Thursday, October 30, 2008

Witness to Innocence's press conference at the Texas Capitol

Witness to Innocence's Friday news conference should be available for viewing at:

It will be the Live Stream from the Speaker's Committee Room. The news conference is scheduled for 2:00 p.m., Central Daylight Time. Real Player is required for viewing the webcast.

Also TSADP will post the complete video on youtube after the event.
- - - - -

MEDIA ADVISORY: October 27, 2008
CONTACT: Kurt Rosenberg, 215-609-9462 or 215-387-1831


Two dozen exonerated ex-death row prisoners from across the country
will hold a news conference to call for the establishment of a
statewide commission on wrongful convictions while a moratorium is
imposed on executions in Texas.

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Friday, October 31, 2008

WHERE: Speaker's Committee Room. Room 2W.6 Texas State Capitol

DETAILS: The 24 men are members of Witness to Innocence, a national
organization composed of exonerated former death row prisoners and
their loved ones. They spent a combined total of nearly 200 years on
death row for crimes they did not commit. They will be joined by
State Rep. Elliott Naishtat and former Bexar County District Attorney
Sam Millsap. Naishtat (D-Austin) is a longtime supporter of a
moratorium on executions, while Millsap has become an outspoken critic
of the death penalty since the 1993 execution of Ruben Cantu, who many
believe was innocent.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Louisiana Court of Appeals Trashed 2,500 Habeas Patitions

A 2007 suicide note by a clerk of the Louisiana Court of Appeals who killed himself at the courthouse revealed that 2500 prisoner petitions had been summarily rejected over a period of 13 years without having been read. According to a reporter, "Although every criminal writ application is supposed to be reviewed by three judges, he was deputed to winnow out any that had been filed pro se and arrange for their automatic rejection." The Louisiana Supreme Court ordered that the petitions be considered by judges not involved in the improper rejection. (Opinion here) However, some, including Supreme Court Justice Weimer, objected to allowing judges from the same circuit decide the petitions, because all of the judges knew about the improper practices for at least several onths before taking any steps to remedy it. In addition, it is not clear that all of the judges cooperated fully with the police investigation of the suicide. According to the Times-Picayune, "In one investigative report, a detective wrote that Chief Judge Edward Dufresne Jr. was being evasive when asked some questions about problems with [the clerk's] employment, and withheld a suicide note from police for several hours after Peterson's death, until after officers had left the building." [Jack Chin] H/T to Crime Prof blog.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Carolyn LeCroy of The Message Project selected as CNN's Top 10 Hero

One of the folks in the running to be dubbed "CNN Hero of the Year" is Carolyn LeCroy, an ex-prisoner who started a small non-profit called The Messages Project that helps prisoners and their children maintain and "repair" their relationships through video messages. See

The winning Hero will be featured in the CNN Thanksgiving Special with Anderson Cooper.

You can vote at

Friday, October 24, 2008

Press Advisory: The 9th Annual March to End Executions


October 24, 2008

Contacts: Gloria Rubac 713-503-2633

Dan Sharber 713-560-7227

The 9th Annual March to End Executions to Focus on the Flaws of the Death Penalty in Texas; Exoneree Clarence Brandley to Speak along with Several Death Row Families

Hundreds of death penalty opponents will gather in Houston on Saturday, October 25, for the 9th Annual March to End Executions. The march will kick off at 2:00 pm with a pre-rally at the S.H.A.P.E. Center’s Harambee building at 3903 Almeda.

The 2008 march will be lead by a new organization—Kids Against the Death Penalty (KADP) followed by the S.H.A.P.E. Center Council of Elders. Participants will be traveling from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley. The Free Radicals Marching Band will accompany the march down Alabama Street.

