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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Justin Fuller Press Conference

Austin Activists Call Execution Into Question, Plead for Life of Justin Fuller

Austin, August 15--On Thursday, August 17, at 5:00 p.m., Austin anti-death penalty activists will hold a press conference to focus attention on a troubling death penalty case, that of Justin Fuller. The event will take place on the east (Colorado Street) side of the Governor¹s Mansion, on the front steps of the mansion.

Justin Fuller is scheduled to be executed on August 24. He was convicted of robbery and capital murder in the 1997 murder of Donald Harrison. Fuller was 19 at the time of conviction and 18 at the time of his crime.

The August 17 event will feature as a speaker University of Texas Law professor Robert Owen, who has defended people facing the death penalty since 1989. A Harvard Law graduate, he co-directs the Capital Punishment Clinic at the University of Texas. He is a recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Award, recognizing his work in fighting the death penalty, from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

Lily Hughes, a longstanding member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and close friend of Justin Fuller, will also speak.

The press conference will show that Fuller¹s case raises serious questions about the inaccessibility of adequate legal representation to indigent defendants. Fuller did not receive adequate representation from the state of Texas.

Of his two lawyers, second-chair James Volberding had minimal criminal court experience and was not qualified to try a capital case. Several months prior to the trial, his main lawyer Donald Killingsworth was suspended from practicing law because he had not paid his state bar dues. During this time, Volberding was lead counsel.

Killingsworth failed to mention to Fuller that the prosecution had discussed a possible plea bargain. This plea bargain would have offered Fuller life in prison rather than the death sentence he received.

Volberding wrote several memos that stated that he believed that Killingsworth was not providing adequate counsel to Fuller and that he was picking up the slack. The above claims were brought forth in appeals, all of which were denied.

Furthermore, Fuller¹s state habeas lawyer filed a writ for Fuller that was actually a writ he had done for a previous client named Henry Dunn. He didn't even change the name to Fuller¹s in parts of the writ, and the document contained facts that had to do with Dunn's case. To this day Fuller denies being the triggerman who shot and killed Harrison. He claims Samhermundre Wideman, another man arrested for his involvement, was the shooter.

Elaine Hays, another participant in the crime, has said publicly that Wideman was the shooter. She explains that after Fuller and Wideman returned to the vehicle, where she had been waiting for the two men, Wideman said, "It felt good to shoot someone." This fact was brought up in a later defeated appeal.

The state of Texas denied the appeal based on the ground that the state can still execute "non-triggermen." Wideman was sentenced to life for his involvement in the crime. Like Wideman, Fuller might have received a life sentence if he had been tried as a "non-triggerman" or even if his counsel had done their job properly.

"If the public only knew about the mistakes in the application of the death penalty and how it targets minorities and the poor, no one would support it," commented Lily Hughes, a member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. "Justin should not die.

"And his case is just the tip of the iceberg."

Please join us for this press conference. After this, we will join others in protesting the execution of Richard Hinojosa at our usual spot behind the governor's mansion on Lavaca, in between 10th and 11th Streets.

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