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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