The featured speaker at the main rally at S.H.A.P.E.'s "Our Park," 3815 Live Oak, will be Clarence Brandley who was released after almost 10 years of wrongful confinement on death row. The S.H.A.P.E. Center was the home of the Coalition to Free Clarence Brandley, which launched a public campaign to win Brandley’s freedom.
In a 1987 evidentiary hearing, State District Judge Perry Picket recommended that the Court of Criminal Appeals grant Brandley a new trial, declaring: “In the thirty years this court has presided over matters in the judicial system, no case has presented a more shocking scenario of the effects of racial prejudice, perjured testimony, [and] witness intimidation. . . .The continued incarceration of Clarence Lee Brandley under these circumstances is an affront to the basic notion of fairness and justice.”

Another featured speaker will be Connie Wright, the wife of Gregory Wright, scheduled to be executed on October 30 despite evidence of innocence. Also, the family of Jeff Wood will speak. Wood was sent to death row because of the law of parties despite never killing anyone. He received a stay of execution shortly before his August 21 execution date this summer.

This march has been held every year since 2000, a year when then-Governor George Bush was campaigning for the presidency and 40 people were executed.

In 2008, Texas has seen questionable cases involving actual innocence, the law of parties, foreign nationals executed but never given their consular rights and a case of a judge and a D.A. having a secret, long-term romantic affair while trying cases together.

Thus, the theme of this year’s march is: The Death Penalty—Guilty on All Counts! Shut It Down.” Organizers point out that the death penalty targets poor people and people of color, executes innocent people through misconduct and the Law of Parties, and does not deter crime in Texas.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All Visits in Texas Prisons Cancelled

(Please disseminate to your respective group members)

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY - As a result of a system-wide lock-down, all visitation during the week of October 21-26, 2008 will be cancelled to allow units to conduct security searches.

Please continue to check the TDCJ website or contact the TDCJ Ombudsman Coordinator's Office, 936-437-8035, for updates regarding visitation for the week of October 27-31, 2008.

Dona Brown
TDCJ Ombudsman Coordinator's Office
P. O. Box 99
Huntsville, Texas 77342
Telephone: 936-437-8035
Fax: 936-437-8067

Monday, October 20, 2008

Broken Radio Antenna at Polunsky Unit

I'm sure some of you have had your guys complain about the broken antenna on the death row bldg. It's been about 3 months now that's it's been that way, and a lot of the guys are really upset about it. Some areas get perfect reception, most do not.. some guys are only able to pick up 1 station, 2 tops... To us this may seem like a very small issue, but to those guys it's huge... It's a connection to the world that they DO need, be it music, news, or if you have a husband like mine.. sports!!

TDCJ has virtually stripped these men of everything.. now the one "luxury" they are allowed, doesn't work... When complaints have been made .. they've all been told the same thing... "Huntsville knows about this problem, We don't know when it will be fixed."

Maybe Huntsville needs to hear from us... It will take a few minutes of your time to give a call and let them know how you feel about this.. If we make enough calls, I'm sure that antenna may just get fixed...

Here's some numbers to try...

TDCJ Director's Office- Huntsville

TDCJ DEputy Director- Huntsville

Ombudsman Office

Terri Been

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My trip to Texas Death Row

By Christyn Truman

As usual, my trips to Texas are always bittersweet. I knew this one would be hard because I was visiting death row for the first time. I played in my mind everything that I expected to happen, and everything I would feel. However, I was not ready for the actual flood of emotion that came over me upon seeing the sign of the Polunsky Unit.

I entered the grounds and stopped my cr so the guards could seach the car. I told them I had a special visit with Rudy Medrano. The guard said, " Oh on death row?" I shook my head yes. I don't know why that bothered me so much.

I had no problems getting into the prison. I met another woman who was also visiting a friend there. I explained this was my first time to the unit and tod me not to worry, she would show me what to do. I was thankful for her help. I knew I was not alone.

As I entered the visiting area, I looked to my right to see an inmate visiting with his family. The woman I had just met told me that was Alvin Kelly. Alvin was to be executed that night. I almost fainted right there. Here was a living, breathing man, trying to console his family because he knew he would be killed in less than 12 hours. It was all becoming so real to me.

I sat down in at cage 27. I say cage, because that is exactly what it is. The side Rudy would be sitting on is smaller than one of those porta-pottys you see at parks. There is no room at all for them to move around.

