Tag Archives: Texas Capitol

Texas votes to keep execution drug manufacturers a (dirty) secret

The Texas Tribune reports that the Texas Senate has approved a bill that would hide the names of execution drug providers from the public. Senate Bill 1697 passed 23-8.

State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, told lawmakers her legislation was a “practical solution” to the harassment and threats faced by companies providing the state prison system with pentobarbital, the single drug used in Texas to execute inmates convicted of capital murder.

“Discussion in the public area has led to a chilling effect for companies who want to supply this compound to the state of Texas,” she said. “There are very few doses left of the drug that’s currently being administered.”

Hiding the names of unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies is a new development in Texas’ embarrassing history of capital punishment. Because these businesses have contracts with the state, their names were available to public until just two years ago. After European-based companies refused to sell their supplies of pentobarbital if its intended purpose was the murder of human beings, Texas turned to The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy for its lethal drugs in 2013. The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy claims that the public knowledge of their shady deal lead to “threats” against their business.

If companies can’t conduct their tax-funded business with the state in the public view, then they shouldn’t be in this shameful business at all. It’s telling that state lawmakers can band together to protect pharma manufacturers from the “chilling effect” of public outcry, but do nothing to secure justice for the wrongfully incarcerated. The Texas Legislature has again reaffirmed its commitment to executions, but abolitionists in Texas and across the world won’t stop until there’s justice for Rodney Reed and the other men and women on death row.

Death Penalty Opponents host “Day of Innocence” at the Texas State Capitol featuring Death Row Exonerees

On Tuesday, March 3, a group of death row exonerees called on Texas lawmakers to abolish the death penalty. Witness to Innocence members Ron Keine and Sabrina Butler were joined by Texas State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), family members and friends of death row prisoners, and Mark Clements, board member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and one of Rodney Reed’s fiercest advocates.

The group lobbied Texas lawmakers to approve legislation that would abolish the death penalty and prohibit the “law of parties” from being used in capital cases. This controversial law, unique to Texas in its application, allows people convicted of aiding or abetting in a murder committed by another person to be sentenced to death.

Sabrina Butler is the first and only woman to be exonerated from death row. Convicted when she was just 17 years old, she served over six years in prison in Mississippi before being cleared of all wrong doing.

Reports Austin’s KVUE:

Despite being the only woman in the U.S. exonerated after being sentenced to death, Butler’s life will never be the same. She has trouble finding employment, because she must still admit her conviction on job applications.

“That’s the part that makes me feel still like I’m in prison, because this will affect my life, not only my life, my children’s life,” Butler said.

Ron Keine spent two years on death row in New Mexico before being exonerated after a police officer admitted that he had actually committed the murder. “[The cop] went to the nearest church and confessed,” Keine said. “That’s what got me out. It wasn’t any maneuvering by lawyers.”

Texas State Rep. Harold shakes hands with Mark Clements at a press conference to show his support for abolition of the death penalty in Texas. Mark Clements spent 28 years in prison serving a juvenile life without parole sentence before he was finally cleared as Sabrina Butler looks on. Scott Cobb of the Texas Moratorium Network is at the podium.  Photo by Ralph Barrera for the Austin American Statesman

Texas State Rep. Harold shakes hands with Mark Clements at a press conference to show his support for abolition of the death penalty in Texas. Sabrina Butler looks on. Scott Cobb of the Texas Moratorium Network is at the podium. Photo by Ralph Barrera for the Austin American Statesman.

Ron Keine, assistant director with Witness to Innocence, speaks in support of abolishing the death penalty at a press conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Photo by Ralph Barrera for the Austin American Statesman

Ron Keine, assistant director with Witness to Innocence, speaks in support of abolishing the death penalty at a press conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Photo by Ralph Barrera for the Austin American Statesman.

Rep. Harold Dutton told the Dallas Morning News, “I don’t want the state executing people in my name. You can go all the way through the system and be factually innocent and end up on death row, which is evidence by some of the people here. How many people has Texas executed who might have been innocent?” The Dallas Morning News, whose editorial position has been firmly anti-death penalty since 2007, created this revealing graphic  that, in their words, “gives a lot to chew on”. Texas has executed 521 men and women since capital punishment was reinstated in 1973.

