bloody. FATFLOL. I wonder if anyone I helped get executed in Texas ever made a last request of a Keller’s Drive-in burger. They should, it’s bloody good, but they probably can’t anyhow. A little known secret is that the last meal in Texas is not anything you want. It’s whatever they have in the prison kitchen that comes close to being what you want. And if you order, “Justice” as your last meal, like a smartass, well, then you just die, er I mean go to sleep, hungry.

Go eat a burger. Tell Jack, his bloody daughter sent you. ;-)

FATFLOL? Emoticons? The verdict is in. This political satire, which is sure to be nixed by Rupert Murdoch’s goons, is awesome. – Steven Devadanam

Some 9/11 family members opposed death sentence

Posted on Wednesday, May 03, 2006 at Abolish the Death Penlty blog.

One of the common misconceptions that we in the abolition movement try to fight is that family members of murder victims invariably favor a death sentence for those who killed their loved ones. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Moussaoui was locked up in jail more than 1,200 miles away when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that fateful day, many 9/11 family members simply opposed a death sentence on principle. Here are some of their comments:

Family members of those killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001 expressed relief at the jury’s decision not to sentence Zacarias Moussaoui to death today. “More than anyone, we understand why the jury chose the sentence they did,” said Terry Rockefeller, whose sister Laura Rockefeller was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

“As a long-time opponent of the death penalty, a belief even this devastating personal tragedy has not altered, I am relieved by the jury’s decision not to sentence Zacarias Moussaoui to death.”

Rockefeller, a member of the Board of Directors of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, was among the dozen 9/11 family members to testify for the defense in the punishment phase of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. The federal rules regarding victim statements significantly restricted what Terry and others could say on the stand, and the attorneys for the defense asked Terry and others not to speak to the press until after the jury returned their verdict.

This is the first time victim family members who oppose capital punishment have ever testified in a federal death penalty trial. Such testimony is becoming more common at the state level where increasing numbers of murder victim family members who oppose the death penalty are making their feelings known.

“Mr. Moussaoui's trial has been an expensive diversion in the struggle against terrorism. His alleged crime of conspiracy could have been quickly disposed if the option of execution were not possible,” said Patricia Perry, whose son John William Perry, was a member of the New York Police Department who died at the World Trade Center. “Beyond the verdict in this trial, I oppose using the death penalty to demonstrate to citizens that murder is so wrong that we will kill to prove it wrong. State killing teaches our children that we do not mean what we say and inures us as a society to the horror of killing.”

"My husband and I both opposed the death penalty in general. For me, now, this particular case is no exception,” said Andrea LeBlanc, whose husband Robert was a passenger on United Flight 175, the second plane that crashed into the World Trade Center, hitting the South Tower.

“Violence takes many forms and killing another human being will never undo the harm that has been done. Killing Zacarius Moussaoui would not have helped us understand those things that lead to 9/11. Nor would it have helped create the kind of compassionate world I want to live in."

For Loretta Filipov, whose husband Al was on American Flight 11 from Boston, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, crashing into the North Tower, said, “Killing Zacarius Moussaoui will not bring my husband back. It will not change the life my family and I now have without my husband and their father. But what killing will do is to continue the cycle of violence, hate and revenge. This is not the face we want for our future, for our children and grandchildren.”

Family member Antonio Aversano, who testified for the defense and whose father Louis Aversano, Jr., was a World Trade Center victim, believes “that our best personal defense against terrorism is to not let the fear and hatred of terror consume our lives but to take whatever steps are necessary to reclaim our hearts, to honor each other and to live life well.”

“A number of us have tried to turn our anger and pain into solutions,” said Rockefeller. “For many who lost loved ones that Tuesday morning the answer is not more killing to attempt to solve the past, but rather steps to a future in which all killing is condemned and terrorists cannot find purchase.”

