Tuesday, February 27, 2007

International Death Penalty Abolition Day

Celebrating 160 Years Without Death Penalty

With judicial, legislative or executive moratoriums on executions in place in at least eight states, March 1st, 2007, International Death Penalty Abolition Day, brings with it not only a celebration of the past but an indicator of the future. The death penalty in the United
States is on its way out.

Executions have been suspended, literally, from coast to coast, as Florida and California grapple with the question of how to prevent botched lethal injection executions. Other states have joined them in suspending executions: Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee. Indeed, more than one third of the nation's approximately 3,350 people on death rows across the U.S. are in states where a moratorium exists on carrying out the death penalty.

Abolition Day 2007 is the 160th anniversary of the date in 1847 when the State of Michigan officially became the first English-speaking territory in the world to abolish the death penalty.

"People in the United States are beginning to take a hard look at how our criminal justice system is failing," said Bill Pelke, Chairman of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Founder of The Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing. "As a former
supporter of the death penalty who has lost a loved one to murder, I know that anyone who examines the system from a non-emotional standpoint will find that economically, socially and morally, the practice of the death penalty is bad public policy. Billions of
dollars have been spent on the deathpenalty in this country since 1972, for a net result of 1063
executions. This is hardly a good return on that investment. Alternatives to the death penalty exist that punish severely while protecting society, without more killing."

Organizers of "Abolition Day" events point to the State of Michigan as an example that viable alternatives to the death penalty exist. "They got rid of the death penalty because they found that they could not trust themselves to use it fairly, and they learned too late that they had killed an innocent man," said Pelke. Michigan has been without the death penalty for 160 years. The first act of their new legislature whenMichigan became a state was to abolish the death penalty.

"Politicians owe it to the people of this country to take a serious look at the alternatives to the death penalty already in use across this country," said Pelke. "Violent criminals can be punished, and society protected, through the use of long-term prison sentences before a convicted person can be considered for parole. It works in Michigan and in other states like California, which has the oldest 'Life Without Parole' (LWOP) statute in the country. Except for
those who have been exonerated, not one of the people sentenced to LWOP has been released. We are saying to the people of our country, 'Don't make us become that which we deplore. Don't kill in our names. We can do better.'"

STATES, as well as background information on Abolition Day, please visit CUADP.org and click on the Abolition Day Banner.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Maryland vs. Texas

Kudos to Gov. O'Malley of Maryland and shame on Rep. Aaron Pena and the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

While Texas republicans debated expanding the death penalty to repeat child molesters, the Maryland governor, Martin O'Malley testified in support of the Death penalty Abolition bill. According to the Washington Post:

The issue, one of the most divisive facing the General Assembly this year, drew pleas from people on both side of the issue during separate hearings conducted by House and Senate panels. But far more people turned out to support repeal, with nearly 30 people signing up to testify in favor of the bill in the Senate.
Governor O'Malley also had a column on today's Washington post:
Human dignity is the concept that leads brave individuals to sacrifice their lives for the lives of strangers. Human dignity is the universal truth that is the basis of ethics. Human dignity is the fundamental belief on which the laws of this state and this republic are founded. And absent a deterrent value, the damage done to the concept of human dignity by our conscious communal use of the death penalty is greater than the benefit of even a justly drawn retribution.
The proposed "Jessica's Law" sponsored b y Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball passed out of the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence today and will be considered on the Texas House floor very soon. According to Rep. Aaron Pena, "The House bill does not include the Senate's minimum 25-year mandatory sentence for first-time offenders."

Also San Antonio Express-News had another editorial that called for the review of the Death Penalty system rather than expanding it:

But the death penalty isn't the right way to go. Even some child advocacy groups oppose the death penalty as an option in cases of child sexual abuse. Because abuse is so often committed by someone within the family circle, the practice could deter family members from reporting abuse and could prompt predators to kill their victims to avoid punishment, they argue.
Picture: Gov. Martin O'Malley asks for the repeal of the death penalty Wednesday as he gives testimony before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. (Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Moratorium Now!

If you live in Texas, please contact your state senator and state representative and ask them to support a moratorium on executions. You can use our automatic email system (only for Texas residents), or you can find out who your Texas representatives are, and write them from their own websites or call them on the phone. If you live outside Texas, the best way for you to help us right now is by donating money for Lobby Day on March 13, so we can afford to bring some exonerated people to testify.

While executions have slowed in other states, the torrid pace continues in Texas. So far in 2007, there have been five executions in the U.S. and four of them were in Texas. Through March, there are seven more executions scheduled in the U.S. and six of them are in Texas. In many states, executions have recently been halted because of challenges to the lethal injection process, but not in Texas.

