• 2013 Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty by Gloria Rubac

    Death Penalty abolitionists from around Texas gathered Wednesday at the Texas Capitol for their bi-annual Texas Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty and Day of Innocence. Activists and death row families visited every legislator on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and the Senate Criminal Justice Committee as well as their own senators and representatives.

    The anachronistic and very unfair Law of Parties bills were very well received by most and there could be a hearing next Tuesday on those bills. They would change Texas law so that a person could not be executed if arrested under the Law of Parties if they were not the shooter. Right now in Texas dozens of people sit on death row who killed NO ONE!

    Particularly powerful presentations were provided by Sylvia Garza from the Rio grand Valley. Her son Robert was not even at the crime scene and killed no one. Yet Bobby has been on death row for ten years and his appeal was turned down by the US Supreme Court in February. He could receive an execution date at any moment.

    Legislators also paid rapt attention to information by Clarence Brandley who spent ten years on death row before he was finally freed. He has never received the compensation he deserves for his years of terror in Huntsville, coming within days of execution two times.

    The press conference reported on in the article below was opened with a moving statement by State Representative Harold Dutton of Houston who said he was ridiculed when he first introduced his bill to abolish the death penalty over a decade ago. "My father told me to always stand up for what was right, so when I was asked 'Are you crazy?' for proposing Texas end executions, it didn't bother me because I was doing what is right."

    http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/03/14/4681491/im-a-21st-century-abolitionist.html

    Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    Burnam declares, 'I'm a 21st-century abolitionist and I'm proud of it'

    By Dave Montgomery | dmontgomery@...

    AUSTIN -- With Texas moving closer to its 500th execution, Rep. Lon Burnam on Wednesday described himself as a "21st-century abolitionist" and denounced the death penalty as "a gross example of institutionalized racism."

    The Fort Worth Democrat joined other death penalty opponents in a "Day of Innocence" to promote legislation to repeal capital punishment. They acknowledged that they are overwhelmingly outnumbered in a state that leads the nation in executions but nevertheless vowed to keep on fighting.

    "We are right and the people who are on the other side are wrong," Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, told about a dozen death penalty opponents in a legislative committee room. "Don't be discouraged. ... Today we have a new beginning."

    Dutton filed his first anti-death penalty bill 10 years ago to stop what he called the "madness" of executions. "Every time I read in the paper that they executed somebody, I as a legislator take full responsibility," he said. "Everybody in the Legislature had a part in it because we didn't stop it."

    Burnam, the senior member of Tarrant County's 11-member House delegation, drew applause as he told fellow death penalty opponents: "I'm a 21st-century abolitionist and I'm proud of it."

    "There is no more gross example of institutionalized racism in this state today than in the death penalty," Burnam asserted, saying that prisoners put to death in Texas are overwhelmingly poor and "people of color."

    Of the 287 inmates now on Death Row, according to the Texas Department of Corrections, 40 percent are black and 30 percent are Hispanic.

    Texas has executed more than 490 inmates since 1976 and is nearing its 500th execution of a prisoner. Depending on appeals, that could come May 7 with the scheduled execution of Carroll Parr, convicted of killing a man in a robbery outside a convenience store in McLennan County in 2003.

    "We have executed in Texas almost 500 people," said Burnam, describing the upcoming threshold as "one of shame."

    Clarence Brandley, a former Death Row inmate who was wrongly convicted in the rape and murder of a 16-year-old student in Conroe, also participated in the event.

    In addition to seeking a ban on capital punishment, Texas death penalty opponents are seeking to change Texas' "law of parties" doctrine under which people can be sentenced to death for assisting in a capital crime even though they didn't commit the murder.

    - - - - -

    Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau chief.

    Twitter: @daveymontgomery

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Listen to Petra de Jong and Gloria Rubac interview on KPFT News about the inhuman living conditions on Texas DR that motivated Jamie McCoskey to give up his last appeals in order to be executed.

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