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Justice For Rodney Reed

Please sign JUSTICE FOR RODNEY REED online petition. The petitions will be turned in to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on September 13, 2006. TSADP have designed a website for Rodney Reed through our Online Mobilization Fund!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Death Penalty News

Former US governor praised for death penalty moratorium is ... International Herald Tribune - France

CHICAGO Former Illinois governor George Ryan, who was acclaimed by capital punishment foes for suspending executions in the state of Illinois and emptying out death row, has been sentenced to 6 1/2 years behind bars in a corruption scandal that ruined his political career.

"When they elected me as the governor of this state, they expected better, and I let 'em down and for that I apologize," the 72-year-old Republican said in court Wednesday before hearing his sentence.
Federal prosecutors had asked for eight to 10 years in prison. Defense attorneys argued that even 2 1/2 years would deprive Ryan of the last healthy years of his life.

Thank God I haven't got the death penalty
Sydney Morning Herald - Sydney,New South Wales,Australia
... "I am quite lucky. It would have been nice to get 20, the same as Renae, but I just thank God that I haven't got the death penalty. ...

Death penalty faces referendum in Wisconsin
Duluth News Tribune - Duluth,MN,USA
... Other states are fine-tuning their death penalty laws. ... In Hudson, Jose Vega is joining a campaign that death penalty foes started last week. ...

China will not abolish death penalty, for now -Wen in Helsinki
Newsroom Finland - Helsinki,Finland
... in Helsinki after the EU-China summit on Saturday that China did not for the time being consider possible the abolition of the country's death penalty. ...

DEATH PENALTY: Jordan Reduces Crimes Eligible for Execution
Inter Press Service (subscription) - Rome,Italy
AMMAN, Sep 8 (IPS) - In lowering the number of crimes for which the death penalty would be eligible, the Jordanian government says it has moved one step closer ...

Minister Says Kyrgyzstan To Abolish Death Penalty Soon
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty - Prague,Czech Republic
September 8, 2006 -- Kyrgyzstan's Deputy Justice Minister says his country will soon abolish the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment. ...

Why idealize death penalty? It's unnecessary to dwell on whether a ...
Pioneer Press - St. Paul,MN,USA
It's unnecessary to dwell on whether a sex offender gets the death penalty or not. ... Why idealize the death penalty? It's barbaric and ineffective. ...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Austin Film Society Presents: THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT

Darryl HuntWHEN: Wed Sept 13, 7 PM
WHERE: Alamo Drafthouse Downtown (409 Colorado Street)
COST: $6 / $4 (AFS / Student / Senior)

The human being seems hard-wired for revenge. You hurt my family, friends, or me, and I will hurt you. Legal systems have been ideally constructed to move beyond "an eye for an eye" to allow the state to intercede and seek revenge for the wronged parties, but sometimes an innocent person is swept up in this net, incarcerated, or even executed for a crime not committed. The need to find someone "guilty" can override the evidence, especially in a region in which a person’s skin color may increase the likelihood of a jury conviction.

Darryl Hunt is such a person. For nearly twenty years he was locked away in a North Carolina prison for a crime committed by another man. Filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg followed his story for more than ten of those years. Adding in news footage from his first ten years of wrongful incarceration, they created a gripping documentary that shows how an inept police department, a corrupt district attorney, and a handful of lying witnesses could legally "lynch" a young Black man and steal 20 years of his life.

Q&A with producer/director Annie Sundberg following the screening. Co-sponsored by the Austin Chronicle and the Radio-Television-Film Department of the University of Texas at Austin.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sharon Keller did it again!

Myspace has replaced the Sharon Keller profile at the request of Sharon Keller or her campaign with another profile. Go to TMN blog for a full report.

In the meanwhile you should be able to read future Sharon Killer blogs at:

Austin Chronicle's article on Sharon Killer blog

The Austin Chronicle covered the Sharon Keller profile on MySpace in their September 8th issue. The profile has been deleted three times now, at the request of Judge Killer, but it is back up again.

