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Stop the Executions

Posted by terres on December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Dear Reader,

Texas executed 18 of the 37 people executed in the U.S. in 2008. 95% of all executions occurred in the South in 2008; 49% were in one state – Texas. One person on Texas death row was exonerated and removed from death row in 2008. Michael Blair remains in prison on other charges. Harris County sent no one to death row in 2008.

Many people have joined our Amazee project. Please take five minutes to join the project and help us move into first place.


Help Us Win a Membership Contest so that We Can Help Some Families of People on Death Row

Click here to join the “Abolish the Death Penalty Project” on Amazee.com and help us win a membership contest. We need only about 50 new members to move into 3rd place and about 150 to move into first place.

We could win up to $5,000 to use against the death penalty. The project with the most members by Jan 22 wins. This is one of the easiest actions you can take to make a big impact for some of the families of people on death row, if we win.

We plan to use one-half of any prize money we win to help needy families of people on death row travel to visit their loved ones on death row. We will use the other half of the prize money to fight against the death penalty.

You have to go to the project page, click on “join project” on the right hand side, then click on “register”. Then to qualify as one of the members who count towards the contest, you have to upload a profile picture or avatar of yourself. You don’t have to do anything else to help us win the membership contest, just join the project.

We were all moved by the family members who spoke at the 9th Annual March to Stop Executions in Houston, so we were thinking of how we could help them. We all know that the death penalty is reserved for the poor. There are no rich people on death row. We want to use one half of any prize money we get through this contest to help family members visit their loved ones on death row. Many families have a hard time making ends meet and the extra cost of traveling long distances to visit their loved ones on death row is a great financial burden. Some of the people on death row have young children who rarely get to visit them. We will decide which needy families to help in consultation with the other groups in Texas that work together against the death penalty, including Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

If we win the first place prize of $5,000, then $2500 will be reserved to help with trips to death row for families of people sentenced to death who need financial help to visit their loved ones. The other $2,500 would be used for activities during the upcoming Texas legislative session, such as a big anti-death penalty rally in Austin and other projects. If we only win third place, then we would have $1000 for the families and $1,000 for other expenses. But let’s aim for first place!

Thanks to Amazee for helping non-profits achieve their missions!


The Death Penalty Information Center has issued its 2008 Year End Report on the Death Penalty.

Highlights from the Report

Decline in the Number of Executions and Death Sentences

  • 37 executions took place in 2008, marking a 14-year low and continuing a downward trend that began in 2000.

  • 95% of all executions occurred in the South in 2008; 49% were in one state – Texas.

  • The annual number of death sentences has dropped by 60% since the 1990s.

Innocence and Clemency

  • Four death row inmates were exonerated and four had their sentences commuted to life in prison without parole during the course of this year. The total number of exonerations since 1973 is 130.

Costs of the Death Penalty

  • A California commission reported that the state is spending $138 million per year on a death penalty system that they described as “broken” and “close to collapse.”

  • A study in Maryland indicated that the state had spent $37 million for each execution when all the costs of the death penalty were included.

  • With the average time spent on death row increasing to 12.7 years in 2007, death penalty cases continue to place a significant financial burden on state budgets.

  • State supreme courts in Utah and New Mexico have warned that the death penalty would be stopped unless more funding is provided for indigent defense.

Expansion of the Death Penalty Denied

  • In June, the Supreme Court rejected the expansion of the death penalty to non-homicide crimes against individuals in Kennedy v. Louisiana.

To read the complete report, click here.


Email the Austin City Coucil About the Death Penalty Resolution

We had a meeting recently with aides to Austin City Council members Randi Shade and Lee Leffingwell to discuss our proposed resolution for a moratorium on executions. They told us they would discuss the issue with their bosses. Use this webform to send an email to all members of the Austin City Council telling them why they should pass a resolution calling for a moratorium. You can address your email: Dear Mayor Wynn and Members of the Austin City Council. Your one email will be sent to all council members and the mayor.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed by city councils across Texas. Local governments and local taxpayers are the most vulnerable of all levels of government and taxpayers when it comes to being held financially responsible when innocent people are wrongfully convicted. In 2003, the City of Austin paid out more than $14 million to Richard Danziger and Christopher Ochoa because the APD had coerced a false confession from Ochoa, who then implicated Danziger.

There have been 20 exonerations of innocent people in Dallas County, including 11 since the current DA, Craig Watkins, took office.

Nine people have been sent to Texas death row and later exonerated. At least three innocent people may have already been executed in Texas.

Local governments need to send a message to the Texas Legislature to address the problems in the system that can lead to innocent people being convicted and even put at risk of wrongful execution. If a person is wrongfully executed in Texas, local taxpayers may have to foot the bill for a wrongful death lawsuit. The Travis County Commissioners Court and the El Paso County Commissioners Court have already passed moratorium resolutions.

Our proposed resolution is here. Of course, we expect it to be changed before it is passed. We also presented them with a resolution to abolish the death penalty in case they wanted to choose to pass that resolution.

The Austin Human Rights Commission has already passed both a moratorium resolution and an abolition resolution on separate ocassions and has sent letters to all city council members saying that the AHRC would like the city council to address the issue with its own resolution. There were two members of the AHRC at the meeting. Delia Meyer, a TMN board member, who is also an Austin Human Rights Commissioner, has been pushing the issue on the AHRC. Also present were Scott Cobb, Hooman Hedayati and Alison Dieter.

The ACLU-TX Central Texas Chapter has also endorsed the resolution.


Seven Executions in Texas in January

Curtis Moore January 14
TDCJ Info on Curtis Moore

Jose Garcia Briseno Jan 15
TDCJ Info on Jose Garcia Briseno

Frank Moore Jan 21
TDCJ Info on Frank Moore

Reginald Perkins Jan 22

TDCJ Info on Reginald Perkins

Larry Ray Swearingen Jan 27
Larry Swearingen’s website
Another website with information and legal documents
TDCJ Info on Larry Ray Swearingen

Virgil Martinez Jan 28
TDCJ Info on Virgil Martinez

Ortiz Ricardo Jan 29
TDCJ Info on Ortiz Ricardo

To send the Governor of Texas an email denouncing these executions, go to:

http://governor. state.tx.us/contact

You can also call and leave him a voice message:

Telephone numbers for Governor Rick Perry of Texas

* Citizen’s Opinion Hotline [for Texas callers] : (800) 252-9600

* Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers] : (512) 463-1782

* Office of the Governor Main Switchboard : (512) 463-2000

* Citizen’s Assistance Telecommunications Device
If you are using a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD), call 711 to reach Relay Texas

* Office of the Governor Fax:
(512) 463-1849

Mailing Address:

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Bill Filing Begins in Texas Legislature

November 10 was the first day for Texas legislators to pre-file bills for the legislative session that runs from Jan to May. Seven bills were filed on the first day. The first bill on the list, HB 111, grew out of the case of Kenneth Foster, Jr., who was tried together with a co-defendant. When Gov Perry commuted Foster’s sentence in 1987, he said he was concerned that Foster had not had a separate trial. Chair of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Aaron Pena’s HB 111 says, “the court may not join two or more defendants in the same criminal trial if any defendant to be tried is indicted or complained against for a capital felony, and the court shall order a severance as to any two or more defendants who are jointly indicted or complained against for a capital felony”.

If you want to see a list of bills filed so far dealing with capital punishment, click here.

We are planning a big anti-death penalty rally and lobby day in the Spring. We will announce the date later.

Click here to find out who represents you in the Texas Legislature. Contact your representatives and tell them to support a moratorium on executions and Rep Dutton’s Law of Parties bill.

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