Nevertheless, we believe when hearings are held in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee that we can convince them to support a moratorium. There are 7 Democrats and 2 Republicans on that committee. The chair is a Democrat. The last time that this committee was controlled by the Democrats, in 2001, it approved a moratorium proposal. We think they will do it again when they hear how Texas may have executed three innocent people: Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos De Luna.

Save the date of March 13, which is the date for the Death Penalty Issues Lobby Day and "Day of Innocence" at the capitol.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Death Penalty discussion

Click on Image for Color Flyer/Map

For more info contact Dave Atwood

  • Sam Milsap, fomer Bexar county Prosecutor
  • Clarence Brandley, exonerated Texas DR prisoner
  • Deloyd Parker, SHAPE Center
  • Nicole Casarez, UST Innocence Project Coordinator
  • Brandon Dudley, Chief of Staff for Sen. Ellis

Presented by

KPFT Radio, SHAPE Center, & Houston Peace & Justice Center


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Donate to the 2007 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break

Help us put on the 2007 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break in Texas March 12-16, 2007. There will be five days of activism, training and education against the death penalty. It is aimed at high school and college students, but the workshops and activities are open to the general public. There will be a Death Penalty Issues Lobby Day on March 13, when we will be at the Texas capitol urging legislators to stop executions.

There is also a Direct Action Day.

This is a great project that will have a large impact on young people as well as policy-makers, both of whom will learn about how problematic the death penalty is.

Your financial contribution will help us in many ways, including bringing workshop presenters to the event, including people exonerated from death row and family members of murder victims and paying for housing for the students participating in the program.

Texas leads the nation by far in number of executions. Texas performed 45 percent of all the executions in the United States in 2006. Twenty-four people were executed in Texas 2006. There were 53 executions in the U.S. in 2006. Since the U.S Supreme Court ruling in 1976 that allowed executions to resume after a four-year period during which they were considered unconstitutional, there have been 1062 executions in the United States. Texas has performed 383 of those executions, which amounts to about 35 percent of the national total. According to the 2000 census, Texas has only 7.4 percent of the nation's entire population.

As of Feb 14, there have been five executions in the United States in 2007 and four of those executions have taken place in Texas. While many other states have put executions on hold, Texas continues at its usual torrid pace.

Help us stop executions in Texas!

Go to change.org to donate online.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ speaks at the UCC

Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, author of Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents, an internationally known opponent of the death penalty has accepted Bishop Aymond’s invitation to speak in Austin on Wednesday, February 14, 2007. Sr. Helen will be at the University Catholic Center, at 2010 University Ave. (corner of University and 21st adjacent to the U.T. Campus) at 3:30 p.m. Sr. Helen will be joined by Linda White, a member of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation. Linda’s daughter was murdered. Come hear why the Catholic Church and murder victim’s family members stand in opposition to the death penalty. For more information contact Michelle Goodwin at

Monday, February 12, 2007

Stop Execution of Joseph Nichols

By Nancy L. Bailey, TCADP board member

Joseph Nichols is scheduled for execution by the State of Texas on March 7, 2007. His only hope is that the Parole Board and Governor's office grant him clemency.

In 1980, Joseph Nichols and Willie Williams were convicted of capital murder for the death of Claude Schaffer. Joseph had just turned 19 at the time of the offense and in the company of the older Willie Williams, when the two attempted to rob a deli in Houston, Texas. Joseph panicked and ran out the deli after Schaffer went for a gun and shots were fired. Willie Williams put one foot outside the deli but decided to return to the deli to complete the robbery. Williams shot Schaffer, crouching behind the counter but as yet unhurt, with one bullet to the back and left with the cash box. Schaffer would die from one single gunshot wound. Joseph was running down the street when the shooting took place. Williams admitted to shooting Schaffer and it was proven at his trial that he was the sole shooter. . The prosecutor in the Williams trial went to great lengths to prove that Willie Williams acted alone and his gun only fired the one fatal shot that pierced Mr. Schaffer. The medical examiner’s testimony supported Williams’ testimony.

At the time of the crime there were 2 women employees in the store One was in the ladies room toward the back of the store; the other was out front. As the shooting started, the other woman attempted to enter the ladies room, but couldn’t get in. However, the woman who had been in the rest room told police that she had been out front at the time of the shooting and that both men fired guns. She testified to that in court. The other woman, who was an actual witness the crime, gave a false name because of outstanding warrants in Louisiana. The prosecution did not make her real name or location available to the defense although they had obtained the correct information shortly. Therefore, she was not available to testify.
The jury in Joseph Nichols' first trial would not sentence him to death because he was not the shooter. Because the vote was split, the result was a mistrial according to the law at that time. In order to guarantee a death sentence in his second trial, the Harris County district attorney's office switched arguments; they argued that Joseph Nichols was the sole shooter and not Willie Williams. The medical examiner altered his testimony to support the state’s new version of the crime. Again the woman who had actually been in the bathroom testified. Again, the prosecuter failed to give the defense information about the real name and location of the other witness. The jury rendered a guilty verdict and sentenced Joseph Nichols to death . Willie Williams was executed by the state of Texas in 1995.