I told myself I would not cry, especially in front of him. I waited for them to bring him in. As I looked up, there he was, and the tears began to flow. So much for not crying. Rudy put his hand to the glass and picked up the phone. The first few moments of our visit we sat in silence as I really tried to grasp the the emotions I was feeling. I have been in contact with Rudy for a year. Writing to him, or to any of them is completely different than actually being there and seeing them. Seeing the prison, and the walls that divide us.

Rudy and I spoke about many things and had a few laughs. For one split second, I forgot about the glass between us, the electronic doors that locked us both in, or the whites he wore. It was just me and my friend. Then behind Rudy walks a tall man, also in whites with a smile so big it filled his whole face. I soon found out that was Kevin Watts, who is sceduled to be executed today. Suddenly the glass became more apparent and I could hear the clicking of the doors not far from me. We were back on death row.

Rudy told me this is how it is everyday there. You could be in a good vibe, having a good conversation with someone, then you hear that someone new gets a date, and reality stares you right smack in the face. This is a reality that I cannot except.

When the officer came to me and said I had 5 minutes left, I turned and looked at Rudy. I know he felt the hurt and disgust that was in my heart. As I looked at him, the tears flowed again, and I said " I don't want to leave you here." He simply told me, " It will be ok." I stood up and told him I loved him and hung up the phone.

I went across the way to the bathroom, where I threw up. I looked at myself in the mirror and reminded myself how precious life really is.

During the visit, Rudy asked me if I really knew what I was getting myself into when I started this. I honestly answered no. I had no idea that I would be on an emotional rollar coaster most of the time. I had no idea that I would grow to love Rudy as my brother. I had no idea that the anger I feel inside me when I think of the death penalty, and those sitting on death row would consume me. I had no idea.

As I was leaving the visiting area, the officer asked if I was ok. I said yes. She then asked if this was my first time. I guess all the tears gave it away. I told her it was. She then asked if I would be back. As I saw Rudy standing there, in that cage waving to me, I turned to her and said , " Yes, I will be back."

On my drive back to Huntsville from Livingston, I crossed the Trinity River. I looked out across and thought how beautiful it all was. And how deceiving. In the middle of all this beauty, people are having their last moments with their loved ones. People are giving their last statments. People are being killed.

That same evening, I protested outside the Walls Unit. Alvin Kelly, whom I had just seen hours before, was killed by the state of Texas. As I watched his loved ones fall to the ground in agony once the execution was confirmed, I too felt a sense of loss. A loss of humanity and compassion amongst my fellow human beings. A loss of the principals of what this country was founded on.

I eneded the night by visiting the prison cemetary. Looking at all the graves of people who have either died in Texas prisons, or were executed. There were so, so many of them. I was completly numb. I was also completly aware that there will be many more buried there.

At some point, we all have to stop and ask ourselves, can we really stand by and continue to allow this to happen? These men and women don't need us to feel sorry for them. They need us to be in the streets. They need us to put a picture and a story to their name and prison number. They need us to bring back that love and compassion for others that so many in this world have lost. They need us to fight.

Attorney general defends actions in investigation of affair between judge, DA

It is interesting and strange, in my opinion, that the Texas Attorney General gives the perception that he cares about the Charles Hood case and the picture of total unfairness that it gives to justice in Texas. And never mind the fact that it is totally illegal for a judge and a DA to be having an affair while working on the same case.
If Abbott was really on the justice ball, he would file some kind of charges on both Judge Holland and former DA O'Connell for violating the constitution of the state of Texas. And then he would make sure that Charles Hood had a new trial with an impartial DA and judge who were not romantically involved with each other.
Just another example of how this system if BROKEN. Let's shut it down!!
(mark your calender--only 9 days until the 9th Annual Texas March to Stop Executions)

