News from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Five executions currently are scheduled to take place in late April and May. The current dates are listed below.  Stay tuned to TCADP for more information and any action requests regarding these cases.

April 24: Elroy Chester
April 25: Richard Cobb
May 7:    Carroll Parr
May 15: Jefferey Williams
May 21: Robert Pruett

The TCADP 2013 Spring Newsletter is available online.

Amnesty International Releases Worldwide Death Penalty Stats for 2012

Amnesty International has released its annual report on death sentences and executions for 2012. Worldwide, 682 people were executed this past year, compared to 680 in 2011.  Sentencing fell from 1,923 death sentences in 63 countries in 2011 to 1,722 in 58 countries in 2012.  Amnesty International asserts that the global trend is towards abolition, and the U.S. figures certainly give such an assertion some validity.  The United States is responsible for 43 executions, essentially the same as in 2011; however, only 9 states carried out executions compared to 13 in 2011. The number of new death sentences (77) was the second lowest since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, and only occurred in 18 of 33 states retaining the death penalty.  Notably, Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty!

Texas House Committee Considers Racial Justice Act

On April 16, 2013, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee considered House Bill 2458, which seeks to prohibit the imposition of a death sentence or execution under any judgment that was sought or obtained on the basis of race.  TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé testified in support of the bill in front of the committee, as did Yannis Banks, Legislative Liaison for the Texas NAACP and Cindy Eigler, Policy Specialist for the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy.  Former Texas Governor Mark White and Linda Geffin, one of the trial prosecutors in the 1997 Harris County case of Duane Buck, provided written testimony in support of the bill, as well.

Several groups registered support for the bill, including the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas Fair Defense Project, the ACLU of Texas, Texas Defender Service, and the Texas Catholic Conference.  HB 2458 was left pending in the committee.

Smart Enough to Die

In the April 19 edition of the Austin Chronicle, reporter Jordan Smith presents an article about Elroy Chester, a death-row inmate now scheduled to be executed on June 12, 2013.

Chester pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death in 1998 for the fatal shooting of Port Arthur firefighter Willie Ryman III.  Ryman was killed when he tried to stop Chester from raping his two nieces.

The Chronicle article is based on a key issue that Chester is mentally retarded, according to his attorney Susan Orlansky.  This circumstance should make him ineligible for execution, based on a 2002 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court barring execution of the mentally impaired as cruel and unusual punishment.  “He has a compelling case for mental retardation,” she says.

The article asserts that Chester was placed in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Mentally Retarded Offenders Program during his previous stays in prison.  Nonetheless, the courts have repeatedly determined that Chester has not proven he is mentally retarded, and is thus eligible for execution.

Upcoming May TCADP Meetings

1:    Webinar: Addressing the Needs of Victims in Death Penalty Cases: The Role and Responsibility
of the Defense

7:    Scheduled Execution – Carroll Parr

14: The New Jim Crow in Texas w/ Michelle Alexander,
King of Glory Lutheran Church, Dallas 1:00pm

15: Scheduled Execution – Jeffery Williams;
Dallas Religious Organizing Committee 6:00pm, Chapter meeting 7:00pm,

20: El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm,

21:  Scheduled execution – Robert Pruett

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