The issue of the concealed witness is a clear example of prosecutorial misconduct (Brady violation). The above issues including the Brady violation and information given by the witness finally located by Nichols' appeals attorneys as to the actual facts of the case were presented to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the 5th Circuit and the US Supreme Court. In spite of this evidence, none have granted Nichols relief, leaving him with no other avenues for appeal other than clemency.

Nichols’ attorneys are submitting a petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and to the Governor asking that clemency be granted. Joseph Nichols has a loving family who is requesting that support letters be sent to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Governor. This is a message from Joseph's mother, "Joseph and we his family have always been prayerful, mindful and felt sorrow daily for the Shaffer family's loss. We thank you for your prayers and support now and through the years. God Bless"

As most of you know, in Texas, the Governor cannot commute a sentence without the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Therefore there should be a letter to the Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that they recommend clemency to the Governor, and a letter to the Governor asking that he grant clemency, commuting Joseph's sentence to life.
We sympathize with the victim's family. Grief does not discriminate between persons. There is no winner when someone dies. Killing is wrong regardless of who does it. But Joseph Nichols didn't kill anyone. Joseph has always been a model prisoner, a compassionate and spiritual man who loves life. Joseph is no longer the spontaneous youth he was when the crime occurred. Joseph deserves a chance to live. Joseph has been on death row for almost thirty years, more than enough to pay for attempted robbery.. Joseph did not kill anyone and the jury on the first trial saw this because the true facts came out in the testimony of Willie Williams. The second trial was based on lies, and that is why the jury sentenced Joseph to die. Justice is not served when facts are distorted.

Nichols’ attorneys are submitting a petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and to the Governor asking that clemency be granted. Joseph Nichols has a loving family who is requesting that support letters be sent to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Governor. As most of you know, in Texas, the Governor cannot commute a sentence without the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Therefore a letter should be sent to the Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that they recommend clemency to the Governor, and a letter to the Governor asking that he grant clemency.

Please use the facts presented above in your letters to both the BPP and the Governor. Failure of the courts to address the types of problems in Joseph’s case is major grounds for clemency. Although historically, Texas governors have not seen mercy as having a role in deciding whether to grant clemency, they have occasionally gone on record as saying that clemency is the “fail safe” for omissions during the judicial process. Please acknowledge in your letters that a crime was committed with the loss of a life and causing pain to the family of the victim. Include in your letter any other reasons that you feel should be considered when making a decision about whether this man’s life should be terminated or spared.

These letters must reach the Governor and the BPP by a week before the scheduled execution, so do it as soon as possible.

Here is the contact information:

How to address the envelope:

Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, TX 78757

Address your letter to:

Rissie Owens and other Board Members
Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, TX 78757

Dear Board Member:

Ms. Ramirez, the clemency coordinator will fax your letter to each board member. Please do not try to send individual letter to each board member at their individual office. They will be mishandled if you do that.

Letter to the governor:
Rick Perry
Governor, State of Texas
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Dear Governor Perry:

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Death Penalty Debate at UT-Austin

This is video of the debate between the UT Austin Chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Young Conservatives of Texas on January 29.

The debate was in the Oxford style, with alternating speakers from each side debating a resolution that the death penalty be abolished. Each side also had a "questioner" who asked one or two questions from the other side, designed to point to the weaknesses in the opposing side's argument. In the middle of the debate, there was a short break in which audience members made comments and asked questions.

The yays won 114 to 43 on the resolution to Abolish the Death Penalty!
Duration: 75 minutes

Do Not Execute James Jackson!

James Jackson is scheduled to be executed by Texas on Feb. 7. He was convicted in the April 1997 murders of his wife and two stepdaughters in Harris County.

The state of Texas should not execute James Jackson. Executing Jackson would constitute the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Furthermore, during the sentencing phase of Jackson’s trial, the judge did not allow his family to testify about how executing Jackson would affect their lives. Also, there is a question as to whether or not Jackson’s initial arrest was legal.

Please write to Gov. Rick Perry on behalf of James Jackson!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Quote of the week

All creatures kill -- there seems to be no exception. But of the whole list man is the only one that kills for fun; he is the only one that kills in malice; the only one that kills for revenge.
-- Mark Twain