Attorney general defends actions in investigation of affair between judge, DA

11:07 AM CDT on Friday, September 26, 2008
By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News
The state's top lawyer said Thursday that he had expected Texas courts to "step up and do the right thing" by investigating an affair between the judge and prosecutor in the trial of condemned killer Charles Dean Hood.
Only when they didn't, did his office publicly intervene in a case that he says "has called into question the integrity" of the Texas justice system.
Attorney General Greg Abbott's unusual public comments came as he responded to criticism in the formal court petition filed Thursday by Mr. Hood's attorneys seeking a new trial because retired Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell admitted having a relationship that the defense says tainted Mr. Hood's right to a fair trial.
The case has drawn attention from legal ethicists and death penalty opponents who say it has given the Texas criminal justice system a black eye.
Mr. Abbott said that though his office filed a "friend of the court" brief urging investigation into the allegations a few days before Mr. Hood's latest scheduled execution date in September, his office had been working behind the scenes since the allegations were first raised in court months earlier.
Delayed execution

Mr. Abbott pointed out that his office also was closely involved in the decision not to execute Mr. Hood on an earlier date, in June. On that occasion, Mr. Hood was twice taken to the death house as attorneys and judges wrangled long into the night. Mr. Hood's execution did not go forward despite being cleared by the courts.
"Our office was involved and advising on that process," Mr. Abbott said. He declined to clarify the role played because "it may arguably be protected by attorney-client privilege."
At the time, prison officials said they canceled the execution since they didn't have time to carry it out before the death warrant expired at midnight.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed the decision was made "after consulting with the attorney general's office."
“That’s just rhetoric," Mr. Abbott said. “It sounds like a lot of lawyer hot air.”
Mr. Abbott, who supports the death penalty, said he has not read the depositions in which the judge and prosecutor admitted having a long-standing intimate relationship.
He declined to comment on whether Mr. Hood deserves a new trial, but he said he felt strongly the allegations should be explored before the sentence is carried out.
"A real triggering event was when it was learned that a hearing was set to look into this matter days after the execution was set," he said. It was then that the former Texas Supreme Court judge took public action.
Apparently, some members of Mr. Abbott's own staff were unaware of his efforts in the Hood case. After the attorney general's office filed the "friend of the court" brief urging investigation into Mr. Hood's claims, an assistant attorney general who had been representing Judge Holland filed a complaint against him with the State Bar of Texas.
"That's what happens when people shoot first and ask questions later," Mr. Abbott said.
"The person filing the complaint had no information about what me or the office had done months before representation of the judge was undertaken. We, including me personally, had already taken action in this case months before Judge Holland contacted our office for representation."
He said that when he learned the assistant attorney general had undertaken representation of Judge Holland, his office immediately told Judge Holland she needed to hire her own attorney.
The relationship

Mr. Hood was convicted in 1990 for killing Tracie Lynn Wallace and Ronald Williamson in Plano. He claims he deserves a new trial because "Judge Holland created an appearance of impropriety and an impression of possible bias."
The petition filed Thursday seeking a new trial shed more light on the relationship between Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell. According to the petition, Judge Holland told attorneys it began in 1982 and ended in 1987; Mr. O'Connell recollected it started in 1984 or 1985 and did not end until 1991 or 1992.
The two apparently remained good friends even as the romance waned. As late as 1991, they traveled to Santa Fe together, and Mr. O'Connell attended Judge Holland's family reunion that same year.
The depositions reportedly said both parties professed their love for each other during the relationship. Mr. O'Connell said Judge Holland talked about getting married, but Judge Holland denied that.
Both parties said they kept the relationship secret. "Their sexual encounters took place at each other's homes when their spouses were away," according to the petition.
According to the petition, Judge Holland said during her deposition it was "absolutely not" improper for her to preside over the Hood case. Her attorney has said the romance was not going on at the time of Mr. Hood's arrest and trial.
Neither he nor Mr. O'Connell's attorney could be reached for comment.
Mr. Hood's lawyers also declined to elaborate on the petition, which in addition to taking Mr. Abbott to task, called the conduct of "the current District Attorney and his minions ... troubling."
John Rolater, the assistant district attorney for Collin County who fought to avoid the deposition of Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell, declined to comment on the petition, citing pending litigation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Map of Executions in U.S. Since 1977

The total number of executions represented in this map is three less than the grand total, because three executions were conducted by the federal government and not by a state.

