[DP] Fwd: Harold Dutton: Let's talk about abolishing Texas' death penalty
carole646 at hotmail.com
Tue Jan 14 08:20:30 CST 2003
>From: Rick Halperin <rhalperi at post.cis.smu.edu>
>Reply-To: TCADP-BOARD01 at yahoogroups.com
>To: TCADP-BOARD01 <TCADP-BOARD01 at yahoogroups.com>
>Subject: [TCADP-BOARD01] death penalty news-----TEXAS
>Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003 12:14:55 -0600 (CST)
>Harold Dutton: Let's talk about abolishing Texas' death penalty
>In the most recent session of the Texas Legislature, I sponsored
>legislation that would have placed a moratorium on executions. Some of my
>colleagues thought I was crawling out on a limb, and they asked me why.
>The simple answer was that I listened to my constituents. In town hall
>meetings and in one-on-one conversations, my constituents were troubled
>by Texas' application of the death penalty "We need to find out what is
>broken in our system," they would tell me.
>When your car makes a funny noise, you pull over and find out what is
>wrong. That is my thinking behind a moratorium on executions. Let's put a
>hold on them, find out what is wrong and then fix it.
>Last session, other legislators also introduced moratorium proposals. At
>committee hearings, there was overwhelming support for a moratorium and
>the need for a study commission. Supporters and opponents of the death
>penalty testified on the proposals.
>In both the House and the Senate, the committees that heard the testimony
>approved moratorium bills and recommended floor consideration. I am
>convinced those proposals will move even further in the 78th Legislature
>this year, as more lawmakers become educated about the facts and hear
>from their constituents.
>This year, I also have introduced legislation to abolish the death
>penalty. It is the 1st time in recent years that such a bill even has
>No, I don't expect it to pass this session, but we must begin the
>dialogue. There are reasons so many religious leaders speak with one
>voice against the death penalty. There also are reasons some death
>penalty supporters are beginning to question its use. We must listen to
>what they have to say.
>I have some inside information on this debate. My cousin Monique Davis is
>a state representative from Chicago, so I have watched Illinois'
>2-year-old moratorium with special interest.
>Gov. George Ryan, a Republican and longtime death penalty supporter,
>imposed the moratorium following the release of several exonerated
>death-row inmates and appointed a blue-ribbon commission to look at the
>state's criminal justice system to find out how those innocent men were
>wrongly convicted and sentenced to death and how that could be avoided in
>On Saturday, 48 hours before the end of his term, he commuted all
>Illinois death sentences to prison terms of life or less, sparing the
>lives of 163 men and 4 women.
>Something significant has happened in Illinois. People are looking at the
>efficacy of capital punishment from a new perspective.
>If we can't answer the first and simplest question correctly "Is this the
>guilty person?" how can we expect to answer the infinitely more difficult
>question correctly: "Is the death penalty the only appropriate punishment
>for this individual?" Or, "Do we have all of the facts we need to make
>that life-or-death decision?" Those are the questions the people of
>Illinois are asking themselves.
>The first murder we know of in our world occurred when Cain killed his
>younger brother. The prosecutor, judge and jury was the one God that so
>many of us worship today. It wasn't just murder, it was a murder that
>Cain then attempted to cover up. But our God opted for the punishment of
>banishing Cain, not a death penalty.
>I hope my bill to abolish the death penalty will start an important
>dialogue between legislators and their constituents.
>(source: Viewpoint, State Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr. is a Democrat from
>Houston; Dallas Morning News)
>DNA test bid to save Briton on death row
>A Briton on death row in Texas is hoping new evidence will cast doubt on
>his murder conviction and spare him execution by lethal injection on
>John Jackie Elliott, who was born in Suffolk, has spent 16 years in jail
>for the rape and murder of 18-year-old Joyce Munguia beneath an underpass
>in Austin, Texas. He has always insisted he was not responsible.
>"I didn't kill Joyce Munguia and I didn't rape her but somehow I knew I
>was going to get convicted," he said. "I didn't have the money and I
>didn't have the best lawyers.
>Polunsky prison, near Livingston, is a forbidding, modern jail housing
>400 inmates on death row. Many of the guards live in the Escapees trailer
>park down the road, where they can escape for the night. Elliott, 42,
>spends 23 hours a day locked in his cell as the minutes towards his
>execution tick by.
