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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Join the peoples protest against Judge Sharon Killer Keller

Why: Judge Sharon Keller has violated the Judicial Code of Conduct and damaged the integrity of the Texas judiciary. She should resign or be removed from office. On Sept 25, Keller said "We close at 5" and refused to accept an appeal 20 minutes after 5pm from a man set to be executed at 6 pm that day. She did not consult with the duty judge or any other judges on the court before refusing to accept the appeal. Michael Richard was executed on Sept 25, but he would not have been executed that night if Keller had not acted unethically and violated his constitutional rights. Richard was the last person executed in the U.S.before the start of the current de facto moratorium pending the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Baze v. Rees case on the constitutionality of lethal injection as a method of execution.

Date: Friday, Nov 16 at 4:45


4:45 pm Start to gather and get in line to deliver letters urging Keller to resign and the copy of the judicial complaint to the Clerk of the Court.
5:00 The court closes, but we want to have people standing in line with letters to deliver, so that they are inconvenienced and forced to stay open an extra 20 minutes to serve everyone in line.
5:20 Rally with speakers outside on the Court plaza.

Place: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals,
201 West 14th Street (This is the official address. We will meet on the plaza around the corner facing Congress Ave.)
Austin, Tx

Action: We will be delivering a copy of a judicial complaint against Sharon Keller signed so far by more than 1300 members of the public.

You can still sign the complaint by clicking here or visiting the website www.SharonKiller.com

We ask that people bring their own personally written letters urging Keller to resign and you can deliver yours to the Clerk of the Court.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Movement to Save Kenneth Foster Wins Historic Victory

August 30, 2007

Movement to Save Kenneth Foster Wins Historic Victory

Family members and supporters of Kenneth Foster, Jr. are jubilant in the reaction to Texas Governor Rick Perry's today's announcement today that he would commute the death sentence of Kenneth Foster, who was convicted under the controversial "Law of Parties" for a 1996 murder in which he had no actual involvement. The Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommended clemency by a vote of 6-1. Foster's execution had been scheduled for tonight.

In a statement announcing the commutation, Perry said, "I am concerned about Texas law that allowed capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously and it is an issue I think the Legislature should examine."

Reaction among Foster's family and friends included both joy and disbelief. "We felt a bit of disbelief because Perry's decision was so unprecedented." said Dana Cloud of the Save Kenneth Foster campaign. "But everyone is so happy that Kenneth will be able to touch his wife and daughter and that we have a chance of seeing him free. Anything is possible when you are alive."

Claire Dube, a close high-school friend of Kenneth's and an active member of the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign, broke into tears when she heard the news. "We don't even know what to say. It's incredible."

Keith Hampton, Foster's attorney, also expressed relief and happiness at winning his client's life. Hampton thanked the activists of the grassroots movement that started in Austin and spread around the world for putting the necessary pressure on the Board and the Governor to win. "Extra-legal means work," he said.

"Governor Perry once said that there was no hue and cry against the death penalty in Texas," commented Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. "Well, here was your hue and cry."

Foster's family and other supporters will continue to work to free him from prison. "It seems like ten years on death row under 23-hour lockdown could amount to time served for any crime that Kenneth ever committed," Cloud said.

Perry's decision is historic. Not only has the Board of Pardons and Paroles rarely recommended clemency (by one count, 3 times since 1982), but Rick Perry has overseen more executions than any Governor of the State of Texas, including George Bush.

"This case demonstrated to the world just how arbitrary and capricious capital punishment is," Cloud said. "It gives people pause when someone who killed no one could come this close to being executed."

"Public sentiment has been turning against capital punishment," Hughes said. "We've seen a lot of states stop executing people. Winning Kenneth's life might be a real turning point in the history of the death penalty in Texas."

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The Time is Now To Save an Innocent Man!

Wednesday May 30, at 6:30PM
Carver Library
1161 Angelina Street
(off Rosewood and Angelina – Take 11th Street east from I-35 about 7 blocks
At the light, bear left onto Rosewood, then take a left on Angelina)

Kenneth Foster, Jr. was sentenced to death in May 1997 for driving a
car from which Mauriceo Brown got out and shot Michael LaHood, Jr.
Kenneth's case is currently at a critical juncture, as the state of
Texas has recently given him an execution date of August 30, 2007.
Kenneth could be killed simply because of the gross misuse of the Law
of Parties. As the Austin Chronicle has put it, he was in "the wrong
place at the wrong time."