Troy Davis - updated actions and execution warrant

Hello all,

An execution warrant has now been issued for Troy Davis - commencing on October 27. The exact date of his execution will be set shortly, but will likely the 27th (the warrant lasts for one week, and the date is generally set for the first day of the warrant period).

For those who didn't receive it, please see below for the email that went out to thousands of on-line activists yesterday regarding the recent updates on the Troy Davis case. Feel free to forward to your networks. There are currently 4 actions that people can take - 3 you see in the email below, plus a Global Day of Action on October 23rd.
  1. Write the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles and ask them to reconsider their decision and grant clemency (the on-line action is still up on the website).
  2. Help spread the word on Troy's case by forwarding this information to friends, family and fellow activists, as well as by text messaging TROY to 90999.
  3. Write a letter to the editor. A one page guide is attached, as well as linked to in the email below.
  4. Participate in the Global Day of Action for Troy Davis on October 23. There will be a large rally at the state capitol in Atlanta, GA on this day, and we are encouraging supporters around the world to hold rallies, vigils or actions on this day in solidarity. A one page guide is attached, and more information will be up on the website shortly. Some groups are already planning events for days other than the 23rd, and that is just fine. Whatever people can do, whenever they can do it, is greatly encouraged.
  • IMPORTANT: Please be sure to keep me informed of anything being planed:

As I said, all of this information will soon be completely up to date on the website

We wanted to be sure to keep you all informed. You have all been essential to raising the profile of this case, and we cannot thank you enough for your hard work and dedication. We must keep fighting - but also know that this is not just about Troy Davis, but about ending the death penalty. Together we will make that happen.

In Solidarity,

Brian Evans
Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Video of Interview with Alvin Kelly - Scheduled for Execution in Texas Tuesday Oct 14

h/t to TMN Blog

Austin Chronicle: Keller Immune to Justice

Thats the title of Austin Chronicle's article on Sharon Keller.

According to federal district Judge Lee Yeakel's ruling last week, Court of Criminal Appeals presiding Judge Sharon Keller enjoys "judicial immunity," which insulates her from being sued for violating the civil rights of an executed inmate. "Judicial immunity is immunity from suit, not just damages, and therefore applies despite allegations of malice or corruption," Yeakel wrote. And, indeed, there were plenty of allegations of malice and corruption to be found in the lawsuit filed last fall by the family of executed inmate Michael Richard.

On Sept. 25, 2007, Keller closed the courthouse door, blocking Richard's 11th-hour appeal challenging the constitutionality of the trichemical lethal injection method. That same day, the U.S. Supreme Court had said it would review a similar case from Kentucky (Baze v. Rees), and Richard's attorneys were seeking a stay for their client pending the outcome of the Baze case. In order to get the Supremes to consider Richard's appeal, however, the case first had to be considered by the CCA. The appeal was delayed because his attorneys had computer problems. They called the clerk to say the appeal would be late, but Keller refused to accept it: "We close at 5," she said.

This meant, in effect, that Richard was blocked from obtaining a stay from the Supremes and was instead executed – the only inmate to be executed in the U.S. after the high court said it would consider the Baze case. The Supremes ultimately ruled that the trichem injection method, as used by Kentucky, is constitutional, and thus the death-house machinery began its endless churning again this summer. Still, the court did not preclude additional challenges to the method, especially by a state – read: Texas – that has more experience with the mechanics of death and thus a fuller record for the court to vet. At the time the court considered Baze, the state had used the method just once.

Keller's decision was, apparently, made in a vacuum – although there were three other judges at the court that evening, she failed to check with any of them about her decision to shut the doors on Richard, including Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was actually assigned to handle the Richard case. Johnson told the Austin American-Statesman that she was "dismayed" by Keller's decision. In response to Keller's seemingly unilateral decision to deny an inmate access to the courts, Richard's widow (and later, his daughter) sued Kel­ler, arguing that the judge had denied Rich­ard's due process rights. "No law or rule gave ... Keller the authority to close the court to prevent the Appeal," the suit argued.

