Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category


Billy Wardlow was executed in Texas yesterday, 8 July 2020, despite massive campaign for clemency

Billy Joe Wardlow was executed on Wednesday night in Huntsville, Texas for a murder committed in 1993 when he was 18.  The campaign has focused on his age at the time of the murder arguing that at 18, he was still immature.  The campaign on his behalf was turned down by the Supreme Court.  Since 2005, the Supreme Court has held that the death sentence is unconstitutional for those who are 17 or younger, partly because of their ‘still undefined identity.’

The USA is the only country in the Americas which retains the penalty in some states at least.  In fact, the use of the penalty is in steady decline in the States even in Texas, the state with the highest number of executions (548 since 1976).  It is because of a series of factors.  More programmes on TV showing mistakes and miscarriages of justice have had an effect.  The cost of carrying out executions and years of appeals meaning large numbers spend years on death row.  Difficulties in obtaining drugs for lethal injections with European firms refusing to supply them.

According to a 2018 BBC report ‘the death penalty wouldn’t have survived in America if it weren’t for evangelical Christians’.  This is according to Shane Claiborne a Christian activist.  By contrast, the Pope has condemned the use of the penalty.

One aspect of the abolition debate is whether it is effective or not in deterring crime.  Some say it is and some not.  The Death Penalty Information Center has produced statistics comparing murder rates between death and non-death penalty states.  The murder rates between 1990 and 2003 shows a lower murder rate for non-death penalty states.  They conclude that states without the penalty fared better over the past decade.

UK

THE debate is interesting because in the UK the idea of re-introducing the penalty still receives a lot of support for certain types of crime.  A 2019 YouGov poll found that ‘Brits want harsher punishments for criminals’ and a balance in favour of the death penalty of 58% (terrorist offences); 57% (multiple murders); 53% (child murders) and 47% (murder of a police officer).  The current Home Secretary Priti Patel is quoted as being in favour of the penalty although she now denies this.  An extract from a Question Time programme in which she says ‘yes I am in support of capital punishment’ is available on this link from the Independent.

It is noteworthy that in the USA where the penalty is still practised, the mood is shifting against its use whereas in the UK, where the penalty was finally abolished in 1969*, there is still a powerful desire to have it restored.

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.  Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception – regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution.

*1973 in Northern Ireland


Sources: Independent; BBC; Texas Tribune; Death Penalty Information Center

 


Texas execution tomorrow

Billly Wardlow is due to be executed tomorrow 8 July 2020 in Texas.  The details are in a previous post.  If you write to Governor Greg Abbott via email, you will receive a message saying ‘messages sent to this [Facebook] account are not monitored regularly’ and giving you another means of contact.  This is https://gov.texas.gov/contact.  NB: in the phone field type a number in the US format

Our monthly death penalty report can be accessed here.


Urgent Action: Billy Wardlow faces execution for a crime when aged 18

Urgent Action 108/20 (AMR 51/2595/2020 USA)

Billy Wardlow’s execution is scheduled for 8 July 2020.  He is on death row in Texas, USA in connection with the 1993 murder of an 82-year-old man when he was just 18 years old.  The jury that sentenced Billy Wardlow was never presented mitigating evidence.  Since 2005, it’s unconstitutional to impose a death sentence on anyone younger than 18 when the crime occurred.  Scientific research shows that development of the brain and psychological and emotional maturation continues into a person’s 20s. Two jurors now believe that he should serve a life sentence instead. We urge Governor Abbott to grant clemency.

Please read this UA for more details and a model appeal.

Please ask Texas Governor Abbott, as the main target, to grant clemency.  Can you also please contact the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which puts forward recommendations to the Governor on decisions on clemency:

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78757
Fax: (512) 467-0945

Further details are available in this link.

The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and Amnesty International opposes the sentence in all circumstances. As of 2020, 106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds are abolitionist in law or practice. The US has executed 1518 people since 1976, and the State of Texas has accounted for 569 of those executions.

See also the Texas Campaign Against the Death Penalty TCADP.

UPDATE Note that the Governor’s email address is incorrect. 


Execution of Clinton Young in Texas stayed

Clinton Lee Young. Pic: Vebidoo.com

It is good news that the planned execution of Clinton Lee Young has been stayed by a Texas court due to doubts about the evidence.  It just shows that had the execution gone ahead, any mistakes cannot be undone.  Thanks to all those who wrote on this case.

Urgent action: Texas (pdf)

Read our monthly death penalty report.


If you live in the Salisbury UK area and would like to join us you would be very welcome.  It is free to join the Salisbury group but if you want the benefits of joining Amnesty International UK there is a joining fee for that.

The best thing is to come along to one of our events, which are listed at the end of our minutes, and make yourself known.  Or keep an eye on this site or Facebook and Twitter (salisburyai)


 

 

 


No to the death penaltyThis is the monthly report on the use of the death penalty around the world thanks to Lesley for compiling it.  A particularly grim month and of course there are no statistics for China which stills leads the world in the use of the penalty.

Death penalty report


Texas

UPDATE; 4 February.  We regret to report Robert Ladd was executed.

Once again we are back with an urgent action against the use of the #deathpenalty in Texas.  This time it is Robert Charles Ladd who was sentenced to death in 1997.  He was ineffectively represented at his trial and his lawyer did not seek evidence about his mental capacity.  He has an IQ of less than 70.  A Supreme Court ruling says that such individuals cannot be executed.

Greg Abbott, the new governor, says on his Facebook page ‘Texas in the lone star state for a reason.  It stand separate.  It stands alone … as a model for the rest of the nation.’  One sincerely hopes the rest of the nation isn’t listening.