Kenneth is a founding member of D.R.I.V.E., a group of death row
prisoners who organize using methods of nonviolent resistance, to
fight for humane conditions on death row in Texas. Go to
freekenneth.com, www.myspace.com/kf999232, or drivemovement.org.

Join a campaign to save the life of Kenneth Foster, Jr. and help shine
a light on the injustice of the Texas death penalty system! Join us
for an organizing meeting of groups and individuals who want to work
together on this campaign.

For more information call 494-0667 or email cedpaustin@gmail.com or
check out myspace.com/cedpaustin.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Hour Tomorrow!

CEDP Happy Hour tomorrow!

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty is hosting a happy hour for Rodney Reed tomorrow, Monday, April 23, at 7:00pm at Double Dave's, on Duval near the intersection of Duval and San Jacinto on the north side of the UT campus.

Rodney Reed is an innocent man on Texas' death row. He was wrongly convicted in Bastrop County of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites. The pattern of police and prosecutorial misconduct,existing physical evidence not heard at trial, and the overall racist tone of Rodney's trial cast strong doubt on Rodney's guilt. CEDP is working together right now with Rodney's family, Texas death penalty abolition groups, and other community organizations to call for a new trial for Rodney Reed at which all the evidence of his innocence can be presented. You can learn more and sign a petition calling for a new trial at www.freerodneyreed.org.

Roderick Reed, one of Rodney's brothers, and Bryce Benjet, one of Rodney's attorneys, will be there to discuss the case, Rodney's innocence, and how the public can help win justice for Rodney Reed. Please join us for this important, informative, and fun event! Beer, pizza, and other refreshments will be available.

For more information, email stfcollins@yahoogroups.com or call 512-784-8550.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dallas Morning News Calls for Abolition of the Death Penalty

Death no more: It's time to end capital punishment 
Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ernest Ray Willis set a fire that killed two women in Pecos County. So
Texas prosecutors who obtained a conviction in 1987 and sent Mr. Willis
death row. But it wasn't true.

Seventeen years later, a federal judge overturned the conviction,
finding that
prosecutors had drugged Mr. Willis with powerful anti-psychotic
during his trial and then used his glazed appearance to characterize
him as
"cold-hearted." They also suppressed evidence and introduced neither
proof nor eyewitnesses in the trial – and his court-appointed lawyers
a lousy defense. Besides, another death-row inmate confessed to the

The state dropped all charges. Ernest Ray Willis emerged from prison a
But he was lucky: He had his life. Not so Carlos De Luna, who was
executed in
1989 for the stabbing death of a single mother who worked at a gas
For years, another man with a history of violent crimes bragged that he
committed the crime. The case against Mr. De Luna, in many eyes, does
stand up to closer examination.

There are signs he was innocent. We don't know for sure, but we do know
if the state made a mistake, nothing can rectify it.

And that uncomfortable truth has led this editorial board to re-examine
century-old stance on the death penalty. This board has lost confidence
the state of Texas can guarantee that every inmate it executes is truly
of murder. We do not believe that any legal system devised by
flawed human beings can determine with moral certainty the guilt of
defendant convicted of murder.

That is why we believe the state of Texas should abandon the death
penalty –
because we cannot reconcile the fact that it is both imperfect and

Flaws in the capital criminal justice system have bothered troubled us
some timeyears. We have editorialized in favor of clearer instructions
juries, better counsel for defendants, the overhaul of forensic labs
restrictions on the execution of certain classes of defendant. We have
lawmakers to at least put in place a moratorium, as other states have,
closely examine the system.

And yet, despite tightening judicial restrictions and growing concern,
exonerations keep coming, and the doubts keep piling up without any
from Austin.

From our vantage point in Dallas County, the possibility of tragic,
error in the death chamber appears undeniable. We have seen a parade of
13 men
walk out of the prison system after years – even decades – of
imprisonment for
crimes they didn't commit. Though not death penalty cases, these
examples –
including an exoneration just last week – reveal how shaky
techniques and reliance on eyewitnesses can derail the lives of the

The Tulia and the fake-drug scandals have also eroded public confidence
in the
justice system. These travesties illustrate how greed and bigotry can
the process.

It's hard to believe that such pervasive human failings have never
resulted in
the death of an innocent man.