>"You can get out for one hour rec, by yourself, in the dayroom," he said.
>"You can talk through bars with other people, though they're across a
>passageway from you. Twice a week you get to go outside, but it's by
>yourself with a basketball."
>Elliott's case looked hopeless until his legal team asked for help last
>December from Reprieve, a British group opposed to the death penalty. In
>the space of a few weeks, investigators established that the case was
>Up to 4 men, including Elliott, had sex with Munguia before she was
>murdered with a motorcycle chain. The chief evidence against Elliott, who
>claimed that the victim had consented to sex with him, came from another
>of the men.
>This witness was a murder suspect himself because Munguia was killed with
>his motorcycle chain. It also emerged that he had twice used the chain to
>assault other people. Another witness had blood on his shoes that was
>Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's founder, who represents prisoners on
>death row in America, filed a motion last week in the Texan courts
>calling for DNA testing of blood and semen samples taken on the night of
>the murder, which could prove perjury. "We're absolutely convinced Jackie
>was not the killer and that the real murderer is now walking free in
>Texas," he said.
>Cross-party politicians, including John Gummer, the Tory MP for Suffolk
>Coastal, are urging Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, to
>intervene before a deadline for government pleas for clemency expires on
>Tuesday. Appeals are also being made to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of
>Canterbury, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor, the Archbishop of
>Elliott, who also has US citizenship, said he had dreamt of help from
>Britain, where his father was stationed at an American air force base for
>the 1st 3 years of his life.
>"I have a map of England with Felixstowe marked with a little circle,
>showing where I was born. I had a dream where the Queen came over to
>rescue me and all of a sudden Clive showed up and I got all this support
>Elliott's father, an alcoholic, left home when he was 5. After that he
>saw him only once, in prison. "I guess it was not like I lost anything,
>because I didn't have anything to lose," he said. Elliott drifted into a
>life of petty crime and drugs as a teenager and served 4 years in jail
>for taking part in a gang shooting in his 20s.
>Elliott has 2 children, whom he rarely sees after their mother moved from
>Texas. She was pregnant with his daughter Nellie when he was arrested. He
>is allowed to communicate with visitors only by telephone through a glass
>"You know, I've never even touched Nellie. She's 16 now. I wrote to the
>judge during my trial to ask if I could hold her. He refused to open the
>His mother Dorothy, a retired nursery teacher, and elder brother Bobby
>are convinced of his innocence and are arriving in Britain this week to
>appeal for clemency. His sister Kim Ridinger is staying behind in Texas
>to be near to him.
>"We've never believed Jackie was guilty of murder. We never felt he was
>given a fair trial," she said at her home in Denison. "We're trying to
>remain positive about getting the verdict changed. He's getting awfully
>grey-haired with worry, but he's always stayed hopeful. He's been reading
>the Bible and praying. His life is worth saving," she added. "We're
>hoping he's going to come home, but realistically, the best we can hope
>for is life imprisonment."
>Elliott wrote a letter to Munguia's family expressing regret about her
>death, but they remain unsympathetic. His case has been hampered by his
>refusal to give a full account of what happened that night, despite his
>belief that false friends betrayed him. "You don't rat. It's just that
>simple. You've got to respect yourself," he said.
>He says he could never inflict death row on anybody. "I guess 25 people
>I've been tight with have been killed now. One by one I've watched them
>get knocked off. That's been hard.
>Some were sent to die without a lawyer to help them. In Texas, which
>executes as many prisoners in a year as the rest of America, 17 men
>including Elliott are scheduled to die by April. He is grateful for the
>support he is receiving from Britain. "I love it. If nothing else, it
>makes me feel better."
>For his last meal, he has asked for one cup of hot tea and 6 chocolate
>chip cookies. Should he be released, he would like to come to Britain and
>try a better quality tea. "The stuff here is just terrible."
>He has asked for his sister Kim to witness his execution, while his
>mother and brother stay on site at a house reserved for relatives. "I
>don't want to be there, but I don't want Jackie to be by himself at the
>end," Kim said. "I love him very much."
>(source: The Times)
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