Ultimately, Yeakel's ruling did not address that argument. Instead, he ruled in Keller's favor, dismissing the suit, opining that Rich­ard's widow, Marsha, did not provide adequate facts to support her allegations and that, ultimately, Keller's position as a judge offered her near total immunity from any such suit. "A judge's duties make her particularly vulnerable to lawsuits from vexed litigants, as she must exercise discretion to make potentially controversial decisions," Yeakel wrote. "Even grave procedural errors do not overcome judicial immunity."

And so in the aftermath of her much derided decision, Keller has so far emerged legally unscathed. Indeed, the status of a complaint filed with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct by Texas Civil Rights Project Director Jim Harrington and signed on to by more than a dozen other influential attorneys is also in limbo – Harrington says that because of the rules of the commission, which keep the status of such complaints away from the public, he doesn't know if his complaint is still pending or has been dismissed.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Families of victims and families of the executed gather to launch national project

Washington, DC – Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) launched a national project opposing the death penalty for persons with severe mental illnesses at a press conference and remembrance ceremony in San Antonio, Texas on October 3.

The initiative builds on a series of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that eliminate the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities and juvenile offenders and raise serious concerns about executing people with severe mental illnesses. A national report on the issue will be released in June 2009, based in part on testimony from family members at San Antonio event.

Amanda and Nick Wilcox, who traveled to the conference from California, said they believe the man responsible for killing their 19-year-old daughter Laura must be held accountable for his actions, “but to execute him for an act he committed while delusional with a severe disease is, to us, simply wrong.”

Lois Robison said she has been waiting almost 25 years for an initiative like the one being launched today. Lois’s son Larry, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was discharged from the hospital because his insurance had run out. Warned that their son was not well and would get worse without treatment, the Robisons continued to seek a hospital placement for him but were told that he would only be admitted if he became violent. After four years without treatment, Larry killed five people. “We were horrified, and terribly distressed for the victims and their families,” Lois sa id. “We thought Larry would finally be committed to a mental institution, probably for life. We were wrong.” Larry was executed in Texas in 2000.

Renny Cushing, director of the national organization Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, said victims have an obvious stake in the death penalty debate. “The people here bring the voice of experience to the question of executing offenders with severe mental illness,” he said. “They have suffered horrendous losses and they are saying that executions are not the answer to the problem of mental illness.”

As the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to helping individuals and families affected by mental illnesses, the National Alliance on Mental Illness agreed to collaborate with the victims’ group because “we believe the execution of individuals with severe mental illness compounds the tragedy of violent crimes and serves no purpose in deterring similar crimes,” said Ron Honberg, the organization’s Legal and Policy Director. “The answer lies not in executing people who struggle with illnesses that are no fault of their own, but rather, in taking steps to prevent crimes from ever occurring.”

Friday, October 03, 2008

Rev. Carroll Pickett: The evolution of a death penalty opponent

For 15 years, the Rev. Carroll Pickett was a witness to state-sanctioned death. As a prison chaplain in Hunstville, he presided over 95 executions. After each one, Mr. Pickett recorded his thoughts on tape. The documentary At the Death House Door chronicles his anguish as he eventually concludes that some of the men he led to death were innocent.

Dallas Morning News editorial writer Colleen McCain Nelson interviewed Mr. Pickett via e-mail this week:

You witnessed dozens of executions as prison chaplain. Why did you feel called to do that job?

In my first church in Sinton, Texas, I promised a man he would not have to die alone. I kept that promise throughout my ministry. The prison hospital was on my unit, and I had hundreds of people die, and I tried to be there. These are human beings, and everyone should have a friend when they die.

Initially, you supported the death penalty. Why?

I was raised in Texas, the Wild West. I was taught that this was necessary. I was at the prison in 1974 when two of my church members were murdered in the longest prison siege in history. I had to tell two families that their mothers were killed, and I conducted their funerals. I thought this was justice.