In 2001, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said, "If statistics
any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent
defendants to be

Some death penalty supporters acknowledge that innocents may have been
and may
yet be executed, but they argue that serving the greater good is worth
that unfortunate outcome. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argues
that the
Byzantine appeals process effectively sifts innocent convicts from the
mass of guilty, and killing the small number who fall through is a risk
willing to live with. According to polls, most Texans are, too. But
editorial board is not.

Justice Scalia calls these innocents "an insignificant minimum." But
minimum is not insignificant to the unjustly convicted death-row
inmate. It is
not insignificant to his or her family. The jurist's verbiage
marks a transgression against the Western moral tradition, which
both the value of the individual and the wrongness of making an
suffer for the supposed good of the whole. Shedding innocent blood has
been a
scandal since Cain slew Abel – a crime for which, the Bible says, God
the murderer, who remained under harsh judgment.

This newspaper's death penalty position is based not on sympathy for
murderers – who, many most agree, deserve to die for their crimes –
but rather
in the conviction that not even the just dispatch of 10, 100, or 1,000
these wretches can remove the stain of innocent blood from our common

This is especially true given that our society can be adequately
guarded from
killers using bloodless means. In 2005, the Legislature gave juries the
of sentencing killers to life without parole.

The state holds in its hands the power of life and death. It is an
power, one that citizens of a democracy must approach in fear and
and in full knowledge that the state's justice system, like everything
humanity touches, is fated to fall short of perfection. If we are
doomed to
err in matters of life and death, it is far better to err on the side
mercycaution. It is far better to err on the side of life. The state
impose death – an irrevocable sentence – with absolute certainty in
all cases.
Therefore the state should not impose it at all.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Kerry Max Cook speaking at UT Law tomorrow!

The Texas Journal of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights Cordially Invites You to Attend:

Reexamining incarceration: A Discussion on Civil Rights and the Prison System

April 17, 2007

12:00 – Catered Lunch (Free!)
Francis Auditorium, 2nd Floor, UT Law
Kerry Max Cook, author of Chasing Justice
exonerated after spending two decades on Texas
death row for a crime he did not commit
(Please RSVP for lunch to tjclcr@law.utexas. edu)

1:30 – Panel : “Juvenile Justice: How do we fix this mess?", Eidmann Courtroom
featuring speakers Scott Medlock , Texas Civil Rights Project, Will Harrell, ACLU of Texas, and Isela Gutierrez, Texas Coalition Advocating for Juvenile Justice

3:00 – Panel: “Fighting from the outside: Civil Society Challenges to the Conditions of incarceration” , Eidmann Courtroom

Nicole Porter, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Michele Deitch, Professor, LBJ School of Public Policy, University of Texas, J. Rogue, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, Andria Shively, Inside Books Project

All events at UT School of Law, www.utexas.edu/law, 727 E. Dean Keeton, Austin TX 78705

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Capital Punishment: At a Crossroads? Washington Post Editorial

Sunday, January 14, 2007 | D01

Dead End
Capital Punishment: At a Crossroads, or Is This the Exit?

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Write

Gary Gilmore, patron saint of the modern American execution, hear our

Give us potassium chloride, give us death, but give us two good grams
sodium thiopental first.

Give us the long drop, the 2,000-volt surge, the Cor-Bon 185-grain
hollow-point .45, but let the country give up this quest for a painless

Is it even possible? It has been the holy grail of executioners for
more than
a century, and we are still plodding along the capital punishment road,
horizons ahead.

Lethal injections, once thought of as perfection revealed, are now on
hold in
Maryland, California, Florida, Missouri, South Dakota. Doctors say
that, if
improperly administered, they might cause the condemned to die in pain.
this pain violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual
punishment, and since lethal injections are now the method of choice
almost all executions, opponents think they may have found the way to
do away
with capital punishment in America.

"I don't think we've changed morally, but we may be in that process" of
abolishing the penalty, says Richard Dieter, executive director of the
Penalty Information Center.

"A pivotal moment in history," editorialized the Lancet, a medical
that has played a key role in the latest attempts to outlaw lethal

Is this it? Are we approaching the end?

Thirty years ago this week, Gary, is the anniversary of your execution,
one you worked so hard to bring about, the one that reintroduced the
nation to
the moral complexities of capital punishment after a decade's respite.
Did you
feel pain in that squalid Utah state prison room, strapped into an
chair in front of a grimy mattress, five rifles pointed toward the
circle over your heart?