People with the Witness to Innocence speak in support of abolishing the death penalty including Mark Clements, right, who spent 28 years in prison serving a juvenile life without parole sentence before he was finally cleared, and Sabrina Butler, the only woman  exonerated from death row, at left.  Photo by Ralph Barrera for the Austin American Statesman

Mark Clements speaks in support of abolishing the death penalty. At left is Sabrina Butler, the only woman exonerated from death row. Photo by Ralph Barrera for the Austin American Statesman.

The Austin American Statesman posted a  short video clip of Mark Clements, who was freed based on police misconduct after serving 28 years in prison. Mark attended the lobby day on behalf of Rodney Reed’s family. “Don’t reject these men and women [lobbying their representatives]. Give them their chance. Free Rodney Reed”. A photo gallery is available here.

At the day’s news conference, Terri Been tearfully pleaded for her brother, Jeff Wood, to be removed from death row. Wood was convicted under the state’s law of parties for a killing committed by his partner in a 1996 robbery in Kerrville. In 2008, Wood, who was found not mentally fit to stand trial, won a stay from a federal judge just hours before his scheduled execution. He remains on death row.

Rodney Reed’s supporters can email Rep. Dutton and thank him for his continued commitment to justice and ending the death penalty in Texas. Dutton has filed bills opposing the death penalty every legislative session since 2003. None has made it out of committee, but Dutton said he refuses to give up. “I think Texas ought not be in the death penalty business until we get the systems fixed … until we can guarantee that no one who is executed is innocent,” Dutton said. “We’ll keep pushing it”

(Many thanks to the Texas Moratorium Network for their continued work around Lobby Day)

Organized by the Texas Moratorium Network, the "Day of Innocence" brought together exonerated death row prisoners, Rep. Harold Dutton, and friends and family members of men and women on Texas death row.

Organized by the Texas Moratorium Network, the “Day of Innocence” brought together exonerated death row prisoners, Rep. Harold Dutton, and friends and family members of men and women on Texas death row. Photo by Scott Cobb.

Mark Clements, Sabrina Butler, and Ron Keine stand in the House Chamber inside the Texas Capitol  Photo by Scott Cobb

Mark Clements, Sabrina Butler, and Ron Keine stand in the House Chamber inside the Texas Capitol.
Photo by Scott CobbSabrina Butler, who is the only woman to be exonerated from death row, holds a copy of her life story after she spoke along with people with the Witness to Innocence in support of abolishing the death penalty at a Capitol press conference Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Photo by Ralph Barrera for the Austin American Statesman Sabrina Butler holds a copy of her life story after she spoke along with people with the Witness to Innocence in support of abolishing the death penalty at a Capitol press conference Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Photo by Ralph Barrera for the Austin American Statesman.

Gov. Greg Abbott welcomed by protests for Rodney Reed

On January 20, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was sworn in as the 48th Governor of Texas. He inherited Rick Perry’s bloody legacy of 278 executions, with three executions scheduled for January. Amid the parade and free BBQ, Gov. Abbott was also greeted by supporters of Rodney Reed at 11:00 AM during the inauguration and again at 5:30 PM. The Texas Observer reports:

At the protest yesterday, supporters chanted and held signs that read “Governor Abbott don’t kill an innocent man” and “Drop the Date! Test the DNA,” while cars driving by blew their horns in support.

Supporters hold signs as Greg Abbott is sworn in as 48th governor of Texas Picture by Austin American Statesman

Supporters hold signs in the crowd as Greg Abbott is sworn in as 48th governor of Texas
Picture by Austin American Statesman

After Gov. Greg Abbott was sworn in as 48th governor of Texas, supporters rallied outside the capitol to demand justice

After the swearing in, supporters rallied outside the capitol to demand justice

Following the inauguration of Gov. Abbott

Following the inauguration of Gov. Abbott

Following the inauguration of Gov. Abbott

Outside the Capitol

Other local coverage can be found here:

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/state-politics/20150120-abbott-shows-he-values-lessons-of-mrs.-nickel.ece

http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2015/01/supporters-protestors-gather-on-capitol-lawn.html/

http://www.myfoxaustin.com/story/27897432/group-stages-rodney-reed-protest-at-the-state-capitol