Below is the urgent action on behalf of Robert Ladd and we would be grateful if you could write or email.  There are only a few days to go.

Robert Ladd


This is the monthly #deathpenalty report with thanks to Lesley for compiling it.  One interesting fact is thatNo to the death penalty Indonesia has suspended an execution following the airline crash which has meant the eyes of the world’s media is upon them.

December Death Penalty report

We have added the Death Penalty Information site to list of links at the bottom of the home page


These are the minutes of the October group meeting – thanks to Karen.

October minutes


This is the monthly death penalty report thanks to Lesley.

General

  • UK
  • 19th Sept – A Death Row Pop Up Restaurant offering a ‘last meal without the nasty execution bit’ was due to open in No to the death penaltyHoxton, London.  Condemned by Amnesty as ‘in appallingly bad taste’, the owners initially issued an apology but later withdrew it, saying ‘all over the world there are attractions that have the potential to offend’
  • LC spoke with Kate Allen at the recent Stop Torture Campaign Skills Day and raised the Group’s concern that the Death Penalty was no longer a distinct campaign.   Kate noted our concern, but said AI needed to look more to local groups to take the campaign forward. 
  • Pakistan – Mohammed Asghar, the British Pakistani 70 year old with paranoid schizophrenia, sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ was shot and badly injured in his prison cell by a prison guard. There is an on-line 38 Degrees Petition calling on David Cameron to press his case with the Pakistan Government.
  • USA
  • 21st September – the third anniversary of the execution of the execution of Troy Davis.  An excerpt from the statement issued by the National Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty reads: ‘……. I am Troy Davis. And we are 90 million strong. You, Xxxxx, are Troy Davis, and we are 90 million stronger – because of you. Together we are building the ground-game state by state and nationwide to fulfil Troy’s wishes: to keep fighting this battle until we end the death penalty once and for all.’
  • Texas – News today (9 October) that Manuel Velez was released from prison following 6 years on Death Row and 9 years in prison. Convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the killing of his girlfriend’s child, in 2012 his death sentence was thrown out because of false testimony during the sentencing phase.  A new trial was ordered because of inadequate legal assistance in his original trial.  The DA’s office continue to maintain, however, that he contributed to the child’s death.  See a separate post on this subject. 
  • Afghanistan – Despite attempts by AI and other Human Rights Organisations to persuade the new President, Ashraf Ghani, to stop the execution of 5 men convicted of rape, they were hanged on 8th October.  There were accusations of a lack of evidence and forced confessions. 

Death Penalty Statistics for 2013

  • 778 executions were known to have been carried out in 22 countries
  • 1,925 people in 57 countries were known to have been sentenced to death
  • 23,392 people were known to have been on death row world-wide
  • These figures do not include the thousands of executions likely to have taken place in China where they are a state secret.

Urgent Actions

  • Iran – UA 85/14 – (update) Reyhaneh Jabbari – her execution date of 30th September was deferred, but she remains at risk as the family of the man killed (who Reyhaneh claims sexually assaulted her) could request her execution at any time.  David Cameron has spoken out on her behalf to President Rouhani, and been criticised for ‘unacceptable remarks’.  Circulated to DPLWG; posted on the Group’s blog – 1.10.14. This month’s Group Urgent Action.
  • Bahrain – UA 252/14 – Maher Abbas Ahmad – sentenced to death in February for the premeditated murder of a policeman at a ‘gathering’, has lodged his final appeal and could be at risk of execution. He told his lawyer he was tortured into making a confession. Circulated to DPLWG 9.10.14.

Campaigning

  • World Day Against the Death Penalty – 10th October.   The Group are asked to sign cards to be sent to Reggie Clemons
  • Death Penalty Stall – A signing event will take place on Saturday ll1th October from 9.00-12..00 mid-day in the Library Covered Way. We will be asking the public to sign cards calling for justice for Moses Akatugba, the young Nigerian tortured and sentenced to death for the alleged theft of three mobile phones.

 


#deathpenalty

On Wednesday, Manuel Velez was released from prison having served 9 years in prison, 5 of them on death row.  The case reveals yet again the biased and unsatisfactory nature of the justice system in the #USA, and in particular the southern states such as #Texas.  He was sentenced to death for allegedly killing a 1 year old who was partially in his care.

No to the death penaltyThe case against him collapsed when the blood clot was found to have been established around 2 weeks before the child’s death but the jury was told that it occurred hours before thus putting Velez at the scene.  The case has all the familiar signs of previous miscarriages in the USA namely: partial evidence put to the court; evidence demonstrating innocence withheld by the police, and a plea bargain by the person likely to have committed the crime which incriminates the wrong person.  Also Velez is Hispanic and is described as ‘intellectually disabled’.  Finally, he was poorly served by his defence team who the court said ‘provided inadequate assistance to Velez’.

Governor Rick Perry is a strong believer in the death penalty and the following extract from an interview in Texas gives a flavour of that belief;

Like the vast majority of Texans, I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response for the most violent of crimes against our fellow human beings.  In fact, I believe capital punishment affirms the high value we place on innocent life because it tells those who would prey on our citizens that you will pay the ultimate price for their unthinkable acts of violence.

For those who head our criminal courts, serve on appellate bodies and the board of pardons and parole, and for the individual who occupies the office of governor, the power to make life and death decisions is the most sobering responsibility imaginable.

Both as acting governor and in my current capacity, I have always exercised this power with the gravity due such a life and death decision.    And I will continue to review each capital punishment case brought before me to ensure that due process has been served.

This presents a comforting picture not supported by the facts of this and other cases.  Once the deed is done of course, it cannot be undone.  If you are poor and black in states like Texas you will not be able to hire a top team of lawyers or any lawyer with trial skills.  Juries may be stacked.