The press reported your last public words:

"Let's do it."

Less known were your actual final words to a priest:

Dominus vobiscum.

The Lord be with you.

And then, the blood dripping onto your shoes.

* * *

Hanging. People used to like hanging.

It worked pretty well. (See: Hussein, Saddam -- the hanging, not the
chaos and
hooting.) It asphyxiated, it snapped spinal cords. A big hit for
centuries the
world over. It clearly was less sadistic than disembowelment, the
the pyre, the garrote.

It didn't require much -- knotted rope, height -- and was rich in
Hangman. Gallows. Noose.

But hanging was so easy that lynch mobs used it, which led to nasty
problems, and it wasn't all that painless or quick, unless you knew how
calculate prisoner weight, length of fall, pressure required to break
neck. People tended to squirm up there on the rope, which made people
down there on the ground.

So, about 140 years ago, Americans turned to their new god of Science
for even
better ways to kill the condemned. Anesthesia was in its infancy, and
would have a profound change on human existence and its termination --
was no longer inevitable. It could be avoided and, in terms of
people came to feel it should be.

Now, according to the Associated Press, at least 19 of the country's 38
death-penalty states offer sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs to
inmates before execution, almost as if they're putting the family's
retriever to sleep.

"A great deal of effort goes into preparing the condemned felon
mentally for
what he's about to face," says Edwin Voorhies, warden at the Southern
Correctional Facility. "Our goal is to get them to walk peacefully into

This anesthetic concept introduced the fundamental American paradox of
execution that continues to this day: It is constitutional to execute
condemned criminals. It is not constitutional to hurt them while you do

"The proper punishment was viewed as death, not death plus lots of
pain," says
Stuart Banner, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and author of "The
Penalty: An American History." "The driving force behind the changes in
executions ever since has been minimizing the pain for the condemned,
both for
their sake and that of the spectators."

Ah, yes. Less discomfort for spectators. Absolution for the living. We
the condemned a painless death, something that none of the rest of us
given, and we employ the most modern means of science to accomplish
this. The
care taken is evidence that this is not revenge, or a continuation of
scholar Francis Zimring calls "the vigilante tradition."

"The sensitivity is not for people opposed to the death penalty,
because they
are opposed to it on any grounds," says Zimring, a law professor at the
University of California, Berkeley, and author of "The Contradictions
American Capital Punishment." "It's for people who are ambivalent

And Americans (including the president) do support the death penalty.

They do so at 67 percent, though their betters -- newspaper editorial
the French -- tell them they shouldn't. The United States is one of
countries that account for about 95 percent of the world's executions
others being China, Saudi Arabia and Iran). Americans support it three
after all of Western Europe stopped, calling it outdated, unfair and
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch -- oh, you know.

Opponents generally portray it as being on its way out, though that is

Two months ago, voters in Wisconsin asked to reinstate the death
penalty --
153 years after abolishing it. The non-binding referendum, which said
penalty would be used only for vicious crimes where DNA evidence proved
passed at nearly 56 percent.

"It passed in 71 of 72 counties, and in some counties the vote was at
percent," said state Sen. Alan Lasee (R), who pushed the bill.

This despite the patchwork nature of capital punishment, the fact that
is really little rhyme nor much reason as to who gets executed, and
why. (A
man is executed in North Carolina for killing his stepdaughter, but the
Killer in Kansas and the Green River Killer in Washington get life in
It is so seldom used (56 times last year) that it has long since
stopped being
a working part of the criminal justice system. In the past 20 years,
prosecutors and supporters have begun saying it is needed because it
closure" to victims' families, but they can't possibly mean that,
because that
would imply that 99 percent of the families of victims never get
closure. The
system is filled with what Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun once
"arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice and mistake."

With so much imperfection about crime and punishment, it seemed the
thing the nation could do was to find the perfect means of execution.
would be one perfect note in the whole process, and it would be, with
certainty, the last one.

By killing painlessly, we would accommodate the Constitution and
assuage our
conscience -- the condemned would have a gentler death than they dealt
(Or, at least, than they were convicted of having dealt out.)

This search started long ago. For a while, back in the 1800s, there was
something called the "upright jerker." It was inverted hanging -- you
had the noose, but you didn't drop -- a contraption snapped you up in
the air!
It was supposed to be a quicker death.