On MySpace, her profile is listed as Sharon Killer, a play on the name of Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, whose reputation as a hanging judge has earned her a satirical spot on the cyber meet-and-greet circuit. A couple of anti-death penalty activists – Scott Cobb and Hooman Hedayati – crafted the cleverly penned Keller profile and blog to draw attention to the justice's "ideologically driven" record on crime and punishment. And what a record it is. One of Keller's greatest embarrassments to Texas involved her firm stance against giving prison inmate Roy Criner a new trial, even after a DNA test proved he didn't commit the rape and murder for which he was convicted and sentenced to 99 years. It took Gov. George Bush, then a candidate for president, to step in and grant Criner clemency. Keller, a Republican, is running for re-election against Democrat J.R. Molina, a trial lawyer from Tarrant County. The Keller spoof is actually making its second appearance on the site after MySpace operators deleted the first effort last week. By the time you read this, it may have been killed off a second time, but go to just for kicks and see what happens. – A.S.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

death penalty updates

The government should abolish capital punishment and accelerate development in island provinces throughout the country, the 13th Catholic Youth National Congress in Ambon says. "We renounce the death penalty because God has given life to humans so that they can live freely, and only God has the right to take (life) back, not fellow humans," Refra said.

Capital defense Weekly reports that "Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has had surgery in Washington to replace a stent -- a device used to keep open a vein that had previously been blocked." Updated reports have Justice Kennedy doing well and he should be back to work quickly.

Check out Students Against the Death Penalty's new website (under construction) .

A Discussion with Jeb Bush on the Death Penalty by Abe Bonowitz & SueZann Bosler -
July 19, 2002

Rwanda parliament to vote on abolishing death penalty

Zee News: Death penalty likely for 4
US soldiers

Penn and Teller: Bullshit! The Death Penalty

Title says it all.
Complete episode - 29 minutes!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sharon Keller on MySpace

Check out the Sharon Keller profile on MySpace before Sharon Keller has it deleted again.

The address is As someone wrote in a posting on Burntorangereport, "Anyone interested in the Texas tradition of arbitrarily applying the death penalty and JR Molina's campaign to bring justice to Texas' highest criminal court has got to check out this hilarious blog." Read the Sharon Killer blog.

Sharon Keller is the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She is running for re-election against J.R. Molina. Keller was challenged in the Republican primary last March by one of the other Republican judges on the CCA – Tom Price. He said she had lost the confidence of the court and once accused her of making the CCA a "national laughingstock", according to Texas Monthly.

A few months ago, Rupert Murdoch bought Murdoch also owns Fox News. So, it is not surprising that MySpace is starting to be a total "control freak" as Kyra Phillips of CNN would say, to which Dick Cheney might respond, "yeah, big time."

A few days ago, a Sharon Keller profile on MySpace was deleted by the MySpace authorities. Apparently, someone complained to MySpace that it was not an authorized profile, but was instead a "fake profile", so MySpace canceled it. It wasn’t a fake, it was a parody. MySpace only cancels parody profiles if they get a complaint from the person being parodied/satirized, so we assume Sharon Keller emailed MySpace and complained. According to our sources, one email the complainer sent read, "Very Funny. Hope you are amusing yourself. Enjoy it while you can". Shortly afterwards, the profile was deleted by MySpace.

As you would expect a judge to know, parodies of public officials are protected free speech under the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution. Parody and satire have long served as means of criticizing public figures and exposing political injustice. It is true that parodies against unknown people can sometimes be regulated and prohibited. For instance, a student who publishes a parody of a school teacher might be subject to punishment, because the teacher is not a public figure. However, parodies of public figures are protected free speech. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a famous parody that Hustler magazine did of Jerry Falwell back in the 80’s was constitutionally protected free speech. It had portrayed Falwell as having had a drunken sexual encounter with his mother in an outhouse. Parodies and satire directed at governmental officials in order to criticize the actions of the government are given the greatest protection under U.S. legal precedent, as seen in the Supreme Court case "New York Times Co. v. Sullivan".