After each execution, you recorded a tape about what you had seen. What purpose did that serve?

Living alone at the time that I started executions in 1982, I came home after the first, and I had to talk. ... I decided to talk to a machine and get it all out. It helped make a traumatic experience a little more bearable.

You spent time with inmates during their final hours. Did they confess their crimes? Proclaim their innocence?

Yes, and more. There were many who did not commit the crime, and their innocence was the basic topic for the entire day and night. These were difficult since I knew some of them were not the people who pulled the triggers. Some were victims of the law of parties. Some were fully innocent.

When did doubts about capital punishment begin to creep into your thoughts?

Maybe it was the first [execution]. But it became very real with one of the first [executions of someone who] did not pull the trigger. ...Then, I began to visit with families of the victims who found no closure. ... It was not a deterrent to anyone except the one who was executed.

Was there a pivotal moment that changed your mind about the death penalty?

No, it was a period of growth. But I watched a young man die who called me "Daddy." I knew that he was innocent, and another inmate in another unit bragged about doing the murder. My inmate took the fall. That was a strong factor.

Do you believe that you saw innocent men executed?

Absolutely. If a man is killed for just being [at the scene of a crime], to me, he was innocent. And others did not commit the crimes. Others just didn't have the means, the money, or the legal system to help them.

Many of the condemned inmates were guilty of heinous crimes. How do you answer the victims' families who want to see a loved one's killer put to death?

What does it accomplish? It doesn't bring their loved one back. There is no such thing as closure.

You've said there's a better way to ensure justice. What would you propose?

Accept the fact that there is a possibility that innocent people have been and will be executed. Accept the fact that people can grow and change and repent and can be useful to the world, even in prison. ... Lethal injection is still cruel and unusual punishment, which is forbidden by our country's laws.

Despite declining support for the death penalty in other parts of the country, Texas hasn't wavered. Do you hold out hope for convincing state leaders that death by prison is a viable alternative?

Absolutely. If our state leaders who hold the keys to life and death in Texas would watch just one execution, and if that happened to be one of the botched executions, I know they would change. We have had some wonderful wardens and correctional officers and staff members who had had enough, and I believe state officials would get a truer picture of what murder by needles really is.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

TRIBUTE: Stanley Tookie Williams, 1953-2005.

The organizing committee for the 9th Annual Texas March to End Executions will be showing the excellent documentary TRIBUTE: Stanley Tookie Williams, 1953-2005.
The event will be a fundraiser for the march and there is a $5 suggested donation (though no one will be turned away for lack of funds). Come out and see a good movie and
support a good cause!

When: This Thursday (10/2) @ 8.30pm

Where: Antidote Coffee Shop - 729 Studewood just north of i-10 in the Heights.

Who: You and all your friends!

What: This 66-minute film--TRIBUTE: Stanley Tookie Williams, 1953-2005--is a powerful documentary that examines death row prisoner, Crips gang co-founder, children's book author and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stanley Tookie Williams.
The international campaign for clemency to save him from death by lethal injection ended on December 13, 2005, at 12:35 a.m. when he was pronounced dead after clemency was denied by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. TRIBUTE includes scenes from a staged reenactment of that execution.
The reenactment--as well as TRIBUTE--were produced and directed by writer Barbara Becnel and producer Shirley Neal, longtime friends of Stanley Tookie Williams. It was based on their real-life experience at San Quentin's death chamber witnessing his botched execution--it took him 35 minutes to die. The two women filmed the staged reenactment,
enabling TRIBUTE to offer a very intimate view of capital punishment.

'We created and staged a play that replicated the execution because we wanted people to see exactly what the State of California does in the middle of the night in the name of the people of the State of California,' explains Barbara Becnel.
TRIBUTE includes provocative eulogies by Snoop Dogg, Tony Robbins and Louis Farrakhan--speaking at the memorial service of Stanley Tookie Williams--and never-before-seen footage of his ashes scattered by Becnel and Neal in Soweto, South Africa. This was his last wish.