But it was still so low-tech.

By 1886, a New York commission sat down and considered 34 different
means of
doing the deed. There were three desirable criteria, which have been
hallmarks of executions in America ever since: (a) speed, (b) absence
of pain
and (c) lack of blood.

Their answer then, much as it would be 100 years later, would be to
turn to
the science of the day. Electricity was the latest thing. It had never
used to intentionally kill anyone before, and it wasn't even known how
caused death (ventricular fibrillation, it would turn out).

But new science? Technology?


Edison was involved in the design. The big decision was whether to use
or alternating current.

William Kemmler was the first killer strapped in, electrodes attached
to the
base of his spine, to a metal cap strapped onto his head. Press
accounts say
he told the prison authorities to take their time and do it right.

Boy, did they!

Capillaries in his face burst. Blood oozed onto his face. Burnt flesh.
hair. The 25 spectators were nauseated. He was dead, all right, but it
quite what people pictured.

But you can't stop Americans from improving on things. The kinks were
out. The chair remains in use today, though rarely, and not without the
occasional mishap.

There were other developments, too, some rehashed, some new.

Firing squad?

Dramatic, instant. Excellent! (But bloody.)


1924's brainchild! Used in 1960 for Caryl Chessman, best-selling prison
and worldwide sensation for death-penalty opponents! One could not help
thinking about that pause between the gas pellets dropping and the
first whiff
of lethal fumes. And wondering about just how long human beings can
hold their

Lethal injection?

What could be better?

Oh. Wait.

* * *

Stanley "Tookie" Williams did not die well.

The "execution team" at San Quentin didn't set the intravenous line in
his arm
properly in 2005 when the Crips co-founder lay strapped to the gurney.
meant he may have been conscious to feel the deadly potassium chloride
into his veins.

"It would be a cruel way to die: awake, paralyzed, unable to move, to
while potassium burned through your veins," said the Lancet.

Nobody really knows if Williams died in pain, but the process didn't
good. When a federal judge questioned the executioners about the
errors, one
team member said the crew wasn't exactly broken up about it:

"[Expletive] does happen," the witness said.

It turned out the executioners had no training in mixing the lethal
Also, one member had been disciplined for smuggling illegal drugs into
Also, the team leader had received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress
disorder. Also, a bunch of sodium thiopental -- an addictive controlled
substance -- was taken from the prison pharmacy by execution team
members and,
um, not used or returned. (At least somebody out at San Quentin was
feeling no

Four hundred years of execution in this country (the first one was at
Jamestown, 1607, firing squad), and this is where we are.

Then, in 2006, Angel Nieves Diaz in Florida took twice as long to die
as the
15-minute procedure usually takes, because the technicians had put the
all the way through his vein, delivering the mix into the tissue of his
not the bloodstream. He had chemical burns on his arm at autopsy. Some
minutes into the procedure, technicians reported he was blinking,
licking his
lips. It led to a halt of all executions in Florida.

This, coupled with the judge's hold on executions in California, became
national headlines. Now all lethal injections across the country are
much on hold while the courts sort it all out.

Shocking! Lethal injection errors! People act like this is new.

Did everyone forget John Wayne Gacy?

Chicago's killer clown, strangler of 33 teenage boys and young men, was
for lethal injection in 1994. Gacy ate a last meal of fried chicken,
said he
was innocent, said, "Kiss my ass," and lay down on the table for his

The intravenous tubes clogged. The drugs wouldn't go through.

Prison officials had to close the blinds to the execution chamber,
reset the
IV, then open the blinds. Then they killed him.

Nobody really cried, because nobody really liked John Wayne Gacy,
though he could paint a nice clown picture.

* * *

People forget, Gary, they do.

They forget what you knew, as soon as you shot those men out in Utah:
a man is easy.

The living with it after. That's what's hard.

That's what maybe this country has learned: We are a society that kills
certain prisoners. We kill more in some years, less in others. It comes
goes. But there is no perfect, painless, fair way to do it. It turns
out there
is no absolution for the living. It turns out the dead haunt us. It is
thought as disturbing as the bodies of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith,
killers in Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," dying the old-fashioned
swinging at the end of a rope in the middle of the Kansas night.

The images do not lie easy on us, not in our sleep, not in yours, and
it seems
they never will.

Perhaps that is as it should be.