Satire and parody seem to be gaining in popularity these days as forms of political discourse, especially among younger people. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report are two fake news programs that are often listed as top sources of daily news for some people. Of course, Saturday Night Live, has been presenting satirical skits of public officials for three decades. Anyone remember that old SNL skit that mocked three Texas politicians’ over-eagerness for the death penalty - Ann Richards, Jim Mattox and Mark White. The Onion and The Swift Report are other examples of satirical sites that use fake news.

The Sharon Keller profile on MySpace is a clear example of protected political speech. Anyone who reads it closely can tell that it is a satire. Just look at the name of the URL, which uses the words Sharon Killer, or does Sharon Keller call herself Sharon Killer? Maybe she does.

We suggest Sharon Killer gets over it. We hope that after the November election, Texas gets over Sharon Keller.

Cross-posted on TMN blog

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Grant Rusting - New Anti-Death Penalty Candidate?

Former Libertarian Party candidate and now Republican Party candidate for Texas 25th Congressional District expressed his concern over the Texas criminal justice system, when he joined anti-death penalty candidates in front of the governor's mansion during the execution of Justin Fuller.

Grant Rusting is running against incumbent Democrat Lloyd Doggett for Congress, hoping to represent the district that includes Western Hidalgo and Starr counties, as well as parts of Travis.

Quote of the Week

"...the "right" to a fair and impartial jury of our peers; the "right" to represent oneself; the "right" to a fair trial, even. They're not rights; they're privileges of the powerful and rich. For the powerless and the poor, they are chimeras that vanish once one reaches out to claim them as something real or substantial. Don't expect the media networks to tell you, for the can't, because of the incestuous ness between the media and the government, and big business, which they both serve."
-- Mumia Abu-Jamal

The quote taken from the Preface to
Live from Death Row. Published 1995 by Avon Books.
Mear canvas of Mumia Abu Jamal, photo by psyko (See also Mumia's Wikipedia entry

Friday, September 01, 2006

State Vs Rodney Reed trailer

"State vs. Reed" is a 60 minute documentary that explores an explosive capital murder trial in Texas that has resulted in a questionable death penalty conviction of Bastrop, Texas' Rodney Reed. Reed, a then-28 year-old black male with a minor criminal record, was convicted in 1998 of the murder of Stacey Stites, a 19 year-old finacee' of a local police officer named Jimmy Fennell. Though Fennell was the primary suspect for over a year who failed two polygraph examinations, Reed was eventually arrested after DNA found on the victim was connected to him. Reed claims that he and the victim, who was Caucasian, shared a consensual sexual affair for over 6 months and that an encounter the night before would account for the finding of his DNA as well as a possible motive for the real killer. "State vs. Reed" dives into this complex and potentially benchmark case that still rattles the citizens of this small Central Texas town. By talking to those who knew best -- friends of the victim and family of the defendent, investigators, lawyers, journalists and Reed himself, on Texas' notorious Death Row -- the award winning documentary reveals a case fraught with open questions and unusual coincidences. Ultimately, the documentary reveals the mistake-prone system that sentences men and woman to death in the state of Texas at a rate incomparable around the world. Filmmakers Bustoz and Polomski are first-time feature filmmakers, though have worked in the medium in central Texas for years. Previously, they have worked on the internationally screened short documentary, "Hecho a Mano: Tres Historias de Guatemala". "State vs. Reed" premiered at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival where it won the Lone Star States Audience Award. It has since been screened multiple times in the central Texas area, including the Kerrville Community Center in Bastrop, the Bastrop Public Access Channel (for seven straight nights), the George Washing Carver Museum and Cultural Center in east Austin, and as part of the Amnesty Interntional Film Festival on the University of Texas campus.
Watch the trailer online: